After a positive response to my post last week explaining how to use Compfight to easily find free, legal visual inspiration so I thought I would follow it up with another knowledge sharing post, this time on how to keep a grip on all your electronic data.
Drowning in Data? There’s an App for That
As a social media adviser and volunteer at Central Birmingham Social Media Surgery I often frequently meet people who are struggling to keep a handle on where their important (and not-so-important) data is stored. More often than not documents, photos other files are scattered across various devices and online networks. This not only makes it hard for people to find the file they’re looking for, it presents business problems including a risk of data loss (what would happen if your laptop died?) and sending clients the wrong version of a report (which is the ‘final’ final document?).
Doing Nothing is Not an Option
Faced with all this digital detritus, it is understandable why many of us adopt a note of weary resignation and instead of taking steps to manage our data simply ignore the problem and hope we’re one of the lucky ones whose hard disk will never fail us.
Luckily, a number of free and easy-to-use online storage services have come along to help us regain control of our digital lives. Set out below are some examples of services I have personally used and found to be a great help. I recommend you try out at least one of the services from this list and see if they can help you get more organised.
A Note of Caution over Data Protection and Managing Risks
As with anything you do online, online storage services carry with them a security risk. Just as someone can hack into your email or Facebook account, it is possible whatever documents you store online could be accessed by someone you didn’t intend to share it with.
Each service listed below makes its own commitment to privacy and data security policies. You should read these policies and make sure you are comfortable with them before using the services. these are. Individuals and organisations with responsibilities the Data Protection Act should give careful consideration as to whether free online cloud storage services are suitable places to store Personal Data.
For more information please read the Information Commissioner’s Guidance on Cloud Computing.
As with all risks in life, it is important to make a sensible judgement and not lose sight of the benefits free online storage services offer in terms of convenience, not to mention reducing the risks associated with the ‘do nothing’ approach to data management.
Dropbox is probably the best known and easiest to use of all the free online storage services and if you sign up using the link below you will qualify for an extra 500 MB of free space, in addition to the standard 2 GB.
As its name suggests, Dropbox acts like a box for all your digital data. When you add files to your Dropbox (via your laptop, tablet or smartphone) a copy of those files are also held online. This means you can access your files from any machine, anywhere in the world. You can also easily share your files with people, attaching a link in much the same way you might attach a photo to an email.
Besides these basic features, Dropbox also has clever synchronisation and collaboration options. For instance, Dropbox automatically stores the latest version of the file, meaning changes made to a document using a work laptop will be reflected when you access Dropbox at home or via your smartphone. This synchronisation principle allows colleagues to add to a shared document, eliminating version control issues.
I’ve been using Dropbox for three years or so and can’t imagine life without it. Besides work my favourite use of Dropbox is sharing links photographs with friends and family without clogging up their inboxes with large attachments
Copy one of many new contenders to Dropbox’s crown and works in pretty much exactly the same way as Dropbox. Again, users add files to the service and a copy is saved online, allowing a user to access their files from any machine, anywhere in the world.
Right now, the chief difference between Dropbox and Copy is the amount of free storage Copy is offering new users. In a bid to increase its numbers, Copy offers 15 GB of free storage as opposed to Dropbox’s 2GB. If you sign up using the link below you will also get an extra 5 GB free.
Habit is a powerful thing so I still find myself using Dropbox over Copy. As I get used to Copy I expect I will start using it more but it is still good to know I have extra storage. At the moment I mainly use it when I have to share large multimedia files with clients.
3. Google Drive
Unsurprisingly, Google is keen not to miss out on the rise of cloud storage and has developed a service of its own. Again, the service works in much the same way as Dropbox and Copy, with copies of your documents being stored online, this time within Google’s vast network of servers. Drive comes with 5 GB of storage and, interestingly, documents created using Google Docs do not count against your space allocation.
I’ve used Google Drive since it launched last year and have found it an easy and convenient service which complements my Dropbox folder. There are, however a couple of things you should be aware of before signing up:
- You need a Google account to use Google Drive. Some people are uneasy about Google and the extent of its reach. As such, you may feel uncomfortable signing up for a Google account, even if you do not plan to use any of Google’s other services.
- Questions remain over the ownership of your data. Google Drive has been hit by claims its terms of service gives Google rights over your data. So far, it seems the terms of service are primarily concerned with allowing Google to improve the service but given Google’s size and influence, the wording raised concerns. You can read more about what this means for you by clicking here.
Share Your Tips
I hope you’ve found this post useful. I’ve only scraped the surface when it comes to online storage. Please feel free to contact me if you have any tips or suggestions for any web-based tools, services or shortcuts you think more people should know about. I will look to take on-board your suggestions and share them with my class and in future posts.