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Monday, June 27, 2005

10 Reasons to Buy a PDA

By: The Editor

Rather than assume that everyone reading my blog already owns a PDA, I thought I'd write an article for the absolute newcomer. If you haven't been introduced to the wonderful world of the personal digital assistant, here are a few good reasons why you should consider getting one.

Most firm administrators juggle the widest range of responsibilities of anyone in their firms and are by definition, amongst the most organized people around. They have to be, to be as effective as they are, and they must use a variety of tools to keep them on track. Traditionally, this involves using a paper “daytimer” type system, but today’s PDAs (personal digital assistants) provide a better solution for a number of reasons. Below, we list some serious considerations to switch to a digital organizer and to help you get more effectively organized than ever. (continued...)

Cost: The cost of digital organizers has come down significantly with excellent Palm or Pocket PC devices selling for under $300. When you add the cost of paper-based systems, the inserts over two years, and the time spent re-recording information into the next year, the cost can be considerably more than that of a PDA.

Maintenance: A significant advantage of PDAs is in the time it saves in carrying forward information, particularly for those individuals with higher billing rates. Addresses are automatically brought forward and new items are inserted alphabetically, which is virtually impossible for a paper-based system.

Access: Searching for a name or event in a PDA can be done electronically in seconds using the “find” feature and entering any string of characters (part of a name). The PDA will look through all dates, contacts, tasks and notes in one pass. Compare this to “flipping” through the pages of a manual organizer, which usually has different sections for each area.

Expandability: Paper-based systems usually hold one year of appointments and provide limited room for writing in new contacts. Once the “A” page is filled up with names and addresses, you have to go to the “B” page, use yellow stickies, or get a new contacts section and write everything in again. PDAs allow you to keep a virtually unlimited number of contacts and appointments. Though the author has had at least four different PDAs in the last six years, ALL appointments and contacts have carried forward without any re-keying.

Size: Paper organizers are very easy to expand by adding pages, sticking in post-it notes, and bits of paper until they become the size and weight of a small novel. Some become so fat that the user needs a rubber band or ribbon to keep the package together. The size of PDAs is much more compact and can fit easily into a coat pocket or purse. No matter how much information you put into it the PDA size does not change and if you have to expand the memory, it is usually done with a microchip about the size of a postage stamp.

Reminders: Personal reminders for birthdays, anniversaries and recurring events can be set to automatically appear in the future by entering them just once in a PDA. A reminder “chime” can be set to tell you to buy a card or gift a week before a critical event. Paper systems rely on individuals writing in important dates at the beginning of the year and regularly looking ahead to see what is coming. The value of never forgetting a birthday or anniversary: priceless.

Avoiding Conflicts: When an appointment is entered into a paper system, the user must verify the entry with the firm’s calendar to make sure that there are not any other items entered. If this is not done immediately when the person gets to the office, there can be potential conflicts. A PDA makes both the firm and the individual aware of potential conflicts immediately upon synchronization. Imagine the time saved by scheduling an owners meeting electronically rather than coordinating paper-based systems manually.

Security: If a paper-based system is lost or stolen, every piece of written information such as passwords, private phone numbers, or any confidential written data such as PIN #s is exposed. With a PDA, passwords can be setup so that the information is erased if the wrong password is entered too many times (protecting the data from prying eyes).

Backups: Unless you make a photocopy of your paper system every time you add information or edit something, your paper system is not backed up. With PDAs, as soon as the data is synchronized to your desktop and the firm network, all information is backed up and protected. In the event the PDA is broken or lost, the information can be easily accessed on a computer or re-synchronized to a new PDA.

Coolness: Paper-based organizers are perceived by most people as being very “old school” and they look the part. Let’s face it, its much cooler to pull out a PDA and enter or access information than to do so with a paper-based system. In addition, today’s PDAs allow you to also carry family photo albums, play music, access the Internet or make a phone call. Try that with an organizer!

To be organized, we need to be able to access, update and coordinate information as quickly and securely as possible. Today, this means doing it digitally and an electronic organizer is the way to go. Make the quantum leap to a PDA and your firm will be better in the long run..

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