Working with files

Aims and objectives

This module will:

  • provide guidance and information on managing data and how this can impact and support your studies
  • explore the importance of metadata in the digital world
  • examine tools to improve productivity

After completing this module, you will be able to:

  • identify various file types and distinguish their usage
  • apply file management conventions, such as folder structure and version control
  • create storage and backup plans

2. Local and online storage


UQ computer

The computers available for all to use at UQ allow you to plug in and use a USB drive or portable hard drive. UQ students also have access to a network hosted H:/ (Home) drive while using these computers. It has a capacity of 100Mb and can also be accessed online via my.UQ.

USB drive

Using a USB drive to store and access your files is a popular choice at UQ. The advantages are that it is simple to use and offers various storage sizes at a reasonable price. Many stores often have discount bins of cheap USB drives, however, it is often worth getting a good quality drive to ensure compatibility and reliability. One of the largest disadvantages of a USB drive is the possibility of misplacing or damaging it and losing your files. You should store your files in more than one location so that a lost USB drive with your assignment on it is not the end of the world.


Cloud storage

There are a variety of cloud storage systems. The solutions listed below are free with no trial period and may be a good place to start. There are other providers that may offer more but have trial periods, charges or other concerns.

Note: UQ staff should check Where to store files and information to ensure you are meeting UQ requirements.


Upgraded version available for UQ students


Web access


Official app available

Create files

Google Drive




Online google apps create and store files


No. OneDrive is available via a free, personal (non-UQ) Microsoft account. It is not available with your UQ Office 365 email account.



You can use Office 365 to create files to save in OneDrive

Apple iCloud




(iOS, Windows)

Limited to a web browser or official Apple applications






Google Drive

Google Drive offers a lot of useful features for students:

  • Shareable links to your files or folders that allow different levels of access to one or more people
  • 15GB of free storage 
  • Easy to access on most devices
  • Google apps may be a free replacement for Microsoft Office, depending on your customisation and compatibility needs

It does have disadvantages, including privacy concerns. Google services are also not available everywhere in the world.


OneDrive is a service offered by Microsoft through their Office365 subscription service. It can be freely used on most modern devices. OneDrive is available via a free, personal (non-UQ) Microsoft account. It is not available with your student UQ Office 365 email account. Much like Google Drive, OneDrive has great features:

  • Easy link sharing
  • 15GB of free storage
  • Useable on most devices
  • Can be used with Office365 apps to edit online

In regards to privacy, OneDrive has the best history among the big free services in Cloud storage. There have been no reports of large breaches in its history. However, there is still the risk.

Apple iCloud

iCloud is the storage service offered by Apple that comes built into all Apple devices by default. You can use iCloud to store files, photos, videos, contacts etc. It is free for anyone to get a basic iCloud account, and one of the benefits for Apple device owners is that it is quite easy and seamless to use iCloud for all storage. In the past iCloud has had data breaches. However, since then Apple has implemented two-factor authentication.


DropBox is a cloud storage solution that offers many of the same features as others with the exception of being able to create files and working collaboratively with others. It offers 2GB of storage with a free account but offers more storage for users who subscribe.

Storage capacity

To give you an idea of what the different storage solutions mentioned above mean in reality, the table below outlines how many documents each can hold. For this example, we used a 2000 word document with a few images and basic formatting in Microsoft Word 2016, which is 816KB in size.

ServiceStorage sizeNumber of documents
H:/ (Home) drive100MB120 documents
USB drive4GB4900 documents
Google Drive15GB18, 000 documents

Best storage solution

As stated previously the 'best' storage solution is a personal choice that depends upon what you need it to do. No matter what solution you use, if you put files online there is a risk of those files being accessed by unauthorised people. It’s up to you to weigh the risk vs the benefit. There are solutions that advertise security benefits, but these often cost money such as Mega, SpiderOak or ownCloud. A local storage device like a USB drive can be an ideal solution as long as it is kept safely. For extra security, you could encrypt local storage devices. 

Duration:   Approximately 20 minutes

Graduate attributes

Knowledge and skills you can gain to contribute to your Graduate attributes:

 Independence and creativity

 Critical judgement

Check your knowledge

Check what you know about this topic:

Take the quiz

Support at UQ

Access UQ services to assist you with personal or study-related issues.