Keeping all files in one Briefcase

People who work on more than one computing device can now store all their documents in a new kind of briefcase.

Visto Briefcase from Visto Corp. is a free, subscription-based service for storing and retrieving PC files, bookmarks, e-mail and calendar items from anywhere over the Internet.

The information can be entered on-line or automatically imported from the users’ computers. Users can store up to 15MB of information securely over the Web on Visto’s server, while having the opportunity to share their schedules and selected photos and files with business associates, communities and family.

Steve Cox, vice-president of marketing at Visto, said the service is particularly helpful for people when they are working away from the office.

“A lot of times companies don’t extend the ability to get to their own information. And so what people end up doing is e-mailing themselves a bunch of files back and forth. And that’s about as insecure as you can get,” he said.

“Visto allows you to put all your stuff together and not have to think about whether or not that file is there.”

The newest version of the Briefcase features advanced group calendaring, which allows people to easily coordinate schedules over the Web.

“Once you have your own information up then a big chunk of what you do with that information is use it to collaborate or work with other people. And so we have added the ability to create and share your information in a simple ‘Shared Briefcase’ environment,” Cox explained.

“So you can take part of your calendar and have it published out, you can take files and make them publicly available so people can download them, or you can make them available only with a special password.”

When users are finished with a file, they simply log into the briefcase and push the upload button, he said. Or users can download a free application that will perform automatic synchronization with their computers and generate on-the-fly updates at user-scheduled times.

“We link in with your data wherever it may be. We provide synchronization software that lets you get from Outlook, Act, Organizer, Exchange or Notes e-mail and lets you put that into the briefcase,” Cox said.

Alan K’necht, president of K’nechtology, a Thornhill, Ont.-based Internet consultancy, predicted many more people will store their data on-line in the future.

“This type of service will be targeted to businesses and individuals who want a low cost, or free, alternative to handling various Internet needs,” he said.

“There are a lot of people working on the road who don’t necessarily have their own laptops but who need to look up personal schedules while they are at work. This provides a very convenient way of doing that.”

Cheryl Braud, a sales representative at Red Roof Inns in Rocky Mount, N.C., uses the Briefcase primarily to store and share files from her job.

“One thing that I do too much of is cart files back and forth to work. And so this is perfect. Fifteen megabytes doesn’t seem like much, but it’s better than floppy disks,” she said.

“And even though I have a laptop, it’s easier for me just to have my data there (on-line) without worrying about a disk getting lost or infected from one computer to the next.”

Rob Enderle, vice-president at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., said Visto is one of the first companies to offer this type of service, but probably will not be the last.

“Visto is one of the [companies] leading the way to the future of computing, where you’ll get pretty much everything you do from a centralized server.”

Enderle said there isn’t many drawbacks where the user is concerned.

“The downside is really to people that are used to providing and selling traditional products. Visto’s services can be more compelling because they crash less often, you don’t have to worry about software updates, and if you get a new machine, you can immediately have access to your old data.”

The Visto service is available at no charge, including synchronization software and 15MB of storage, at

Visto in Mountainview, Calif., is at (650) 930-5000.