My work life on a thumb drive

Citing its advantages, drawbacks, and my experiences to it.

Few months ago I managed to post a guide on how to setup Apache and PHP in a hard and portable way. After having fun doing that, I decided to make a portable version of my other things regarding software development and personal stuff. This month, I would like to share my experiences between those months when I included most of my work life in a single thumb drive.

Portable everything

I managed to create a mindset that everything I need, either work or personal, must be copied in a thumb drive. This includes a BitTorrent client (Tixati), a text editor (Sublime Text), Git client (Sublime Merge), and a Windows-based Redis. And for me, the effects were great. It gives me an opportunity to fire up a workstation on any computer and be able to setup it up in minutes. I do not have also to worry whether I needed to download to certain application to achieve a specific task since I already downloaded it in the said storage device.

Always ready during emergencies

Whenever I travel, I always bring my thumb drive and treat it as an extension of my work life. If there is an issue that needs to be settled immediately and I'm far away from my workstation, I could insert the thumb drive to a nearby Windows-based computer and start working. But with these perks comes with great drawbacks. Since you can work anywhere and anytime, you cannot be able to create an excuse not to work. Also if the thumb drive will be stolen or lost, then it's a game over.

A single point of failure

As I mentioned earlier regarding the thumb drive being lost or stolen, that little item will be the single point of failure and the biggest disadvantage in this setup. Being careless to the precious item will lose all of its important data. To mitigate this problem, we could create a backup in our local workstation or synchronize it to cloud platforms. But some its limitations are outdated files and confidential data being exposed for local workstations and limited disk space, cost, and support on other files types (such as Windows executables) in the cloud platform. So far it has not yet happened to me and will try my best to avoid this problem.

Being Windows dependent

Since all of the applications in the thumb drive were based on Windows, it cannot be used on other operating systems such as Mac and other Linux distributions. It may be a problem when you need to setup a local workstation in your current area but only found a non-Windows operating system (e.g. Ubuntu). Other problems are the documents (e.g. written in an Microsoft Word) not being compatible with other document editors. One of the solutions for this problem is to find and set portable applications per operating system. But in my experience, I neglected it for now (though dismissing the previous section) since I have not an experience in portable software development in other operating systems.

Not for everyone

Although this was working for me on the past few months, it might not work on others. Compatability, data security, and supported programs are the factors when doing a portable workstation. One example is for graphic designers or content editors that needs heavy third-party software to be installed in a workstation in order to run. This is also applicable for gamers who play heavy games as the disk read and write of the thumb drive might not catch up, especially if you bought it cheap or with low quality. While it works on my end because I only store all of my work-related files in the thumb drive and the games will be always available on the other computer dedicated to it. So putting some of your work life inside a thumb drive may depends on you.