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Be Your Future Graphic showing group of students working together on a group project

One of my biggest fears as a university student is losing all the work I’ve completed over the last few years. Think how easy it could be to leave your notebook with all of your valuable revision notes on a bus or a train whilst you travel to your lectures. Or even worse, leaving your laptop behind. All your hard work gone in that moment. Not only would my presentations, apps, and documents be gone, but my personal information and passwords could also be compromised too. Since working at Microsoft, I’ve really learnt the value in keeping all my files in order using OneDrive.

It’s one of the products that I use on a daily basis, yet I had no idea how to use it to its full potential before starting my internship. For those of you who are looking to kick your studies off in the right way in 2019, here are my top tips on how to get the most value out of using OneDrive to organise your files:

1. Work from anywhere

OneDrive is more than just a tab in your file explorer. With OneDrive, I’m able to really embrace mobile working by having access to my files at all times, no matter where I am or what device I’m using. That’s been a game changer for being able to collaborate with my team. And I can now make the most of every second of the day – including the dreaded morning commute.

I find that changing the location that I work in helps me to stay engaged – the background noise in cafés often helps me maintain concentration on my projects. Unfortunately, with different environments comes various internet issues. WiFi on public transport or in cafés is often unreliable, so I need the ease of working on local files, whilst having the security of regular backups. OneDrive allows me to work on a file offline, and then syncs whenever I get a connection. I can access my files on any device so working on the train is never an issue. Having the knowledge that I can sync my work onto any of my devices, and it’ll update for all, gives me the confidence to work anywhere. We are no longer limited to University accommodation, libraries or labs. The environment we work in should not limit the way we work. A truly modern workplace is dependent on technology.

One male and two female college students sitting at round table in study café, collaborating on team project. One of the female students is smiling and using a laptop (screen blurred), while the other two look on. An open Surface Pro (screen not shown)

2. Stay on top of admin tasks

University doesn’t come without its fair share of admin tasks. Scan this file. Print this document. Submit your assignment on this tool. If you don’t own a printer/scanner, like me, then these tasks can be extremely tedious. I’m all about efficiency and making sure that I can perform all the necessary tasks and processes in the most efficient way possible. Using OneDrive, I can scan my documents with my phone. I can then upload the file and immediately access it on my laptop. No more walks to the library just to scan one document. Additionally, if I’m in a hurry I can edit the document on my phone; drawing notes over the PDF or highlighting the most important sections.

It may not just be your own working efficiency that you hope to improve. I often run out of space on my phone, so backing up pictures to OneDrive helps me a lot. Excluding my phone, memory on my laptop is just as important. I want to be able to work on the files which are most relevant to me but still have copies of everything else. The perfect balance for me is syncing all my files which I am currently working on to my device and then storing the rest in the cloud. OneDrive allows me to sync my files to my device or the cloud through the click of one button. I have saved space on my device and ensured that if I ever need an old file, it’s just one click away.

3. Power collaboration

We’ve all faced the challenges of working on group tasks and assignments. It’s a constant struggle making sure you’ve all got access to the latest version. And then you find out that two of your team members have been working on the document at the same time and somebody has to be given the delightful task of manually going through both documents to merge the changes together into one version of the truth. That’s time that could be better spent working on other, more important tasks.

Sharing documents and working together is what makes a team great. All my best group projects have involved shared documents where I have worked simultaneously with another member of my group on the same document. We could see the other person’s work updating and when we needed some input from another group member, all we had to do was share the OneDrive link. There have been countless occasions where I have tried to share some documents with my team over email and I reach the limit of how much data I can send. Now, all I do is press the share button. It saves me time and importantly, it will save time for your team members as well.

Male and female college students collaborating in group study session in library. Two Surface Pros and two laptops are on table (one Surface Pro screen shows PowerPoint slide; no other screens shown).

4. Get peace of mind with built-in security

OneDrive will also alert you if it detects a malicious attack like ransomware. You will be able to restore your files to a point before they were compromised up to 30 days after an attack and the restoration is quick and easy. You’ll be back working on your files in no time.

But it’s not just ransomware we need to watch out for. Scarily, sharing files is not always as secure as it seems. I always password protect my files so that I can control who I want to access the content – whether that’s just to view or have edit rights too. If you want to be extra secure about your data, OneDrive also allows you to set an expiration date on the link that you have shared. This may be useful for when working to a deadline so that no editing can be done after a certain point.

Hopefully these tips will help you think about how you can work smarter in 2019, taking the stress out of finding the right files and keeping them organised. Yes, it looks exactly like your normal file explorer, but there are so many hidden features which we miss. If you want to find out more about how you can better leverage technology to improve your studies, take a look at Microsoft’s Digital Skills Programme and read our tips on transforming student group projects, taking better notes, and powering through every university hour with a modern device.

Tighe Brennan headshot

About the author:

Tighe is a computer science student in his third year at Loughborough University. He’s currently doing a year-long internship at Microsoft as a Partner Technology Strategist, focusing on AI. Through his role at Microsoft, Tighe provides guidance and best practices to enable our partners to get the most out of technology, helping them transform their business outcomes. When he’s not in the office, his love of technology switches to a love of sports, with darts, rugby, and basketball being his favourite pastimes.