(For all you Classicists out there, I know there’s an Aristophanes joke in here somewhere….)

A few years back I was introduced to Dropbox and, to be honest, it changed my technology world. There isn’t much that comes along that has that much of an impact on my tech work as Dropbox did, but it did. No more flashdrives, burning CDs, drag and dropping files at the beginning and end of school years (more on that later). Dropbox’s seamless integration of the Cloud and my computers / devices made and make it indispensible.

About the time I ran across Dropbox, GoogleDocs was on the ascendancy. School was pushing it and I was interested. But immediately I knew that GoogleDocs was not for me. Sharing and collaborating, fine. I get that, and there isn’t much that makes it easier to group edit / write a document. But for storage, access, and management, its linear and search-based interface wasn’t for me (just as I was skeptical when my buddy told me that the Mac’s Spotlight would do away with the need for folders).

What made Dropbox perfect was its presence on my computer, that Dropbox folder from which anything I opened and edited would be automatically synced to the web and anywhere else that I have Dropbox. My problems were these: 1. initially, I wasn’t ready to make Dropbox my Documents folder, i.e. the one goto folder from which I opened everything. Either the skeptic or the conservative in me needed a localized, non-Cloud base of operations; I couldn’t give up my documents folder that easily; 2. related to this, my documents folder was bigger than my Dropbox storage allotment, so I couldn’t copy everything wholesale even if I had wanted to.

I plugged Dropbox to my friends and managed to squeeze out a few extra gigs of storage space from their signing on (Dropbox gave 250 megs of space if someone used your referral code to sign on; they’ve sinced upped that to 500 megs, and grandfathered those of us in, i.e. all of my 250 meg upgrades were bumped to 500; there was an 8 gig max at the 250 meg rate which has been raised to 15 gigs under the 500 meg rate). But what really did it was getting my students to sign on. I started using Dropbox with class as part of the iPad pilot; students would open and submit assignments via a shared folder, and then expanded that to my other classes. And once I was the first to get to my students with Dropbox, my storage space skyrocketed (I’m up to just under 15 gigs), plenty of space for my whole documents folder. But I’m still not ready to convert; maybe I will this year, but we’ll see.

In the interim, I’ve seen advertised other Cloud storage options. I’ll leave the commercial add-ons out (Apple’s iCloud and Amazon) but focus on dedicated Cloud storage options. A few months ago I downloaded Box.net, similar to Dropbox but with 5 gigs of free storage at the outset. The plan initially was to parcel out my documents folder to different Cloud storage spots, so that if my whole folder couldn’t fit in one, I’d put the less used files in another (i.e. Dropbox, say, would have the bulk of my commonly used files while Box would have my less used files: open stacks vs. closed stacks, you could say). The problem with Box.net, however, is the clunky upload. It’s web and device based (no folder on the computer like Dropbox) and the upload is by individual file only; no folder upload. This alone makes it not worth my while.

I’d seen advertised SugarSync, clearly a Cloud service (those banner ads above Words with Friends). It seemed intriguing but I never got around to trying it. But a recent MacWorld article detailing these very Cloud services introduced me to it and put me on to it. The advantage that SugarSync has, it seems, is that, rather than a separate folder on your computer like Dropbox, it allows you to designate existing folders as sync-able. So in its introductory window, it shows you your folders and their sizes, allows you to navigate to the ones that you want, and check them off for syncing. Then it takes their existing content and uploads it. So here’s how SugarSync looks on the iPad:

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The first image is of the three folders from my computer, and the second their contents. Word documents are recognized (at the bottom); InDesign (the ones above the Word documents) are not. SugarSync presents an intriguing possibility. I’ll be working with it certainly this academic year, if not this summer, and I’ll keep you updated.

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