Among the initiatives ITS has been working on this summer (2017), we've moved forward a project to offer Dropbox for Education to the campus community - faculty, students and staff.
Why Cloud Storage?
Today as off-device storage we really only have two institutionally supported options, and neither are optimal.
- On-campus network based storage (various file shares on servers). Shared file storage generally uses decades-old network file and folder technology, which is difficult to access from off campus, works better with PCs than Macs, and usually requires ITS intervention to set up shared folders and permissions.
- Google Drive, which is cloud-based, but works best with Google Docs, Sheets, etc. It's a less optimal solution for storing files created using desktop software like Microsoft Word or Adobe Acrobat. As a free service, we have no meaningful input or visibility into security practices or service changes.
We looked at options to use Google Drive differently, or contracting with Box.Com or Dropbox. There are many reasons we believe Dropbox for Education is the right choice for Colgate. Here are a few we considered.
Dropbox already has quite a bit of adoption on campus. We have more than a thousand members of the university community already using Dropbox personally, so it's a familiar tool. M ost are on free accounts with limited storage. Dropbox for Education permits us to offer more space without our campus users incurring cost. And for those who are paying for Dropbox today, this represents a few dollars saved from their department's budget.
In the Dropbox For Education environment, Dropbox de-duplicates content before calculating how much space we've used. If three people store the same 2MB file on dropbox, that still counts as 2MB used. On our current campus-based storage, it would be 6MB (2MB stored 3 times), plus the necessary space for periodic backups.
Finally, as ransomware becomes an increasingly difficult and costly problem worldwide, having a good backup is critical. By moving our most important files from desktops and laptops to managed cloud storage, we have the additional safeguards of the instant backup technology built into Dropbox. As soon as a file is saved, it's backed up. And the next time it's saved, so are the changes (but it's easy to revert back if you make changes you didn't mean to).
Why a Pilot ?
Every institution using Dropbox sets it up and implements it slightly differently. Simply put, we want to make sure we do this well and in a way that's informed by community input.
There are lots of small details to test and think through - examples include quota management and allocation, single-sign on using Colgate usernames/passwords, and the process we follow to transition an individual to a personal account once they've graduated or left Colgate. Those in the pilot project will help us work through these many details. We'll occasionally ask those in the pilot to provide feedback and test specific functions, like setting up shared files and folders, or "accidentally" deleting a file and recovering it on your own.