SST_1709 Using Cloud Services for Collaboration


Some people do not like the idea of online storage. They do not like to have their important data stored on someone else’s server. If you haven’t heard about the cloud storage system called Megaupload, then you should read about it – it’s a sobering story. The files and documents on the Megaupload servers were seized by the FBI as part of a piracy case against Megaupload; 100 million Megaupload users lost access to the data in 2012.

On the other hand, there are some services where the data is stored on your local hard drive and a copy is stored online. In this case, you should still have access to all of your files in the event of a server failure. These systems allow you to have an up-to-date copy of your document stored securely online. Many of these systems also enable connecting to your online files from other machines (laptops, desktops, tablets, mobile phones).

Some people say that having cloud storage is essential, but that really depends on your computer and on what you want to store. If you have a Chromebook, you have to store your files online; the Chromebook only has 32 GB of storage. While you can’t use a Chromebook to draw in Vectorworks, you can still use it for other documents, such as letters, reports, and specifications. Some laptops have very small hard drives, so you might need to store your files online. If you have a laptop and a desktop machine with a lot of storage, you may not see the need to store your files online.

Important uses for cloud storage include backups, synchronization between computers, and remote collaboration. The rest of this manual assumes that you do want to use a cloud system to back up your files, synchronize them between computers, and collaborate with others.

There are numerous online storage solutions, many of which offer collaboration features. For example, if you use Google Docs, you end up with a Google Drive; if you have an iPhone, you get an iCloud account; if you have a Microsoft Word subscription, you receive a OneDrive; and so it goes. Without trying too hard, I have accumulated the following services:

Some of these accounts are great for collaborating on text documents, but they are not always designed with drawing files in mind. For example, if you want to write a report or a checklist for drawing content, then a Google document is fantastic. Several people can edit this document at the same time and every user can see what the others are up to. The cursor from the other people has their name on it so you can see where the cursor is and what they’re editing.

Having a checklist to compare the many different services available can cut through the confusion:

  • Is the service for backup only (no sharing)?
  • Is it for one-way sharing (sending large files)?
  • Is it for sharing both ways (collaboration)?
  • Can it be used for text documents or drawings?
  • Is it connected to an application (e.g., Google Docs)?
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