Living in the Cloud

Today’s computing trend is one of being in the “cloud.” This server based computing is extremely convenient and productive. But, a lot of people still do not understand it. Volumes have been written about how useful it is, especially for academics (and I will link some of those posts later), but today, I want to talk about how I use it. 

There are three main providers I use for my cloud needs. If you count my work email, there are four, but I don’t use Microsoft Live for anything except my work email, so I will exclude it (including SkyDrive). Some I have been using longer than others. Cloud computing is vital for me. I oftentimes will be going between my work desktop, my home desktop, computers in my classrooms, my ChromeBook, and my smartphone. From time to time, I also have a tablet. I need to be able to access my files from any of these devices. Here is my current setup.

Dropbox – This is the first cloud storage to which I was exposed. And yes, I was very confused when a friend went to save a paper we had been working on in the library and she uploaded it to an online server instead of a flash drive (okay, I feel old typing that – and I used to use 5 1/2 floppy disks). This is my main cloud storage for work. While I believe it is fairly secure, I still use secondary encryption on sensitive files. But my favorite feature is on the other end of the spectrum. The ability to make things public.

If you click a link for one of my conference papers, you will be downloading a file from the same server as this blog. A conference paper, after it has been presented, does not change. So, being a static file is okay. However, if you click to see a copy of my CV or a working paper, you will see a PDF that is being hosted on Dropbox’s Public Folder. I receive a new committee assignment? All I have to do is open my CV file, make the change, and save as a PDF to the file on my computer. The update is automatically uploaded. It shows up on the website a few seconds later.

Evernote – I admittedly did not use Evernote much prior to the last few months. But, especially over the past few months as I have been preparing a new class, it has been great. I’m a 3-ring binder guy. Evernote lets me recreate that virtually. I have a a stack (a “large binder”) for my class, and smaller notebooks (“dividers”) for each major topic. If I find a web resource, or simply want to record my notes on a topic, I can file it away in the appropriate notebook. I can then access it from anywhere. If I clipped it from a website, it also includes a link back to the original post.

Google Drive – The new kid on the block of cloud storage. It is basically an overhaul and expansion of Google Docs. I use it mainly because of its accessibility from my Chromebook. While my final drafts will probably be completed in Microsoft Word for some time to come, Drive/Docs provides a good basic word processor. For me, it allows me to focus on the content, rather than the formatting. Another benefit of Drive is it is cheap. I upgraded to 100GB for a rather small monthly fee. This allows me to back up my entire music library, and many of my photos. As you can tell, I use it mostly for my personal files and class notes.

Most of what I know about using the cloud for professional uses came from the Chronicle of Higher Education‘s ProfHacker blog. Below are some links to different posts from the blog and elsewhere which have proved helpful to me.

 

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