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Up In The Clouds … For My Documents, that is!

When I’m traveling for business, one of the biggest hassles I had was keeping track of different files all over the place. The document I need could be on my laptop, or it could be back at home on my desktop. That important PDF the client needs now is on my laptop back at the office and I’m out to lunch with only my phone.

My old solution for these problems involved a lot of extra stuff: CDs, thumb drives, external harddrives, etc… a lot of extra “stuff” that just added weight to my carry on and didn’t really help keep things organized. Version control was never my strong suit, and knowing if that version of the report on my thumb drive was the latest was more of a guessing game.

These days I have been cleaning up my act. I have found a few solutions that have made finding the file I need a little easier.

– Date Documents in the file name

Whenever I save a new version of whatever it is I am working on, I like to put a date in the file name. Instead of “expenses.xls”, I use “expenses.06.05.10.xls”. This way you always know when you worked on which file. When automatically sorting files in folders, you get a nice chronological order, as well.

– Cut down on loose notes

I get little pieces of information all day long. Receipts that need to go in the expense report, the business card of an associate, hand drawn notes from a productive lunch meeting … all of this just adds to my “stuff” that I need to process. These little slips of info that I would like to keep track of are no good stuffed into my laptop bag, so this is why I bring my portable scanner with me on every trip.

Scan it, file it, and then toss it!

There are a few options for keeping track of loose notes. I personally use Microsoft Office OneNote to track all of my notes and put Outlook Calendar reminders on them. Another option is Evernote. This option syncs all of my notes, so when I scan that takeout menu or take a picture of that dress I liked, all of my notes wind up in the same place.

– Cloud Storage

Cloud Storage has been growing in popularity, and it’s easy to see why. Having all of your files accessible easily and securely from any computer helps with revision control and collaboration. Your whole team can collaborate on the report and know that they are working on the latest version. Work from home on that year end project, sync it to the cloud, and pick up right where you left off in the office on the next day.

There are a few options when it comes to cloud storage.

Dropbox is a simple solution for hosting files. Once installed, you can have a Dropbox folder on your computer that acts like any other file, except it automatically syncs the contents with the servers. The free plan lets you store up to 2 GB of files, and the next step up is 50 GB for $9.99 a month or $99 a year.

Google Docs allows you to store up to 1 GB of any type of document (which you don’t convert to their Google Doc format). It is free with any Google Account and more storage can be added for a yearly fee. Collaboration is a breeze, allowing multiple users to edit a document on the server. One of their newest features allows you to see changes made as they happen!

SugarSync is a bit more user friendly cloud storage solution. Your files can sync not only on your Windows or Mac computer, but they also have apps for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, and Windows Mobile. They have a free 2 GB trail version, and their plans start at $4.99/month or $49.99/year for a whopping 30 GB of storage.

These are just a few of the tips I’ve used to cut down on the clutter and simplify my mobile life. How do you keep organized on the road?

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