With my recent decision to stick with Obsidian, it got me thinking about the two types of products that I use:
- Those that sync files to and from my computer.
- Those that live entirely in the cloud as a SaaS (“Software as a Service”)
The two main sync tools that I use are Obsidian and Anki. Both sync to the cloud for access from multiple computers, but all of the data that you use lives directly on your device. When you open either product, it can go out to their servers to make sure you have the latest files on your device, but then you work from those local files.
The downside is that it can sometimes take a little while to sync. I have over 8,000 notes in Obsidian and many thousands of cards in Anki. Day-to-day, they each only need to sync a few files and I’m good to go in a few seconds, but if I get a new device that initial sync can take a few minutes.
The great thing is that if you don’t have an internet connect, they still work perfectly. In addition, if something were to happen to either provider, you’d still have a copy of your content.
The other side are SaaS products where everything lives in the cloud, such as Gmail. As of right now, I have a total of 538,492 emails in my Gmail account (though zero in my inbox). Having to sync that down to every device would be a nightmare. Instead, I can log into Gmail and get a window into my email instantly. None of it is actually on my computer, but it works fantastic having it in the cloud.
The ease of access from any device is amazing, but you also are at the mercy of your provider. I don’t suspect Gmail will go anywhere, but if somehow I lost access to that account, I’d literally have nothing to restore from a backup.
I’ve long considered myself more of a SaaS guy, and I generally keep minimal software loaded on my computer and access everything through the web, but as data ownership is getting trickier for everyone having more “sync” products that give you stronger control is likely a good direction to go.
It gets even trickier at a corporate level. We are an almost SaaS exclusive shop, which from a maintenance standpoint is fantastic. Out data center footprint is almost zero. The downside is that if one of those providers has an outage or a data breach, it can basically grind work productivity to a halt. And there doesn’t seem to be a good “sync” option for corporate users, unless you consider keeping everything in our own data center as “synced”. Even then, you are now taking on the cost and risks associated with maintaining and securing the data center.
That’s a great point! Life at corporate is much different, and often more limiting — for mostly good reasons (security, etc).
I’m fortunate that I don’t have those limitations, as I essentially set the rules for our organization, but it also means I can be a little haphazard in changing tools. 🙂