I managed to drop my IBM-owned Thinkpad fairly violently last weekend and the hard disk crashed. Thinkpads are worth the money, folks, they really are the most reliable laptops going (honest - IBM has sold the brand to Lenovo now, anyway). Unfortunately even it couldn’t withstand my abuse.
I’m currently in the process of getting it fixed, but it was impressive how little disruption it has so far caused. I was both concerned and embarrassed when it first happened: partly because I really need a laptop to take away with me to San José, and partly because, well, it’s embarrassing to break other people’s stuff (even if that person is a virtual entity employing a few hundred thousand people).
Nevertheless, I began to realise just how much data that was important to me, both personally and professionally, was out there on the network, and thus still seamlessly accessible from the remaining PCs I have at home and in the office. My email is all web accessible (save from my business mail, which sadly is not - not without some fuss anyway). My bookmarks are all on delicious, and contain pointers to many things I read regularly. Some of my data (presentations, documents, etc.) is on internal IBM network storage - the rest I’ll be moving onto there in short order from backups. I use Google Reader as an RSS reader, so that wasn’t disturbed. I’m currently evaluating which of the remaining applications I use I should try to find online equivalents for.
I’ve always been paranoid about backups, and that’s one of the reasons why I held off using online applications for such a long time - I worried about control over my data. David convinced me to chill out about this, and I started using delicious (although I still run an automated backup of my bookmarks from it). It was so useful that I started to move more data off my machine. As well as illustrating to me how unimportant the operating system I use really is (I’ve been without a Windows system for a week, and it hasn’t mattered at all), I now really love the compelling value of network-based data, and this event has demonstrated the value of that to me clearly.