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Cloud storage for students

If exams are around the corner we look at tips to sharpen your brain and some apps to boost your memory.

Written by Lucy Bodenham |

Cloud storage icon inside a digital tunnel
Advice and tips for students on how to use cloud storage on the go.

Save different versions of your dissertation to track chronology

Cloud storage is a model of storing digital data which is kept across multiple servers and locations. Since it is web based you can access it any time with an internet connection and there are many companies now offering cloud computing services with free basic accounts.

You are probably already using some form of cloud computing or another like Flickr, YouTube, Google Docs and Netflix. Today, even laptops are completely cloud based like the Samsung Chromebook which runs Google Chrome web browser, making it a lightweight, portable laptop.

Some of the advantages of cloud storage are:

  • A good way to back up your computer without having to copy your stuff to a disc or hard drive.
  • Your files are secure and there is less risk of losing your data due to hardware failure.
  • Easy access to lesson plans and notes to share across several devices.
  • Decent security which requires authentication and password.
  • Prior versions of your dissertation are saved so you can revert or trace chronology.
  • Useful for collaborative projects you are working on.
  • Reduces photocopying, saving time, money and your carbon footprint.
  • Ability to print documents on your home printer from your mobile or tablet.

Useful web apps which are close versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote give you access via your web browser without the need to install software

Something to be aware of - ownership is currently not clear cut about intellectual property issues of who owns the data of your online store. There is no central body governing use of the cloud storage and services, so check your terms and conditions with the provider you use.

When using cloud services do consider safety and choose strong, secure passwords to keep your work secure. Otherwise there is risk of giving access to change, download or delete your data by unscrupulous hackers. Windows has good tips for creating strong passwords which don't contain your username or recognisable words.

Queen Mary University of London is in the process of producing practical guides and research to address the legal issues of people using the cloud and who will own their data. This may be of particular interest to students studying law or those who have an interest in data ownership and consumer protection (see the QMUL Cloud legal project for more information).

You should also ensure your hardware, computer or laptop has up to date anti-virus software. Also use a reputable service provider which uses at least 256-bit AES encryption and a two-step verification.

You can encrypt your data locally before storing it in Dropbox or Google Drive or other cloud services you may use. Spideroak offers encrypted cloud-backup services.

There are so many useful apps around like Scanner Pro for iPhone and iPad. Scan your documents and parts of books, great for doing away with lugging around heavy books. If you have an android phone you can use Droid Scan. Other useful things you may want to save are web pages which you can do with Evernote’s Web Clipper to collect useful research from the web.

Cloud services

Dropbox is one of the most popular and well-known services offering online storage solutions for a wide range of applications, from Linux to Mac OS X, Android and iOS standards.

Dropbox has good sync speeds, meaning it will check for the latest version of files you are working on - rather useful for fellow students collaborating on a project together. It's also handy for sending links to friends and non-Dropbox users to share data, but you cannot set permissions to prevent files being edited by other users this way.

The apps in DropBox are useful to create and host simple websites for your projects. If you study creative computing you may want to create a blog to showcase your 3D techniques for graphics and animation modules.

For students, DropBox offers a basic free account with 2GB of online storage. This can be huge for documents but for photos, music and videos this certainly won’t last long. You can upgrade to a 1TB plan for about £7.99 (GBP) per month if you need more storage.

Garner extra free storage by getting friends to try out Dropbox. With each sign up to an invitation, 500MB per referral can enable you to earn up to 16 GB

Google Drive is another popular cloud service offering a vast range of apps and storage across handheld devices and desktop computers. There are also associated services like Gmail and Google Calendar for planning your study year.

15GB of free space is available when you set up your Google account or link to an existing one from Gmail, or even your YouTube account. It's an excellent storage option if you use Google Docs frequently, with a built in version control system letting you view past versions of documents.

You can make files available offline and view them on your phone or tablet, as well as scan your paper documents which can be stored as PDFs.

Other cloud services worth looking at are OpenDrive, and Box and Apple iCloud to share images, music and other files plus synchronise all your email, contacts calendar and more.