Your Dropbox Questions Answered

During the recent program “How to… Use Dropbox for File Management” (now available for free in the archives for CBA members) I received a number of great followup questions. Here they are, with my answers.

Q: My opposing counsel sent some documents to me in (I think) Dropbox and the email notice said access would expire after 48 hours. Is this common?

A: I can’t find any way to make a file expire via a link or shared folder in Dropbox. It must have been another service. I know in Hightail (fka YouSendIt) you can set a file to expire, as well as Acrobat SendNow – both popular services to share large files.

Q: Is it possible to use Dropbox to backup e-mail correspondence and folders, say from Outlook? I have been using Dropbox for a few months already but cannot figure out how could I achieve that. Thanks!

A: In MS Outlook you can set an automatic archive to save the .pst file to Dropbox. See these instructions: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/830119. You can do this for all folders, or just specific folders.

Another option is to use Adobe Acrobat Pro to save emails and/or folders to PDF and then save them to a local drive or to Dropbox. In MS Outlook 2010, if you have Adobe Acrobat X Pro installed, right click on an individual email or on a folder. In the resulting drop down menu you should see the option to “convert to PDF”. Just follow the instructions on the screen and set the save location as a Dropbox folder. Or click on the Adobe PDF tab in MS Outlook to set automatic archives for folders.

I prefer the PDF format to .pst because you can open a PDF with any PDF reader, whereas you can only open .pst folders with MS Outlook (or a third party viewer).

Q: Can we limit a shared file with a client to “read only”?

A: Whether providing a link to a file with a client, or sharing a folder of documents with a client, Dropbox does not offer a “read only” function. You can send a client a link to a file – versus sharing a folder with a client – and they can view the file OR download it. So, if they download it they can edit it – if you don’t protect it first. You can accomplish that by restricting the original file before you make it available to clients via Dropbox.

Before sharing a MS Word file in Dropbox:

In MS Word 2010 go to the “Review” tab and choose “restrict editing” and then choose “no changes (read only)” from the drop down menu, like this:

restricteditingmsword

Before sharing a PDF in Dropbox:

In Adobe Acrobat X go to File – Properties and choose the “security” tab. Choose “password security” from the drop down menu and you will get this screen:

restricteditingadobeacrobat

Under Permissions check “restrict editing…” and create a password (which will allow you to make changes, but not anyone else). Then choose if you want to allow printing or not, and keep the default “Changes Allowed: None”.

If you have older versions of these software applications you still can modify permissions, they are just in a slightly different place.

Q: I set up my own Dropbox account, and then my boss shared some doc’s with me via Dropbox. However, I can only access the doc’s he shared with me via a link in the e-mail he sent me. I cannot access them through my own Dropbox account. Does this make sense, and do you know how this may have happened?

A: This issue points to the difference between sharing a link and inviting collaborators to a folder in Dropbox. In order for you to see the files he puts in his Dropbox folder that he wants you to have access to in your Dropbox he must go to Dropbox (screenshots are from the web interface) and right click on the folder he wants to share with you. He will see this menu:

shareversuslink

Then instead of choosing “share link” choose “invite to folder”. He will get a dialog box and will put in your email address and a note (if he likes). Then you will both have access to that folder. If he makes a change to any of the documents on his hard drive, and the folder is synchronized, then you will have access to the latest versions of the documents.

Do you have a question about Dropbox or another technology? Got something to add to the answers above? Let me know in the comments!

Power Down: Business Continuity Planning for Law Firms

The derecho that swept from Chicago to Washington DC on Friday, June 29 left millions in the Midwest and mid-Atlantic without power for days. A post in Forbes highlights our increasing reliability on the power grid, and the need for diversification of risk with cloud services to avoid downtime.

Business continuity plans are designed to help a firm respond to any type of disaster, from a hard drive failure to a hurricane.  They incorporate not only technology backup plans, but also illustrate when the plan should be put into action and to what extent. They identify key players, and what to do if those essential personnel aren’t available.

The ABA Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness had BDA Global, LLC prepare a planning guide for law firms to use to create a business continuity plan. Freely available, this  guide includes step by step explanations of what should be in the plan, how to create a plan and includes a sample plan in the appendix. In the foreword former ABA President Steve Zack notes:

Disaster planning is especially important for lawyers. Not only is it necessary to protect, preserve, and in extreme cases rebuild one’s practice or firm, lawyers also have special obligations to their clients. Lawyers must represent the client competently and diligently, safeguard client’s property, and maintain client confidentiality and communications. These obligations are neither excused nor waived following a disaster.

The guide is an excellent resource, as well as the other resources at www.americanbar.org/disaster, in helping law firms plan for the inevitable.

Some Technology Backup Best Practices

  • Maintain geo-redundant backups
  • Regularly do test restores and create written instructions for restoring
  • Keep all software license numbers and installation discs
  • Create images for computers and file servers
  • Keep a local copy of cloud data
  • Consider how data created on mobile devices is backed up
  • Have a current and accurate network diagram

More information regarding computer backups, risk management and disaster recovery are available from the ABA Disaster Planning website on the Resources for Lawyers and Law Firms page.

Make Your Hard Drive Picture Perfect

See one of my past posts to the AttorneyatWork blog “Make Your Hard Drive Picture Perfect“:

You have your computer backup strategy carefully planned. Your files are backed up in three locations, your servers are in a RAID array, you have all your installation disks and license numbers handy, and you have a test restore for your files scheduled on a regular basis. You are ready for the day that your hard drive fails. Or are you?

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