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6:00 am
February 1, 2005
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Teamwork on the Web

File transfer protocol (FTP) is one of the oldest applications on the Web. It allows easy file upload, storage, and transfer of almost any type of data from an Internet-connected computer.

Think about the problems you may have had sending large photos, slide presentations, and, as digital video cameras get more popular, video files over e-mail.

Many Internet service providers such as MSN or AOL place attachment file size limits (5 MB is the most common) to keep e-mail systems from clogging up due to large attachments. An FTP site is limited only by the hard drive space you rent each month.

You can think of an FTP site as if it were an additional hard drive on your computer. You create and edit files and folders just like you do in My Documents or on your Desktop. The icons look exactly the same. You can upload folders, zip files, video files, presentations, and any other file you can store on your PC. You also can use them to share vibration spectrums, infrared thermal images, and ultrasonic .wav files.

If you operate your own Web server, you can usually set up your own FTP site. If you do not have your own Web server, there are hundreds of Web-based FTP services available for a small monthly fee. Note: Beware of your budget as time goes by. I have booked dozens of different Web-based services with small monthly fees that individually are no big deal, but when my credit card statement arrives—yikes!

An FTP 101 tutorial is available from Ipswitch at http://ipswitch.com/Support/WS_FTP/tutorials/tours/index.htm if you want a guided tour.

Some FTP sites require a software client to transfer files between your PC and the remote site. These programs are very simple to use and include WS_FTP, Internet Neighborhood, and Fetch. They are relatively easy to use and act as the gateway between your PC and the FTP site.

If you do not want any of the technical headaches involved with maintaining your own FTP server you can “rent” one that is already set up. The fees range from $10-$100 per month depending on the storage space and disk transfer desired per month.

You can get FTP space from FTPKey, FTP Worldwide, and FTP Today. For more choices go to Google and type “FTP server” as your search term.

If all the people you wish to share files with are in-house, a more capable system may be Groove Virtual Office. Instead of setting a file system like FTP, Groove creates virtual workspaces on each member’s PC; there is no outside network. There are also no monthly fees although every collaborator must download (and purchase for about $200) the Groove Virtual Office application.

Groove also features a synchronization feature to make sure everyone is working on the latest version of a document or file. Groove includes a chat client to allow a real-time conversation with other group members as well as a calendar tool to keep your projects on track and team members in sync.

You also should look into Web-based group collaboration tools like Intranets.com or Basecamp. These services do have a monthly fee for use but are easy to use and have excellent add-on features such as Web conferencing and more. A new Wiki system for group collaboration (in Beta only) is available by request from JotSpot. As a new system, no monthly fees are set yet.

When it comes to group collaboration, e-mail is like using two cups with a string in between. The new group collaboration tools are like being transported on Star Trek. Get your group off the e-mail bandwagon and onto a better real-time system for collaborating and file sharing.

Terrence O’Hanlon, CMRP, is the publisher of Reliabilityweb.com. He is the director of strategic alliances for the Society for Maintenance & Reliability Professionals (SMRP).

Internet Tip: search smartly

No one has the time to wade through pages of irrelevant results when searching for information on the Web. To narrow your results, stop searching on one-word terms in search engines such as Google. If you type in a term such as CMMS, you get hundreds of thousands of pages. Not only are there too many pages to search, the search engine cannot read your mind to know your real intent.

If you want to evaluate CMMS software, type “CMMS evaluation.” If you want to find a service company to help you install or implement a CMMS, type “CMMS implementation service.” If you want a CMMS that is Web based, type “Web-based CMMS.”

More Google search tips:
+ will include common terms that are usually ignored by the search engine
– will exclude word (example, “bass – music” would return fish sites not guitar sites).
~ will include synonyms for your search term

Enclosing your multi-word search term in quotation marks will return results that feature all the words in your term (for example, “reliability centered maintenance”).


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