August signifies the winding down of summer and the fresh school year.  This year as you shop for back to school items, check your family computer to ensure that your antivirus software is current and can safeguard your machine from potential viruses that can come from opening infected files at home and school.

These days, students have a myriad of ways they can create and save documents to be accessed in multiple locations but each has its benefits and risks.  Here’s a quick run down of the top ways students save files along with the pros and cons of each.

USB flash drives

USB flash drives are removable and rewriteable portable storage devices that plug into a USB port.  The come in a variety of different styles, range in their storage capacity, and are widely available.

Pros: The small size of USB drives makes them easy to attach to a backpack, keychain, or slip into a pocket.  They also durable due to the lack of moving parts and tend to be quite reliable for accessing documents over an extended period of time.  They are available in a wide range of sizes.

Cons: While the size and portability of USB drives is appealing, they are also easily misplaced.  Not only does it cost money to replace them but data is often lost unless a regular backup is done to store documents on the home computer.  USB drives have a fairly long life but can also die without warning rendering all data on the drive inaccessible.  USB drives can also be infected with viruses living on the host computers they are plugged into and be a way to unknowingly install viruses on your home computer.

Emailing assignments

These days it seems like most kids, even in the upper elementary grades, have an email address.  Email accounts are free thanks to Yahoo, Gmail, and many other internet service providers.

Pro: A student can work on an assignment at home and attach it to an email to themselves which can be opened at school if your school allows student use of email for class work.  This serves as a free and easy way to ensure that documents are accessible for working on them at home, school, or wherever your child has an internet connection.

Cons: Your home computer may run a different version of software than your child’s school.  Having different versions of software, such as Microsoft Office, can make it impossible to open documents at school if you have a newer version installed at home.  To alleviate this problem, teach your child how to do a “save as” to save their document in a compatible file format that can be read at school.   Incompatible file formats that make documents unreadable at school can be frustrating for children if they want to add last minute touches to their homework at school but can’t open their assignment.  Also, there is a high risk of viruses attaching themselves to Microsoft Word documents thanks to macros that are written into the language of the program.  To avoid this turn on Macro Virus Protection and make sure your antivirus software is current and always scanning in the background.

Google Docs

Google Docs is a way you can create documents, presentations, and spreadsheets online using your Gmail account.

Pro: The use of Google Docs is free, easy to navigate and use, and allows users to access their documents from any computer with an internet connection which makes it an efficient choice for students on the go.  Google Docs enables users to share their work and collaborate on an assignment which is useful for group assignments.  The autosave feature helps making sure that changes are frequently saved and working in Google Docs eliminates the problem of incompatible file formats.  Since Google Docs is its own system, creating, editing, and saving documents while they are part of Google Docs is a safe way to avoid potential viruses and malware.

Con: Google Docs requires an internet connection in order to access documents.  Some schools don’t allow the use of Google Docs.  If you convert your Google Doc into another file format to email it to someone, there is the potential that a virus will sneak in the emailed document.

Regardless of your child’s preferred way to save and access documents both at home and school, knowing the risks that come with each method helps prevent potential problems that could jeopardize your student’s ability to get work turned in on time and harm your family computer.  If you feel like your computer has been compromised, you can always run BitDefender’s free online scanner directly from your browser to immediately clean your system memory.

This article was provided as exclusive content by BitDefender because of my role as a BitMom Blog Network Member.  No compensation was received for sharing this post however; BitMoms is providing me with a blog conference stipend and other materials to help me facilitate sharing topics of internet safety and security with my readers and through the BitMom Community.

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