In my role I get asked a lot of questions about best practice in relation to digital technologies. One question I have had lately is around the management of cloud-based systems such as Google Apps for Education (GAFE) and Microsoft’s Office 365. The management of these platforms could easily be a lengthy post. For this post I will focus on folder structure and sharing, and write about other considerations, such as security and end of year rollover, in later posts.To Share or Send
A significant difference between previous systems and cloud-based systems is the ability to share files and folders with people rather than send them. The benefit here is that everybody always has access to the latest version compared to having multiple copies of the same Word document being circulated via email. For this reason, I always encourage people to share files rather than send attachments.
Organising a shared folder structure
A robust and logical structure for storing and sharing files is important for any organisation. The existing folder structure on your server may be useful and it will be familiar, or you might decide that this is time for a change.
It is always useful to have clear naming protocols for files and folders that are understood and used by anyone with access to these files and folders it. If you have named a file/folder carefully in your cloud service, the search function within it should enable you to able find it again.
The following two links provide extra information about where to start.
- Get started file sharing with Drive for GAFE users.
- Set up Office 365 file storage and sharing for 0365 users.
This diagram shows a department structure for a New Zealand high school. Note that the grey folders are staff access only and the purple folders are also shared with students.
Expectations when sharing resources
Setting up clear expectations (even a policy) around the sharing of resources in your cloud system is good practice. The implications of which files/resources are filed where need to be be considered. For example, the decision around which files / resources must be filed in the shared file system and which are allowed to be shared outside of the school domain need to be made based on the expectations or policy of the school.
This may be a good opportunity to consider your school’s policy around who owns the resources a teacher produces, and whether you want a Creative Commons policy in place.
How to avoid files and folders from being deleted
It is possible for items to be deleted when giving others editing rights to files and folders. Here are some ways to minimise accidental deletion of files:
- Ensure clear expectations are made that files are not to be deleted or removed from shared folders except by identified people/roles.
- Do you have a generic user account for organisation-wide shared folders? This ensures these folders are owned by the organisation and stay when people leave.
- Make certain files/folders are ‘view only’ to those with whom they are shared.
- Backing-up files stored in cloud services is recommended for at least the most important users. Products such as Spanning, Syscloud or Backupify are popular and cost-effective.
These are just some considerations when organising your cloud-based systems. Having structures in place and articulating the importance of these to staff will help to ensure smooth transitions and on-going sustainable practices.
To summarise here is a list of the key points I have mentioned:
- Share files rather than send attachments so that everybody always accesses the latest version
- Use clear naming protocols for files and folders that are understood and used by anyone with access to it.
- Set clear expectations (even a policy) around the sharing of resources in your cloud system.
- Set expectations that files are not to be deleted or removed from shared folders.
- Use a generic user account for organisation-wide shared folders.
- Back-up files stored in cloud services for at least the most important users.