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Academic Productivity Tools

Cloud Storage Options

In a very short time, cloud storage -- saving files to a server based on the Internet -- has gone from a novelty to a must-have if you work or study in more than one location. Cloud drives can save you a lot of hassle; there's no disk or flash drive to worry about. You just need Internet access, and you're able to work on files on multiple computers or even on the go with tablets or smartphones.

Cloud storage isn't without some downsides, too. Privacy, intellectual property rights, and security are frequently mentioned among problems with saving files in the cloud. Storing information on someone else's machine isn't without risk, and the companies that provide cloud storage take some precautions to prevent your information from becoming lost in the event of a catastrophic hardware or software failure, or from being stolen or destroyed in a cyberattack. It's also a good idea to take a look at a company's terms of service before starting an account, to make sure you're not giving the company the right to use your information when you upload your files.

Organize Your Research

We're frequently asked what tools are best for organizing research, especially with regard to photos. ZDNet writer David Gewirtz recommends two tools: NeoFinder for Mac, and abeMeda for Windows. Gewirtz notes that the two, while not marketed by the same developer, seem to cooperate in marketing each other's product for those who need solutions for the other platform. In addition, the two share the same feature set and are priced similarly -- $39.99 for NeoFinder, and $39 for abeMeda. And if you work with both operating systems, they can read each other's files.

These tools can catalog whole hard drives or individual folders as needed. They can handle images, music, video, PDF, and many other formats. You can store geographical information for each item, along with other metadata, and see a preview of the item in the program. 

If you're looking for a tool that will help you organize your research, you can download free trials of both programs and see if they will fit your needs.

Online Storage Options

There are many online storage options for you to consider. Most of them offer a free tier of service for a limited amount of storage, such as 2 or 5 GB, which you can upgrade for a fee. Some of them are integrated with desktop and mobile applications; consider functionality when choosing an online storage provider.

Ellis Hamburger of the Verge compared some of the most popular cloud storage services in April 2012.

Here are some of the more popular services:

Microsoft OneDrive

Emory University students with Microsoft Office365 accounts also have a subscription to Microsoft's OneDrive cloud storage service. The service incorporates multiple applications; Microsoft has clients for its Windows operating system and Macintosh computers. 


Emory University offers a free 25GB Box cloud account for every student. You can read more about it and learn how to sign up on the IT website. Box works is integrated with many applications and also offers a desktop sync client for Mac and Windows. There are apps for iOS, Windows, Blackberry and Android phones and tablets, too.


Dropbox is easily one of the most popular options for those seeking cloud storage. A basic account starts at 2 GB, but the company awards small increments of additional storage up to 5 GB for sucessful referrals. Desktop applications for Mac, Windows, and Linux enable you to sync at the desktop level. There are mobile clients and widespread application-level integration as well.

Google Drive

Google Drive offers 15GB of free storage that integrates with Google Docs and many third-party applications. There are clients for Apple iOS devices as well as Google Android, and desktop software for Mac and Windows computers. If you have a Google account, you don't need a new account to gain access to Google Drive.

Apple iCloud

Integrated with Apple's Mac OS X desktop and iOS mobile operating systems, iCloud lets Apple users save files to the company's servers. Windows PC owners who use Apple products can also sync their devices. The basic account includes 5 GB of storage space. If you have an iTunes account, you also have an iCloud account.


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