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Personal KM: Searching my clouds

In our digital information world, with all the inbound sources and our ability to capture, annotate, structure and store them in Internet-based services, one thing quickly happens: We start to have many end points for things. The accumulation of things in storage spaces happens when we interact with others and set up shared repositories. We grab our own space on a service to move things in and out more easily with others on the same service. The bring-your-own-device model for work has added to the storage problem because work and personal services are becoming interwoven.

Soon we have difficulty finding the document or object for which we are looking. That problem is far from new, which is to our advantage, because people have been building solutions to help us search across services. When we have things in Google Docs and Drive, Box, Dropbox, SugarSync, Evernote, YouSendIt, ShareFile, Microsoft SkyDrive and a myriad of other places, we need a bit of help.

One solution is to use services that have applications that can sit on your devices and provide the operating system's (OS) file system a peer-like view to cloud storage files and folder structures, looking and acting like they are local files. That helps the OS-based search find those files as they appear natively. Dropbox, Google Drive, Evernote, SkyDrive, SugarSync and YouSendIt can work this way, but that is not all of the services. OS-based search is less than optimal because sometimes (or often) you are away from your device and would like to search across services and find things.

Two new options

New services are popping up to help us with centralized search of our own things and to ease centralized sharing. They're rather new, and are still expanding the services they cover. Two have sparked interest, mostly with their ease of use as well as their stated product road map for the near future.

The first of these is Found, which is only for Mac OS at the moment, but is developing Windows and iOS versions as well. With one central interface, Found can connect to your Dropbox, Google Docs, Google Drive and Gmail to provide a central search across all of those cloud sources, as well as local search of the Mac. The service is currently in beta and free. The Found team has said it wants to also provide a connection to Box, Evernote and Salesforce down the road. Found is great for locating where the document or object lives so it is easy to retrieve.

The second is Dispatch, which is a service that right now is just covering Dropbox, Google Docs and Google Contacts. It is lacking search, but the one-stop shop for looking across those repositories in one (Web) interface is quite helpful. The great thing with Dispatch is being able to look across services and bring documents together from the disparate services to share with others within one easy-to-use interface.

The inclusion of access to Google Contacts makes it easy to send an invite to the "Dispatch" (shared document space). Documents in the Dispatch can be viewed, commented on and edited in the service. The service is in a request-access beta (or get-access when you are included in a Dispatch) and currently free.

Both of those services represent good starts at tackling an ever- increasing problem. The sweet spot seems to be search, manage and share across services. Cloudring, another service, seems to have that faculty across a broader set of services, but is in closed beta currently. It aims to provide access across Box, Dropbox, Evernote, Google Docs and more with search across all the services.

While these products are still young and improving, they are providing a solution to a problem most of us face managing our personal and professional documents and objects across cloud services. Hooray for them for stepping in to fill the gap. Here's to their getting their services honed and expanded in the near future. 

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