Securely collaborating

I love using Google Drive and Dropbox. I feel like they’re a revelation when it comes to study and research. You can collect papers online, in the library, save them to your cloud storage and when you get home you can continue to read them or adding them to your store. It means you can add your cloud storage to your phone and work on your way home, waiting for a train or a bus. In any spare 5 minutes you have, you can sit quietly and carry on writing that paper. You can share folders, work on the same document at the same time as other people, which changes the way you collaborate too. They make my life so easy and I rely on them more and more as I progress through my MSc.

However, a recent event that happened to a colleague of mine, began to make me think a bit differently about them. So, when all my files were stored on my computer I’d think nothing of backing them up, whether that was on a floppy disk, a zip disk, a CD rom, memory stick or external hard drive. Anything important would be backed up somewhere “just in case”. Cloud storage changed that for me and I began to rely solely on my cloud storage for my files. Then I heard about this colleague’s problems and I thought again.

So, my colleague had paid extra for extra storage through one cloud service (I’m not going to mention which one, because I believe this could happen to any of them) and had been happily storing everything on this service. Including their PhD (luckily it had been submitted and passed recently) and family photos. When they went to access their files a few weeks ago a message popped up telling them that all their files had been locked and that they needed to contact a specific company to release them (this involved paying some money). In this situation, it’s always advisable never to pay money to these people, so they’ve given their laptop to our IT department, in the hope something might be done to save these files from the twisted people that performed this act. At the time of writing this post, I’m not sure if they got their files back.

From this, I take a strong message. These cloud services are brilliant, but they’re no safer than storing files on your computer. This means that it’s still safer to back up and make copies of files that you want to keep, particularly research files that you’re working on. There are some really easy ways to do this:

  • Email them to someone periodically – even to yourself. At least you’ll have a last version to work from, if the worst happens and you won’t have to start again
  • Back up on a hard drive, USB stick or computer periodically. Adding dates or version numbers to the back ups can make the latest one easy to locate.
  • Use more than one cloud storage program to back up work too.

Any or all of these strategies will help to protect you from a worst case scenario, it seems like a bit of extra work every now and then is a small price to pay for some added protection.

Finally, another top tip I learned was to be extra vigilant when clicking on a link sent to you in an email asking you to log on to an account. If asked to do this, open a new web page in your browser and go to that page to log on. Some scammers will send a link in an email to an identical signing page, but it isn’t the official sign on page, it just collects your username and password from you. It’s safer to log on in your usual way than clicking on a link in an email.

Happy Backing up!



2 thoughts on “Securely collaborating

    1. Thanks for this. I haven’t looked into Unity yet, but I will now. It could be really useful for collaboration. I love the choice we’re given when choosing free cloud spaces. There are lots to choose from and each do things slightly differently. It also means we can easily save things in several places at once, just in case!


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