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March 19, 2013 Cloud Storage and File Backups: Unlocking the Mystery By Tiffani Mugurussa
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    It only takes one malfunction — or at least I hope so — for a person to learn this lesson. Unfortunately, it is usually learned the hard way. Many people don’t think about backing up their computer files until it is too late.

    Backing Up Your Hard Drive

    So, what happens when your computer gets a nasty virus and you lose most of your important content? Do you have a backup? If it hasn’t happened to you personally, you probably know someone who has been through this. The experience isn’t pretty and often the outcome can be devastating. Precious photos and important files can be lost forever. These types of catastrophes can be prevented with a little bit of planning and a small investment.

    In ancient times, or as I like to call it, ten years ago, one would have used floppy disks, or even CD-ROMs. Today, we use external hard drives or online backup services. The external hard drive can be installed to back up your computer daily, weekly, or monthly. The same is true for online services. It is a small price to pay for such big peace of mind. My external backup drive sits right behind my desktop computer at home and is set to back up during the wee hours of the night.

    Transporting Important Data

    Do you carry your most treasured files around on a flash drive, also known as a thumb drive?  If your answer is yes, you might want to reconsider. Flash drives aren’t as durable as one would think. Inside these drives are very small components like memory chips and circuit boards. Most often the USB connector becomes bent while the drive is in a USB port. Once the connector is bent, damage is likely to have occurred on the inside of the drive causing it to be unrecognizable when inserted into the computer's USB port.

    Unfortunately, I know all too well about bent USB connectors. I used to use a flash drive until one day the USB connector was so badly bent that it couldn’t be read when put into the computer. Another reason I quit using a flash drive was because I was always leaving it at home, at school, or in a machine somewhere on campus. I never seemed to have it when I really needed it. I wasn’t the only teacher having this issue. 



    Every now and then I’d see a note on our staff whiteboard about a missing flash drive. I’d even see teachers wearing them around their necks at times just so they wouldn’t lose them. I have been known to do this as well; "flash drive jewelry" I called it.


    I then purchased a portable hard drive. This was how I carried my files around for quite some time. However, it was my backup drive; if it had become damaged — or worse, lost — all my files and years of photos would have been gone forever.

    Next, I began emailing myself all my files. This was such a pain as I’d have to email them to my school email and hope the server wouldn’t bounce them as junk mail. Then I’d have to get to school early to download and print the files. Finally, I found a solution that worked: I was saved by the cloud.

    The Cloud

    Many people are still unsure what cloud storage is. Basically cloud storage is like a big virtual file cabinet out on the World Wide Web. It allows you to have access to all your files no matter where you are, as long as you have an Internet connection. There are several online resources such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and iCloud, to name a few, that all offer free backup storage. Now, when I have an important file that I know I will need to have access to, I save a copy to one of my cloud drives. Yes, I said "one" of them, I have multiple. While all have storage limits, each cloud drive service offers unique storage capabilities. Some are better for storing documents and data while others are better for pictures and music.

    The cloud services can be set to sync specific files or folders. Files and folders can be manually uploaded as well. Now, whenever I need a file, I know I can access it from anywhere, whether I’m in my classroom, at the library, or visiting a friend’s house. All I have to do is sign into my account and my files will be ready and waiting.

    What You Need to Start

    • A cloud storage site
    • An Internet connection
    • Data to upload

    Benefits to Cloud Storage

    • Immediate access to all files, data, photos, and music, wherever you are
    • Accessibility through any Web device such as a smartphone, personal computer, or tablet
    • Ability to work on a file at school and finish it at home
    • No need for external drives or USB sticks
    • Ability to work and share data collaboratively with others

    I hope I have convinced you of how important it is to back up your files and have shed a little light on this cloud mystery that looms overhead. If you don’t already have a routine of backing up, please heed my advice. You will save yourself hearing, “I told you so,” and saying, “Why didn’t I listen?” Once you start using cloud storage, you will wonder how you ever managed without it.



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