Thursday, May 26, 2011

Take files wherever you go

Easily transport data between home and office

Between the increasing demands of family, friends, work, community and life in a 21st-century world, today’s Windows user is always on the go. But just because balancing your schedule’s a juggling act doesn’t mean the process of transporting vital documents and files wherever you travel has to be a three-ring circus.

A variety of safe and simple hardware, software, and online solutions offers an effortless means of bringing both personal and professional data along on your next trip. Several options, accessible via popular web browsers like Internet Explorer, even allow virtual sharing of these files between colleagues, letting you collaborate to assemble and update projects while working remotely.
Tired of being chained to your desk? Here’s everything modern road warriors need to throw off their shackles and hit the ground running.

Online file sharing

The easiest way to make sure your data is available wherever you need it is to save it online. Simply surf to the following sites in your Internet browser to retrieve files anytime, anywhere.
  • Windows Live SkyDrive This is a free service that offers up to 25 gigabytes (GB) of password-protected online file storage—enough to warehouse thousands of documents, pictures, videos, and songs. A customizable file system also allows you to configure public and private folders and to share important information with peers, whose ability to retrieve and edit files is yours to control. It’s fully compatible with services such as Windows Live Spaces, too, so visitors to your personal website can easily download and enjoy family snapshots or home videos.
    And now with Microsoft Office 2010, Office Web Apps are available on Windows Live SkyDrive, so your files are available anywhere, whenever you need them. In addition, an Office menu is now on SkyDrive, where you can create and share documents—using Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, or Microsoft OneNote. And, if you receive attachments in your Windows Live Hotmail account, SkyDrive automatically uploads a copy when you open it for editing in the Office Web App from your Hotmail Inbox.
    Screen shot of Windows Live SkyDrive home page
    Windows Live SkyDrive makes collaborating and sharing files easy.
  • YouSendIt. This handy service allows you to sign in using your web browser or desktop and send attachments as large as 2 GB each to friends and coworkers. Preventing messages from bouncing back because of email recipients’ file delivery size restrictions, it’s free to send attachments that are 100 megabytes (MB) or smaller. A variety of plug-ins further lets the service work hand in hand with popular programs like Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Office 2007 or Microsoft Office 2010.
  • Archive and edit home budgets, party invitations, spreadsheets, and more online. Comments and version history tracking let you keep tabs on projects as they evolve.
  • Upload and share data via Twitter, Facebook, phone, fax, email, or web.
  • Dropbox. Synchronize files between home PCs and online storehouses, with changes made to shared folders reflected on every connected computer, making collaborative efforts more manageable.
Photo of a USB flash drive

Removable and USB storage

One of the most common methods of making files portable involves the use of removable media (that is, CDs and DVDs) or universal serial bus (USB) storage devices, which plug into your PC’s USB port. Options include:
  • External hard drives. Several manufacturers, including Seagate, Western Digital, and Iomega, make external portable hard drives that are compatible with Windows 7,Windows Vista, and Windows XP. Physical dimensions generally range from the size of a notepad to a hardcover book, and storage space typically runs between 100 GB (around U.S.$90) and 1 terabyte (about U.S.$175). Certain models may require you to read initial setup instructions and install driver software before using the device. But nearly all are automatically detected after they are plugged in via USB cable(note that some also support FireWire and eSATA connections), with step-by-step instructions displayed on screen, making installation and access a breeze.
    Hint: Only purchase the space you need. Unless you are working with huge files, like high-definition video or three-dimensional images, 100 GB is more than enough room, capable of holding thousands of photos, songs, standard-definition videos, and documents. Prices are constantly falling, so always compare options online before buying.
  • USB flash drives. Sometimes referred to as “USB keys” or “USB thumb drives,” these storage options, about the size of a stick of gum, are the easiest portable file transfer solution. Small and rugged, models offer less storage space than external hard drives—think 2 GB (U.S.$10) to 64 GB (U.S.$150) of room, on average—but are much simpler to transport. Built-in connectors further let them attach to a PC’s USB port without cables, providing immediate access to your data. As such, they may likely be the most popular medium for hand-held file storage and transportation today.
    Hint: Like external hard drives, it pays to shop around and not go overboard on storage space—8 GB will prove more than enough for most everyday users. You can even install applications or boot your PC off the drives, making them a portable office or handy data recovery tool in case of disk failure. Since the technology’s so inexpensive and small in size, style-conscious buyers can find USB flash drives hidden inside watches, pens, and even miniature rubber ducks. But this small size has its disadvantages, too.
  • CDs and DVDs. If you own a recordable drive, it’s also possible to transport data by burning files to a CD or DVD using the similar functionality of Windows 7,Windows Vista, and Windows XP.
Photo of a Windows Mobile Phone

Portable devices and email attachments

Other easy options for getting data to go include emailing files to yourself (as message attachments) or copying and synchronizing files with portable devices, including digital music players and mobile phones.
  • Mobile phones, PDAs, and music players. Looking for a way to synchronize data (help ensure the same files, contacts or calendar appointments appear in multiple locations or on multiple devices) between your PC, PDA, mobile phone, or digital music player? Windows Sync Center makes it simple. Everything you need to know is right here.
  • Email attachments. In Microsoft Outlook, owners can attach one or more files to an email message. So can users of the free Windows Live Hotmail service. Note that depending on the recipient’s Internet service provider, email attachments larger than 3 MB to 5 MB may not be delivered. But using this process, you can easily email files to yourself or others and then quickly retrieve data from and save it to any remote PC that has Internet access. And with Hotmail and Windows Live SkyDrive, you can easily store those files online, where you can use Office Web Apps to edit them and share the updated versions. See the links earlier in this section for step-by-step instructions, and read this helpful article to learn how to safeguard yourself from potential virus threats.

Hints and tips

  1. Before you take it with you, always back up crucial data on your PC or using online services, since even the sturdiest portable solutions are prone to wear and tear. But don’t overdo it: One duplicate in a secure location will suffice.
  2. Keep tabs on changes made to your data. It’s wise to rename files, by right-clicking the file name and typing the new name (for example, changing “Wedding Plans” to “Wedding Plans – Dec 11 Update”), or use the Word track changes feature to help ensure you don’t accidentally overwrite important information while on the move.
  3. When working on collaborative projects, inserting comments or signing file names with your initials (for example, “Work Presentation – MQP”) can help minimize confusion.
    Note that, after you have a finished document, it is important to make sure that the comments and tracked changes are completely removed to keep sensitive information out of the final product. To accept all changes, on the Review tab, in the Changes group, click the arrow below Accept, and then click Accept All Changes in Document. To delete all comments, on the Review tab, in theComments group, click the arrow below Delete, and then click Delete All Comments in Document.
    You can also use the Document Inspector if you are distributing the document to others and you want to be sure to remove any hidden data or personal information. To use the Document Inspector:
    • Click the File tab, click Save As, and then type a name in the File name box to save a copy of your original document.
      Note: The Document Inspector may remove information that can’t be restored, so it’s a good idea to use it on a copy of your document.
    • In the copy of your original document, click the File tab, and then click Info.
    • Under Prepare for Sharing, click Check for Issues, and then click Inspect Document.
    • In the Document Inspector dialog box, select the check boxes to choose the types of hidden content that you want to be inspected.
  4. Be careful to whom you grant permission to view your files. Sensitive data should be clearly separated from publicly accessible folders—and closely guarded. If working with shared information, always apply password protection, and never give out passwords via instant messaging or email.
  5. For multimedia enthusiasts, hand-held digital media players like the Zune also make great tagalongs. Units are capable of acting as one-stop hubs for storing and enjoying music, photos, TV shows, films, audiobooks and more.

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