By Beth Vinson, DriVen Class Lead Ambassador and blogger with DeVry University and its Keller Graduate School of Management.
This article is about using cloud-based services to protect your data and documents (i.e. your hard work) from mistakes and accidental corruption. It is about protecting your information from yourself, not necessarily mischief-makers.
While everyone should have a backup system that includes regularly saving important files and applications, often a casual user will not understand how to use these backups when they are needed. And sometimes events occur, such as a power surge or a drive malfunction, which cause the backup itself to become unusable.
The term “The Cloud” is flying around everywhere these days, as though it were something new, but really it is just a metaphor for the Internet. If you are using email, have accounts you access through your web browser, download and/or steam music from iTunes, or host family videos on Youtube, you are already using the Cloud. Companies like Google and Microsoft are constantly developing cloud-based services that allow you to access your information from anywhere, and they are giving you the tools to do just that; there are Google’s Drive, Microsoft’s Office Web Apps, Evernote, Dropbox, just to name a few.
I want to focus on Google Drive right now, because that is what saved hours of my work from being lost forever! I had a recent scare with a school assignment, but because my files are living on my Google Drive, I got everything back. I am going to tell you how I have my system set up and how it rescued me when I needed it most.
It started with a routine task – a term paper – but escalated into a situation.
My paper had seven sections to be completed over the course of seven weeks. I did each section as a separate document, and then compiled them to turn in. I would finish one section, then do a Save As and rename it to the next section, remove what I didn’t want, and begin building that section. You can probably guess what I did wrong. Just as many an instructor will warn his students not to do, I got in too big a hurry and left out a step. I opened up the completed section four and started making the changes for my section five without saving it as the new document. I lost all the work I had done in section four!
Fighting back feelings of panic, I remembered that my system should save me.
I had prepared for the situation; I was already using Google Drive.
To get prepared yourself, first you need to set up your Google Drive. Google walks you through this process and explains how to use it starting here. (You will need a Google account for this.) You get 5GB of space, which is plenty for most of us. Simply click the Get Started with 5GB free button. This will activate your drive and the button will change to Go to Google Drive. Click that, and you will see your very own 5GB Drive!
Right now your Google Drive is in just your Google account and not on your computer. You will see that you can install Google Drive on your computer, which is what you want to do. Click the Download Google Drive button on the left side of your browser window under the links. (Click here for detailed instructions.) This will give you a folder on your computer for your Google Drive. You treat this folder just like any other – moving it anywhere you want it and moving and saving files there. You can access it via your Google Drive on your computer, browser, and mobile devices.
I have all of my school folders in my Google Drive. I access them mostly through my Mac’s Finder, but I do occasionally use the web interface. It is necessary to use the web interface to retrieve file revisions.
How it saved me.
After remembering my files were on my Google Drive and recovering from my initial panic, I accessed my Google Drive using my browser by signing into my Google account, and clicking on Drive in my Google toolbar.
I navigated to the folder that contained my document and checked the box beside the document, selecting it. This causes four more buttons to show up along the top of the list, one of which being More. I selected it and then selected Manage Revisions from the drop-down list.
I found the version of the document that I wanted to restore and clicked it to download it to my desktop, renamed it to be the correct section 4, and moved it back into the correct folder. In less than 5 minutes, my backup system saved hours of work!
Once Google Drive is installed on your computer and files are added to it, revision history is automatically in place; you don’t have to give it another thought.
I think it is important to note that this is certainly not the only way of ensuring you don’t lose important files like I did! Dropbox offers similar capabilities; it just works a little differently. Evernote also offers revision history, but only in the paid version. I like Google Drive, not only for backups, but because I can share documents with classmates or even collaborate on them, and I can access my files from all my mobile devices too. It works the way I think it should, and I don’t have to worry about accidently messing something up (or, if I’ve given others access, worrying about their changes destroying mine)! As much as we rely on computers and software applications, there is just no removing the human element from our work processes, and we need to have a system to recover from our mistakes.
Computers are more reliable than ever, but we still need backups. I clone my hard drive every night using Carbon Copy Cloner and keep incremental backups using Time Machine (Mac), in addition to having important files in Google Drive, Evernote, and Dropbox. If my hard drive dies I can use another Mac to boot into my clone and be up and running within minutes. If I lose data or an application becomes corrupted (by a botched update, etc.), I can go into my Time Machine backup to where I last used it and restore it. If a document is corrupted, I can get it back from Google Drive, Evernote, or Dropbox.
The world is moving to The Cloud more and more. It is becoming apparent that companies offering cloud services – such as Google and Microsoft – are much better at storing, backing up, and restoring data than those of us who are not experienced in it. I see it this way – I rely on my mechanic to keep my car running and my bank to store my money, so why not rely on an expert in data services to keep my data safe? Google Drive is easy to use, free, and I feel confident using it. Obviously, it protects my data better than I!
Beth Vinson is a DriVen Class Lead Ambassador and blogger with DeVry University and its Keller Graduate School of Management. She recently received her Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Information Systems from DeVry and is now pursuing her Master of Information Systems Management degree with a Database Management concentration. She is also working towards her Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate: SQL Server 2012 certification and has just restarted her career as a Data Conversion Advocate with a prominent Atlanta-based software solutions company. During her spare time, Beth enjoys hanging out on the DriVen Class website, attending SQL events, and spending time with her family.Tags: Beth Vinson, cloud computing, DeVry University, DriVen Class, Keller School of Management