How to stay organized and synced without downloading to work computer?
April 20, 2013 8:52 PM   Subscribe

I work an overnight shift and when I don’t have actual work sitting in front of me I’m able to work on my schoolwork and research for a PhD. I’m looking for the easiest way to manage the electronic articles I find (and download) as well as manage the Word documents I’m typing for notes and papers (and the dissertation. Let’s not forget the all-important Dissertation!).

The setup: I have internet access on work computers, but no WiFi. The usual sites are blocked (YouTube, Facebook, entertainment, etc) but the blocks don’t interfere with my schoolwork so that’s not an issue. I assume everything is monitored but I’m not researching anything that’s NSFW, so I’m not concerned with that at this time (and my supervisor knows what I do and is supportive as long as the work gets done).

I do NOT have my own login to the computer (Windows based). We don’t log in and out…it’s just always on. I can’t remote in to the Windows computer either. So far, jump drives and such are OK…the patient files we work with aren’t in Word anyways.

I own an iPad 3 with 3G access to the internet. However, I’d like to use the work internet as much as I can in order to save data on the plan. I do use it if I need to get to a site that’s blocked.

I have a jump drive, a Dropbox account, a Mendeley account (which is what I’d love to use for the PDFs of articles I download), a Google account or two (one tied to my android phone), and a Yahoo email account. All are accessible from my iPad. I also have a netbook I use at home but I don’t really want to tote it back and forth to work. As of right now I do not have Dropbox or Mendeley downloaded to the work computer like you would at home.

Right now if I want to save an article I save it to the desktop on the work computer, then turn around and either upload it to Dropbox using their website or move it to my jump drive, then delete it from the desktop. If I get distracted in the middle of any of that I lose track of what I’ve saved and what I haven’t (and where it is).

I don’t want my coworkers having access to my files when I’m not here. While I do keep files in my Dropbox I don’t want others looking at, I don’t keep super secure info like bank statements, etc. However, I don’t trust all of my coworkers to not screw around with or delete my files just to piss me off or “as a joke” (which will piss me off). So I want a safe, secure way to manage everything.

My questions:
1. Is there a good, password protected way to have the Dropbox or Mendeley app downloaded to the work computer where coworkers cannot access it, delete it, or otherwise mess with my stuff? Relatedly, is there a way to password protect a folder I make on the C: drive somehow?
2. Can I run any of those things off of a jump drive so that Dropbox will automatically update when I save something to it? My idea is to be able to save something to Dropbox or Mendeley at work then pull it up on my iPad later in the day to read it without having to sync everything with the netbook.
3. I’d really love to be able to have my own web browser with my own bookmarks saved that I can log in and out of…similar to Chrome but I’m deathly afraid I’ll forget to log out of Chrome just once and coworkers will have access to all sorts of things I don’t want them to have. Any way to do that with the jumpdrive?
4. Any other ideas you have for keeping everything organized and synced up with relative ease?
posted by MultiFaceted to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Google Drive ( -previously google docs.

You can upload your files, articles, and work on documents, then export them to Word (starting with a Google Document). You don't even have to start a Word file on your work computer. You can do a Drive folder on your home computer, however I don't use that feature.

It's all online and just linked with your Gmail. If you are concerned about security, you can set up additional login features through Gmail.

For organization you can create folders.

I think that really solves all your problems.
posted by Crystalinne at 8:56 PM on April 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

Could you just setup a VPN/PPTP server on your home computer, and leave it on? Connect, RDP, and then you never have to leave the computer. Plus, you can RDP into it from your iPad with RDP, 2x, or dozens of other RDP apps.

The suggestion for Google Drive may not be a bad one, but be careful. If you read the terms of most Google services, the use thereof pretty much gives them propriety of anything that hits their services. If your schoolwork is cutting-edge, may not be a great idea. Actually, check Dropbox's, too.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 9:06 PM on April 20, 2013

Best answer: Seconding Google Drive. You don't even have to remember to "control-S"'s saving for you, as you go.
posted by Pomo at 9:13 PM on April 20, 2013

Best answer:

Everything you want to do, you can do from your thumb drive, especially run Google Chrome. You won't get automatic updates, but all your extensions will work. You can even use IFTTT to automate some of your workflow.
posted by Master Gunner at 9:17 PM on April 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ach... I meant
posted by Master Gunner at 9:17 PM on April 20, 2013

Assuming you have access to email and the things you want to save are files, you can email documents to your account on Dropbox using a third party app (this one called Send to Dropbox looks reputable since it's developed by a Twitter engineer). I know you can also email notes to Evernote accounts but I don't know if file attachments work (although I know you can attach files to notes inside Evernote). You could do a test email with a file attachment to see what happens.
posted by Dansaman at 9:33 PM on April 20, 2013

Apparently there used to be a Dropbox for Portableapps but no longer.
posted by Dansaman at 9:53 PM on April 20, 2013

You could run a virtual machine from the flash drive. It would be a little slow, but you'd have your own operating system, install whatever you wanted, and carry in your pocket.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:55 PM on April 20, 2013

Best answer: Seconding to keep your Chrome on your jump drive. Perhaps the dropbox web app for saving stuff?
posted by bleep at 11:52 PM on April 20, 2013

Can you just create a folder on the desktop each night and change your download settings to download stuff there? Then there's just a single folder to upload to dropbox at the end of the night, which might be a bit easier to remember.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 12:58 AM on April 21, 2013

Best answer: Given it's for a phd, do NOT trust a single solution, especially those in the cloud. Can I suggest you run a cloud solution, but back up to two separate USB keys each day, in two different locations?
posted by ewan at 1:25 AM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: As an IT person, first check that your company's policy doesn't consider doing non-company things on a company computer on company time with company network resources a fireable offense. Second, if it is allowed, make sure that the company will not claim that everything you've done on company time with company stuff isn't company property.

Now that that's out of the way: don't store anything personal on the company computer. What happens if you roll in one day and the computer died (or was simple scheduled to be replaced) when you weren't around? There goes your data. (I am continuously surprised at the people who are shocked when their data either [a] is no longer available or [b] is being sent somewhere that they didn't want it to be sent because some hold order came in from legal and the computer is being carted off. Your employer is not responsible for maintaining personal effects of any sort, you are.)

Store your data (your bookmarks, any portable apps you want to use that won't get snagged in by your employer's security systems, any LaTeX documents, any R files, etc.) yourself. 2+ USB devices plus 1+ off site backups. Any data worth keeping needs to exist twice locally and once off-site at a minimum.
posted by Brian Puccio at 6:20 AM on April 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Instead of downloading docs to the Desktop I"d just download them directly to the USB drive and access them from the drive.
posted by mary8nne at 7:19 AM on April 21, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for the ideas everyone! I'm going to try running Chrome and/or Portable Apps from a flash drive...I tried downloading Chrome to the newest work computer (there are 5 in the "bullpen" I sit in...two are new) and they've blocked it. Can't even download it to the jump drive I had with me at work. So it looks like I'll have to rely on the jump drive (at at least with Chrome on a jump drive I can save all of my bookmarks, etc).

Backing up to the cloud as well as another jump drive is a given...I'm not in the mood to lose all of my school info (and most of the time it's going on the jump drive at work and then my Dropbox folder when I get home).

However, I do have somewhat of a "followup" question...can I use my cellphone to act as my jump drive? I have a new Galaxy S3 (LOVE IT!) and since it's always with me and has a 32GB memory card in it, would it be usable as my jump drive at work? (Yes...I know the risks of potentially losing it and all my data, but it's bigger than the jump drive I own so hopefully less prone to being misplaced...)
posted by MultiFaceted at 7:37 PM on April 24, 2013

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