Data backup, availability and collaboration


Yullii Blue of Caught Between a Cream and Curl asked me to create a post to complement her blog post here, where she seeks to provide tips to new college and university entrants.

The information in this post will not only apply to students but to anyone who uses a computer.

Lets give some simple definitions:

  1. Data Backup – having at least one additional copy of your files in the event the original files are lost or corrupted. Backing up can be as simple as storing a copy files a secondary drive in your computer, on media such as CDs, DVDs etc preferably stored in a location away from you source files, or soft copies on the internet.
  2. Data Availability – refers to how quickly and easily data on external storage media can be accessed whether for regular use or in the case of disaster.
  3. Collaboration – the process whereby individuals work together to achieve a common goal.

No matter how careful you think you are when using your PC, laptop, tablet or devices storing the files you have worked on, it should be a regular practice to always make a back up of your work. Disasters can strike at any time, causing you much pain and heartache when critical files are lost.

In this technological age no lecturer is going to take “my dog ate my coursework” as an excuse. With that said you need to utilize the tools available to ensure you always have the work available and ready to be presented to your lecturer to haul in those A’s. The tools discussed here will be outside the norm of storing files on a USB flash drive.

Email Yourself

The simplest form of backup you can utilize is to just email your work to yourself. Yes, you can send an email to yourself! Most email providers offer sufficient total storage space to its users with a maximum file attachment size of 25mb per email.

Compose an email with your own email address in the ‘To:’ field and then attach your files. You have 2 options when attaching files:

  1. Attach individual filesCompress
  2. Create a folder on you computer, place the related files in the folder. Right-click the folder, go to Send To and select Compressed (zipped) folder. A file with an icon of a folder with a zip will now appear. Attach that file to the email.

This method accomplishes backing up your data and making it available anywhere you go providing you have internet access.

Cloud Storage

Cloud storage is simply an online allocation of space on servers located on the internet where you can perform remote backup of files. Cloud storage is offered by data storage providers who store the data on distributed servers. The service offers the user the ability to automatically backup your files to these internet servers once they are created or edited. Additionally it offers data synchronization between multiple computer or internet capable devices. What this means is when a file is created on one computer it automatically uploads to the internet store and then copies the file to any other computer you have configured to use the service with.

For a personal account of how vital a tool cloud storage is read my post: How Cloud Storage Saved My Life.

There are many cloud storage services available. The one I have been using for sometime now is Dropbox. You can visit the site and create your account here.

Once you’re done creating your account you will be guided to install the Dropbox application on your computer which will make backing up of files to Dropbox automatic. Just follow the installation instructions.

Once installed you will notice two things:

1. The Dropbox Tray Icon in the task bar which gives you quick means of accessing the Dropbox folder on your computer as well as reaching the Dropbox website.

2. The Dropbox Folder now present when you open Windows Explorer.

Dropbox Tray Icon

Dropbox Tray Icon

Dropbox Folder

Dropbox Folder

Collaboration

Working in groups or in team is compulsory when in college, university or the actual working world.  There are tasks that due to either the magnitude of work or the time restraint, will require you to work with others to accomplish the goals.

Working in groups can be very hard due to members not living in the same geographical area or the leisure time of the member not being aligned. These make physical meetings to discuss or work on projects difficult.

If you already have a Gmail account then you are on your way to remedying the problems stated above. If you don’t have an account then create one here.

Google offers Google Drive as an additional service to its Gmail users. Drive allows you to create documents, spreadsheets, presentations etc, similar to Microsoft Office. To access Drive simply click on Drive in the Gmail header menu as highlighted below.

Gmail Header Menu

Gmail Header Menu

Once opened you can click on the create button and choose the type of file you want. Give the file a name, then click on the share button to the top-right corner, enter the email addresses of the persons who you will be working with.

When each person has accepted the invitation all persons can type in the same document at the same time. Each person working on the document will be given a different colour cursor. While each person types, their name will follow their cursor as seen in the screenshot below. You will also notice, while working on the document you can also chat with the other members.

Collaborating on a Document

Collaborating on a Document – (Click to Enlarge)

Where groups are up to 3 members you can all join in on a Skype conference call or just put those idle free nights to good use and make a conference call while working.

I hope this has been very helpful to you and will allow you to be more productive. If you found it helpful, please feel free to share. Peace Out!

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Posted on September 6, 2013, in Tech Tips and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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