Many groups and networks require an efficient way of managing their documents such as group meeting agenda and minutes, newsletters, project plans and reports.
There are a number of free online systems that allow you to create, store, edit and share these documents among groups of users. The following list is not exhaustive, but gives you an idea of the range of cloud-based document management systems available at no or low cost.
Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides are a word processor, a spreadsheet and a presentation program respectively, all part of a free, web-based software office suite offered by Google within its Google Drive service. The suite allows users to create and edit documents online while collaborating with other users in real-time - this group editing functionality is a real strength of the platform. The suite is tightly integrated with Google Drive: all files created with the apps are by default saved to Google Drive. It can also import and export files in Microsoft Office format. Google Docs is also a great option if you want to get work done on mobile devices like phones and tablets.
This would be a great platform to upload a meeting agenda, circulate meeting minutes, collaborate with others to create a newsletter, and more. Documents can either be shared with a select few people or open to the public, depending on your ‘sharing’ preferences.
Its important to know that your group members don't need a Google account to access documents you want to share. All you need to do is create a URL link for the document and share it, either by posting it in a group update on your Gateway page or via email with the people you want to view it.
Dropbox is a file hosting service that offers cloud storage and file synchronization, both via a web interface and client software that runs on your computer or device. Dropbox allows users to create a special folder on their computers, which Dropbox then synchronizes so that it appears to be the same folder (with the same contents) regardless of which device is used to view it. Files placed in this folder are also accessible via the Dropbox website and mobile apps. Storage up to 2 GB is offered free with increased capacity requiring a paid subscription, starting at $12 per month. Dropbox is a good solution for groups that are collaborating on complex projects, or need to share large files like those used by Adobe’s Creative Suite apps. It also has simple controls for sharing files outside your group and can be useful for backing up files in the cloud.
Your group members don't need a Dropbox account to access documents you want to share. All you need to do is create a URL link for the document and share it, either by posting it in a group update on your Gateway page or via email with the people you want to view it.
While it’s not as full featured or as easy to use as Dropbox or Google Drive, Microsoft’s OneDrive is worth considering if your group primarily use Windows computers or the Office suite and don’t do a lot of work on your mobiles.
If you’re looking primarily for a tool to store, manage and backup photos, there are a number of cloud based and other online services available. Google photos and iCloud photo library are seamless and easy to use options for users of Android and Apple devices. Flickr or Facebook Albums is another option with some nice social features that make it easy to share images with groups.
If you don’t need collaboration or sharing functionality, it’s still good to consider how your group’s information is protected. Services like Backblaze and CrashPlan are low cost and entirely automated (so you’ll never forget to run a backup). These services will keep your data safe and easy to retrieve in the event of a computer crash or the like.