Thursday, July 03, 2008

Eating My Own Dog Food

After 10 years of rampant, unsupervised personal computer use I've copied and pasted myself into a corner. I no longer have much idea where the good copy of anything is.

I aim to fix that.

It seems like a daunting task. My short term efforts have been to keep buying new external hard drives and copying files onto that. Needless to say that's compounded the mess since I am now trying to figure out which is the Latest Version. So much for Single Source of Truth!

In many ways my problem is a perfect mirror to the sort of enterprise problems that SharePoint hopes to solve. It only makes sense that I  make SharePoint a part of the solution. It has the added benefit that I am at least practicing what I preach; I will be eating my own dog food.

I thought I would track my cleanup efforts and hopefully get some help from other people who have gone down this road before. Feedback on what you did / are doing / will do is very very welcome!

The Problem, By The Numbers

  • 2 users
  • 4 Laptops in various stages of obsolescence
  • 2 100-gig external drives
  • 1 200-gig external drive
  • 20 gigs of music including many duplicate files
  • 30 gigs of photos and videos, including some duplication
  • 10 years of ad hoc file management legacy crud
  • 2 personal email accounts
  • 2 or more business email accounts
  • 0 ability to share files collaboratively
  • 0 backup strategy

The Goal

At the end of this process, I want to have achieved the following:

  1. A Single Source of Truth for all files (cue Heavenly Choir)
  2. Highly available, online web access to files I frequently use
  3. Laptop access to all files
  4. Synchronization of file changes between online / offline work
  5. Phone access to personal email, contacts, calendars, and task information (and files if possible, although this is secondary)
  6. Phone access to business email, contacts, calendars, and task information
  7. A single personal email account and preferably only 1 business email account
  8. High level of security and encryption for all files stored in the cloud
  9. Weekly (or more frequent) incremental backups of all files
  10. Monthly full backups of all files

So here's the new plan:

The Bits and Pieces

  1. Get a hosted WSS 3 site for my personal site. On here: tasks, calendar, grocery list, personal (but not security sensitive) documents, licensing information. Parts of it will require a username and password to login.
  2. Get a business hosted WSS 3 site as an extranet for clients and also to store non-sensitive frequently used work documents
  3. Purchase Colligo Contributor Pro so I can sync my Personal and Business SharePoint sites and work offline while I travel.
  4. Get hosted Exchange (about to start trialing DNAMail).
  5. Purchase a smart phone with Windows Mobile so I can read these lists, contacts, calendars, and documents while on the go using Exchange Mobile Sync.
  6. The smart phone will initially also sync with my 2 personal and 2 business email accounts. Over time I will roll these over into 1 personal email account and 1 business email account (+x other company business emails when I'm on contract).
  7. Designate a "Hub" computer to store every "non-cloud" file I need. This includes all my songs and photos - basically anything normally residing on a personal computer. The hub computer will actually keeps the files on a large external drive so I can plug all this data into another machine as required (such as when sharing files with my girlfriend's computer).
  8. Get an Amazon S3 storage bucket for my hub computer. I calculate I need up to 60 gigs of storage for my photos, files, and music which amounts to about $180 USD per year including transfer and storage costs.
  9. Purchase JungleDisk Pro 2 for automatic behind-the-scenes file backup of my data. Again, I need 60 gigs which amounts to about per $18 USD / year. JungleDisk offers encrypted online web access to all stored files.
  10. All web interfaces such as JungleDisk and WSS sites will be SSL encrypted as well as password protected.

Creating A Single Source Of Truth

This is the HARD part....plowing through the files making sure I don't have duplicates. iTunes has already alerted me to the fact that my Music folder contains up to 4 copies of the same song! Dagnabit.

I'm currently investigating utilities that search for duplicate files, such as DoubleKiller and Easy Duplicate Finder (thanks to Lifehacker:

For the moment I have created a new folder, called "Hub", on the Hub computer's external drive. I am manually copying the folders over and cleaning them up as I go. I will leave Photos and Music to the end in order to cling to sanity for as long as possible.

From now on, all work gets done from the Hub folder. If I need to access something and it isn't in the Hub folder yet, I will use that as the excuse to clean it up and move it. This is the "Go Forward" strategy for content migration.

Backup Strategy

  1. Weekly automatic incremental backups to S3 using JungleDisk Pro.
  2. Weekly manual site collection backup of the personal and business sites using SharePoint Designer.
  3. Monthly manual full copy of the content on the external file drive to another USB drive that I store offsite the rest of the time.

Thoughts, etc.

Thoughts? Feedback? Sympathetic handshakes? Mocking laughter?


  1. Nick, Interesting post. I've been researching various hosted SharePoint and Exchange solutions myself. What criteria did you use to select DNAMail for Exchange hosting? are you using them for SharePoint hosting as well?


  2. Hi Derek, thank you for commenting.

    I found out about DNAMail because they had a booth at TechEd. I chose them precisely because they offered both Exchange 2007 and SharePoint WSS 3 hosting. I want both as part of this new "keep it simple plan" and didn't want to deal with too many providers.

    Having said that, I am likely to host my business extranet on my existing provider, DotNetPark. I like them because I am a longstanding customer and they are very responsive to me.

    Which providers would you recommend? Are you doing some similar yourself?

  3. Just to clarify a bit -
    when looking for Exchange partners, I wanted the Mobile Access feature for the smart phone, and they had to provide Exchange 2007 because of the improved Office Web Access, better calendars, and Unified Messaging support. I also wanted to know if they had the Microsoft Exchange SPLA licensing which makes them compliant with Microsoft's T&C's - they need this to provide for month-to-month subscribers. Finally I wanted confirmation that if I wanted things deployed for my WSS site, like custom web parts I build, they will be willing to support this.

    DNAMail said yes to all of these points. I haven't been set up by them yet so I don't know how their service is.
    Hope that helps?

  4. In case anyone's wondering DNAMail never got around to setting me up so I'm continuing to use webmail from my current hosting provider, DotNetPark.


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