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Personal Digital Information

How do you manage your Personal Digital Content?

The world has never seen before so much personal digital content that we see today and it has been growing by leaps and bounds every day. About 90% of the world’s digital data was created in the last 2 years. It is estimated that average digital information storage per household will grow from 464 gigabytes in 2011 to 3.3 terabytes in 2016. We always want to have our personal digital content in the right place, in the right form, and of sufficient completeness and quality to meet our current need. How are we going to manage our personal data?

I am interested in organizing my personal data, addressing the challenges and keep improving my system. Managing personal information becomes simple if we take a close look at what we have and how we want to access it. Here are the 4 simple steps to plan and create a system around your personal information to manage it effectively.

List all digital content you have

I am sure you wonder once you list out what all you have recorded so far either in your own device or on the cloud. Today, almost everyone has digital presence. I have done this exercise about 2 years back and surprised to find the following list.

Offical ID cards like Passport, Social Security Card etc.
Official Non ID related files like Driving License

Academic Certificates

Property docs
Tax filings
Financial Statements
Insurance docs
Utility bill receipts
Investment documents
Major shopping bill receipts for valuables

Personal and family photos and videos
Music Collection
Movie Collection
Other Video Collection
Audio files like Books, Interviews etc.
Digital Books

Other Records
Travel Records
Health Records
Product Manuals

I have not mentioned emails, social networks and whole set of your passwords here. We do not need to maintain emails and social networks separately as they are already securely stored in server. Password is not considered as digital content, but the key to manage it. Considering the growing number of passwords that you need to remember, you should store them in a password protected document and store it either in your mobile or laptop. Of course, you need to remember the password to open that document.

Classify the content by growth and usage

Not everything we need every day. We always want to carry some content like official cards, some photos, favourite music etc. while we generally don’t need other content like academic certificates, investment documents so often. We rarely need to revisit some content like bill receipts, financial statements but want to store them just for reference. Some records like travel, health related documents are required only till a specific time period once they are created; after that we only need them for reference. Some are unique documents like academic credentials, passport etc. while others like media, achievements, investments etc. keep growing. So it is important to categorise all our personal information into Unique and Always on Hand, Growing and Always on Hand and Reference documents. We can easily find appropriate storage location and access mechanism when we know what it is and how often we want it.

Identify appropriate content management provider

We have been storing all our digital content on our PCs, but as we enter the post-PC era, it’s time to migrate to cloud. Gartner predicts that the share of on-premises storage will progressively drop from 93 per cent in 2011 to 64 per cent in 2016 as the direct-to-cloud model becomes more mainstream. Gartner also says that just 7 per cent of consumer content was stored in the cloud in 2011, but this will grow to 36 per cent in 2016. The use of cloud online storage and sync services will provide the foundational experience for consumers to start using cloud storage as part of the personal cloud.

Unique and Always on Hand type of information should be available on your smartphone with backup in the cloud. We can use either Google Drive or any similar competitive free service available in the market. We have multiple free cloud storage services available in the market like Google Drive, Evernote, Dropbox, SugarSync, SkyDrive, etc. We can use different services for different category of our information as one service may not be sufficient because of limited space offered by free services.

In Growing and Always on Hand type of content, we need to separate Media files from all other documents because they need huge storage space, thus require a separate storage system. Personal documents other than Media files, however fast they grow, do not require more than a couple of GB for a period of, say 5 years. So they need to be stored in dedicated cloud storage so that you can access them anytime. However, if you have a set of favourite songs, photos, small videos etc., you can still store them on one of the cloud services and access them from your personal devices like mobile, tablet and laptop. Bigger Media files are traditionally stored in personal Hard Disk or laptop. Nevertheless, in the long term, you can plan to have a personal cloud platform like Synology DiskStation to have them accessible from anywhere in the world. With personal cloud, you can access all your information from all connected devices at home and also from outside your home over internet.

Reference type of content keeps growing though not at the pace that your media files grow. Dedicated cloud storage is an ideal place for it. Evernote is a great tool to capture and store notes, personal documents and other content of your interest. You can explore other competitive services as well.

Move and Manage your Personal Information

It’s always important to start using your system rather than waiting till building a perfect system. Plan your system and start using it with the most important content and then try to improve your system on the way. First, move all your Unique and Always on Hand type of files to your preferred cloud service. For other categories, you can start moving the data to their respective predefined storage locations as and when you create it. This way, you have the system in place which is well planned and growing steadily. Within a few months, I am sure you feel that all your personal information is within your control, always available and accessible.

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