Posted by: Philip Siddons | September 14, 2010

DropBox App

Want to share files but can’t afford a server? Now you can.

I regularly deal with non-profit organizations who are expected to do county, state and federal work as professionals. Unfortunately, because of their not for profit structuring, they have little or no cash reserves. Their fee-for-service contracts seldom cover the necessary infrastructure costs. That means they are expected to have current computer technology, training and the surrounding network infrastructure in place to perform competitively with other bidding organizations.

The same is true of other non-profit small to medium organizations that are staffed by intelligent, caring and committed socially minded workers. You simply can’t have enough bake sales and car washes to buy a $7-10,000 file server, $2-4,000 worth of software, a $500 a month T-1 line and a $50-75,000 a year network administrator to manage it.

Here is some good news. If your workers are at least able to connect to the Internet, you can store and share files in common folders. You can work collaboratively, saving, editing and managing multiple files with everyone else with whom you work without investing in a local area network. Here’s how.

There are several ways to store and share files “in the cloud.” That means that instead of owning an expensive and complex file server and all that goes with it, you can use one of the many available cloud services. For an excellent article in this, see Paul Tilly’s “The Great Hard Drive in the Sky” article in the September 2012 issue of PCWorld (page 69).

Of the six services mentioned, I have found Dropbox particularly effective. Their free version has allowed multiple clients I have to easily share and collaborate by using common files and folders. While they currently do not have password-protected or permission-based folders, Dropbox has brought several of my clients them into the 21st century by using cloud technology. No longer do they have to try to email things to multiple people. People can work on the same documents and benefit from its version tracking. They can even access files from their Apple or Android smartphones. With the QuickOffice application, they can even open, edit and save Microsoft documents to their Dropbox folders with their iPhone or iPad.

Using the free DropBox account, you get a whopping 2 GB of space. For $100 a year you get 100 GB, but as soon as I paid my yearly feel for all that space, they doubled my allotment to 200 GB.
Dropbox keeps a history of file changes so you can roll back to previous versions whenever you like. One of my clients used it last week to enable three workers to collaboratively craft a grant. Another client used it for sharing a too-large-to-email file with their website manager so he wouldn’t have to physically type text for the web pages.

I also like their artwork throughout the site. It reminds you that life is supposed to be fun as well as efficient and collaborative.

If folder password protection is important to your organization, you may want to look into SugarSync. It lets you create password-protected folders for things such as HR or private items that you might want to share with one or a few individuals. It also lets you share folders with non-subscribers.

Otherwise, DropBox might be the step forward for your company to do more networking without the cost of a full-blown local area network. Try it out. You’ll be pleasantly surprised that you are easily using the cloud to work with others.

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