Mar 21 2016

Districts Seek Cost-Effective File-Sharing Tools

Schools save money, add security and enhance collaboration through the cloud.

All school districts want teachers to freely collaborate with students. But when it comes to file sharing, districts such as Wisconsin’s Mukwonago Area School District are clamping down on consumer-grade tools and standardizing on more secure enterprise software.

Districts now turn to enterprise file management software to set policies that keep sensitive documents secure and reduce management headaches — such as a reliance on email to send large documents. While many organizations use enterprise products such as Box, Citrix ShareFile and Syncplicity to easily share graphics-intensive files and video, many school districts find that Google’s tools are both cost-effective and efficient.  

Julie Hanisch, coordinator of technology and communications at Mukwonago, says teachers used a variety of free file-sharing tools a few years ago, but collaboration efforts in the classroom became more streamlined once the district deployed Google Apps for Education.

Hanisch says Google Classroom, an app within Google Apps for Education, lets teachers give students in a group a template for a project. They can append or edit that document from anywhere using a notebook, tablet or smartphone.

“Not only can multiple individuals work on the same document, but a student’s teacher or peer can make suggestions or comments,” Hanisch says, adding that all versions are stored on Google Drive in secure folders.

Terri McClure, a senior analyst for the Enterprise Strategy Group, says IT departments were put in a bind when people started using consumer-oriented Software as a Service products such as Dropbox and the free version of Box.

“All of a sudden, organizations had corporate data on people’s personal smartphones and tablets, and it created security issues,” McClure says. “The industry responded by building products that had a central dashboard. They offered rudimentary control at first, and now the products have matured to offer more advanced security and rulemaking controls.”

Getting Creative with Google Drive

Tamy Smalskas, senior director of college and career readiness for McKinney Independent School District in Texas, says the district uses Google Drive to store all the files students and teachers create in Adobe Creative Cloud.

“People used to be all over the place when it came to file-sharing tools,” she says. “Now, all content is created in Adobe Creative Cloud and saved in Google Drive. What’s really great now is that Google offers unlimited storage.”

Smalskas says the combination of the Adobe and Google tools provides all students in the district with training on software that will prepare them for both the workplace and college. “We really wanted to give the kids these skills,” says Smalskas. “Working with cloud-based tools is just so much more user-friendly.” 

Enterprise File-Sharing Advantages

Terri McClure, a senior analyst for the Enterprise Strategy Group, identifies three main benefits of cloud-based enterprise file sharing systems:

  1. Improved employee productivity: These tools enable employees to share and access files more easily from wherever they are, increasing productivity. Overall, employees are happier when they can work the way they want.
  2. More efficient collaboration: Employees have access to version control, file logging, editing and messaging, which all help them complete projects quickly and thoroughly.
  3. Enhanced IT management: Security drives most organizations to use enterprise file-sharing tools. Administrators can set security rules, set storage levels and generate reports that offer a level of visibility into document usage that they’ve never had before.

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