Working Across Multiple Machines

This is a little off topic for my normal blog posts, but it does relate to the freelance lifestyle so I think it's appropriate; that and the tool that I've started using is so great that I just have to get the message out about it.

Before we get started, here's a bit of back story/context to frame the dilemma. I use an iMac for 95% of all of my design/painting work. I previously worked on a Macbook Pro for portability, but as I found I spent more time working from my studio than anywhere else, I decided to upgrade to a more static setup. This worked out really well, until I started doing more freelance work on location in clients premises. By this time, my Macbook Pro had pretty much ground to a halt from old age, so I opted to dual wield operating systems, and purchased a custom built PC laptop, geared towards video editing and high end graphics work. Switching back and forth between both systems has had it's challenges, but the latest version of Outlook has finally integrated a lot of the functionality that I'd come to rely upon with iCloud (synced contacts, mail, calendars, task lists etc), so the disparity between the two systems was reduced. However, the major issue of running two machines still remained: FILE MANAGEMENT and VERSION CONTROL.

Solution 1: Shared External HD
I am a real stickler for version control on files. The immediate solution, when going out on location, was to simply take the files with me that I thought I'd need - this rapidly became frustrating as requirements were often unpredictable. This also often lead to having 2 or more working versions of the same files, that I would then have to resyncronise manually. Not ideal.




 
Solution 2: 'Working Folder' in Dropbox
For a while I started using a 'Current Working Folder' in Dropbox. I use a Dropbox premium account with my clients everyday, so 100gb is generally plenty to sync across both machines for current projects. This was nearing what I was looking for, but still had the issue of not being able to sync my entire HD (effectively) across both machines (without it being prohibitively expensive).


Solution 3: NAS Drive located at home office
A bit more of a technical solution, I thought for a while about setting up a RAID NAS Drive at home (Network Attached Storage). Although initially pricey, this would have given me a single location to store all my files, effectively setting up a personal file server. The great thing about this would have been it's accessibility from anywhere with a net connection, but the draw back would be the limitation of read/write speeds across the web and to the drive itself. Although this would have solved the problem of the single location, this just didn't seem practical for day to day use.

Solution 4: Cloud Storage Backup
One of the first useful work arounds came almost by accident from my online back up provider. I use JustCloud to clone my HD to an unlimited backup every night, and as such have access to the latest version of files that are stored on my iMac via the web. So, when out and about, I can download missing files (provided there's a strong enough web connection). This in itself has proved invaluable, but still leaves the issue of version control from two production sources.



Solution 5: AeroFS.
I cannot stress how much this programme has changed the way I work, in such a short space of time. Effectively, AeroFS is a Dropbox rival, with a major difference: It is peer-to-peer, rather than cloud based. This means that rather than copying files from your Dropbox folder to the web, storing them there and then copying them to other syncronised folders, it cuts out the 'middle man' and shares directly between machines. This eliminates the restriction of cloud storage space. So, if you have two (or more) machines, you can create an AeroFS folder on each, and each will automatically push any content from that folder to the other machine, and vice versa. It works over LAN and the web, and is completely secure. The best part? It's free!

So, by keeping all of my important data in my AeroFS folder, I keep all of my client and art related files with me at all time, and because they're automatically pushed to my iMac from my laptop when I'm out and about, they're automatically backed up to the cloud via JustCloud. As a secondary layer of backup, the iMac also backs up via Time Machine to an external HD. It's a seamless and automatic way to keep all your files backed up and synced across multiple machines.

Have you had any particular data management problems working as a freelancer? Or come up with any interesting solutions or work-arounds? If so, I'd love to hear about them in the comments below!

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Tom Parrish Concept Art and Illustration: Working Across Multiple Machines

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Working Across Multiple Machines

This is a little off topic for my normal blog posts, but it does relate to the freelance lifestyle so I think it's appropriate; that and the tool that I've started using is so great that I just have to get the message out about it.

Before we get started, here's a bit of back story/context to frame the dilemma. I use an iMac for 95% of all of my design/painting work. I previously worked on a Macbook Pro for portability, but as I found I spent more time working from my studio than anywhere else, I decided to upgrade to a more static setup. This worked out really well, until I started doing more freelance work on location in clients premises. By this time, my Macbook Pro had pretty much ground to a halt from old age, so I opted to dual wield operating systems, and purchased a custom built PC laptop, geared towards video editing and high end graphics work. Switching back and forth between both systems has had it's challenges, but the latest version of Outlook has finally integrated a lot of the functionality that I'd come to rely upon with iCloud (synced contacts, mail, calendars, task lists etc), so the disparity between the two systems was reduced. However, the major issue of running two machines still remained: FILE MANAGEMENT and VERSION CONTROL.

Solution 1: Shared External HD
I am a real stickler for version control on files. The immediate solution, when going out on location, was to simply take the files with me that I thought I'd need - this rapidly became frustrating as requirements were often unpredictable. This also often lead to having 2 or more working versions of the same files, that I would then have to resyncronise manually. Not ideal.




 
Solution 2: 'Working Folder' in Dropbox
For a while I started using a 'Current Working Folder' in Dropbox. I use a Dropbox premium account with my clients everyday, so 100gb is generally plenty to sync across both machines for current projects. This was nearing what I was looking for, but still had the issue of not being able to sync my entire HD (effectively) across both machines (without it being prohibitively expensive).


Solution 3: NAS Drive located at home office
A bit more of a technical solution, I thought for a while about setting up a RAID NAS Drive at home (Network Attached Storage). Although initially pricey, this would have given me a single location to store all my files, effectively setting up a personal file server. The great thing about this would have been it's accessibility from anywhere with a net connection, but the draw back would be the limitation of read/write speeds across the web and to the drive itself. Although this would have solved the problem of the single location, this just didn't seem practical for day to day use.

Solution 4: Cloud Storage Backup
One of the first useful work arounds came almost by accident from my online back up provider. I use JustCloud to clone my HD to an unlimited backup every night, and as such have access to the latest version of files that are stored on my iMac via the web. So, when out and about, I can download missing files (provided there's a strong enough web connection). This in itself has proved invaluable, but still leaves the issue of version control from two production sources.



Solution 5: AeroFS.
I cannot stress how much this programme has changed the way I work, in such a short space of time. Effectively, AeroFS is a Dropbox rival, with a major difference: It is peer-to-peer, rather than cloud based. This means that rather than copying files from your Dropbox folder to the web, storing them there and then copying them to other syncronised folders, it cuts out the 'middle man' and shares directly between machines. This eliminates the restriction of cloud storage space. So, if you have two (or more) machines, you can create an AeroFS folder on each, and each will automatically push any content from that folder to the other machine, and vice versa. It works over LAN and the web, and is completely secure. The best part? It's free!

So, by keeping all of my important data in my AeroFS folder, I keep all of my client and art related files with me at all time, and because they're automatically pushed to my iMac from my laptop when I'm out and about, they're automatically backed up to the cloud via JustCloud. As a secondary layer of backup, the iMac also backs up via Time Machine to an external HD. It's a seamless and automatic way to keep all your files backed up and synced across multiple machines.

Have you had any particular data management problems working as a freelancer? Or come up with any interesting solutions or work-arounds? If so, I'd love to hear about them in the comments below!

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

4 Comments:

At 26 November 2013 at 05:03 , Blogger Rich Wilcox said...

Not a freelancer per se, but manage lots of project work across multiple platforms. For project, plans, notes and updates I find Evernote indispensable. I've been using EN for years; device agnostic, very mobile friendly, just awesome. For more 'formal' stuff, application specific files that I can'y anything with in EN, I use DB but don't back up the whole lot. Just selected folders depending on which device I'm syncing to.

 
At 26 November 2013 at 06:22 , Blogger Tom Parrish said...

Nice Rich! I've tried using Evernote before, but I think I may have been using it just for note/document management across multiple platforms, so switched to Google Docs. Does Evernote handle file storage as well? I'd forgotten about the selective syncronisation of DB, but ultimately you're still limited by storage size :-)

 
At 26 November 2013 at 13:01 , Blogger Marco said...

Tom, regarding the nass solution: I own a synology 412+ (Google it) and I can say it is rather easy to setup and 'I roll my own cloud now'. I can save everything into a directory on my laptop and it is synced when I make contact (even on Android and ios). They have cheaper products with only 2 drives, I would say check it out... If you like to have help setting it up, I'd be happy to assist!

 
At 27 November 2013 at 03:03 , Blogger Tom Parrish said...

Hi Marco! That sounds like a great setup, definitely the sort of thing I was looking to do, and a really tidy way to run together the backups and cross machine sycronisation. I'll definitely have a think about it and maybe look to roll something like that out next year -- I'll keep you posted!

 

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