Hi, my name is Wolfram and I am a Dropbox user.

By Wolfram Seidl

dropbox 2Drop­box is awe­some. It is not only a great tool for stu­dents to orga­nize the flood of doc­u­ments that pile up while doing group work, but it is also great for teach­ers. If you are not a teacher work­ing at a tech-savvy school with extrav­a­gant IT infra­struc­ture, you can use this nifty ser­vice for many oth­er­wise annoy­ing chores. Drop­box can help you to dis­trib­ute home­work, work on and save hand­outs at home, print them at school or let stu­dents upload assign­ments. Yet these are only a few exam­ples, so grab a cup of your favorite hot bev­er­age and click here if you want to find some help­ful tips for begin­ners and for heavy users. Once installed on your lap­top or smart­phone, Drop­box nice­ly inte­grates into your work­flow and most appli­ca­tions that have some­thing to do with doc­u­ments or files that need to be synced some­where. In fact, it is so easy to use that you just might get addict­ed to Drop­box. If you are not a Drop­box user by now, you prob­a­bly feel a twitch in your fin­ger and the urge to fire up a Google search with “install Drop­box.” But wait, you should con­sid­er the following.

Like all major cloud stor­age providers, Drop­box orig­i­nat­ed in the Unit­ed States. And this is where things get com­pli­cat­ed, at least if you are teach­ing in a coun­try with strict pri­va­cy laws. Drop­box, found­ed in 2008, was influ­enced by the Patri­ot Act from the very begin­ning. Accord­ing to IT lead­ers in Europe, the Patri­ot Act lets secu­ri­ty agen­cies like the NSA access your pri­vate data even if the servers are not locat­ed on U.S. ter­ri­to­ry. This, at least the­o­ret­i­cal­ly, only applies if the com­pa­ny is U.S.-based or involved in busi­ness in the land of the free. To make mat­ters worse, if you are teach­ing in Ger­many at a state insti­tu­tion, you are not even allowed to store stu­dent-relat­ed data on such services.

So, what can you do to not get sucked into this tricky pri­va­cy issue and over­come your slight dig­i­tal addic­tion? You could sat­is­fy your upload crav­ings for for­eign servers and remain a law-abid­ing cit­i­zen by choos­ing a provider that com­plies with the set guide­lines of your pro­fes­sion. To be hon­est, the alter­na­tives avail­able can only be seen as an infe­ri­or sub­sti­tute. Although Drop­box in its free ver­sion is not exact­ly fea­ture rich, it is com­pat­i­ble with all the oper­at­ing sys­tems – be it desk­top or mobile devices that make it a joy to use in a col­lab­o­ra­tive envi­ron­ment. If you want the same con­ve­nience, it leaves you with open source options like Own­cloud or Seafile. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, you will need some tech­ni­cal exper­tise and a com­put­er that runs 24/7 in your office or at home to acti­vate these choic­es. In the end, no mat­ter how help­ful such ser­vices are, you should adhere to the local juris­dic­tion and the guide­lines of your insti­tu­tion. If nei­ther is your con­cern, click here to give Drop­box a try.

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Wol­fram is a tech­nol­o­gy-addict­ed IT pro­fes­sion­al. He’s been study­ing Busi­ness Edu­ca­tion at Leuphana Uni­ver­si­ty since 2012. His inter­ests include indie rock music, sci­ence fic­tion, and many oth­er things con­sid­ered ‘geeky’ stuff.