Why I Love DropBox.com for File Syncing, File Sharing and Backup

By Dave Peiser

A couple months ago I signed up for a service recommended by my Canadian cousin Evan calledDropbox_logo_home   DropBox. All I knew from the initial hype was that I would be getting 2 gigabytes of free online space to store some of my stuff, and that it had a syncing capability between my PC and their online storage. Since then, I've been using it all the time and I love it, and here's why:

1. I can sync files on multiple computers

I have three PCs I work on: My desktop in my home office, a laptop I take along when I have serious work to do while out and about, and a small netbook for long trips and for onsite visits with my IT consulting customers. There are certain files I like to have with me no matter where I go. One is my password list that's in an excel spreadsheet, and there are plenty of others. Because I have Dropbox installed on all three computers, these files are now exactly the same, no matter which computer I am working on.

There's no more wondering about which version I edited most recently. If I start working on a proposal on one computer, I can continue working on it on a different computer. If I decide to delete a file, it's deleted on all three. Everything is synced automatically. Or automagically, whichever term seems most appropriate. And I don't have to remember to bring my thumb drive with me, which is typically out-of-date anyway.

2. I can share folders with mutiple work partners and with multiple projects

I currently have two businesses I'm involved with as well as a non-profit. Plus I have an on-going business planning conversation going with my brother-in-law, Franck.

I have set up a separate folder in Dropbox for each of these projects, and have shared the folders via Dropbox with only the people who I want to have access to the files in the folder. So with Peiser Solutions, my IT business, my assistant has access to the Peiser folder. With Greenliness.com, my Green eCommerce business, there are two people doing data entry and research for me who have access to that folder. And then there is a separate folder that I share with my brother-in-law. I can see and edit any of the items in my folders, but only the people I have shared specific folders with can see them. The other person's view, for example my assistant's, has a Peiser folder plus whatever folders she has created. She doesn't see any of my other folders.

3. It's fast and easy to use

The files you work with are on the PC you are working on. So, this is not like a VPN connection, where you are copying files across the internet every time you use them, and it's not like a strictly cloud-based storage system where you have to find files online and wait for them to open. It's all on the PC you are working on, and whenever you close a file it is synced with the online site.

4. It's automatically backed up, and deleted files are recoverable, so I feel safe sharing important files with contractors.

One of my fears when considering whether to share file folders was a concern that someone might delete an important file. This fear went away though, when I learned about how Dropbox saves files. They actually save a copy of every version of every file you have stored for 30 days (or you can have longer storage for a fee). So, not only can you recover deleted files, but if a file is edited and you want to go back to a previous version, it's as simple as right-clicking on the file.

5. You get a decent amount of space for free

Free accounts from Dropbox include 2 gigabytes (GB) of space. You can also earn additional free space, by referring the service to new customers (like I’m doing now 🙂 ) or by sharing folders with new users. Or, if you know you will be needing more space, yoiu can simply sign up for one of their paid plans. You can get 50GB of space for $9.99/month or $99.00/year, or 100GB for $19.99/month or $199.00/year. 

6. I can look at all my Dropfox files on my phone!

I just downloaded the Dropbox Android App to my phone, so I now have access to all my Dropbox files. Awesome!!

7. You can use DropBox as your offsite backup solution

If you want some quick peace-of-mind regarding offsite backup, you can simply sign up with Dropbox, put the files you need to back up into the Dropbox folder on your computer, and they will be automatically copied to the online site. And you get 30 days of revision storage and deleted file recovery.

8. There's an easy-to-use photo viewer

I put this last because it's not a big deal for me, but if you plan to store or back up photos in Dropbox, when you put them in the "Photos" folder they automatically open in a nice Photo Viewer. This is a great way to share folders with friends and family across the country.


Have fun!


Convert PowerPoint to Video for Free

By Dave Peiser

I've been searching for an easy, good quality, inexpensive way to convert PowerPoint presentations to video, and I finally found one at AuthorStream.com.

Like many "to-do's", until something becomes urgent,they don't get done, and that was the case with a PowerPoint presentation we had been using for several months with a non-profit I serve on the board for called Class-ACT. We needed to more easlily distribute the presentation, and we really needed it to be posted on our website. So I did a new search and found Authorstream!

The service is totally free if you just want to upload to the the web, and you don't mind leaving it on their website. They will give you a link to the video that you can use in emails, on blogs, etc. Or you can embed it as I have below. If you want to download the video, you pay just $2; or, you can sign up for a subscription if you'll be doing this a lot.

My only complications had to do with an audio track that is part of the presentation. There might be a better way to do this, but I found that I had to convert the audio from mp3 to a wav file, and then as the last thing before saving, embed it in the presentation. Also, I had to save it as a .ppt because the .pptx format deals with audio differently. I don't do this stuff very often, and this worked. Also, the timing of the audio with the slides changed a bit when the final video file was created.

The embedded video is below, or you can see it on the About Class-ACT page.

Using Remote Desktop Connection with a Mac

By Dave Peiser

One of my clients recently changed all of their client PCs from Windows to Mac (Leopard, 10.5.3), while keeping their Windows servers (SBS 2003 and Windows 2003 Server). With the change-over, it was necessary to keep some "Windows" functionality while using their Macs. In particular, they are running a terminal server with QuickBooks, Quicken and a database program that still need to be accessed by the client systems.

With a quick Google search, I learned that Microsoft had a free download of the Remote Desktop Connection program, specifically for the Mac world. This was a great relief, so I downloaded the released version of the software (1.0.3).

At first glance, all went well. There was no problem connecting/disconnecting with the server, and configuration was very similar to the Windows version. However, we had problems printing. One of the great features of Remote Desktop Connection is the ability to bring your printers with the connection, so that even though the server you are connecting into may be hundreds or thousands of miles away, you can easily print on the printer sitting next to you. No dice here. Local printers on the Mac were not showing up when connected to the server.

After a period of frantic web searches and deep soul searching about my commitment to the client that they would be able to do everything they needed to with the Macs, I realized there was a Beta version of the Remote Desktop Connection software on the Microsoft website. There were no comments about what the difference was with this Beta version (Version 2, Beta 3) from the released version, but I thought: I can't lose anything by trying it out. And the bet was spot on. With the Beta version, like magic, printing worked! Life was good again. 🙂

Getting Email on a BlackBerry

by Dave Peiser

When my clients tell me they want to get real-time email delivered to their phone or PDA, the one and only product I recommend is the BlackBerry. Why? The BlackBerry is just light-years ahead of other products with both the user interface for managing email and with the technology for delivering the email to their devices. Add to that a well thought out “back-end” software platform for managing anything from one to thousands of devices.

The following is a summary of what is available, regarding synchronizing email, as well as contacts, calendar and other organizer info when using a Blackberry:

1. You use Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express, and email comes in using a “POP3” type connection. Or you get your email online with Yahoo! or Gmail. Or you don’t currently have an email account, or want a new account just for Blackberry-delivered email.

This is the easiest setup to do, and many business owners should be able to get this done without an IT guy like me.

What’s available?

  • Wireless email via the BlackBerry Internet Service – email is sent to the BlackBerry in parallel with the email being sent to Outlook. So the email you receive on your BlackBerry also shows up in Outlook. You can receive and reply to emails, but the replies do not make it back into Outlook.
  • Synchronization of your inbox, sent items and deleted items with Yahoo! email accounts.
  • Full synchronization via a usb cable connection: Using a cable to connect the BlackBerry to your PC, plus BlackBerry Desktop Software, your email, contacts, calendar, memos and tasks synchronize with Outlook. You can also transfer files between your BlackBerry and PC.

2. You use Microsoft Outlook, and email comes into Outlook using a Microsoft Exchange Server.

What’s available?

  • You can sync email, contacts, calendar, memos and tasks wirelessly. Smaller businesses (up to 30 users) can use BlackBerry Professional Software (previously called “BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express”), and there is no cost for one user. There is a charge for additional users.  With over 30 users you need to use a program called BlackBerry Enterprise Server. These programs are very similar in capabilities. Here is a link to a comparison of BlackBerry products. Both of these programs need to be installed on a Windows server (2000 or 2003). With up to 10 users you can put it on your Exchange server. Ideally, it should be installed on a separate server from the Exchange server.
  • Optionally, a program can be loaded onto users’ PCs that allows them to customize the synchronization settings.