Leveraging Cloud Technology to Increase Efficiency

by Ed Cabellon on April 24, 2012 · 2 comments

Graphic of a Technology Swiss Army Knife

One of the reasons I have always been drawn to technology is its ability to increase work efficiency when leveraged properly.  While traveling in March to Austin, Boston, and Louisville, a common conversation I had was how I used cloud technology in my daily work to keep up with everything I was expected to do.  Here are some quick ideas that you can implement today, with some others you may deem as summer projects :)

1.  Storage
It’s time to shift your computer “storage” paradigm into one that includes saving files to the cloud (unless it contains personal information, of course!) Set your PC or MAC to save to a cloud service such as DropBox, which allows you to access files from multiple devices, including your mobile phone, tablet, or laptop computer.  Telling folks, “Oh, that file is on my home computer, can I send it to you later?” is not really viable anymore… and with the dawn of Google Drive upon us, DropBox has upped its free account to 5GB (Beta) to stay competitive.

General DropBox Tips:
1.  Keep only the files you access regularly on the cloud instead of your computer’s Desktop. If you haven’t used certain files in three months, move it alternative storage like a internal or external hard drive, thumb drive,  or simply delete it.  If you want to make your “My Documents” folder point to DropBox, simply right-click on your My Documents folder then select the Location tab, click on ‘move’ & select your Dropbox folder. When you hit ok it will ask if you want to move all your files and folders to the new location also.  Click yes and you are done!
2.   Leave any “Shared Folders” once you have completed the tasks at hand.  Joining a shared folder contributes to your overall space usage, so make sure you leave as soon as you are able to!
3.  Disable the “Camera Upload” feature from your mobile phone:  Unless you are paying for more storage, this can eat into your space quickly.  While its a great feature to back up your mobile images, you may need to sacrifice this feature to keep the maximum amount of space you can.
4.  Save all your “meeting related” email attachments to DropBox to access them during a meeting.  Encourage meeting organizers to send agendas, articles, etc. ahead of time and to save unnecessary printing.

Favorite DropBox Uses:
1.   Sharing Files/Folders: As of this week, you can now share any file or folder upload to DropBox by right-clicking the file or folder and selecting the “Copy Link” action.    Now you can share that file via email and NOT clog the recipients Inbox with large attachments. Advanced Tip: If you want to know how many people clicked on your DropBox link, shorten it in bit.ly first, customize it if you wish (e.g. bit.ly/hereticposter), and then send it out.  Later on, check on your statistics by typing the bit.ly link with a + at the end of it (e.g.  bit.ly/hereticposter+)
2.   Leadership Transition Files: Do you have a group in transition that needs last year’s documents all in one easy place? Open up a new shared file in DropBox, have your officers, staff, leadership, etc. upload them all to one place, then share that folder with the new leadership. Can we move beyond the “passing of the binder” please? :-)
3. Multiple DropBox Instances on Mac OSX: If you have more than one Dropbox account (e.g. one for work & one for personal), you may want to keep these files separate. Dropbox currently doesn’t allow you to run both instances on one user account. However, It’s possible to get a Mac to run multiple Dropbox instances.   There’s a useful app called DropboxEncore that allows you to have two separate instances running. Very handy!

2.  Google Docs and Microsoft Office
Another Cloud feature to consider is Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office, which allows users to upload Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files directly to Google Docs. While it is not available for Mac users, PC users will find it quite useful!  Whatever you are working on, you can easily upload to Google Docs by a click of button once you install this plugin on your computer.  Then, share the file easily to whomever is working with you on the file!

Google Cloud Connect For Microsoft Office

The difference between Google Docs and DropBox is simple: Upload a file to Google Docs for multiple people to edit and collaborate on.  Upload a file to DropBox to store and/or share with others.  For example, instead of emailing five different people a Word Document to edit (and not knowing which version is the current one), you send those five people to Google Docs to edit the document, always knowing what you are looking at is the most recent.

3.  Cloud Calendars
While I use Microsoft Outlook on campus to schedule and manage my BSU related appointments, there are instances where folks outside of BSU need to meet with me.  In these instances, I utilize Tungle to sync my calendar online so folks can see when I am available and suggest possible meeting times. Once the initial sync is complete, you could add a line to your email signature such as, “Need to schedule an appointment with me? Click here to suggest common times.” While I think its important to utilize Microsoft Outlook’s “Meeting Request” feature on campus (versus ‘emailing’ someone a meeting request), Tungle really does a nice job to make one’s calendar availability easy to access.

4.  Note Taking
When I first got my iPad, one of the things I was most excited about was the ability to take notes sans a pen and paper.  As I use my mobile devices more and more, I have found using Evernote essential.  Whether it be on my computer, iPad2 or Android RAZR, all of my ideas are centralized in one place.  You can create separate “notebooks” and create tags for advanced organization and easily share with others.

General Evernote Tips:
1.  Creating note tags that start with the * sign put it at the top of the “Tag List” (e.g. *Unfiled). Also, create note tags that include (year, month, specific people, ‘to_read’, ‘to_buy’, etc.)
2.  If you use Safari on the Mac, Shift+clicking the elephant icon will create a PDF from the current page and add it to your default notebook.
3.  Go beyond text to take “notes.” Consider drawing out your thoughts using Skitch, recording audio, or taking a photo.

Favorite Evernote Uses:
1.  Create notebooks for different projects, people, and work environments.
2.  Taking a picture of receipts and filing it in my “Receipts Notebooks”
3.  Created a shared “Groceries” note that you and your partner can use to make this task easier each week.
4.  Keep Software License numbers, Rewards Numbers for Airlines, Hotels, etc.
5.  Take pictures of your kids drawings and save them for sharing or reminiscing later. :)

While these are some of my everyday uses, here is a great list of 100+ more uses for Evernote!

5.  Music
While I am an avid iTunes user, one of the things I have never liked is being able to take all my music on the go via my Android device.  About a year ago, I got a beta invite to Google Music and have absolutely loved it ever since.  Now that it is open to everyone, you can sync your iTunes music with Google Music, including all your playlists, and have access to all your music whenever you want it.  If your music is on your computer at home, you can still listen to it at your work computer by logging in to Google Music or by downloading the Google Music Desktop App.

6.  Make Phone Calls Through GMail
I have been doing this since Google made this feature available in August of 2010, using my Google Voice phone number.  Since I have a webcam with a built in microphone, it is easy for me to do it.  What I find fun (and really cool), is making phone calls from my iPad using the Talkatone app, that ties directly into my Google Voice account.  Oh, you can also text from the app also :) !  So if my mobile phone dies, I can still use the iPad to make calls and send texts, as long as I have a WiFi connection.

How do you use technology to increase efficiency in your work and in your personal life? Do you use DropBox, Google Docs, Tungle, Evernote, Google Music and Voice? What other apps are on your computer, tablet, and/or mobile device?

Mike Schmit (UWM) April 24, 2012 at 8:22 pm

Different take on essential files for the Dropbox, emergency operations materials. For most public institutions they are public documents, so there is little risk involved. Response plans for various areas of concern are seldom updated once vetted through administration, so file management is easier than other material. I have various response plans in a shared Dropbox folder, plus it is easy to share learned best practices from various conferences.

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TJ Willis (NC State) April 24, 2012 at 8:53 pm

I use most of the services mentioned above in my role as a liaison to our Construction Project for multiple Campus divisions and departments. Anywhere I go, if someone has questions about the project or swing space, I can reference the FULL set of construction drawings in Evernote, share a folder from Dropbox or pull up any number of meeting minutes (construction, design or other).

I have done away with a desk top and now only use an iPad and laptop. I can work from anywhere on campus. No more “dead time” between meetings since I have everything I need with me at all times. Currently in the process of digitizing my paper files that I had prior to this switch. It also makes it easier for transferring files via FTP to our University Archives.

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