Several website editors have asked whether they can upload and store private collections of research documents, images or other bulky data files on the Site Builder web servers instead of their home computers, allowing them to be more easily shared between members of their U3A. But our filespace is intended only for material to be shown on a public website so is not really suitable for that use, and we would always advise site editors to keep local copies of their uploaded files for backup.
However, the rapid expansion of cloud based storage in recent years means that much better solutions can be found elsewhere at little or zero cost. These are designed for just these sorts of collaborative ventures, and are certainly preferable to emailing large documents around a group for shared access. A web search for "free cloud storage" will lead you to articles comparing some of the services currently available, which will obviously change as time goes on. Services vary regarding the amount of free storage they offer (between 2 and 7 gigabytes at the time of writing) the functions they provide and the extent to which they are restricted to users of particular software or services.
Following are some possibilities to consider:
- Dropbox software can be downloaded and used on any device, and provides automatic synchronisation for files stored on members' computers.
- Google Drive can be used by anyone with a google mail account. Users can edit their shared documents directly on-line.
- Microsoft One Drive for Windows 8 users: allows on-line document editing and integration with Office software, and offers the largest amount of free storage.
- BT Cloud for BT Broadband customers. No online editing, but provides automatic file backup.
If you have any experience of using cloud-based storage for U3A activities, send us an account of your experiences for the benefit of other U3As!