Lesson #13 – Establishing an Online File Management System

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Oh its me again! I am releasing a post at the beginning of this week to get us back on track with our work! Another key to success in setting up a sustainable team is establishing an online file management system. There are several opportunities that a chapter can use. We have had success with Dropbox. Our chapter has been using Dropbox for our application writing and we now have 5 years of history. So when we want to find out what we did last year or two years ago, it is quite easy to look it up.

Lesson #13 – Establishing an Online File Management System
Dropbox is a valuable tool in the on-line application writing process. Writing applications requires the handling of documents.

Availability of Documents
The members appreciate the ability to access documents from an online filing system. When members share the same system they are able to work individually or collaboratively. When holding a meeting, everyone can pull up the same document to review. Completing online applications requires the uploading of several documents (files) to the funder’s online program. As the committee develops and continues to write applications one year over the other, they can refer back to applications from previous years.
Preparation of Documents for Online Use
Many members use word-processing programs like Microsoft Word. When using these programs it is important to save the documents in the lowest version possible. Not all members will have the latest version and when documents are saved in the newest version they will not be able to open the files.
There are documents that must be attached to the online document, such as, the Internal Revenue Service Determination (IRS). These documents are converted from a paper document to an electronic document by scanning and saving to a portable document format (PDF). After converting to a pdf file, the file needs to be condensed to the smallest size file possible in order for the online application programs to accept the file.

Dropbox is a popular online file management system. In order to use, go to https://www.dropbox.com/ . Dropbox allows the committee to share all the files created and used to write applications. One can work from anywhere since all the files are located in “the cloud” as well as one’s local computer. Dropbox is a free program unless more than 2GBs of data is stored. Dropbox places an icon on your computer desktop. There is also an “app” for your iPhone.
Dropbox needs an email address and password to get started. The Dropbox administrator sets up the account for the committee by inviting each member to join the communal Dropbox. The administrator sets up the initial committee file and then many subfolders. Each subfolder contains several files related to a specific topic. Here are several important points related to the use of Dropbox:
• The Dropbox administrator has an important responsibility to ensure the files remain intact. She must teach members how to access and delete a file without deleting the entire folder housing all the committee’s work. The administrator controls who has access to the files. As new members come onto the committee and others leave, she needs to ensure that access is given to some and removed for others. All members need to own the responsibility of not deleting the major folder where everything is kept. It is important that at least two people know the Dropbox username and password.
• When several members are reviewing a file simultaneously, only one person should make changes. All others should exit out of Dropbox, with the person making the changes exiting last. Conflicted copies will occur if multiple people make changes and save them simultaneously.
• When working on a document as an individual member it is best to save the file to one’s desktop and then to resave to Dropbox when completed.
• When saving an original document the first time, use the “save as” feature to ensure the ability to select Dropbox and the correct subfolder.
• It is possible to have Dropbox on an older computer and then decide to have it serviced and the staff does not realize the significance of removing all the files from a hard drive. That action also erases all the files from all the members who have access to the folder. So if someone is going to buy a new computer and donate their old computer, be sure they are removed from the Dropbox folder prior to erasing the files. They can always be reinstated when they get their new computer.
• When files are erased they can be retrieved by the administrator. She must go into the folder and restore the files that have been deleted. Files can be retrieved for a 30 day period, after that time they are permanently removed from Dropbox unless the files are protected with a feature called “Packrat”. Packrat is priced at $3.99 per month but also protects the files from deletion for one year. Additionally, every member should back-up their local files routinely.
• We should all be backing up our computers regularly. Have you looked at your backup process recently? It make take a professional to recover the files lost but if there is no backup in process there is nothing to retrieve.
• A good protocol is to save all documents into Dropbox with a “.doc” filename as a routine. You may get an excellent new application writer who only has an older computer. If you save Word or Excel documents in the latest version, she will not be able to access the files.
• After the first year or two that you have Dropbox in place you have to clean out Dropbox and add new folders. You will have to orient the committee if you make major structural changes to the filing approach used. Be sure if you are changing Dropbox administrators that a good orientation between them occurs.

Catch me when you can and I will catch up with you soon! Sandie




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