At Rugged Data, wherever possible, we run a paperless office. It's taken a bit of time and experimention to get right, so we thought we'd share 4 great tools that we use here to help minimise our environmental impact.

Sustainability has gone from a nice-to-do to a must-do - but we think that there are some other great benefits to going paperless including increased productivity and security.

Evernote

One of our favourite tools is Evernote; which is, at it’s core, is a digital notetaking app that synchronises notebooks on your phone to the web. However, it does a lot more than just take notes. You can add photos, documents, and even whole web pages and store them in one place, accessible from everywhere.

As a business tool, it allows us to store everything related to a project in one place, and share it easily between the team members who are  working on it. This means that we don’t have to have to email each other stuff all the time, and more importantly, we rarely print stuff out any more. It’s a great option for small companies looking to build a centralized knowledge base. The search features are very powerful, allowing us to search through everything all at once, including inside documents, pictures and handwritten notes. It can even suggest other people working on similar things or who may know more about the subject area.

Evernote is a great step towards eliminating paper clutter with an added benefit being able to manage which users can connect to your business information and their level of access . If an employee leaves your company, they lose access to your business notebooks, but you keep hold of that valuable knowledge.

Adobe Echosign

I’m sure that at some point, we’ve all been in the position where we’ve sent out or received a document that needs to be signed by several people. How many times do those documents get printed, signed and re-scanned before they’re complete. And how can we be sure that the person signing it hasn’t just scanned a signature from another document and pasted it on?

Adobe Echosign is an easy way to get documents signed without ever printing a piece of paper. If you can attach a document to an email, then you can use EchoSign to take the hassle out of sending, signing, tracking and filing documents. You upload the document, position where you want the signatures to go, and send it to everyone who needs to sign. Each person attaches their signature and sends it back. Importantly, you can also attach a digital identification using one of your existing online accounts to verify that the correct person is signing the document. When everyone has signed, all parties automatically receive a PDF copy of the signed document. There’s nothing to install or download, and it’s very quick. No printing, no scanning and you know that everyone is who they say they are.

Google Apps for Business

The apps that we’ve talked about so far have been ones that can easily integrate into your existing systems. But there’s another product, or rather suite of products, that we have been very impressed with that we’d like every company to consider using.

Google Apps for Business is a complete office solution that integrates many tools into one system. It can single handedly take care of most of a businesses IT needs - on the communications side it has email, video conferencing and social networking. On the productivity side it has word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation tools. Underlying everything is a cloud storage system which allows documents to be used on any device, shared between users seamlessly, without paper, and automatically backed up.

Energy used by the cloud is a growing problem, however services provided by the cloud can be remarkably efficient. In many cases, data centres hosting cloud services are more efficient than the in house systems that they replace. For a small business of 50 users, Gmail can use 1/80th of the power of locally hosted email services. Google’s efficiency gains come from maximizing server utilization, using high efficiency facilities and making power usage efficiency a priority a priority for hardware and software developers. Googles cloud services are all carbon neutral, dating back to 2007, and their data centres use an average 50% less energy than a typical data centre.

We’ve been a Microsoft development partner for years, and all of our systems had been Microsoft based. The move to Google apps was amazingly painless, and has made a marked difference to our productivity and has reduced the need for paper within our organisation. With Google apps for business the paperless office is truly within reach.

Honorable mention: Lastpass

Ok, so this next one isn’t strictly about saving paper (apart from that one little note that nobody will find), but if I didn’t use every oppotunity to talk about security then I'd feel I'd missed an opportunity. Everyone knows that your passwords should look like this:

GfF42:@ggs#!*%faSv

But how many people have a go-to password that they use for all the 'unimportant stuff'? Your personal and businesses security is only as good as your weakest password. Be honest, have you ever used the same password for more than one account?

Lastpass is an encrypted password vault which generates strong, unique passwords for every account that you open online.  It allows you to use one account to maintain security on all of your other accounts. Of course, you need to have a really good password for your Lastpass account, and change it regularly, but at least you only have to do it once.

From a business perspective, there are additional benefits. You can enforce password policies and remotely administer access to different online accounts. Also, passwords can be securely shared between employees without writing them down or sending them via unencrypted e-mail or message services. And in a similar way to Evernote, you can retain your companies business knowledge when an employee leaves your organisation.

Much better for security, and the time it saves will leave plenty of extra time to feel guilty about forgetting your bag for life again.


Banner photo credit: Wiertz Sébastien on Flickr

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