I find it so satisfying when someone develops a piece of software that meets a real need and makes my life a lot simpler. I was really pleased to discover the Saferoom app (and the desktop versions for Mac and Windows) this week. It has solved a professional problem that I have had for some time.
I work as a counsellor/psychotherapist in Private Practice, and since 2009 I have been using Evernote to help me run my business. Evernote is basically an electronic filing cabinet that lets you store notes, documents of all kinds, photographs, web pages, audio and video recordings, and hand written scribbles. However, despite its usefulness and amazing flexibility, Evernote has always had a minor problem that Saferoom has now solved.
In order to understand the problem, let me briefly describe how I use Evernote in my practice.
I use it to:
- Store an electronic file drawer for each client. In that drawer I put:
- client contact details
- detailed notes of each session
- scanned in letters from agencies and referrers relating to the client
- copies of any texts and emails that I have received from the client
- scanned in copies of any letters that I have sent in relation to the client
- checklists of important material that has been passed to clients
- Store an electronic file containing all my professional information, including:
- publicity material relating to my business
- photographs of my therapy room
- training certificates
- accreditation documentation
- professional insurance certificates and all other professional documentation
- Store electronic files on professional topics relating to my practice, and use them to store notes, and web pages. I also use Evernote to prepare and store material for my training days – handouts, presentations etc.- and my writing.
- Store electronic files to store important financial information relating to my business. Scanned in copies of invoices received and sent, receipts, and remittance advice notes. I also use it to set up reminder notes to tell me when various subscriptions are due.
Before Evernote I used to spend days wading through paper in a physical filing cabinet. Now I simply use the powerful search function in Evernote to find the material I need in seconds. And because it is available online, in a desktop version, and in iOS and Android apps (which all sync together), I can easily access my material and work wherever I am.
One thing which is extremely important to me is the ability to encrypt confidential material. I am reasonably confident that a large company such as Evernote (200 million users) has strong security arrangements in place. However, if they were ever hacked, I would want to feel sure that sensitive material that I had entrusted to them was protected by a strong layer of encryption (something not available to physical documents stored in a locked physical filing cabinets beloved by many counsellors).
In part, Evernote has provided a solution to this need. When using the desktop app Evernote enables you to encrypt your note in quite a powerful way. They explain:
If you are using an Evernote desktop client, such as Windows Desktop and Evernote for Mac, you can encrypt any text inside a note to add an extra level of protection to private information. Evernote uses AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) with a 128-bit key to encrypt text you select.
When you encrypt text, we prompt you for a passphrase. We take your passphrase along with a unique salt and use PBKDF2 with 50,000 rounds of SHA-256 to derive a 128-bit AES key. We use this key, along with an initialization vector, to encrypt your data in CBC (Cipher Block Chaining) mode.
We never receive a copy of this key or your passphrase and don’t use any escrow mechanism to recover your encrypted data. This means that if you forget your passphrase, we cannot recover your data.
So, for example, all my client session notes are password protected and encrypted in this way before being synced with the Evernote servers (the great big electronic filing cabinet in the sky). However, as good as this is, there are two slight limitations with it:
- You cannot encrypt in Evernote documents that are produced outside of Evernote (but which may be included in your file) – Word, PDF files, and photographs, for example.
- Although the Evernote material can be encrypted on the desktop versions, you cannot encrypt notes produced in the apps on tablets and smartphones (though you can decrypt the notes there).
The solution to the first problem is to use other software to encrypt the non-Evernote sensitive files before storing them Evernote. So, for example, it is relatively easy to lock Word and PDF documents with a password within the programs used to create them.
The solution to both the first and second problem has now been solved by Saferoom.
If using the apps on my iPhone or iPad, I can now create a file in Saferoom, type in my confidential notes, import any supporting Word, PDF, or JPG documents and encrypt the whole lot there in a single file. Saferoom then automatically creates a file in Evernote for me and stores all the material there. Because the Saferoom and Evernote apps are both installed on my devices, I can decrypt the material at anytime.
Similarly, if working on my desktop I can use the desktop program to do exactly the same (in a slightly different way). I prepare my file in Evernote and then ask the Saferoom Desktop program to encrypt or decrypt as necessary.
Saferoom has plugged the one remaining professional problematic gap for me. Whatever you might want to use Evernote for, Saferoom now enables you to do that with even more confidence than before.