Q: Can I use DropBox as an online file storage cabinet for all of my paper records? I’d like to get rid of my storage unit and the monthly bill!
A: DropBox — http://www.dropbox.com — is an awesome service that was created to make it easy to store files online and access them from any device that has Internet access (computer, smartphone, tablets, etc.) It’s primarily a file syncing service, so depending upon the complexity of your storage needs, it may or may not work.
The way DropBox works is that you download a special program that monitors a folder or set of folders that you designate for synchronization, then whenever you save a file to those folders it automatically makes a copy of the file on the DropBox servers.
This means that you will have two copies of the file (one on your computer and one on the DropBox servers), but if you delete it from your sync folder, it will delete the file in your DropBox account.
If all you want to do is scan your paper documents and store them online, I don’t think DropBox is the right solution as it provides no document-management features.
In simple terms, the document-management system is how you will find the exact file you need, when you need it, down the road.
Most folks store paper files in boxes by date (monthly, quarterly, etc.) with a substructure of types of documents or customer name, etc., so you will need to replicate that structure with your online storage.
How you want to look up documents in the future will help you understand how you want to name, tag and store the files.
A much better solution for this type of archiving might be a service like OfficeDrop — http://www.officedrop.com — that provides you with a basic set of document-management tools as you are uploading the files.
The biggest bottleneck you’re likely going to hit is your ability to scan every single piece of paper that is stored in all those boxes (this could become a full-time job for months if your backlog is big enough).
OfficeDrop has two ways for you to get your paper documents scanned into their system: you or them.
If you have the internal resources to do the scanning, you can download their free ScanDrop “cloud scanning” software that links your scanner directly to their online storage and management service.
It works with just about any name-brand scanner and scans your documents into PDF files. You can preview each scan, change the order of the scanned pages, flip them for proper orientation and even crop the image before you upload the files to your online account.
ScanDrop is not limited to those with an OfficeDrop account; it can also upload to Evernote and Google Docs if you are already using those services.
If the task is too daunting for you to do yourself, you can use their Mail In Scanning service that offers basic scanning of groups of 50 documents to bulk scanning packages if you have thousands of documents to get processed.
You can try OfficeDrop for free (limited to 50 pages per month and no file larger than 250MB) and upgrade to one of the pay services for more storage and features (starting at $9.95 per month) if you find that their system works for you.
• Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the Data Doctors Radio Program, noon Saturdays on KTAR 92.3 FM or at www.datadoctors.com/radio
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