Productivity Enhancements That Make Cloud Storage More Efficient

In recent years, the cloud has revolutionized many aspects of college life. Tasks such as submitting papers and receiving assignments can be done by utilizing one of the many cloud services available. Receiving student financial aid forms and housing requests can be done with the click of a mouse. However, with the ever-growing number of cloud advancements comes some familiar problems. Students have hard drives that are inundated with unnecessary files, while IT support struggles to stay efficient, and overworked staff wants convenience and security.


Too Much of a Good Thing?

Research libraries are an excellent use of cloud resources, moving vast data repositories off of University-maintained servers and into the cloud. For students and professors, accessing these large repositories can mean syncing volumes of data to their laptops. This can quickly exceed the storage capacity of the average PC, making simple cloud access unmanageable.

This can be resolved by enabling selective syncing, but that often requires IT staff time, as students may need help with setup. The support needed to help students configure syncing is a burden for tech support. In some cloud services, selectively keeping offline copies of files is not even an option.

When research libraries are maintained on University servers, there are still myriad challenges.  Students may connect using a variety of secure file access clients, which the IT staff will need to support. Troubleshooting connectivity problems can be a time-consuming task for support staff.  Additionally, collaborative access must be considered: assuring that secure protocols are used for access and transfer, and that file locking protects against multiple editors overwriting the other’s changes.


Staff Productivity Struggles

During the busy admissions season, it is critical that staff maintain maximum productivity. Easy and secure access to housing forms, admission applications, and financial aid documents is critical to moving the enrollment process forward.  Cumbersome interfaces to different systems can create unnecessary delays.  Whether these critical documents are stored in the cloud or on local servers, a single, unified interface to access needed files can reduce staff frustrations and improve productivity during critical periods of high volume.


Getting Personal

As the amount of cloud storage options increases, people are progressively using more than one service. The average user is running applications in 1.8 public clouds and 2.3 private clouds, according to the RightScale 2017 State of the Cloud Report. This is an issue for faculty, staff and students.  And it continues to grow.

Multiple cloud services require users to navigate different interfaces and remember different passwords. This spans the self-managed, personal use as well as the business and educational use of cloud services. A consolidated interface to all cloud services gives the user an access point to all of the files that they need.


Put the Cloud on Your Desktop

The solution to this problem is finding a tool that can help to manage remote files efficiently. This can be done by using a technology to map a network drive to on-premise and cloud file servers. While several tools are available, support of secure protocols and file-locking are important criteria to consider. A tool frequently used in higher education is WebDrive.  By mapping a unique drive letter to each cloud service or local server, a user’s desktop applications can be used to edit and save files in the cloud.

In addition to user productivity, WebDrive directly connects to cloud-based or local storage without the need to sync files locally. An advanced caching system facilitates quick access, without wasting hard drive resources. WebDrive can also create multiple pre-configured installers that can be distributed to different user groups. This reduces the need for IT support to assist faculty, staff and students with configuration.

“WebDrive allows our patrons to securely access their files in the desktop environment they are already accustomed to working in. It has been very popular with our students,” says Brian Luper from Rutgers University. WebDrive is used at more than 120 universities in 15 countries.

To read the full article in Educause Review, click here.


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