Manage your collaborative files


Sharing information easily is a very 21th-century concept, but it creates its own set of headaches. This article will look at those problems, whether they be over networks, hosted clouds or personal clouds, and how they can be overcome.

Why collaboration tools are great

Networks are great. They enable people to collaborate on projects, to organise files in folders and subfolders, and ensure that everyone has an up-to-date view of all of the available data that has been shared. However, such dedicated servers are generally available only to big (or medium-sized) business, as they usually involve significant up-front expenditure and infrastructure.

Enter Dropboxes, and similar products such as Google Drive. Now such collaboration is available with no cost (up to a specified limit) or minimal cost, so that people from different organisations, or friends setting up a photo library, can work together and pool their resources. The manager of the project can add additional people to the sharing process with ease, or remove them at will.

Dropbox integrated with Windows Explorer

Even better, you don’t need to go through a web portal should you not wish to do so. You can download Dropbox for Windows or Google Drive for Windows, which will enable you permanent access to your information through a Library in Windows Explorer.

Of course, you don’t need to use a third-party host. You can buy cloud-enabled external hard drives, such as Western Digital’s My Cloud, which you can attach to a network hub, and by downloading a program, you can also assign it to a drive letter on your computer, or by downloading an App you can access the information through an iPhone or iPad. This may make sense if you need more space than is freely available, or if you have security concerns (for example, you are in the European Union and don’t want the information going outside).

Clouds enable your data to break free. Friends and family can share personal files, and people working on the same project can share project files.

Why you need to monitor it

Whilst this is a great advantage, it can also be a problem. Unless security has been set up properly, your fellow file-shares can change the files on the drive. Sometimes, of course, you want people to contribute to the folders; you don’t just want all the work to come from yourselves, but you want others to save their way and upload other information to the space.

However, how can you detect any of the changes? What if someone uploads a file (say, a drawing) into a subfolder 5 folders deep and expect you to know that it is there and deal with it? This could be very important if there is a contractual relationship between sharers, and one person is expected to do his work in full knowledge of the information that is there.

There are some tools that can help. Depending on how the settings are set up, you can get Notifications to be sent to you. However, it can be complicated, especially when there are multiple changes happening, to keep track of everything. This is even harder when information is not added, but instead modified or deleted. (This is not necessarily available on personal clouds or on networks.)

Also, what happens if (as is common) you receive your invite to view these files not when the folder is first created, but after data has already been uploaded? Information could be hidden several folders deep, and you might be required to have due cognisance of previously existing information. You won’t get any notification that this information exists, as there has been no changes since you were invited.

How can you monitor this?

A better and more permanent solution is to do regular catalogs of the information. With just two clicks, a spreadsheet or table can be created from Windows Explorer, and the information can be saved from there, creating a snapshot of the data at a particular point of time. Similarly, filters can be created or sorting can take place so that you can see the latest information which has been added. Files can be opened from inside the spreadsheet or table, and if necessary you can compare two snapshots to see the differences (including files that have been deleted).

Speed of Filecats Standard

Filecats Standard and Filecats Explore can do all of the above, and more.

  • It’s quick – on one computer, more than 290,000 files have been catalogued in 2 minutes.
  • It’s easy – just two clicks from Windows Explorer creates the spreadsheet or table.

Filecats Standard creates a spreadsheet directly in Excel, and so needs Microsoft Excel. Filecats Explore creates a table, and doesn’t require Excel.

Why not try it for yourself? There’s a free 7-day trial, so you can see how easy it is.

Want more?

Do you want more information? Why not try Filecats Professional (needing Excel) and Filecats Metadata (which doesn’t require Excel). This allows the capturing of metadata, such as Microsoft Office document properties, photographic data (including GPS details), audio/video details and MSG recipients, sendees and subject.

Find out more about metadata, or try them for yourself – there’s also a free 7-day trial.

Want to find out more advantages about cataloguing? Click here.

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