You’re in a hot sweat. Panicking that you waited until the last minute to type up this midterm paper. You tell yourself that next time you will start earlier. Sounds familiar? What if you have a furry companion that likes attention, and when you don’t give him/her attention, s/he misbehaves? What if this misbehavior shuts off your computer with your midterm paper you labored over for hours? Or what if your hard drive corrupts and the Mac Geniuses tell you they cannot recover your paper?
We can play these what-if games all day, the fact is you need a game plan to keep your data safe and whether you work for the university or you are here getting your degree, having your files stored in multiple places is the key to keep it from getting lost or destroyed. Nothing can put you in a fouler mood than losing thousands of pictures to a computer virus your friend or co-worker downloaded.
With a few well-known companies vying for your attention, you have to decide which company will best work for you. There are a few key features that you need to keep in mind when you are deciding on what company to use for your cloud storage.
- User Interface/User Experience – You want your software to be both sophisticated, aesthetically pleasing, and simple to use. All three criteria are difficult for any company to achieve because they tap into our emotional experience in how we use and experience a product. However, it is probably one of the most important components to choosing a company because you want to be happy with the product you use. A simple product makes a happy user.
- File sync – Having your files locally stored as well as stored online is great when your Internet goes down, which often happens from time-to-time. You do not want to lose changes made to your file if local hard drive goes haywire and it did not sync in time with your cloud storage.
- Web Apps – There are many companies that offer built-in web office suites and a variety of other useful productivity tools. Do you need an app that creates flowcharts? What about inserting mathematic equations? Can it open Microsoft Office documents, Mac documents, Google documents, OpenOffice documents?
- Cost and Amount of Storage – Most popular service offer free storage, but you can get way more if you are willing to spend a few extra dollars a month. Make sure you think about how much storage you need before you choose your company. If you a heavy media user, a company that charge less per gigabyte may be better for you in the long run.
- Cross-Platform Functionality – Many of us do not have just one device. Many have two, three, four, even five devices that function to connect us with the world and provide us with rich media. Choosing an application that functions on different platforms such as a desktop PC, a Mac, an Android phone, iPad, iPhone, etc. is important because it serves a basic want to have information right at our fingertips.
Less relevant, but important is synchronization with other applications. For example, if you have productivity apps on your iPad, you want those apps to sync without problems. You don’t want to fumble with having to save it to your iPad or e-mailing the document to yourself in order for you to put it in your cloud. That is one step too much and there are plenty of apps that will automatically sync with your cloud.
If you are a student in the one of three University of Missouri partners (Mizzou, UMKC, UMSL), then your e-mail is connected to Microsoft and you have easy access to Skydrive. With Windows 8 around the corner and the Office Web App that allow for web editing and collaboration, having an integrated service like Microsoft makes may make sense if you are looking to keep all your academic and personal work in one location. If you are at Missouri S&T, then you e-mail is connected with Google and Google Drive, which was one of the first companies to come with a free web-based office suite. There are others worth mentioning such as Dropbox, Box, JustCloud, etc.
Not in with the backup crowd? Well it’s time to get your head out of the sand and set up your computer, laptop, smartphone, and/or tablet with the proper applications and choose a cloud that best suits your academic and personal needs.