Drop the Brick, Pick up “The Box”
April 16, 2012 1 Comment
Ah to be young and a traveling consultant.
You travel to God-forsaken locales; you spend your nights sleeping in horrible Motel 6-esque chains, driving in tuna can-like rental cars, subsisting off of unhealthy food, and you can probably name all the stores in Terminal B of O’Hare by memory.
And then of course, there’s the numerous conflicting images that you have to contend with.
One lesser-mentioned, but equally frustrating, challenge of being a consultant that bears mention is a logistical one: managing your data. Typically consultants work on bulky, cumbersome devices which do not always have the full suite of applications they require. And sometimes after looking at data day in, day out it’s easier to whip out an alternate device such as an iPad or iPhone.
There are a couple different options for getting around this hurdle in managing data:
1. USB drive. Brick, stick, thumb drive, jump drive. There are many different variants to the term. At the end of the day it is a ticking time bomb. Let’s say you’ve put the finishing touches on a slide deck that will knock a client / prospect’s socks off. You accidentally leave your trusty SanDisk device in the tray and walk through airport security screening at EWR, LAX, PDX, or the other airport of the week. With it goes the deliverable that could’ve changed their life (and yes, I am still working through the afore-mentioned image issues).
2. Email. I chuckle every time I receive multiple copies of a document with files that contain the author’s initials, the version, the date, their high school locker combination, and numerous other data points to help manage the document history. Regardless of the versioning system, the upshot is always that this is a space-hogging, highly inefficient way to manage information.
3. Carrier pigeon. Hey, sometimes the old tried and true is the best way.
A Better Way
There is a far more logical, and cooler alternative to all of these approaches, known as DropBox. This is one of those multi-million-dollar “why didn’t I think of it” ideas that has taken the business world by storm. The cloud-based file hosting service has attracted interest from your rank-and-file knowledge workers to more high-voltage names such as U2 (yes, that U2). The Y Combinator alum has earned a place alongside Facebook, Linkedin, Yelp and others in the startup glitterati, and with good reason.
Dropbox has been good to me. Over the course of my career, I found it maddening to keep my work in sync across numerous laptops. This was especially true during graduate school, where I’d often deliver presentations and have to keep making updates until the very last minute. Additionally, collaboration was a nightmare, as it was nearly impossible to reconcile each member’s contribution or modification to group project deliverables.
DropBox removed the complexity and headaches from managing this information, as we were able to reference one unified copy of a document instead of foraging through our inboxes, or playing “Musical Thumb Drives.” Additionally, I loved the ability to review presentations and other deliverables from multiple devices, including my trusty old iPad. Finally, given the tendency of PC’s to gobble up key documents via hardware / application crashes, it’s nice to have the data backed up in the cloud.
Lucy, You Got Some Disclaimin’ To Do
Obviously there are caveats to this recommendation of DropBox. The firm’s recent introduction of DropBox for Teams notwithstanding, it is still very much geared toward the individual user and small businesses. Enterprise customers will more likely need a more robust solution such as industry standard Microsoft SharePoint, or the recent cloud-based entrant Box. And, as with any other wildly successful product, DropBox is not without its share of detractors.
Drop in on the Box
At the end of the day, DropBox is truly a Swiss Army knife that provides benefits to nearly every profile. Consultants will love the enhanced ability to keep files in sync across multiple devices. Students working on group projects will benefit from a virtual file server that provides greater security than thumb drives. And folks less than enamored of Facebook’s byzantine privacy policies will love the ability to share photos in a more secure manner.
From one consultant to another, I highly recommend that you click here to sign up for a free trial, which gives you 2 gigs of space. You’ll thank me next time you’re delightfully syncing files during a flight delay in Flagstaff, or noshing over some delectable Panda Express in Des Moines.