It’s been over 4 years since I last posted on this topic, and I am ready to offer an update.
I made the complete switch to Apple products, so our house now has an iMac, Macbook, iPad, Apple TV, and iPhone. There are trade-offs involved, but for me the benefits (one relatively functional system that combines software and hardware) outweigh the costs (moderately expensive, plus I have all my computer eggs in one corporate basket).
I would not have done this were it not for one cloud-based application that is not dependent on Apple: Evernote.
I have been using Evernote for five years, and now it contains all my personal and other information, organized in about 65 notebooks (as of today I have 6495 notes). Each note contains either a single piece of data (e.g., a product on Amazon I am considering buying), or a whole category of data (e.g., all of my contacts with my dentists). A note can be written by me, clipped from the web, a photo, a video, a sound file, an attachment, an email, or any combination.
Evernote works just as well if you use one notebook, or 200. How you organize is entirely up to you. I have my notebooks arranged under main categories, such as Health, Food, People, My Stuff. Under My Stuff, for example, I have notebooks for House, Bicycles, Yard, Computer Hardware, etc. Under Food I have separate notebooks for Wine, Recipes, Cooking Tips, In-state Restaurants, etc.
When you do a search, all notebooks are searched, or you can specify one. You can put multiple “tags” on each notebook and organize/search that way.
Now, if I need information (e.g., a history of an insurance claim), it is super easy to find, and almost effortless to update. What is even better, and essential, is I can access this data instantly on all my devices, or any mainstream device connected to the internet.
This is really my dream system, one I have been hoping would emerge in my lifetime, but never really expecting it to.
With Evernote, I have essentially gone paperless. On my always-present iPhone, I use an application called Drafts to assemble or compose notes, etc., then hit a button to instantly transfer the note to Evernote. Just as often, I email a note (or forward an email) to Evernote. As a Premium Evernote user ($45 per year), I can search any attached document, whether it is a .doc file, a .pdf, or something else (like a photo). The free Evernote program is powerful, too. You can switch back and forth from free to premium with no obligation or penalty.
I use other programs to store and access a variety of information I want to keep, such as Vimeo for videos I create, Flickr and Snapfish for photos, Yahoo for email (also Gmail).
I do keep backup data on hard drives, and Evernote allows me to keep its data (my data) on my devices, so it is available whether or not I have an internet connection.
The main problem going forward is I am increasingly dependent on a corporation (Evernote) and its continued availability and functionality. So far, despite a few problems along the way, it has been dependable, and its future seem assured.