I’m a VA (Virtual Assistant) which means I work from my home office with clients I really ‘click’ with and who can be located anywhere. My ideal clients are either small or micro-business owners who are well established and growing but engulfed with administrative tasks. I strategize, collaborate and support them by performing tasks such as developing and maintaining social media presences, getting clients online by developing a website for them, managing travel by booking air, hotel, car, appointments and creature comforts too! I create and maintain databases, draft proposals, write marketing material and I research those pesky and necessary details no one has time for (like an airline’s policy on change fees). In short, I take away the pain associated with running a small business for my clients. My byline is ‘Have It All, Don’t DO It All’.
One particular client of mine is a well-established IT professional. His phone rings and he’s off to fix a problem. He therefore, has little time to develop an infrastructure to keep him organized and growing. As we began strategizing, the list of documents we needed to exchange and work on together burgeoned.
Examples of document we needed to share:
- Client lists (.csv lists to import to my contacts)
- Spreadsheets containing client contact information
- Drafts of proposals
- Results of research performed for client
- PowerPoint presentations I was developing for a talk he was to give
- Audio podcasts on security
There were simply too many to be passing back and forth via email and we wanted to avoid the tedious sending documents via e-mail and the ‘who-has-the-latest-version’ merry go round.
Naturally, we needed to have a convenient, secure place where we could assemble these documents to access, review and collaborate. It was time to run through a list of file sharing possibilities and then present one to him I thought would be a good fit.
Google Docs– I quickly ruled out Google Docs because of my experiences in the past with another client where all my formatting was stripped out when I opened a document that was stored there.
Dropbox- I use this service, but my client didn’t and it would be another login for him. The 2GB limit on the free account concerned me as well.
Microsoft SkyDrive – I have been using it for several years on a consumer level for file backup and easy access from anywhere. I went through a mental checklist of recent upgrades SkyDrive has made with the downloadable apps for just about any device, the easy way to share folders or documents (no sign-in necessary for the person you’re sharing with), the generous free storage (7GB), the ability for both of us to view and collaborate on a document in real-time and best of all, our documents would retain their formatting!
When I mentioned using SkyDrive for our collaboration purposes, he had heard of it, but had not used it. He already had a Microsoft Account and was willing to try it out.
Setting Up SkyDrive for Sharing
Here are the steps I went through to easily set us up for sharing:
- Created a new folder called ‘Tim & Lynn Shared’
- Set the sharing options
- Sent an email to Tim with the link giving him instant shared access
The image above on the left appears when I’ve clicked on the folder. To share the folder, simply click on the blue ‘Share folder’ hyperlink and enter in the email addresses of those you wish to share with. The image on the right is simply showing the folder among the list of folders in my SkyDrive (arranged in alpha order by default).
You can see from the image below that you can choose to get a link and send it from your own email (even get a shortened URL), or send it right from SkyDrive. Microsoft made it easy with multiple ways to share.
Both setting up and organizing our shared folder was a snap. I just dragged the folders already in my SkyDrive on top of the Tim & Lynn Shared. The software gave me a message that it was going to be put into Tim & Lynn Shared – easy. Take a look at the icons– it’s easy to tell what a document is simply by looking on the icon. Now we both had access to our documents, both of us could revise or add to our folder and we could leave comments on documents currently in progress.
Things have gone great using SkyDrive. The advantages for us are:
- Access from anywhere to our shared documents
- No more emailing documents back and forth
- Easily move documents around in our folders
- Ability to revise documents using the Microsoft web apps
- We can leave comments for each other on specific documents
- Ample storage and access from our local drive (with the app installed)
SkyDrive, with the new and improved features is a tool ready for small business. After showing my client the easy-to-use features and seeing how it makes him more productive, I plan on introducing it to more of my small business/solo entrepreneurs on a strategic basis.