Posted by: Doug Geiger | 2009/05/18

Top tool: Evernote

Background: Most of the research I perform, apart from conversations with other professionals, is from the web. A recent project required a significant amount of research in the area of enterprise network security solutions. Some of the big players in this market are Juniper, Fortinet and CheckPoint. When all is said and done, each of these companies provide similar solutions; however, the way in which they do this varies from vendor to vendor, including the hardware, the software, the methodology, the terminology and the cost.

In was incumbent upon me to know the difference between marketing and generic terminology. For instance, “UTM” or “Unified Threat Management” is a concept used by Fortinet to describe a solution which covers a gamut of  security threats. According to Gartner, the preeminent technology research firm, 

The term unified threat management (UTM) is often used to describe products in this market; however, this term is pure marketing hype, because threats are never really “managed.” The UTM label has also been co-opted by some vendors to describe their enterprise next-generation firewall offerings, diluting the term’s relevance. This market is also distinguished from the enterprise and branch office firewall markets (see “Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Network Firewalls, 2H07”) (“MarketScope for Multifunction Firewalls for Small and Midsize Businesses”; 27 June 2008, Greg Young, Adam Hils)

I mention this because it required hours of research, dozens of open tabs on my browser and my ability to capture a whole lot of URLs, names and details to get the final documents “right” for my client. Enter Evernote. I would guess that this tool saved me several hours and improved my accuracy and confidence. I made all of my deadlines; in large part because of the help of Evernote. 

What is Evernote?

Evernote is, at the core, a subscription based note storage system. It does not sound very sexy to put it that way; but the way it enables fast and accurate research is simply amazing. 

What makes it amazing?

  1. Web-based: The big buzzword right now, apart from “Web 2.0” is “the Cloud.” This is a clever way of describing services that do not reside on a particular piece of hardware; rather, they are hosted from a data center and are available from (just about) anywhere in the world. The benefit to this approach is high availability and security of data are provided by the company that hosts the service. This is critical for me, as a business analyst, because I need to know that my data is available to me whether or not I spill coffee on my laptop, lose my phone or am away from my office. I can log into Evernote from any computer that is connected to the internet.
  2. Easy in/Easy Out: The service stores all of a user’s notes (text, image or audio) centrally and allow access from the web, from a smart phone, by using a software client (like how MS Outlook allows users to interact with Exchange). One of the best features is the ability to create a live bookmarklet in my web browser and grab information directly from a website for later access. The service will grab a section or a whole page at my choosing. A dialogue box appears and I then name my note, add tags, choose a folder and save the note. The service automatically saves the URL and the time and date the note was created. It is lazy-proof and fool-proof.
  3. iPhone access: With the free iPhone app, produced by the company itself, I can access images I saved by looking for the tags I gave the image when I saved it. This weekend I visited Sears and wanted to purchase a replacement garage door opener. I simply searched for “garage” and the image I took of our opener came up. Side note: Sears does not carry Stanley brand receivers. I can create canned searches as well. For instance, I have a search saved to my iPhone called “calls this week,” when I run this search all notes from phone calls come up–a very helpful tool when I am on the road
  4. It is cheap: Depending on your needs it will either be free or $5 per month. There is a good chance you can get by just fine with the free account.

Is it for you?

Do you run across content on the web you would like to access later? Think: funny images, recipes, research for school or work. If so, this would probably be a good (free) service to check out. It plays nice with all major smart phones, Mac, PC and all major browsers.

About Evernote

Their main site

Their blo

On twitter 

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Responses

  1. So, essentially it’s a Favorites list that isn’t tied to a specific computer? Cool. I kind of miss the non-professional blog already, but perhaps your Tweets will make up for it.

  2. Ron, It has elements of a favorites list; in fact, it is great at storing bookmarks (I switched over to Evernote from using Delicious). The main difference is the volume of actual data it can handle. I have copied and pasted entire ebooks into a note and it handles it like a champ. The other really impressive feature it has, that I forgot to mention, is optical character recognition. This means you can take a picture of a business card and it “reads” the information on the card making that text search-able. Very cool.

    Hang in there with this blog. It is important to me that even my professional blog have my personality. You can also look me up on Facebook where I will be posting notes in lieu of personal blog posts.

    Thanks for the comments.

  3. Evernote has really become a cross platform catch all. What separates it from the rest, for me, is the OCR. Making my pictures searchable is what I need. In fact I find that I scribble notes on some sheet of paper and instead of not loosing that paper I take a picture and upload it Evernote. Not only do I have a digital copy of my “analog” note but my handwriting is also searchable. I’m definitely a huge fan.


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