By Matthew Loux
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice at American Military University
Have you ever had your computer crash? Have you lost a thumb drive? Do you need a one-stop shop to save your assignments, collaborate with classmates and back up all of your schoolwork? If so, you need to investigate and invest in cloud storage.
There are several cloud-based systems to help you store files and media and to collaborate with other people. Using a cloud’s server reduces the need to use thumb drives and personal/business computers, which are more vulnerable to loss or theft. There are several cloud-based options available.
Microsoft’s OneDrive integrates auto-save features and automatic backups of your various projects in the Microsoft suite. You access your work via a web browser without the need to download Microsoft software.
Also, you can access the most commonly used programs for school or work projects wherever you have an Internet connection. OneDrive offers five gigabytes (GB) of free storage, with a fee for additional data over the five GB limit. In addition, OneDrive is easy to share and you can simultaneously collaborate with others on any project.
Dropbox is comparable to Microsoft OneDrive because it allows for online, real-time collaboration. Also, Dropbox has a simple design that makes it easy to use. You can back up your files effortlessly and even retrieve deleted files.
However, Dropbox only has two gigabytes of free storage. For serious users with a lot of files, choosing Dropbox requires a hefty fee. But one perk of Dropbox’s paid subscription is priority support from Dropbox technicians.
I use Google Drive for my cloud-based storage. I can easily create and edit documents in the Google Drive cloud. I can also share documents and collaborate on projects and assignments with real-time updates.
I have a two-step verification to authenticate my credentials and Google Drive allows me to easily upload files from my Gmail account. I can also access Google Drive on my cell phone, tablet and computer.
In addition, Google Drive has one of the largest free storage options. Each user has up to 15 gigabytes. This large amount of free storage makes Google Drive a good choice if you do not want to spend money and still have a decent amount of storage.
Students can use Google Drive to save their weekly assignments and access them from mobile devices or computers away from home, such as a computer at the library or a friend’s house. Google Drive is also useful for student collaboration and group projects because other members of the group can edit documents saved in Google Drive when they have permission.
Google Docs allows you to use many of the same functions as Microsoft Word, such as spell-check, changing fonts, or inserting tables, graphs and charts. You can collaborate with others via email and even publish on the Web.
Conversion is also easy. If you want to convert a Google Doc document to Word, simply download it to your device as a Word document. Once in a Word document, any assignments created in Google Docs can be converted to Word and subsequently uploaded in the assignment section of your course.
Another advantage of Google Drive and Google Docs is that you can create a document for each class and create headings for each week. You can copy and paste discussion posts under each heading and start your research.
Google Docs saves changes as you go, so you are constantly updating and saving. Sometimes classrooms encounter technology glitches, so rather than recreating a post, you can simply copy and paste it again. This practice not only saves your work, but provides a central location for your classes, research and papers.
If you have a cell phone, you can copy and paste from Google Drive or Google Docs into the APUS app, which is available on iPhone and Android devices. With the app, you may truly work from anywhere.
Google Sheets is similar to Microsoft Excel; it is also cloud-based and updated in the same manner as Google Docs. I use Google Sheets for tracking all references. I create columns for class name, class number, the reference’s URL, a summary of the reference and its APA-style citation. Every time I locate a reference for a discussion post or paper, I add the appropriate information to those columns.
Differences between the Google and Microsoft Tools
The only drawbacks to the Google suite of products are the few differences between it and Microsoft products. If you are used to Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint, some Google tools, options and general layout pieces will be slightly different and could be frustrating to use at first. In addition, opening Word documents, PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets in their corresponding Google option may cause your project’s presentation to appear slightly different.
Try exploring cloud-based storage options to create a simple location for all your school activities. You will save time and effort. Also, you will reduce the stress that comes from losing work and having to start a project from scratch a second time.
About the Author
Matthew Loux has been in law enforcement for more than 20 years and has a background in fraud and criminal investigation, as well as hospital, school and network security. Matt has researched and studied law enforcement and security best practices for the past 10 years.