What would happen on a trip if you were to lose your passport, credit cards, driver's license, etc? I find it to be a good idea to scan all except the credit cards and then save it as a word file using Microsoft Word (MS Word). As for the credit cards, I make a list of that using MS Excel. I have the name of the card in one column and the card number in another column. You can also do a list in MS Word. Using MS Excel is a personal preference.
In saving these files I make sure to password protect them. Since the method to password protect a file differs by program used and version of that program you need to go to the help section to determine how to password protect the file. I then email the file to myself. What I am doing here is adding an extra layer of security to information that if it fell into the wrong hands would make me more susceptible to identity theft. One would need to know both my email password as well as the password I am using to protect the respective files that contain this sensitive data. I would suggest making the passwords for your email and files different.
One does not have to limit to just credit cards, passport and drivers license. Scanning current drug prescriptions you are using and saving them to a word type file is another good idea where you have a copy of the prescription. This way if you were to lose the prescription drugs you had packed, you should have an easier time refilling it. You can also put the numbers of your travelers checks in a file as well. I also keep my phonebook in my Google contacts list so should I need a number I can get it wherever I have an internet connection which would include my smartphone.
Doing all of these is not a magic bullet should you have a loss. It will however make it easier to travel and in the case of a passport get a replacement more easily in the event of losing any important documents. I would also suggest that you avoid using an unsecured public wireless network to obtain any of this. If you have a smartphone, you can likely access this information using it. That said another way to store your files is if you are using a syncing program likeDropbox or Sugarsync. You can log onto the one you are using to access the information in question. I will suggest here that you do not save this information on the hard drive of any computers you may be travelling with. Better that it is in the cloud where the data and you are not in the same place. Also should your computer get lost or stolen, you can still access it from another computer. If anyone is interested in opening a Dropbox account let me know before setting up your account. I will send you an invite to join Dropbox and both of us will get an extra 250mb of free storage. A win/win for both of us. Note: as I mentioned in my blog last week, you cannot upload or save a password protected file in Google Docs.
Hopefully you will never need to access these files in an emergency. However, having them in an emergency can make your life easier when it occurs.
Have you ever wanted to share files with someone without emailing them? Have you ever needed to access a file and you are not by your computer? Then Dropbox is for you. Per Wikipedia, “The Dropbox client enables users to drop any file into a designated folder that is then synced to the cloud and to any other of the user's computers and devices with the Dropbox client.”
While Google Docs is a way to share and store files offline, it is not as good as Dropbox. 3 reasons:
1. Using Dropbox allows you to upload by folder which at this point in time you cannot do using Google Docs. With Google Docs, you can only upload files. You have to set up a folder in Google Docs and move the files to that folder after you upload. With Dropbox, you can drag the folder into Dropbox and the folder and contents are uploaded.
2. You can set up more than 1 computer to have access to selected files. When you use the files and update, they are automatically uploaded on any other computer linked to your Dropbox account. You do not need to use a USB drive to transfer files or email a file to yourself.
3. Dropbox offers up to 2GB free storage. With Google Docs you are limited to 1GB of free storage.
Let’s discuss the 1st advantage. When you use Google Docs you can only upload files. You cannot upload a folder but rather the files in a folder. In Google Docs you upload the files in the folder, individually or collectively. What this means is that in Google Docs you need to create a folder name. Then in Google Docs you move the files to the folder selected. In Dropbox you simply upload the folder which would include all the files in the folder. A step saved.
I also like the time saver of the 2nd advantage. My wife and I have both a laptop and a desktop. When we travel, frequently our travel notes are written on the desktop. Prior to our trip we use a USB drive to transfer our travel notes to our laptop. Now that we have Dropbox and both computers are linked to the Dropbox account this is automatic. No USB drive needed here. That said, in order for the file to sync in Dropbox the file cannot be opened. While you are using the file, it cannot be synced to the Dropbox website or any other computer. Only files in the Dropbox folder are synced. If you do not want to share a file and/or folder you don't put it in the Dropbox folder. You save time in that you do not have to email files to yourself. You also do not need a USB drive to transfer files from 1 computer to another. This also has the advantage of backing up files on both another computer and on the Dropbox website. Don’t have another computer? Well like Google Docs, you can access the file from another computer by going to Dropbox on the web. If you want to share a file with others, you send an email allowing access to the file you wish to share.
The last advantage is academic. 2GB of free storage vs 1GB of free storage.
All in all, Dropbox is not only a good way of storing and accessing files online. It is also a better way of doing it than using Google Docs. Try it. You will find that you have some extra time on your hands for other things to do.