In my last post, I talked about Dropbox, the popular file-sharing and synchronization tool. I described how it works and a little bit about why it can be useful. This time, I’m am going to take a look at some specific examples of how Dropbox can be useful.
First we will look at how I use it at my church, Our Redeemer Free Methodist Church (www.elginfmc.org) in Elgin, IL. I am the IT and Technical Arts Director there, and Dropbox has proved to be a great help in getting things done. I am responsible among other things for scheduling volunteers for worship support during Sunday services, and helping to prepare the necessary elements that we use during Sunday worship. As we don’t have a full-time office staff, a lot of use do a lot of stuff from home and other places. One solution might’ve been to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) solution to allow people to connect to files located on out servers at church, but if not properly set up can introduce security risks…and more so, I just wanted something simple for everyone. Dropbox to the rescue!
First, on our church Dropbox account I created a folder for keeping Technical Arts-related materials. I then turned it into a shared folder by inviting people I wanted to have access to it. This included members of the Technical Arts Team, and the Pastors. When those people answered the invitations, that folder was then added to their Dropbox like it is another local folder on their PC. So now, as our Lead Pastor creates the worship order for the week, he places it in the shared ‘Tech Arts’ folder. Then myself (or whoever is working on the worship files that week) can access it and use it to build the necessary files in our worship software. He can place his PowerPoint files or anything else necessary there also. It can then be accessed from our homes, on the go or even right at church! I also place the Excel file containing the weekly Technical Arts schedule in the shared folder, and the rest of the team members can access it as well.
Collaboration is one big area where Dropbox can help. As the Safety & Communications Lead for the American Diabetes Assn.’s Tour de Cure Bike event in Chicago, I lead a team of around 25-30 Amateur Radio operators that help to keep the approx 800 riders who participate in this event every year safe while out on the routes. I have several people who assist me in a leadership capacity. Dropbox is essential in being able to share files that we can all edit , keep up to date and see in real time. As we are spread out all over the Chicago area it is almost impossible to do this well any other way. We tried emailing files back and forth, keeping a copy on an FTP site, etc…but it never worked well. There was always the issue of how do you keep a file current when multiple people are making changes to it? I created a shared folder on my Dropbox account called ‘TdC’ that I share with the other Lead Team members. We keep volunteers rosters, maps, and other important information that we work on in there.And as this folder sits in everyone’s local Dropbox once they answer the sharing invite, they can edit and modify as necessary and those changes will be synchronized with everyone else who is shared to that folder…instantly!
As a Amateur Radio Operator, I am a member of a local club, the Fox River Radio League (FRRL) which is based out of Aurora, IL. I recently was appointed the Net Manager for our weekly net that is held on our 2m repeater. We keep the schedule in an Excel spreadsheet- up until now, people have emailed or called the Net Manager with their availabilities, schedule changes, etc…guess what I am thinking of doing? Set up a shared folder, invite all of the Net Control Operators, and then everyone has access to the schedule from wherever they are. If changes are made, everyone sees them right away.
Dropbox also came in handy for our family. For the last few years I had been traveling fairly extensively for the company I worked for. Dropbox made it easy for everyone to share Photos, information and other files. We still use it now for things that everyone needs to have access to. Because you can use Dropbox on your PC, iMac, IPad, iPhone, Android smartphone/tablet or even the web…it makes it easy to see anything, anywhere!
Hopefully, this has given you some ideas of how Dropbox can be useful to you. If you’d like an invitation for Dropbox, drop me an email…if you setup an account from my invitation, we EACH get an extra 250Mb of space on our accounts! So, have you started using Dropbox yet? How do YOU use it? Leave a comment and let me know!
Dropbox is such an easy to use solution…if people do n’t actually want to install the Dropbox software…they can also access files via the Dropbox website.