You have a USB and feel pretty sassy as you float from computer to computer showing off your impressive ed tech collection of Word documents, educational videos, and wonderful images of student work. Then disaster strikes. Your much beloved USB has fallen prey to one of the following scenarios: washed in the laundry, stepped on and destroyed, stolen, lost, or mauled by a male grizzly bear. Just horrible. Now what? Well thank goodness that technology has come up with a new way for you to save and show off all your fancy pants files. It is called cloud computing. While Cloud Computing covers a lot of areas, I’m just going to talk about the advantages of using it as a storage device. So read on past the break.
The basic principle behind the cloud is simple. Instead of storing something locally (on your computer or server), you now store it online on a more secure server with better back up options. Then when you need that piece of information (whether it is a document, media file, or whatever you feel like saving there) you simply log on to the Internet, head to that website, access your file and voila!
Before I go any further let me tell you that this should not replace your USB. It is just a way of backing up important information, or if you’re like me it is the other way around. I use my cloud to access, store and update information, and then periodically I back up my cloud account on my USB. OK, off to the advantages. You see the two tech ed devices can work in harmony 🙂
Advantage #1 – There are no grizzly bears in the cloud
All of those horrible, horrible scenarios I mentioned above cannot happen. For a few simple reasons. Few people probably know where the actual server is located, it is probably guarded (no joke there), and it is most definitely backed up (sorry Sidekick owners). In other words it is far safer in the cloud, than in your bag or pocket.
Advantage #2 – It’s all the same!
This has happened to me before. I have been working on a document on my school computer and saved it on my computer and my USB. I then went home and worked on it from my USB and went back to school. Now I have two versions out there and while it would only take a small amount of time to replace my pre existing one with the updated one, sometimes I would forget or get busy and just brush it off. With the cloud, you work on it at work, save it in the cloud. You get home, access your document from the cloud, work on it and save back into the cloud. As long as you save your updated work in the cloud, then you only have one document that is always up to date. Handy eh?
Advantage #3 – Let’s come together!
Most cloud providers have an option that lets you share folders/documents from your cloud to just about anyone. It usually does it through e-mail, and this is very hepful. This way you, if you are collaborating with other teachers, you can all be working on the same document regardless of where everyone is. Also, there shouldn’t be alternative versions out there, or at least drastically cut the number down. This helps keep everyone on the same page and confusion and miscommunication are also drastically cut down. Just make sure to have some guidelines about who edits what and when and always communicate changes.
Advantage #4 – They’re everywhere man! Game over man! Game over!
Since it is all on the Internet, then it is anywhere you have Internet connection. If you travel to Tanzania-you got the cloud. If you travel to Iraq-you got the cloud. If you travel to Moose Jaw, Canada-you got the cloud. You get the idea. This obviously eliminates the worry of losing or forgetting your USB and that piece of mind is pretty nice to have no matter where you ar
Advantage #5 – It’s free! (kind of)
Most cloud providers offer free accounts. Of course if you want more storage or features you may need to shell out some cash. While USB sticks are getting cheaper and cheaper, unless they start paying you, it is hard to beat the price of the cloud.
Disadvantage #1 – It’s online
This is the only disadvantage I can think of. If you need to pluck something important from the cloud, but you don’t have Internet, then you are pretty much stuck.
How to get in the cloud?
There are more than a few Cloud computing options and I’m just going to cover a few to get you started. Of course each of these require you to sign up, but hey, what’ s a few minutes compared to nearly everlasting piece of mind?
Dropbox is a pretty popular one because it’s catchy and dead simple to use. Not only can you access Dropbox from their website (link) but you can download and install Dropbox on your computer (or computers). It will place a special folder on your computer and everything you drag or save into that folder will sync with your Dropbox online. You can also share your folder with anyone. This is what I use.
This is Microsoft Live’s cloud option. If you have a hotmail or MSN account guess what, you already have a Sky Drive account waiting for you. Microsoft is quite generous giving you 25 gigabytes, but you will need to log in to website to use it. Also, you can only share your folders with someone who is in your hotmail address book.
This is pretty much just like Dropbox, but with a few differences. It is created by Microsoft and syncs with your Skydrive account, works with Microsoft Office 2010, and Office Live. I am pretty sure it works with Macs, but I know that this feature is pretty new, so there may be some bugs in there.
You get 1 gigabyte free, but they have a lot of different plans that can be tailored to what you want.
There are others out, but these are most of the big hitters. So try them out, start simplifying your life, and get in the cloud!