Cloud storage is something that has become increasingly popular in the last few years.
Although it may be a relatively new concept for people, the ability to store files in the “cloud” has been around for quite some time. What is new, however, is the access that the typical user has to the technology. Companies like Dropbox, Amazon, and Box.net are offering up free file storage on their servers that can be accessed from anywhere, varying in the amount of free space available and the way you have access to it.
Dropbox has been very useful to me and my department when sharing documents for collaborative projects. We create shared folders and can edit each others’ work from any of our computers. I also store my personal files in my Dropbox, synced between my personal laptop (a MacBook) and my work computer (a Dell). It’s nice being able to edit a document at home (be it a Word doc or Photo file) and have it waiting for me when I get to work. A lot of what I work on as a grad student is also relevant to my job at UH, so no slacking here!
Dropbox came in handy for me over the last two weeks as I travelled between Hawaii, California and Virginia. Lengthy plane flights gave me lots of time to work on my masters project, a resource website for faculty who teach online in the College of Ed at UH. Beyond theft and acts of nature, I was concerned with the idea of losing my precious website files to hardware failure while travelling. How can I safely keep my work while moving about the country? Dropbox it! Why not?
Dropbox makes it simple to save your files to the cloud. Once installed on your computer, a folder appears in your local file browser (My Documents in Windows, Finder in Mac, etc). Saving files to the cloud is as easy as dragging-and-dropping them into the Dropbox folder. Similarly, you can just choose to save new files into your Dropbox folder as you create them. Once you have internet connectivity, the files are synced to your Dropbox account and will appear on any other computer or device (tablets and smart phones) that you’ve added Dropbox to.
To save my valuable website files (HTML, CSS, & images), I made subfolders inside my Dropbox folder. I was able to work out of this folder while on multiple 5hr-long flights. During brief layovers and once I was in a location with internet access, my files were synced to my Dropbox account. If my computer experienced a catastrophic failure while I was at JFK airport in New York, I would be able to return to my work computer in Honolulu and keep working where I left off. Pretty neat, huh?
It seems that a new *free* cloud storage option pops up every week. Dropbox works for me now, and has proven to be both reliable and easy to use. I can count on my files being there, wherever and whenever I need them.