SF State shares cloud storage with students

SF State shared a cloud-based storage and file-sharing system that will give faculty, staff and students access to more free storage space than other like systems, such as Google Drive or Dropbox.

Box, a file-sharing system provided by a company with the same name, gives students and faculty access to 500 gigabytes worth of cloud storage – at no cost – in order to provide a common platform for their work.

Cloud-based systems such as Google Drive and Dropbox also offer free storage space to users, but at 10 gigabytes and 2 gigabytes, respectively.

Julianne Tolson, the information security officer for SF State’s Information Technology Services, said that only faculty and staff had access when Box was introduced at the University in 2014. Students had to establish their own free accounts in order to log in and share information with professors.

“Now, there’s no need for someone to go through the process of signing up for an account,” Tolson said.

Tolson explained the move to extend Box access to students arose from faculty and staff demand, who said that professors wanted to share and receive files with students more easily.

When Box was only available to faculty and staff, they only had 50 gigabytes worth of storage for their work, according to Nish Malik, IT Services associate vice president and chief information officer for IT Services.

The storage space available now has been increased tenfold, from 50 to 500 gigabytes. “We were trying to make the service more attractive,” said Dmitry Vayntrub, IT Services director of system services.

Malik said the department strives to provide students with the latest systems in order to comply with their needs.

Jasmine Kanhai, a senior broadcast and electronic communication arts major, said that she believes the system will helpful for future projects.

“A lot of times I’ve forgotten my flash drive or my hard drive at home and I live 45 minutes to an hour away depending on traffic,” Kanhai said. “To have to go all the way back home to get that would be a complete pain, so being able to log on and have my stuff is pretty cool.”

The decision to make a cloud-based storage system available for the University was made in 2013, based on an evaluation conducted by IT Services that identified storage needs of working groups of individuals from different departments on campus.

“Storage has become such an essential piece of how we store our assignments,” Malik said. “There’s a lot of social work and course work and rather than having students save it on their laptops, which might crash, or their thumb drives, this (system) syncs it up and you can access the information anywhere, anytime.”

Tolson said the evaluation allowed the department to create a requirement matrix in order to determine system needs.

“You got people with big files, people with little files – all those different needs,” Tolson said. “And so we came up with a set of common requirements and then we evaluated each of the different offerings that were available at that time to see how they would meet our requirements and Box was the only solution at that time.”

The Box company itself was also willing to collaborate with higher education facilities in terms of accessibility.

The issue of security was important in determining which system would be beneficial to students, faculty and staff alike, according to Tolson. Box can be used for school work and personal information such as birthdays, but should not be used for Level I data, which includes confidential information such as passwords and personal identification numbers.

“At this point, it seems to be a well-positioned service and we’ll see how it changes over time,” Vayntrub said.

Students can start using their Box account now by logging into http://sfsu.box.com.