Wednesday, April 27, 2011
As new technology is created, there are more and more options, and it can be very overwhelming... I mean, have you seen all the cloud options for storing and sharing data?!? Wow! The key, though, is how each tech option makes your life easier, more organized and more productive. Read on for a little clarification about various available tools and what differentiates them...
Although Yojimbo and Growly Notes are Mac-only while OneNote caters to the needs of PC users, Evernote works in both the Mac and PC realms, making it easy to organize all information in one, reliable solution. Plus, whereas there is a fee to use any form of either Yojimbo or OneNote, there is a fairly robust option for Evernote that is absolutely FREE... Such a beautiful word, eh? With each of these tools, you can store text, images, PDFs, checklists and more, organized with tags, by labels or in groupings / notebooks and easily searchable. Access your Evernote or OneNote account via the Internet, on your computer's desktop or on your smartphone and access your Yojimbo or Growly Notes account anywhere data is synced through MobileMe.
Options to Aid in Creating a Paperless System:
Both Shoeboxed and OfficeDrop offer mail-in scanning services, where you package your papers in pre-paid shipping for those companies' employees to coordinate scanning your documents into an organized, electronic format for you. However, if you prefer to scan your own documents for yourself, there are several other options... The Neat Company offers NeatReceipts as a portable option and NeatDesk as a desktop scanner, allowing you to scan your business cards, receipts and 8.5" x 11" documents into a digital filing system. Both Canon Document Scanners and Fujitsu ScanSnap Scanners offer mobile, personal, sheet-fed and network options to scan your documents. Although each self-scanning device integrates differently with collaborative solutions, like Evernote, the option for you may depend most on current pricing so it's recommended that you research online before buying.
File Collaboration, Sharing, Syncing and Back-up Options:
If you are looking for a tool that relies solely or primarily on you manually moving a document from your computer to the cloud or web-based solution, there are plenty of options available. A free account through Dropbox gives you 2GB of storage for life, but a paid account will increase your Dropbox storage capacity; any file can be shared from Dropbox via the appropriate URL. Windows Live SkyDrive is very similar but is limited to PCs and bumps the storage limit up to 25GB with a 50MB cap for each file. A free account through Ge.tt gives you quicker, real-time storing and sharing of files for 90-day intervals. Furthermore, MediaFire has no restrictions except that files be smaller than 200MB. A free account through Box.net gives you 5GB of storage with a 25MB cap for each file, including a collaboration "holtlink" for any shared files. And the very popular option of Google Docs can be found at Docs.Google.com to upload files from desktop, access them from anywhere and do real-time collaboration with others.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a tool that will move documents from your computer to the cloud automatically, the available options are a little different. With these options, you simply install the technology on your computer (PC or Mac) and, at different intervals when your computer is connected to the Internet, your selected data will automatically be encrypted and securely backed up to the cloud, allowing you to restore or remotely access as-needed later. In February of this year, Mozy replaced its unlimited backup plan with a tiered storage plan of 50GB or 125GB, allowing users to purchase additional storage in increments of 20GB each. If you are looking for an unlimited option, Carbonite offers such a solution for $59 a year while the unlimited solution from Crash Plan is $49.99 a year, but Crash Plan has smaller storage options for less money, too. And there's good news... In addition to the aforementioned manual option, Windows Live Mesh's SkyDrive also offers an automated sync for PCs, too!
Finally, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud is a web service that offers a customizable, pay-as-you-go option for storing in a cloud environment, allowing you to quickly scale capacity up or down and pay only for the capacity that you actually use. For details on this new and different option, I recommend visiting http://aws.amazon.com/ec2/.
Options Enabling Remote Access to Paperless System:
Now that you've created all these electronic documents, some will be accessible via Internet access through cloud technology; however, sometimes, you just want to work with them on your own computer. If you travel a good deal, options for accessing your own computer via the Internet from a remote location might be very helpful, and there are several options for accomplishing that goal. LogMeIn and GoToMyPc allow you to access, support and manage devices (including Windows-based PCs and iOS-based Macs) at any time from any location via a secure, Internet login. Or you can use Windows Live Mesh to work on your PC from another location, running programs or browsing PC files remotely. Finally, if you have an iPhone or iPad, use Mocha VNC to connect to your Windows PC or Mac OS X and see your files/programs exactly as you would sitting in front of your computer itself.
Smartphone Solutions for Working with Documents:
Although many of the aforementioned tools enable access from your smartphone, a growing number of people elect to work via smartphone, rather than focusing on use of desktop and laptop computers. Quickoffice Connect and Documents to Go - Office Suite are options to create, edit and share Microsoft Office documents on your iPhone, iPad, Android technology or Blackberry.
Do you utilize cloud technology and, if so, how do you upload data to "the cloud"? Are you backing up data automatically or adding it manually? Which tools do you prefer most? Please share in the Comments below.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
We're in the third week of April, known as Organize Your Files Week, and it's a great time for this project, especially since Tax Day has passed, you've filed your tax return (or an extension) and you may have moved last year's financial documents.
Step One... Determine what needs to be kept for how long. Although a quick Internet search of "record retention" or "what to keep for how long in office" produces a wide variety of websites to help, it is always advised to check with your accountant for current requirements, too. A little bit of homework can go a long way for making the purging and sorting process much easier.
Step Two... Purge what doesn't need to be kept. My clients like using separate bins for TO KEEP, TO RECYCLE, TO SHRED and TO OTHERS when working through the purging process, but the particular categories you use would be unique to your specific needs. As you review each item, determine what's the worst possible result if you get rid of it; then, determine if you can replace it should the need arise.
Step Three... Sort items from the TO KEEP bin into categories. Group like with like into appropriate yet general categories that will aid in correctly labeling contents to remain in your space. You want to have enough files to contain all items that will remain, but you don't want to have too many files. If you have to wonder in which file a document should be added when filing that document, chances are good you'll wonder about the same thing when going to retrieve that document, which goes back to the need for limiting the number of files as available options when originally creating those file folder options.
Step Four... Color-code your system. Color is fantastic, and creating appropriate yet general categories limits the number that you use, allowing you to assign a different color to each category. File folders now come in such fabulous colors, including ones that are lighter inside than out so you know for certain when you are putting papers inside the file rather than in between files in the same drawer. Furthermore, colors drive action: you can see at a glance to which topic the file is related and a topic you dislike in a file that's your favorite color is less likely to be avoided.
Step Five... Assign a "home" to each category's items. Make sure to account for what you already have as well as what will be added. Then, when creating sub-categories, utilize the same tab position. For example, for the TAXES category, you may use the same, far-left tab position for TAXES 2010, TAXES 2009, etc. For the THINGS OWNED category, you may use middle tabbed files for STOCKS, BOAT, AUTOMOBILE, HOUSE, INSURED JEWELS, etc.
The goal is to know where to quickly locate what is needed when you need it... Can you put your hands on any piece of paper in 30 seconds or less when you determine that you need it? What paper management tactics do you use for your file drawers, and what's working best? Do you mirror those tactics for your electronic files? Please share in the Comments below.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
For contacts' names, phone numbers, emails and snail mail addresses as well as any notes related to that connection, keeping everyone's information centralized within one system makes it easier to keep contacts' data up-to-date and to access those details quickly whenever they are needed. However, how do you make an address book really operate as a tool to encourage your great success? Read on for tips to best utilize your address book...
1. Use what works for you. Test different options to see if your personality and specific needs mesh best with a paper or electronic option. With smartphones that sync with cloud technology as well as small paper options, either can be as mobile as needed to update contacts' information as you are out and about, but there is no "right" or "wrong" option; just select whichever option is best for you.
2. Be clear and honest with yourself about what you consider a "contact" you'd like in your address book. This would preferably be someone with whom you plan to interact regularly or with whom you'll do business... Not everyone from whom you collect a business card will qualify as a contact to go in your address book. However, since you still want access to the contact info for those that do not make the cut, I recommend scanning their business cards into your computer with NeatDesk and, then, uploading those scans into a "Networking" notebook in your Evernote account, allowing you to easily search for their information should it be needed down the road.
3. Update the information for those contacts in your address book regularly, especially as the details of their information change. The most useless tool is one with out-of-date data, like the saying of "garbage in leads to garbage out". Therefore, it is vital to be proactive and stay up-to-date. At least once each quarter, purge contacts you no longer want in your address book, especially if there's no longer a valid reason for them to be there, and, then, review the accuracy of remaining contacts' information.
4. Know upfront what is your goal for using an address book. Choose whether you want to simply manage contacts and their information OR if you want a Customer Relationship Management tool that can add in history of communications or retail trade-cycle management functionality. Do you want a record of interactions you've had or projects that you have worked on together? Do you need to schedule follow-up with this person? If you are fully aware of your goal, you can better use your selected address book tool for achieving it.
5. Utilize all the bells & whistles that come with your address book. Some address book options allow you to connect each contact's record with his / her social media profiles, which is a great way to see what important events might be occurring in that person's life. Some address book options allow you to print labels, which is a great way to alert clients and business partners about important happenings for your company or in your life. Yet, it is very important that you do not get distracted by all the current bells & whistles... Your address book is a tool, and successful use of this tool depends on keeping that in mind whenever you're using it.
What techniques do you use to maximize your address book's effectiveness? Please share in the Comments section below.