Easy Event Tech For Meeting Planners – Dropbox

Way to go Polly!

You just got the 63rd and final presentation for the user’s group conference next week. This event is going to make your career and put you in the driver’s seat in the event department at that Fortune 500 company you have wanted to work at since you were 17 years old.

You knew when you were collecting these presentations ahead of time that this would get you ahead of the game and allow you a little breathing room in the days leading up to the conference opening.  A little breathing room so you could concentrate on those other little things that were going to pop up…..

You are so excited to be finished that you take a walk to the kitchen for a well-deserved glass of wine to celebrate.  As you walk to the kitchen, your 14-year-old cat, a little senile, overweight and growing a little long in the tooth, misjudges the jump from the fireplace mantle to your chair and knocks over your now flat 64 oz Big Gulp. You watch in horror from 25 feet away as the black, evil liquid pours over your keyboard and into the bowels of your laptop. A small pop, a menacing hiss and a wisp of gray smoke are all that remain of your laptops soul.

Good thing you backed up your laptop…. You did backup your laptop, didn’t you? Didn’t you? Well, you at least made a copy of the work on your other computer right? You must have those presentations on the desktop….. OH, not there either? Well, you can always go back to the emails that the presenters sent with their programs, they must be online in webmail…No? You only have them in Outlook, on your laptop? Bummer sucks to be you.

Oh well, I guess you have a lot of embarrassing phone calls to make… and your breathing room is now a claustrophobic shortness of breath that threatens to squeeze the life out of you………..

For many event planners, this is an entirely plausible situation. Simply swap out the cat with kid, dog, co-worker or dumb-ass husband and I am sure that many of you can relate.

Backing up your computer’s content is one of the surest things that you can do to avert a disaster that could, in all seriousness, wreck your career as an event professional. Backing up your work is also one of the chores that most people do not do until it is too late. I am here to help you make fast, easy work of backing up, syncing, sharing and securing your life’s work, saving you from having to make humiliating phone calls where you have to admit that you were, in fact, drinking a 64 oz big gulp.

There are a million ways to back up, many of them easy, many of them confusing and everything in between. I am not going to go into all of them; I am going to go into one of them because it is so easy anyone, including me, can do it.

If you listen to many experts, they will encourage you to make what is known as a “Ghost Image” of your hard drive so that you can reinstall everything including files, programs, and the operating system when disaster strikes. This is a great option for graphic designers or other folks that have multiple, expensive programs that would be a pain in the ass to reinstall. I would think that you do not need this option. You simply need to back up your work. If your computer fries out, you are going to need a new computer anyway, and office programs can be reinstalled fast and easy…. A new computer is going to come with an operating system as well, so no need to “ghost” your drive.

The simple solution that we are going to chat about is Dropbox.

Dropbox is a desktop/web application that offers 2GB of online storage for free. For those of you that are more interested in work than gigabytes, I will make it easy. 2 GB is a huge amount of data, especially if you are talking about the written word or conference presentations. You could probably fit a few conferences worth of presentations in 2 GB.

Throw in images and home movies, and it may not be that huge, but if we are simply talking about your work, it is more than enough for most users.

For those that want to backup everything, including the movies of little Johnny picking his nose,  Dropbox offers paid plans that offer tons more storage for low cost, but we are just talking work stuff here so let’s get to it.

What is great about Dropbox is that it is easy to implement, easy to use and downright indispensable for those of us who have better things to worry about than backing up our data.  Also, Dropbox also makes it simple to sync folders across multiple computers. What does this mean? Well, if you are like me, I have my laptop, my desktop and a netbook for traveling. With Dropbox, my work folders across all of these computers are identical without me having to copy and paste from a flash-drive. A flash drive used to be my modus operandi before I automated the whole freaking nightmare.

Let’s jump in and talk about the program, its benefits and how easy it is to get the program up and running so that you are no longer in peril every time you press the on button.  For our little discussion, I have taken the features off of their website and will add my thoughts to individual parts as they are needed. Disclosure Time, I have nothing to do with Dropbox except for being a user, if you click on any of the links and use Dropbox, I get no monetary compensation, but they do add a few megabytes to my storage capacity.

File Sync – Dropbox allows you to sync your files online and across your computers automatically.

This is a great thing if you are like me and work from multiple computers. Every time you open up the Dropbox folder, it is the most current version. This can be a lifesaver if you are like me and jump from keyboard to keyboard…

  • 2GB of online storage for free, with up to 100GB available to paying customers.
  • Sync files of any size or type.
  • Sync Windows, Mac and Linux computers.
  • Automatically syncs when new files or changes are detected.
  • Work on files in your Dropbox even if you’re offline. Your changes sync once your computer has an Internet connection again.
  • Dropbox transfers will correctly resume where they left off if the connection drops.
  • Efficient sync – only the pieces of a file that changed (not the whole file) are synced. This saves you time.
  • Doesn’t hog your Internet connection. You can manually set bandwidth limits.

File Sharing –

File sharing is a nifty feature. You can now have all of your conference materials in one online location that you can share with the conference producer, the web designer or anyone that may need to take a peak and use the files. The developer emails you the layout for the conference brochure that you have to edit? Simply save it to your Dropbox, and it is now on all of the machines where you sync. That easy.

Done with the edits and need approval from the boss? Simply share the file, and the boss can have a look. No more hassle, especially with large files. It is as simple as right-clicking and choosing the share option.

  • Sharing files is simple and can be done with only a few clicks.
  • Shared folders allow several people to collaborate on a set of files.
  • You can see other people’s changes instantly.
  • A “Public” folder that lets you link directly to files in your Dropbox.
  • Control who is able to access shared folders (including the ability to kick people out and remove the shared files from their computers).
  • Automatically create shareable online photo galleries from folders of photos in your Dropbox.

Online Backup

Here we are with the solution to the above dilemma. If our hero had only had Dropbox, I would not need to write this article. But their pain is someone else’s gain. Online backup is the way of the future so you may as well get ahead of the game.

Dropbox also allows you to revert to an older version of a file which can be great if a presenter says “Can you use the first PowerPoint I sent”…

  • Dropbox backs up your files online without you having to think about it.
  • Undelete files and folders.
  • Restore previous versions of your files – This can be a huge thing if you realize that you like the first draft better than the draft that you have been working from.
  • 30 days of undo history, with unlimited undo available as a paid option.

Web Access

This is a feature that I never thought I would use until the day after I installed Dropbox. I was over at a friend’s house and wanted to show him some pictures. I did not have my computer, so I was able to jump on his laptop and call up the files simply by logging into Dropbox and entering my username and password.

  • A copy of your files is stored on Dropbox’s secure servers. This lets you access them from any computer or mobile device.
  • Manipulate files as you would on your desktop – add, edit, delete, rename, etc.
  • Search your entire Dropbox for files.
  • A “Recent Events” feed that shows you a summary of activity in your Dropbox.
  • Create shared folders and invite people to them.
  • Recover previous versions of any file or undelete deleted files.
  • View photo galleries created automatically from photos in your Dropbox.

Security & Privacy

Most people don’t think about security too much, but Dropbox is secure.

  • Dropbox takes the security and privacy of your files very seriously.
  • Shared folders are viewable only by people you invite.
  • All transmission of file data and metadata occurs over an encrypted channel (SSL).
  • All files stored on Dropbox servers are encrypted (AES-256) and are inaccessible without your account password.
  • Dropbox website and client software have been hardened against attacks from hackers.
  • Dropbox employees are not able to view any user’s files.
  • Online access to your files requires your username and password.
  • Public files are only viewable by people who have a link to the file(s). Public folders are not browsable or searchable.

Mobile Device Access

OK, I never access my stuff from my phone, but for some nerds, this may actually be a selling point.

  • The free Dropbox application for iPhone, iPad, and Android lets you:
  • Access your Dropbox on the go.
  • View files from within the application.
  • Download files for offline viewing.
  • Take photos and videos and sync them to your Dropbox.
  • Share links to files in your Dropbox.
  • Export your files to other applications.
  • Sync downloaded files so they’re up-to-date.

Now that we have had a look under the hood, let’s get to the program.

You can download Dropbox in about 1 minute. After you download the program, follow the onscreen prompts. If you have made it to this article, I have faith that you can actually install a program. You must install Dropbox on all of the machines that you want to share files on.

Once the program is installed, Dropbox will walk you through the setup. It is not difficult. Put the files you want to share in the Dropbox folder and watch it do its voodoo…..They magically appear on all of the machines.

The hardest thing to get used to is having one more layer of folder when you save things.For example, Dropbox sets itself up in your MyDocuments folder so you now click on MyDocuments>Dropbox>WorkFolder rather than MyDocuments>WorkFolder.

This is a small price to pay for security and peace of mind. All of my data is backed up on multiple machines and in the cloud. It would take a Nuclear Strike in three locations to eliminate the data now. There is something to be said for that.

You can do this, you should do this and you should do it today.

Keith Johnston

Keith Johnston

Keith is the Managing Partner of i3 Events but is most widely known as the outspoken publisher of the event industry blog PlannerWire. In addition to co-hosting the Bullet List and Event Tech Pull Up Podcasts, he has been featured in Plan Your Meetings, Associations Now, Convene, Event Solutions, and has appeared on the cover of Midwest Meetings Magazine.

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