Why should you try Dropbox?

We begin this post with three possible nightmare scenarios:

1. You’ve just arrived at a conference and realize that you’ve left your laptop or flash drive at home along with your presentation files.

2. Your laptop is damaged or—worse still—stolen.

3. You delete a substantial section of a manuscript, and plan to paste it elsewhere in the document in a moment. The phone rings, you are momentarily distracted, and by the time you get back to your document you have forgotten about the temporarily deleted section. You save and close your manuscript. Your deleted section is gone, perhaps forever.

Dropbox and other similar cloud-based file storage solutions (like Google Drive or Box) can help avert the likely damages from those three scenarios. Dropbox is an online file syncing service which you can use to store files and access them from any computer with an Internet connection. Here’s the Dropbox antidote to those three nightmare scenarios:

1. If you sync your documents with Dropbox, all you need is an Internet connection to access your files. You upload files to your online account from your laptop at home, then later on download them to a classroom PC, to a laptop at a conference podium, or to wherever. You can also install Dropbox software on your various computers (iMac at home, PC at the office), and drag files to and from the desktop folder. And as if that weren’t enough, you can install Dropbox software on mobile devices (Android or iOS), so you can have access to your files anywhere, any time.

2. Documents in your Dropbox folder are automatically synced as you work on them, as long as you’re working with an Internet connection. So if you break or lose your hard drive, your hard work is online, without your having to think to back it up.

3. Dropbox keeps archival copies of your documents, so if you need to retrieve an earlier version of a document (e.g., the document with the section you inadvertently deleted), it will be there. (Login to Dropbox.com, find the file you’re looking to recover in its earlier form, right click, and select “Previous versions”.)

Dropbox is also a great collaborative tool. From your online account, invite one or more email contacts to share specific files or folders with them.

To get started, go to Dropbox.com to sign up. Then download and install the Dropbox application. A folder will be created on your drive to which you can drag files.

You can watch a video introduction to Dropbox at Ed Tech Moments.

Some additional advice:

If you’re going to be using Dropbox to store documents that need to be secure, you will want to read the available documentation carefully to determine whether the Dropbox security protocols (which include a new two-step verification option) are sufficient for your needs.

Also bear in mind that files shared with you by someone else will eat up space in your account. An overstuffed Dropbox will interfere with the syncing process, so move the files from the Dropbox folder to another location on your hard drive. Sharers should make sure they place copies in the Dropbox and keep the originals in another location.

We concentrated on Dropbox in this post, but maybe you have a better tool for avoiding those nightmare scenarios. If so, tell us in the comments.

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your.name@qc.cuny.edu: What’s it good for?

You know you’re a true nerd if you have more email addresses than you own pairs of pants, and since you started teaching at Queens College you came one step closer to this dubious achievement, now that you have an email address at qc.cuny.edu. It’s likely that you’re not very excited about your institutional email: it’s one more source of information adding to your cluttered digital life, and it might not even be as convenient or familiar as your account on Gmail or Yahoo, or at your former institution.

Yet there are some very good reasons to make a concerted effort to use your qc.cuny.edu email address:

  • Most importantly, your qc.cuny.edu email associates you directly to Queens College as an institution, lending more authority to your correspondence than emailing from a non-institutional account. This applies not just to communications with your students, but also to communications with colleagues within and outside of Queens, especially when emailing about college related matters.
  • Regularly using your college email also makes it easier for people around campus to contact you: your colleagues won’t have to look you up to find your Gmail email, since your qc.cuny.edu email is already available in the directory built into the college email system.
  • You will discover that the directory is a great way to locate not just faculty and staff around campus, but also your students. You don’t need to know the details of their account: type a part of the name you’re looking for in the “To:” field, and let the app do the searching. (Yes, we know: this won’t work well when the person you’re looking for doesn’t have a very unique name. In such cases, you may have to consult your CUNYfirst roster to find the right email address.)
  • If you use your college email, you’re modeling good behavior for your students, which will encourage them to use their college email themselves, making it easier for you and others on campus to reach out to them.
  • No email system is completely safe, but it’s safer to discuss sensitive matters—especially matters that must be kept private by law (like student grades or other academic records)—in an environment where you can seek institutional support if your email archives inadvertently go public.

It’s technically possible to have your college email forwarded to another account, and there’s a good tutorial here.  Forwarding is great for receiving email and for creating a backup of incoming mail. But in general, forwarding is not recommended. For one, when you reply, you end up giving your correspondents two email addresses instead of one, or your reply comes from an unknown email address, which could be confusing for the recipient. Also, when you have your email forwarded, there’s no guarantee that messages being forwarded will reach the intended destination in time or securely.

Maybe the technology is holding you back from using your qc.cuny.edu account. Here are some tips to make living with Lotus a little easier:

First, if you don’t have an account yet, or you need to change your password, all the information you need is at the Queens College Account Management System website (https://cams.qc.cuny.edu/).

The easiest way to check your college email is using the web client, which can be accessed at http://mail.qc.cuny.edu (the access point is different for students). The web client is mobile-friendly, so you can even use it to check your email with your smartphone, using the web client’s “ultralight mode”. You don’t need to install files: all you need is a browser (full disclosure: not all browsers work well with the web client in “full mode”).

There are some additional methods for checking your Lotus mail, all of which involve a little more work on your part—but all three help you avoid the heart-stopping warning-footer appended to the bottom of your emails when you use the web client:

  • The most fully-functional way to work with your college email is using the Lotus Notes Client, which should be installed on your college computer (laptop or desktop). If you don’t have the Lotus Client installed on your machine, you can download it from here, for Windows and Mac operating systems. (Installation requires downloading your Lotus Notes ID file, and it’s likely you will also need some assistance from the Help Desk.)
  • You can also access Lotus email via IMAP or POP3 using Outlook, Mac Mail, or your favorite email client. (IMAP and POP3 are two pretty standard protocols for retrieving email, supported by almost all email clients.) There are instructions for handling your Lotus email using Outlook, Mac Mail, and a couple of other clients on the Help Desk FAQs page about Lotus Notes. (A note of caution: we have had limited success with this approach.)
  • Finally, you can work with Lotus email on Android and iOS devices using an application called Lotus Notes Traveler. The download files and instructions are available here.

Documentation for Lotus Notes is available from the Help Desk.