Thursday, March 27, 2014

Thing 10 : Google Drive

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 Cloud Storage in a nutshell: 

Google Drive is one kind of cloud storage. What's cloud storage? Once upon a time, your files lived just on your computer. Over time, we developed storage devices (tapes, floppy disks, and then on to the modern thumb/USB drives and others) that let us move files. Cloud storage is a space that is outside our computer, accessed through the Internet, where we can store files, and it can also make it easier for us to share files with other people. We don't have to rely on remembering to bring a USB drive with us. And because of the way companies design cloud storage

There's a huge number of different cloud storage tools out there. Besides Google Drive (the one that UMF uses), there are services like Dropbox, Amazon, and dozens of others.What's even better is that many of them have apps to allow you to access files on mobile devices and tablets, where it can often be fiddly to transfer files.

You can get more of an explanation over at How Stuff Works if you're curious.

Be aware! 

While cloud storage can be great, it does come with some possible drawbacks.

1) You need to have a connection to the Internet. And depending on what device you use, you may be limited in how you can use the cloud storage tools. (For example, if you use UMF's computers to access the internet, you can use the web version of your cloud storage tool, but you can't sync items with the desktop, because our computers are set up for multiple users.)

2) Your service needs to be reliable. (And even then, it's good to have a backup for big time sensitive presentations or materials, just in case.)

3) You want to be aware of privacy and security issues. If you store files with sensitive data (like budget information, tax records, medical records, etc.) you want to be especially careful. That means picking a great password. (If you're using Google Drive through UMF, UMF forces more secure passwords.)

You also want to be aware that if the company goes out of business or changes terms, you'll need to have a way to get your files. That usually means either syncing to a folder on your computer, or simply keeping up with emails and news about the service you're using.

Google Drive: 

So how do you do things? In this case, I'm going to send you off to our Guide on Google Drive, that's shiny and new. (With much thanks to my Work Initiative Student, Morgan Spencer, for her work on finding many of the resources shared here.) It includes some links to videos if you'd rather see these tools in action.

Briefly, though, on Google Drive, you can:
  • Store documents in many formats (or transfer them into Google Docs format for easier online editing)
  • Share documents with one person, a group of people, anyone who has the link to the document, or anyone on the Internet. 
  • Collaborate on documents so that each person can make edits and you can see who changed what. (Really great for collaborative assignments or projects.) 
  • Sync your files to your own computer, so they're available online and offline. 
  • If you upload images, in many cases Google Drive will try and pull out the text on the image. 


Things to try: 

1) If you've been at UMF more than a couple of weeks (which at this point in the semester is, well, everyone) you've probably had a bunch of files shared with you. Take a look at your Drive and see what's there. Try tidying things up - if you're like me, you might have some duplicate files, or you might need to move things around. You might want to review Thing 9 for some ideas on useful file names.

2) Do you have files in your H drive? Now is a great time to take a look through them and move them over to Google Drive.

3) If you haven't already tried a collaborative document, find a friend and try it out. (You don't need to be doing anything serious.)