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I'm writing to you because I love you, and because I want you to break free from the tyranny of failing computers and lost files.
It happens. You've laboured all semester. Exam time is approaching. And then, in an all-too-predictable moment of frustration on the knife-edge of insanity, your computer refuses to start, and your entire semester's work is gone.
You don't have to live like this. Make this new year the year you reclaim your peace of mind and never lose a file again.
Cloud storage has never been easier to use. If you don't know what “The Cloud” is, here's all you need to know: By saving all of your documents to a particular folder on your computer, your documents will be saved automatically not just to your computer, but also to a secure online account where you can retrieve your files any time, especially when your computer dies.
There are many cloud storage options to choose from, and almost all of them offer a significant amount of storage for free. To keep it simple, I'm going to focus on a few popular ones: Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, and MEGA.
- Google Drive: 15GB free storage (30GB if your school subscribes to Google Suite) for online document editing (including Microsoft formats), easy file sharing, and really great mobile apps.
- OneDrive: 5GB free storage (lots more with paid plans, or up to 1TB if your school subscribes to Office 365), online document editing (Microsoft formats only), file sharing (though OneDrive's file sharing isn't quite as easy to use as Google Drive's), and mobile apps (though OneDrive's apps aren't quite as nice to use as Google Drive's).
- Dropbox: 2GB free storage, online document editing (Microsoft formats only), file sharing, and a mobile app.
- MEGA: 50GB free storage, file sharing, mobile app, but no online document editing.
15GB is more than enough storage for all the papers and projects you'll create during your entire degree. Dropbox's 2GB might be enough, but you might start to run out of space in a few years. And if you use MEGA, you'll have lots of space left over even after your BA, MA, and PhD!
3 easy steps to a cloud-protected life
Protecting your files from computer failure takes just 5–10 minutes.
Step 1: Sign up for a free account.
You can create a MEGA or Dropbox account using any email address. You'll need a Gmail account to use Google Drive, and a Microsoft account to use OneDrive. (If you already have a Gmail or Hotmail/Live/Outlook account, you don't need to create a new one.)
Sign up for an account here:
Step 2: Download the cloud storage app for your computer.
Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, and MEGA offer downloadable installer apps that guide you through setting up your cloud storage folder on your computer.
Download your installer app here:
Once the installer app has downloaded, double-click it to start setting up your cloud folder. The process is fairly simple. You'll need to enter your username and password for the account you want to use (e.g.,). (If you're unsure about anything, choose whichever option is “recommended”.)
Once that installation process is done, you're in business! Your computer is now connected to your online storage account.
Step 3: Move your documents into the new cloud folder.
Google Drive creates a folder called “Google Drive”. OneDrive creates a folder called “OneDrive”, Dropbox creates a folder called “Dropbox,” and predictably, MEGA creates a folder called “MEGA.” Whatever you move into that folder will automatically upload to your cloud account. You can organize your files and folders however you like. When you log in to your online account, you'll see that your files and folders are organized in exactly the same way.
I highly recommend that you make this cloud folder the home for all new documents. Don't just use this folder as a ‘backup'. Whenever you create a new document, create it in the cloud folder to make sure everything you create is safe from computer failure.
How to access your cloud account online
Want to make sure your files are uploading properly? Forgot your computer charger and need to print off an assignment before class? Here's how to access your online account from a web browser:
Enter your username and password (just like when you're signing into your email account), and you'll see the web-version of your computer's cloud folder. From there, you can download, print, or share files, create or upload new files, retrieve deleted files, and more.
You can download apps for each of these cloud services for iOS and Android in the app store, and have access to your documents wherever you go. (And even edit them on the run!)
Do it now!
Don't delay. Don't slog through another semester without protecting your work. File-loss is bad for your health, and makes me sad to hear about. For all our sakes, get on the cloud and never lose a file again!