Up in the clouds | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

Up in the clouds

What you need to know about remote computer storage

Posted: January 25, 2013 - 9:01pm

Hi there, Tech Savvy Fans! I’m on the road this week at the Minnesota Newspaper Association Conference in the Twin Cities and I thought that this would be a great opportunity to revisit something we’ve touched on before: Cloud storage.

Stop. Storage time.

What does the cloud offer that my computer doesn’t? In a nutshell you have access in any place that you can get an internet connection, you can use many of the features to collaborate with your coworkers and changes are saved instantly. Utilizing the cloud also allows you to cut down on the amount of equipment you need to carry with you — USB drives, external hard drives, laptops, etc. It also can help reduce the risk of losing that same equipment — you can’t lose your cloud. Believe me, if I can’t, you can’t either.

This week I want to focus on one particular offering, Google Drive. There are three main cloud services I use — Dropbox, Box and Google Drive. Before we get into Google, here’s a quick rundown of the other two I mainly use.

Dropbox was really one of the first services that was out there. Because of that they have a lot of features that have a much more refined feel and some features that the others don’t offer. In the office, Dropbox is simple to use, it is easy to share projects and files, it syncs with your computer and tablet device and is really reliable. It has tiered pricing, with a free option and then other subscription options. I use the free option, mainly because it has all the features I need in a remote access storage system and I don’t have large files that I’m accessing on the road.

Box is very similar to Dropbox, so similar that at a glance it would be pretty easy to mistake one for the other. The services are very similar, but Box has tried to position themselves as more of the “business” solution. Just like Dropbox, they have free and paid options and they also allow you to sync with your computer and mobile device. However, up until this year the computer sync was only available for the paid subscriptions, something they offered to everyone (thank goodness) this past year. Box also, in my mind, does a better job of commenting on files and folders so that everyone working on the project is on the same page.

OK, drumroll please. Let’s talk about Google Drive.

Over the past year or so, I have found that I’ve gravitated to using Google Drive for much of my personal cloud storage. What makes it so much better than Dropbox or Box? Nothing earth-shattering. Like the others, Google Drive syncs with your computer and your mobile device, it has free and team options for storage and it’s easy to use. The UI (user interface), in typical Google form, is pretty minimalist but that’s not a bad thing. It loads quickly and because there isn’t a lot of weight to it you can access it on machines that are not the most current in the world.

What I really like about Google Drive is that it’s produced by Google. In the past few years Google has made a concerted effort to reach out to both individuals and businesses with numerous tools and resources that can make our lives easier. This in itself is not necessarily anything to write home about, there are literally thousands of third party programs and apps that can accomplish the things Google offers. That being said, if you have the choice of using 20 different companies and programs versus one company it’s far easier to work with a format that remains constant. Thus enter Google. Because Google has great conformity throughout their environment, everything you use in Google feels familiar. This makes it much easier to learn to use new products of theirs, the learning curve doesn’t feel as steep and you are able to use more resources than before. There is also a lot less risk that Google will disappear than some start up with no funding.

In addition to documents, you can also store and create other types of files, worksheets, presentations, etc. This makes it easy to keep an entire project within Google Drive and then, using the collaboration tools, the whole team can work on projects at the same time without too much effort. You can also put other Google tools to good use like Google Hangouts or Gmail to get the entire team together for discussion and have a real-time conversation, make your changes and save your work all at once.

I would strongly encourage people to use more than one cloud storage and use them for specific purposes. Don’t just throw stuff into the cloud as a “back up” — use them for living documents you access on a regular basis.

To help make my point, this entire article was written on my iPad using Google Drive’s document creation tool in their app. Using my Brydge+ keyboard and Google Drive, I was able to leave a laptop at the office and cut out 10 pounds of equipment from my trip.

Get into the cloud, and take advantage of Google Drive to help you get there.

PHIL SEIBEL, Digital Manager, may be reached at 855-5862 or phil.seibel@brainerddispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pseibel(@pseibel).