I am not a fan of horror stories, but since it is Halloween I have one to share. Sadly, it is not fiction, either; I experienced this story firsthand. My only hope is that others will be able to learn from my experience, and will be able to avoid this horrible monster that will suck away hours of their lives in an instant.
This story begins in place far away, a place called THE CLOUD. The Cloud is accessed through magical portals called the Internet. All of the technology gurus will show pictures of how The Cloud is a nice safe place, free from any harm: a gated community free from burglars. But do not be fooled by the green grass and perfect cookie cutter houses – there are dangers to be found here.
I don’t want to dissuade you from ever using The Cloud – on the contrary. Spending hundreds of hours on a story, then leaving it to sit on your computer, only on your hard drive, is extremely dangerous. If you drop your laptop wrong, hit your computer, get a virus, someone steals your laptop – any number of things might happen to that one device, and your work is gone.
Using Dropbox or any of the other services out there is a great way to have backups of your work – not only in The Cloud, but synchronized to your other computers as well, providing excellent protection against disasters.
That is how I used to use The Cloud when working on my story. I would write in Microsoft Word for Mac, and anytime I saved, a copy of the story would be sent to the beautiful gated community that is The Cloud.
I could not be satisfied with how things used to be, though. I wanted to try something new. What if I wrote my entire story in The Cloud? What if I spent my entire day sitting on that park bench in The Cloud working on my paper, so that none of it is on my local machine at all?
This idea does have some appeal to it, but also needs a strong caution. You see, on this particular day, I was duped.
There are two excellent services that you can use to write your documents in The Cloud. Using either of these services means not spending any money on updating to the latest version of Microsoft Office, and you also do not have to worry about installing and updating your software. If you are on a lightweight computer, like a Macbook Air, which has limited storage space, then this provides an additional feature of not needing to take up any space for the software or for your documents.
Microsoft Skydrive is neat because the interface is almost exactly like Microsoft Word. If you are used to using your word editor, you can pick this up really quickly. Also, it works a bit like Dropbox. If you install the software on your computer, you get a folder that is always synchronized with your other computers, and is kept in The Cloud.
One Saturday morning I spent six full hours writing in Microsoft Skydrive. I had nearly 3,000 words in my short story. And then my browser froze…
My heart started beating, palms started sweating. It felt like the Grim Reaper, Death himself, was standing behind my shoulder, waiting to suck away the hours I spent.
Then, I refreshed the browser. Grim raised his sickle to strike… The page reloaded, and so did my document. Close one! Grim took a few steps back, but was not ready to admit defeat.
My browser was still acting slow. I don’t know if I had too large of a document for my browser to handle, or if there was an issue with Skydrive that day – I just do not know. But it froze again, and this time, Grim took the chance.
Not me, the computer.
When the browser refreshed, it was blank. A new document. I frantically tried to go to the online history, to see document versions; I tried everything, but it was gone for good.
Now, I do not want to bash Microsoft Skydrive. It might be a perfectly awesome product. I will give them a chance and admit that it may have been my fault. Maybe I was just assuming that Skydrive has auto-save, for I never once hit the save button. Maybe…
As I searched The Cloud that day, I cried a little. I did not see that happy place that I saw before. I now saw the darkness that loomed around every corner, the shadows that were just barely visible, that could spell disaster in a moment.
But I will not be defeated so easily!
Last week, I decided to try Google Drive for my short story. Google Drive is different. It has no save button. At all. It just has a little text message at the top that says your document has been saved.
Can you really trust it?
On day three of writing, I felt that same presence of Death approach me. Sure enough, Grim was there again. This time it was not my browser that froze, for it was handling Google Docs like a champ. All at once, my music, my browser, my mouse, everything, just died.
My whole computer locked up. Had I been using Microsoft Word and saving on my computer with auto-save, I would have lost several minutes of writing, no questions asked. But I was writing in The Cloud.
Was it possible? Could it be gone again?
Quickly, I rebooted the computer. And watched….
As my document opened up, right where I left off. I lost less than a word.
So, this is my experience. Do not fear The Cloud, understand it and use it, just do not fully trust it. Test the applications to discover things, like if it has auto-save or not, and how large of a document it can handle before it crashes.
Do not pour hours of your life into The Cloud, only to have them ripped away by a small glitch or crash, before you realize its capabilities.
Do you have any success stories or horror stories about using The Cloud? What application do you use to do your writing? Leave a comment and let me know!