Files are stored in a variety of places. On a computer, on a flash drive, at work on a server. But what if you're at home and want to access a file at work? What if you can't find your flash drive? In this module we’ll take a look at the basics of using online file storage, focusing on two major players in the field: Dropbox and Google Drive. By the end of this module, you'll have your files wherever you are.
Dropbox started in 2007, so it's developed a strong following and has refined its product over the years. Google introduced Google Drive in 2012 and can catch up because the application is essentially integrated with its Google Apps program suite, accessible by anyone with a Gmail account.
Check out both programs and decide which is best for you. You can even choose to use both (example: one for personal, one for work) if you'd like. At ETHS, we have Google Apps for Education, so all faculty, staff, and students already have Google Drive accounts created. This gives Drive a slight advantage, but having used Dropbox for quite some time, I haven't completed migrated over to Google just yet, and I may not have the need to do so either.
With the program installed, Dropbox and Google Drive work much like any file explorer (or Finder on the Mac) application you've been using for years. Look for the icons in either the taskbar (or top bar for Macs) or as folders in Explorer or Finder.
Once you open up either Dropbox or Google Drive, you will see your folder strucuture and you can copy/paste directly into these folders to add, open any files by double-clicking them, or deleting files through drag/drop or pressing the delete button (PC).
In both Dropbox and Google Drive, you can share specific files and folders with individuals or groups of individuals. Look for file sharing options on the web version of both applications and use email addresses to share with other users.
With either an installed application or using only the web version of either Dropbox or Google Drive, try adding, deleting and possibly sharing a file or folder of files.
What about when you're not near your computer, but you have a fancy smartphone in your pocket or purse? Both Dropbox and Google Drive have their own native applications for both Android and iOS devices. Simply download and install and you'll be able to access your files on your mobile device. Dropbox is integrated with a lot of third party apps, so you may be able to import/export work done on a mobile device to/from your Dropbox. Google Drive has fewer connections as of now, but their application does allows you to edit documents directly through the application.
If you have an iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod) or Android device (smartphone or tablet), install Dropbox or Google Drive from the App Store or Google Play Store and log into your account. Within seconds, you'll be looking at the same files that you have access to from the Internet and your computer...on your mobile device!
1 - Dropbox calls this Selective Sync.