SES Volunteers Association of WA

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24/10/2012 – IT News From Northshore SES

Goodbye multiple USB thumbdrives, hello Dropbox

By Nick Elliott -Local Manager, Northshore SES

  • How many times have you or your Section Leaders saved files onto a USB thumb drive only to leave it at work or at home?
  • How many times have you dropped your portable hard drive, or put your USB thumb drive through the washing machine, and lost everything on it?
  • How many times do you email documents between yourself, your workplace, your unit, your home, and other members within your unit?

Have you considered a file hosting service, such as Dropbox, that offers cloud storage and file synchronisation between unlimited devices such as PC, Laptop, iPads and iPhones?  If not, then it’s time you should….

The Northshore SES unit looked into it, and has now embraced this new way of working. It has made the administration and management process so much easier, and only now are we starting to understand the full benefits of this service.
We are not here to tell any unit what to do. We just want to pass on this idea, as it has done wonders for us….

So what is Dropbox?

Dropbox is a file hosting service that allows users to create a special folder on each of their computers, which Dropbox then synchronises to, son that it appears to be in the same folder (with the same contents) regardless of which computer it is saved on. File in this folder are also available through Ipad, smartphones and other Apps.

And why should SES units consider using Dropbox?

Conventional IT systems use servers and back-up drives. Dropbox does away with the need for this. All you need is a computer and an internet connection. Once you have got this, then all you need is some friends or colleagues to start sharing folders with.
Dropbox is a storage service that focuses on synchronisation. It supports revision history, so deleted files can be recovered from any other synchronised computer. It also supports multi-user version control, enabling several users to work on the same document at the same time.

How is access controlled to the files and folders?

You (your administrator) invites your colleagues to folders within your Dropbox, and it’ll be as if you saved that folder straight to their computer.
If that person leaves the unit, or changes their role, then they can be uninvited from that folder, and the contents will be removed from their PC almost immediately. This makes Dropbox perfect for teams such as SES units. 
You can also send people links to specific / individual files in your Dropbox too. So if you have a large PowerPoint presentation, then instead of having to post them a CD or trying to email the actual file to someone, you can just send them a unique link that will take them to that document and that document only.

The real bonus is this – everyone saves into one place, and that place is accessible by everyone at any time, from any ‘shared’ PC or device. Before Dropbox, every Section Leader had their own portable hard drives and/or thumbdrives, and we all emailed documents (such as budget planners) back and forth countless times. But all this has now stopped….   The added bonus is that if your unit computer has a meltdown, or you lose your USB thumb drive, then your files are always safe in Dropbox and can be restored in a snap if necessary.

So give us an example – how has Northshore SES set it up, and at what cost?

Ok – Northshore has joined what is called “Dropbox for Teams” which means that we can have as many members as we need, and far more storage space then we could ever use.   We currently have 1560GB (1.56TB) of storage space available to us, of which we are using a measly 8.9GB….  Every new person that we add increases our storage capacity further.

Northshore has set up the following main sections in Dropbox. Access to each of these main folders can be shared or controlled as necessary by our administrator.

  • Local Management
  • Membership
  • Sections (Administration, Communications, Logistics & Rescue)
  • Finance
  • Training
  • Photographs

There are 8 persons within the Northshore unit that now have access to some, or all, of the folders above.

  • Our Section Leaders have access to the ‘Sections’ as well as ‘Photographs’.
  • Our Training Manager & Training Officers have access to ‘Sections’, ‘Training’, and ‘Photographs’.
  • Our Treasurer has access to ‘Finance’ and ‘Sections’
  • Our LM and DLM’s have access to all folders

Each of the 8 people above can install Dropbox on as many computers, phones, tablet PC’s etc. as they like, giving everyone ultimate accessibility to everything.   Nothing is ever saved on the C drive now, everything is saved in Dropbox. 

Now here are the best bits:
1)    We have an unlimited ‘undelete’ facility, so anything deleted by anyone, at any time, can always be restored.
2)    We have unlimited ‘version control’ so we can go back and call up any previous version of the same document, no matter how old.
3)    We have no more reason to budget for servers, or switches, or hard drives, or back-up hardware as Dropbox make all this redundant. All we now need, other than a device, is an internet connection.
4)    Anyone can work on any document at any time, from any shared device. Even without an internet connection, as everything g is available off line also.
5)    Multiple persons can work on the same document at the same time, and Dropbox is clever enough to save a copy of each as well as the master version.
6)    Unlimited access points. So you go on holiday and don’t take your laptop with you, but you need to review something. Then just log onto your Dropbox account from any PC and access remotely.
7)    You can send anyone a link to view a document OF ANY SIZE, thereby ending the days of receiving messages such as “Maximum size of document has been exceeded. Please refer to your administrator”

I assure you that neither I nor the Northshore SES unit have any commercial gain to be made from promoting Dropbox.  I use Dropbox for my work life, my home life, and my SES life. Everything has become so much more simple now.

Yes, of course there is a cost. You pay per user. But take the time to do the maths. Look at what you will save on, hardware and equipment that you won’t have to buy in the future. All your documents and data safe in one place, under your control.  For the Northshore unit, it is a no-brainer!

Happy to discuss further with anyone interested or to demonstrate in person at the unit and my email address is nick@northshoreses.com.au.

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