Saving and Creating Files in the Cloud

There are a number of different ways of storing or accessing saved documents besides having to carry them around on a USB memory stick or emailing files to yourself. Sometimes emailing files can be tricky because of limits imposed by email accounts, especially on larger files. Also, why pay £10 for USB flash memory when you can store files online and access them across all computers? 

A number of tried and tested free ways of storing documents online or “in the cloud” include; Dropbox (2GB), Windows SkyDrive (up to 25GB), Box.Net (5GB), Google Docs(1GB if not converted to Google format, more if they are) and Cloudsafe (1GB). Cloudsafe storage also allows you to encrypt the files which are stored online.

Dropbox:

  • It requires online signup and at sign up, users are requested to install the utility onto the computer. (Tutorial)
  • As not all staff machines automatically enable installation of utilities like this yet, you might wish to set Dropbox up on a home machine and request ICT support to enable it on your school laptop. However, it is not essential that it is installed on a school laptop, merely convenient. 

The usefulness of Dropbox is that you can use a home machine to browse for material, then save it to Dropbox. Once you’re in school you can login to Dropbox and “collect” the files you’ve uploaded. If you’ve enabled the install of Dropbox on the school laptop, Dropbox will syncs the files between home and school machines.

Dropbox’s best feature is its sharing facility.  One can easily share files with friends and coworkers. Just right click on a folder and select “Share”. You’ll be taken to a webpage where you can enter the email addresses of who you want to share the folder with. When colleagues or friends add files to that shared folder, they will automatically be downloaded to your machine, in addition to getting backed up to Dropbox online. Even if you only ever use Dropbox as a backup for digital files, it’s useful.

The other online storage solution which has a very similar level of service and functionality to Dropbox is Box.Net. (FAQ) Cloudsafe is slightly different in that it allows you to create “safes” in which to put files and allocate who you allow access to these. Cloudsafe state that even they are unable to access the files once you’ve encrypted them in the “safes”. They are they also unable to recover your password once you’ve created an online account. (How to.) 

The other online file storage solutions, Google Docs and Windows SkyDrive have a higher level of functionality than simple storage in that they also enable the creation of documents. Google docs has its own spreadsheet, word processing and presentations format, but it does easily convert Microsoft Office documents as well. Google Docs is not blocked in school so students can access documents which they’ve uploaded from home and vice versa.

SkyDrive and Office Live enable a “light” version of the MS Office applications, called Office Web Apps. Read the Microsoft Office Web App guide for Teachers.

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