In this installment of Administrators in the Cloud, I’ll be focusing on Dropbox’s Public folder. Dropbox’s Public folder provides administrators the ability to share files effectively, efficiently, and at no cost by getting their files into the cloud.
Overview of The Public Folder
When you install Dropbox on your device, you’ll noticed that one of the default folders is named Public. Files you want to share with your staff, or colleagues, can be kept in your Public folder. All files stored there have a public link that can e-mailed, tweeted, blogged, or posted on a webpage. Anyone who has that link can access your file from anywhere in the world. Keep in mind that this folder is public and there is no way to restrict access to particular users, so be sure not to use this folder for documents that contain any sort of sensitive or private content. The Public folder provides public READ-ONLY access to your documents. You are still the only person who can create, edit, and delete files in this folder. Below is a quick list of some key features / functionality of Dropbox’s public folder.
- nested folders: You can neatly organize your public documents into sub-folders within the Public folder.
- public links: Each and every file within the Public folder, or any of its subfolders, has a public link. The public link is simply the URL you can share via an e-mail, tweet, blog post, or webpage. For instructions on how to get your document’s public link, check out this help page on the Dropbox website.
- individual file sharing: By design, the Dropbox Public folder only allows access to individual files. There are no public folder links, only links to individual files.
Administrators’ Public Folders
The Dropbox Public folder isn’t going to solve all you file sharing or document distribution needs. However, there are three clear benefits for school employees, all of which I use frequently and have outlined below.
Memos: We often have to send out e-mails to our staff with a memo or document attached. One con of the attachment approach to document sharing is, you are actually sending a copy of the file to every single recipient. So, if your sending the e-mail to 200 people, that means 200 copies of the same exact file that are now sitting on your mail server. Most attachments are small in size, so this isn’t necessarily a problem. However, if you are sending a flyer for a fundraiser or a school event that contains pictures, this duplication can cause unnecessary stress on your servers. If you were to place that document in your Dropbox Public folder, then you’d simply be e-mailing your staff a link to the document and everyone would be accessing the same document with the same ease of opening an attachment.
Along that line, have you ever e-mailed a document to your staff or students, only to realize there was a typo. In the attachment method of sharing, you’re now resending the e-mail, which makes another 200 copies of that file on your mail server. If you use the Dropbox Public Folder to share that file, you simply edit the file in the public folder and voila… The same link you sent out will now take your staff to the updated and corrected document. The Public folder is great for documents that may be fluid and for documents the staff might need to access multiple times.
Guidelines / Tutorials: Schools often have network folders that contain tutorials, acceptable use policies, teacher handbooks, etc. The downside of most network folders is that they are only accessible when you are within the walls of the school. If you turn your Public folder into a Staff Resource folder by simply placing all those required documents inside your Dropbox Public folder and teachers will now be able to access those documents from anywhere in the world.
Bloggers and Tweeters: Administrative bloggers and tweeters are often sharing forms and other documents with parents. When you attach a file to a blog post or to a tweet, you’ve got to go through the upload file process, which again is creating a duplicate of your original document. Instead you can put that document in your Dropbox Public folder and simply link to that file from your blog or tweet, in the form of a clickable hyperlink. Again, the beauty of this method is that if you need to modify the document, your not going through the upload process again. Just edit the doc in the Public folder and you’re good to go.
I’d love to hear how others out there are utilizing the Dropbox Public folder. Please share you usage with a comment…