iPads are neat little devices that can pretty much do it all: play music, support interactive content, reshape how we think of textbooks, produce high-quality videos, and even take a step back and function as a good old-fashioned typewriter.
The iPad does, however, have its share of flaws ranging from those hardware related (proprietary connections that work with Apple and only Apple products), to software (if you want an iPad, you must go through iTunes). And one of the educators’ biggest gripes with the iPad is its lack of storage space.
While PCs and laptops are now measuring their size in terabytes, and Android tablets play nicely with PCs–offering drag-n-drop support and USB integration, among other supporting features, iPads have an uphill battle here. And worse, they come in flavors (e.g., 16-64 GB) that are now rivaled or surpassed by your average thumb drive.
Identify Your Needs
There are a variety of explanations here for why Apple knowingly went for such small storage spaces. First and foremost, a USB port would disrupt the iPad’s form factor, and with Apple, form factor and elegant design are everything. Apple also wants a slim size, light weight, and relatively low-cost. And when you do need extra space, they’d prefer you use their iCloud service to keep things nice and Apple-ish, thank you very much.
So what other options are there? How else can you store files, copy media from other devices, share data, and keeps things in-sync across your devices?
What do you want to do, Store, Share, or Both?
The first matter is deciding what you need to do: store, share, or both.
Next you need to identify the kind of media you need to share most frequently: documents, videos, images, and so on.
After that, it’s all a matter of tolerance: can you tolerate using more than one app?
Do you want to pay by the month, by year, or not at all?
Do you want to force those you share with to sign up for accounts just to access your files?
Do you want media stored seamlessly, or to upload each individually?
Some potential solutions, from hardware to apps, appear below.
14 Ways To Store And Share Files On The iPad
1. Apple iCloud Storage (5 GB): Not much storage for free, but for $100 a year Apple will supply you with 55 total GBs (50 extra plus your original free 5 GB). If you work near WiFi and love to spend money, this might be your ticket.
2. Seagate GoFlex Satellite (500GB): Stream a half-terabyte across multiple Mac and PC devices with this wireless storage unit–and for under $200
3 & 4. SugarSync & Dropbox: These are the two heavyweights that offer digital lockers for all content. SugarSync has the added bonus of seamless background syncing of all selected folders across iOS, PC, and Android devices, while Dropbox enjoys deeper, more frequent integration with other apps (i.e., sendtodropbox).
5 & 6. Evernote & Google Drive: Like a locker for documents or full web pages, sortable by notebook, and infinitely shareable. The kinds of files you can save and share are limited–this is not so much a storage service as it is an incredibly versatile productivity app.
Google Drive can be thought of in the same way: if you want to store and share productivity files (ppt, doc, etc), a free Google account will work a treat.
7 & 8. Edmodo/Facebook: Using social media platforms that integrate multimedia is a quick way to both share and display media forms. The upside is convenience–use one site or app to accomplish multiple tasks. The downside here is elegance: while you can isolate files to certain groups or pages, it can get clunky when sharing a lot of files.
9. YouTube: Want to save videos? Make a YouTube account and store them there. Don’t want to share them with the world? Set them as private, and share by link only.
10, 11, & 12. Wordpress: With easy-to-setup tables and pages, you could literally create a page for each course, client, student, or department, and embed (and store and share) every kind of multimedia you could ever want. And with 3rd party apps like scribd and slideshare, you can store and share pdf files, PowerPoints, and other document files with powerful supporting analytics to see who’s accessing what, when. And with Wordpress (and other content management systems), you can set a password for every page, helpful to keep data secure.
13 & 14. Tumblr/Instagram: Automatically store and share images. Not great if you want to keep things orderly and “siftable,” but simple, and social too.
If you get really creative, you can use almost anything to store and share almost anything. It’s 2013 (edit: 2016). Use your imagination.
RSS feeds can be setup to collect student work (especially in concert with Wordpress and other websites–including facebook pages), twitter hashtags can be used to “hand in” assignments, and Google+ can function as a hub for courses or content areas. And the best (or most maddening) part is that new platforms are emerging almost daily to fill the holes between it all.
While Apple may limit options and features on their end, due to their overwhelming gravity–and the nature of free markets–someone, somewhere is (eagerly) waiting on the chance to correct those limitations. For iPad owners, addressing these kinds of issues is a matter of understanding what kind of features you need, including your most commonly used media forms, and the preferred platforms of those lucky individuals you most often share those media with.
Image attribution flickr user johanlarson