The theme to my work this week seems to be cloud storage and collaboration. Personally, my “cloud” experiences have been through Dropbox and iCloud. The latter I rarely even think about – I just know that all of my Mac appliances sync together. Dropbox, on the other hand, I rely on heavily. I was introduced to it a year ago when collaborating on a paper; it allowed my coauthor and I to share and work on the same files without having to constantly email them to each other – we simply both had access to the shared folder in Dropbox. Since then I have used this to collaborate on a class paper and to store who-knows-how-many personal work files. The beauty of Dropbox has been my ability to download it onto multiple devices – my work PC, my two Mac computers at home, my iPad – and have all of them sync together whenever I work on files in any of them. What’s more, I can also access my Dropbox folders from any other computer, simply by going to the Dropbox website and logging in. Ahh, cloud storage!
Cloud storage is becoming increasingly popular, and has made its way into the highly-secure infrastructure of the university. IU does not promote Dropbox because it does not meet their high security standards; however, the university has recently approved cloud computing through Microsoft SharePoint and Box.com. As Educational Technology Librarian, I know the likelihood that faculty members or students might approach me with questions about cloud computing is high; being unfamiliar with Microsoft SharePoint in particular (and having heard negative sentiment regarding its ease of use), I took a training program from UITS this week to learn its basics. Frankly, I am quite impressed with what it can do. Although not, perhaps, intuitive, SharePoint can do much more than Box or Dropbox, but there is definitely a learning curve. I intend to take the advanced SharePoint training once I have had a chance to play with what I have learned already for a while. Despite its complexities, I do feel prepared to address questions that may come my way.
I believe the “digital revolution” has made academia a more collaborative environment, with countless studies showing the growth of collaborative writing, even hyperauthorship. Perhaps especially because I come to this from a librarianship angle (a typically teamwork-oriented profession), I cannot help by champion cloud computing efforts. I mentioned taking a class that used Dropbox to write a paper. Imagine a law school class, or even a law school study group, using one of these cloud resources to create a shared library of study notes to help prepare for their exam.
I am thrilled that IU has found a means to bring secure cloud storage to our campus, and I look forward to promoting it to my patrons this year as a means of organization, storage, collaboration, and communication.