20 December 2014

CloudHQ review

Having recently returned to private legal practice, it's been an interesting time to think about best practices for data storage, information capture and document management. While there are a number of enterprise grade products that would be excellent single repositories for email, documents and notes, there are other options that work well with a bit of thought.

I recently came across cloudHQ, which reminded me of IFTTT, but goes much further and has far greater application for a business user. Both products act as the glue in the middle of various cloud services, such as allowing Evernote to exchange data with Dropbox, but cloudHQ integrates more deeply and with greater functionality.

As a very long-term Evernote user, I have a lot of data there, and it is very easy to create notes when out and about with a mobile device . As a lawyer, making a file note contemporaneously with a conversation can be very important, and on mobile phones Evernote is really the easiest place to do that. In fact, using the IFTTT Android channel, a note is automatically created in Evernote every time I create or receive a phone call on any of my Android phones. It captures the phone number, caller name if possible, date and time and length of call. I can then add to that note any notes that I need to make.

Where cloudHQ comes in is when I want to take the data out of Evernote and put it into the file system. We operate with virtual desktops which are securely hosted and provide our law firm with great flexibility in where we work and how we work. Evernote has many great features, and Evernote for business is coming along well, but our current source of truth is the file server that is part of our virtual environment. CloudHQ will automatically either copy or sync my Evernote notes into Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, box and webdav (just to name the file system products) as Word and/or PDF files continuously. It happens on the cloudHQ servers so my bandwidth is not affected, and it can be a one-way or two-way synchronisation.

A nice feature is a form of versioning, where cloudHQ will automatically save previous copies of documents before overwriting with the latest version. Evernote does not automatically version documents, and you have to rely on it simply creating a new version from time to time, over which you have no control. That doesn't really work for lawyers - we need certainty over how version control works.

Outlook email is not solved with cloudHQ, but Gmail and Google Apps are very nicely integrated. I personally have a Google Apps account, so I can do backup emails with that account under the premium plan, where it will back up or migrate all emails into Evernote or the file system (Dropbox, OneDrive et cetera) or another connected service. CloudHQ also permits two-way or one-way sync of just a single label.

Even where sync is two-way, you can choose whether or not to replicate deletion of files and folders. This let you have hybrid models of backup rather than simply synchronisation. The output for emails can be HTML, text, PDF, EML and others. Attachments are also exported automatically.

The control panel for managing your synchronisation pairs is easy to use and gives you a great deal of control over synchronisation. Events are logged and viewable, and synchronisation can be paused without deleting the entire rule.

There are many use cases for cloudHQ, and whether or not it is valuable for you will depend on what you need. I find the ability to get data out of Evernote without any effort into a file system folder is really valuable, because it lets me use Evernote for what it's good at on mobile devices without ending up with multiple repositories for my important client data.

I think cloudHQ is well worth a look.

(Disclosure: I may receive a discount from cloudHQ for writing this blog post, but that was not the purpose of this post nor did affect my evaluation of the product.)