Welcome to our May 2014 newsletter: Cloud-based tools
We have more free toys to share this month with some cloud-based tools that help keep our hard drives and our lives from getting too cluttered.
Enjoy and, as always, we’d love your feedback via Facebook, Twitter or email us.
Regards from the @EconnectTeam:
Sharing files with Dropbox – 10 benefits
By Sarah Cole
Few software programs have no down-sides. I think Dropbox, a free file-sharing service in the cloud, is one of them. Since I can’t think of any ‘cons’, here are 10 ‘pros’:
- People you share files with don’t need to sign up to Dropbox, and they won’t be spammed with marketing emails after they’ve accessed the files.
- You can access your Dropbox from any device connected to the internet, so you don’t need to be on your own computer to work with your files.
- Files can be any size as long as they fit within your Dropbox allowance (you get 2 GB free). Many email servers have limits on file sizes for sending and receiving so this is a great way to share big files.
- If you install Dropbox on your computer, it works exactly like a normal folder, so it’s really easy to use.
- Your folders synch every time you’re connected to the internet, so there’s less risk of losing anything.
- You have complete control over who sees your files. Dropbox tells you who joins your folder and when. You decide whether your invitees can invite others to see your files. You can rescind access, too.
- Uploading and downloading to/from Dropbox tends to be quicker than to/from a remote server. This is a great feature for people who work from home or on the go.
- If you share a folder or files, people can see the contents before choosing what they want to download (with some other programs, you automatically get everything).
- Dropbox keeps a snapshot every time you save a file. You can preview and restore any older version. (Select the file in its folder, click ‘More’ on the menu and then click ‘Previous versions’).
- If someone signs up to Dropbox because of a referral from you, you both get extra free space! In this way, you can get up to 6 GB free.
Google Drive – more bang for your buck
By Robbie Mitchell
Google Drive is Google’s version of Dropbox – an online platform where you can store and share your files, photos and videos and access them on the go.
But, being a part of the Google suite of products, it has far broader features.
Here are 4 things I like about Google Drive and why I have slowly been using it more than Dropbox, first privately and now professionally.
1. Store and share photos
The reason I first started to look into cloud computing was to store and share my photos. At the time, Flickr accounts were too restrictive (number and size of photos uploaded a month) and I am not a fan of Facebook’s image policy.
I wanted a space where I could bulk upload my images, retain ownership and share photos and albums with particular friends and family.
When I upload an image or video to my Google Drive, it is automatically copied to my Google+ photo album, where I can tag, edit, sort and share photos with whomever I like. I can also configure the phone app to automatically upload photos I take on my phone.
2. More storage per dollar
The cost of its storage plans also attracted me to Google Drive.
When I signed up in 2012, I received 5 GB of free storage. I also bought an extra 25 GB for US$2.49 a month.
In March this year, Google changed the price of its storage options. You now get 15 GB of free storage and an extra 100 GB costs only US$1.99 a month.
With the extra space, I now use the desktop app to backup all work documents from my laptop, including videos.
How Google Drive stacks up against Dropbox and iCloud (prices in US$)
3. Create and edit documents collaboratively
When Google launched Google Drive in 2012, they combined it with Google Docs.
Google Docs lets you create documents, spreadsheets and presentations online, and collaborate with others on the same document i.e. multiple people can work on the same document at the same time and see the changes that everyone else is making.
While Google Docs is not as ‘friendly’ as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, it is a useful substitution when you need to create a document using your smartphone or tablet.
4. Recover older versions
Google Drive saves a new version of your file every time you hit the save button.
You can look at revisions from the past 30 days, or choose a revision to save forever. The best thing is the revisions don’t eat into your storage.
To set up your own Google Drive, you need to create a Google account (which you can also use to create a Google +, YouTube and Gmail account).
I’d also suggest you download the Google Drive app to all the computers and mobile devices you work on, so that you can access your files wherever you are.
Collecting information using a cloud-based survey
By Sarah Cole
I need to report quarterly on one of our long-term projects, which requires me to pull together a lot of information, such as media coverage, from everyone in the team from previous months.
To collect the information as we go, I’ve been successfully using the cloud-based survey tool, SurveyMonkey.
I set up the one-page ‘survey’ and send everyone the link. They simply pop in their information as they come across it and it is all there in one place for me when I go to generate my report.
It’s good for the people I need input from because:
- the link doesn’t change, so they can bookmark it or keep it open in a browser tab
- they can give me input at any time, bit by bit or all at once – it’s sometimes easier than dealing with multiple document drafts or collaborative editing.
It’s good for me because:
- I don’t have to collate a whole bunch of email responses! All responses appear on the survey’s results page.
- I’ve made the questions specific and ask people to choose categories so that I get relatively standard responses, which makes reporting easier.
- I can download the data for the quarter in 2 clicks and work with it in whatever way I need.
The basic, free version of SurveyMonkey allows you 10 questions and 100 responses per survey.
To make it easy for people to complete the ‘survey’ multiple times, set the survey options to ‘allow multiple responses per computer’ and ‘on completion, re-open the blank survey’.