Educators Have Options for Storing Files on the Cloud
A number of reasonably priced cloud-based file storage sites exist, but not all are optimized for education or designed specifically for the classroom. While the services are free upfront, there may still be costs involved, even if they are not readily apparent.
As classrooms plug into technology with increasing frequency, schools are naturally turning to cloud-based file storage to keep students' assignments accessible and organized. A number of reasonably priced cloud-based file storage sites exist, but not all are optimized for education.
Last year, Google announced that it was giving users 1 gigabyte of free space, for any type of file, on its popular cloud-based Google Docs service, which was already offered by services like Dropbox and SugarSync.
But while the services are free upfront, there may still be costs involved, even if they are not readily apparent.
"Google itself is free, but then you have to have backups," said Mike Hosford, CEO of VARtek, a company that helps schools and districts make the transition to the cloud. "Schools tend to have a cost structure, it's just less of a cost structure than they had."
Services like Google Docs and Dropbox are also not optimized for the needs of educators, who may look for services that take the needs of the classroom model into account.
School Web Lockers offers schools unlimited storage, and segregates files by class and by student, at a cost of $1 per user per year. Kelly Smith, the company's manager of marketing and sales, described it as a peerless homework system, where teachers post assignments and students work on them and return them for grading. A student's work is also archived in a portfolio, which stays with them from year to year, allowing teachers and students, for example, to see how a student's writing style has changed.
After schools provide the company with some basic information, School Web Lockers gets to work customizing the service for specific needs.
"We set up all the accounts, all the class folders, and all the associations," Smith said. "With Google docs, you have to individually create the accounts and assign who has access to what folders and what permission levels they have. With us, it's all set up for you, so when you log in for the first time you can start using your system."
Similarly, eBackpack offers schools cloud-based web lockers with unlimited storage and e-portfolios. The service also offers online commenting, multiple file uploads, and homework drop boxes.
Additionally, students can save and open files directly on their iPads. eBackpack offers varying subscription levels from single-user to district-wide implementations. Individual class plans are priced at $39 per year. School and district plans start from $1 per user per year.
Stephen Noonoo is an education technology journalist based in Los Angeles. He is on Twitter @stephenoonoo.