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Question

What should I look for when deciding upon one of the free web based calendar programs?

-JT

Answer

This question was answered on August 31, 2000. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

One of the promises of the Internet was to provide information (that we actually wanted!) at our fingertips The first “killer app” for the web was e-mail and now many of us cannot imagine functioning without it Another potential “killer app” for surfers is web-based PIM’s (Personal Information Managers)

The success of “Palm computers” has illustrated the need for access to organizational information without having to lug around a laptop Another way of keeping your information at your fingertips is to use a web based PIM, most of which are free As long as you have access to an Internet connected computer, you have access to your calendar, address book, to-do lists, etc Since many hotels, airports, most businesses, libraries and even coffee shops have internet access, making this information available via the web is becoming much more feasible To make them even more useful, many systems will synchronize with Palm devices or desktop applications such as Microsoft Outlook

The real power of these web-based programs is in sharing information, such as calendars, with others In my case, it solved the age-old problem of having multiple individuals trying to schedule events for my professional and personal life Instead of getting phone calls from my wife and my office asking if I was available for events, from soccer practice to a speaking engagement, they can simply check my schedule and place the event into my calendar The increase in efficiency has been dramatic and my wife no longer has the frustration of dealing with my replies of “I’ll have to call you back after I check my calendar” If you don’t feel like giving that much control to others, you can simply publish a “read only” version of your calendar with a password so that others can view it via the web but not make changes

I now get an e-mail message every day with the next day’s events, complete with the contact information needed if a last minute change is necessary Since they are free, many companies should consider using them for collaborative processes, company events or functions

Although security is a concern with these web based systems, quite frankly, there isn’t much that I keep in my PIM that I would be too concerned about if someone actually wanted to “hack” my information The standard username and password system is used by all of the sites and most have a special URL (web address) in order to even get to your information Some are also using encryption as an additional security measure so, as usual, the main security concern is with the individuals that have the username, password and URL and not “hackers” The other concern with these systems is “will they be around in the future and are their servers always available?” For that reason, I chose to use Yahoo’s “My Yahoo” system I have complete confidence that they will be around and that I will be able to access my information You can get a quick idea of how they do things by going to <a href="http://calendar.yahoo.com"><font color="#003399">http://calendar.yahoo.com </font></a>(do not put “www” at the beginning).

There are more than 20 companies providing these services for free (most are advertising sponsored) systems that specialize in various aspects of organization I have compiled a list of them at <a href="www.datadr.com/pim"><font color="#003399">www.datadr.com/pim</font></a>.

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Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on August 31, 2000