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Web tools make businesspeople more efficient

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Web-based productivity tools are making it easier for independent businesspeople to operate far from the Yampa Valley.

Imagine one of Routt Coun--ty's location-neutral entrepreneurs pedaling through the Loire Valley of France on a four-day bicycle tour of the famous wine region.

She's attempting to close a business deal in San Francisco at the same time she's intent on reaching the next chateau. She needs to access a spreadsheet on her desktop PC in her home outside Steamboat and forward it to the client. Luckily, there's no reason she can't fish her Blackberry out of her waist pack, securely access her hard drive and e-mail the required document before resuming the journey toward the glass of pouilly fume at the end of the day.

Roger Good's real-world example isn't quite as glamorous as a wine tour in France. But it's just as illustrative.

"I was in negotiations with a business in Chicago while I was at a conference in Boston," Good said. "I needed to get them some documents from my home PC. I could have used Web mail, but it doesn't keep a copy of sent items. I prefer to have that record you get with e-mail from your desktop PC."

Instead of resorting to Web mail, Good accessed his account at LogMeIn.com from his laptop in Boston. The servers at LogMeIn accepted his double-password and gave him access to his PC in Steamboat.

Good's home computer has always-on, high-speed Internet access. Using a minimum service level at LogMeIn that is free to the user, he was able to control his keyboard and mouse as if he were sitting at his desktop. He sent the e-mail attachment, and the day was saved.

Good is a former executive with Louisville-based StorageTek, now working on his own and living in Steamboat. Before its recent merge with Sun Microsystems, StorageTek was a data storage and management company. Good was director of global services at StorageTek. These days, he is conducting research and development on a new medical product. But on Oct. 19, Good was leading a Success Steps Breakfast at Colorado Mountain College, along with Scott Ford, a counselor with CMC's Small Business Resource Center. Their goal was to expose the entrepreneurs in their audience to four Web-based tech tools that can make them more productive.

"I can tell you from experience, these tools will make you more productive," Ford said. "It's not so much that I want everyone to work harder, but smarter."

Good agreed.

"I'm lazy," he said. ""I like to make my life easy and not have to work harder than I have to."

In addition to LogMeIn's solution to accessing a desktop PC remotely, Good revealed a work-around to the limits imposed by Internet service providers on the size of e-mail attachments that can be sent via e-mail. Most ISPs reject attachments larger than 10 megabytes in size. For people sending image-rich annual reports, architects sending large elevation drawings and photographers sending high-resolution image files, those limits don't cut it.

Good's workaround is deceptively simple. Online instant messaging services don't have any constraints on the size of documents sent via "peer to peer file transfer." They are the same IM sites that have become a big part of high school and college students' lives. But they're effective for more than campus gossip, Good said.

Good is an enthusiastic nat--ure photographer. During a recent location shoot where he was photographing eagles, he freed his laptop hard drive of many gigabytes of images by sending them to his home computer via messenger.yahoo.com. The same would have been possible at hotmail.com.

The only caveat is that the sender and receiver must be logged in to the chat room to transmit the images.

Ford demonstrated a pair of handy Web tools including Efax.com. The art of faxing is dying a rapid death, Ford said, but he still has clients who want to send him faxes. Unwilling to go in search of a fax machine to accommodate them, Ford has a dedicated fax number on file at Efax. He provides the number to faxers and Efax.com converts the document to an e-mail that Ford can receive in his inbox.

Ford is also a fan of PDFreader.com. The software allows him to assemble packages of text and images into a single e-mailable PDF document much the same way Adobe Acrobat does, only for free.

Although they offer free services, Web tool providers such as PDF Reader and LogMeIn typically try to up-sell users to more robust versions of their software, which involve a cost, Ford said.

Web-based productivity tools are just as effective for an entrepreneur working from a home office in rural Steamboat as they are for a globetrotter. Then again, if you have a chance to take a cycling tour through the Loire valley, so much the better.

-- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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