We feel the pain of David Pogue, technology reporter and blogger at The New York Times:
Every time I’m tempted to write about some tech product that’s been around awhile, I’m torn. On one hand, I’ll be blasted by the technogeeks for being late to the party. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem right to keep something great hidden under a barrel from the rest of the world. So here goes: I love Dropbox.
His story concerns the ways edits and design of his latest book could be kept in sync among his colleagues (each working on different parts) via the simplicity of a shared Dropbox folder. Imagine the grant proposals, fundraiser fliers, and sections of annual reports that your nonprofit could be sharing among its staff (even on a ‘Need To Know’ basis) in just the same way. And did we mention that it’s free?
A free, 2GB account is available simply by downloading the software, which works on Macs, Windows PCs, and even Linux computers, and signing up during the installation process. Two gigabytes might not do it for a larger nonprofit, and the upgrade to 50GB at $10 a month could be well worth it. Once installed, the lovely Dropbox icon will be in your ‘System Drawer’ (at the bottom right of PCs) or in the Menu Bar of Macs (upper right). The icon opens your ‘Dropbox’ folder, and you are free to create whatever folders you want within it. By the way, the installation will include a couple of example folders and a useful “Getting Started” guide. Once you are comfortable with your Dropbox, you can delete these contents – but the included folders have some really handy ‘advanced’ features.
The ‘Public’ folder, for example, allows ‘anyone’ with a network connection to open a document (not a subfolder) that is (a) in the Public folder and (b) linked by a unique URL that you send to that anyone. It is not open to anyone at all, but you can send files this way without dealing with email attachments or doubling up files on your hard drive or worrying whether the recipient has Dropbox.
And the ‘Photos’ folder is neater still: put a subfolder with a name like “Fundraiser Gala,” and you can present a quick and free online slideshow to anyone you send the link to. A fabulous way to offer a simple yet polished gallery of images to potential supporters, venues, or VIPs without engaging an IT department – and without handing over your files to SnapFish, et al. That said, those services offer photo enhancements Dropbox does not.,
Dropbox is not the only game in town. SugarSync offers some more refined features, but the complexity could put off the techno-phobic or even the savvy technophile who lives by the mantra “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” One thing this blogger does appreciate about SugarSync, though, is that you get “MagicBriefcase” that acts like the Dropbox Folder and the ability to dictate which folders get synced through the service. Thus, one can share in a similar manner as with Dropbox (with a free 5GB to start), and still have ‘personal’ folders that act as backups (though able to be synced across devices too).
As with all cloud computing, the here) and Sugarsync ( ) have statements about privacy and security of your files. Both leave open the possibility that features, and security issues, might change – with subscribers’ permissions.must be stated. Both Dropcopy (
But the opportunities to share with colleagues on the road, peers at a conference, and editors all over the world (once you allow them access to the account(s)), make these services far too useful and beneficial for nonprofits to ignore simply because of vague fears of privacy or complexity. These programs are just too great to ignore. Treats without too many tricks for your Halloween.
And did we mention they were free?!