With Malaysia’s high internet penetration and improving bandwidth speeds, every citizen should be able to work away from home with the right tools at their fingertips.
For better or worse, being stuck in a meeting, being out-station or waiting in court is now no excuse for not being able to handle any incoming matters. This article will serve up a taster of three loose categories of “freemium”* applications which enables you to access your files from any computer, share them with other devices/computers and collaborate easily with colleagues at little or no cost. Now, anybody can work away from the office.
1. Auto-Sync Folders
First-off, there’s Dropbox. Imagine a folder which can be accessed by any device you have, be it your work to home computer (PC or Mac) or even your tablets/smartphones. You can even assign folders to be shared among your family or, in this case, colleagues. The folders will automatically sync and can be accessed without you lifting a finger. No longer do you have to email documents to yourself as Dropbox will automatically ensure all documents in your dropbox folder are available at your different workstations.
Just before you stop emailing yourself documents and throwing away your flash-drives, confidentiality and security are ongoing concerns with Dropbox. One way around this is to encode your documents before they go into your dropbox. Bear in mind that with any cloud-based solution, a 3rd party is basically receiving and storing all your data. Read this article on SecretSync if you would like an extra layer of security of encrypting your documents before putting them into your Dropbox especially if you are dealing with clients’ or any other confidential documents.
2. Remote Access Tools
If your office IT department has blocked Dropbox or you do not want to use Dropbox, as a last resort – there are remote access applications. These applications are commonly used by IT teams to service and troubleshoot your computer to investigate and solve its problems. Equally, you can take control of your work computer from anywhere in the world to email yourself a document you desperately need or to check any information on it.
If you are interested, check out : Logmein and Teamviewer. (this writer has a personal preference of the latter – if you are using it commercially, please do get a commercial licence to support their good work)
If you have your mouth wide open right now, thinking anyone can take control of your computer right now – not to fear – you will still need the unique ID and password generated by the system each time the application is opened to gain access. If you are away on a long period but yet require constant remote access to your PC, with Teamviewer, you can set a preset password that can be left on, and access it through your smartphone or laptop as though you are right in front of it. Teamviewer also allows you transfer documents between workstations quickly and efficiently. The only theoretical limitation is the speed/stability of your internet connection.
3. Synced Notebooks
Don’t you hate it when you scribble minutes of a meeting or important notes but lose those key pieces of paper, or worse, the notebook you wrote them in? Well, applications such as Evernote and Springpad ** synchronize notes that you type into your computer/tablet/smartphone into their servers. So, you can access them again later on the same or other devices, or even on the web on totally different devices! You never have to worry about losing minutes or your diary if you use such a service.
Personally, I prefer Evernote as it can even “clip”(save) whole webpages or emails and save it into a notebook. This makes it very handy when you need to centralise all information about a certain subject. Eg: All investment related articles are clipped and saved into my “Investment” notebook. Whenever I access it, I can revisit websites I have read and also update, say, my investment portfolio there as well.
However, Evernote has received flak for its costliness when you upgrade to a premier account, and it does get a bit messy with the rapid accumulation of many notes. Others prefer Springpad as it has more character (it uses color coordination), syncs with your Google Calendar and generally comes across as more user-friendly. If you have to choose between the two, take your time to choose wisely as you wouldn’t want the recurring headaches that come with changing between the two.
4. (Okay, I said 3 but here’s a more Advanced Web-based Application) Project Collaboration
For the more advanced, you may want to checkout Mavenlink for better collaboration between teams and clients. Basically, its a virtual workspace where clients and project teams can collaborate on projects by posting updates, sharing files, assigning tasks, keeping track of time spent on projects and issuing invoices. For free, you can create two projects limited to two team members but will have to pay for more team-members and projects. Its very much a step-up from email e-groups and akin to a Facebook closed group for work. It also has elements of Linkedin as project managers’ profiles go public. This may be very handy for people who are freelance graphic designers, online video editors and event managers.
I think this is a great tool if you are working in different parts of the country/globe; however, from my observations, the platform still seems like it hasn’t been fully embraced by the online community. In my testing, most users relegated it to an email e-group and rarely logged onto the service. In hindsight, some quick tutorials (before forcing it onto them!) would have helped as the learning curve for Mavenlink was not too bad in my experience. Another advantage of Mavenlink is the ability to create project templates to be used over and over, targeted especially at those who deal with repetitive/similar projects, although this requires an upgrade.
Spoilt with the choice of applications/software out there, working away from the office is much simpler than before. This article is in no way meant to be a comprehensive review or how-to-guide, but just a taster as to the changing world of applications which could very much change the way people work.
Now, if only a kindly internet provider could install free internet at courts around Malaysia, maybe Malaysian litigation lawyers would find the wait around court more bearable and productive…
Do you have any apps which enable you to work better away from office or feedback? Drop a comment below.
* Freemium software – Software that is free for light usage (read: personal use) but usually charges for heavier (ie: commercial) usage.
**Note: If you’re using Google Chrome, Evernote and Springpad are available on the webstore for free as a Google Extension.