3: Cloud Computing
One valuable feature of Zotero is the ability of users to share some or all of their bibliographic information with other users online. Groups can be public or private, allowing scholars to share large amounts of research easily. These groups are one example of the growing popularity of cloud computing, which is a term used to describe ways of storing information on the web, separate from your computer’s hard drive. Cloud programs allow you and other users to access information from any computer with an internet connection, and can be useful as a way of accessing, backing up, and sharing data.
Google Docs has recently grown in popularity and is one of the more commonly used applications that works on a cloud model.
Users can import an existing word document, spreadsheet, or presentation, or create a new one. Documents can be shared with multiple users or kept private, with additional options to grant other users the ability to edit the document or restrict them to “read-only” privileges. (See the “Pedagogy” section to learn how teachers are using google docs for classes.)
Another popular cloud computing service is the note-taking software Evernote, which allows users to write notes that are stored online and synched across any number of devices (office desktop, home desktop, laptop, smartphone, etc.). Many find Evernote easier than taking notes by hand, and Evernote offers the added benefit of searchability. “Evernote searches would time and again reveal bits of information I had forgotten about,” writes Shawn Miller on ProfHacker. Once you create a note you can also label it with multiple tags and, like other cloud programs, share information easily with other users.
As a graduate student, Shane Landrum uses Evernote to tag individual notes he’s taken on a particular topic, as well as to group “paragraph-length quote clippings out of longer PDFs.” For more on how academics are using Evernote, see here and here.
DropBox offers another venue for file sharing, cloud storage, remote data access, and file backup. Although some still use external hard drives and jump drives to back up data, DropBox is part of a new wave of programs that provide online storage for your files. For one academic’s take on Dropbox and its benefits as a backup tool, click here.