We don’t take much time to think about clouds. As a tropical storm passes to my south, I notice only grey skies today. Genealogists sometimes look to the heavens and think, where did you leave that record, great-grandpa? Those aren’t the clouds we’ll be discussing. I’m talking about tech servers that are accessed “out there” on the internet. It’s a place where your data is kept for you to retrieve anytime, anyplace.
Technically, the cloud is a misnomer; your internet-stored data is housed in a physical place somewhere on earth and not up in the big fluffy grouping of water vapor. Why is paying a company to keep your data a good idea? If you only store your data in one location, such as your lap or desktop, you risk losing all of it if the device fails. It’s unpredictable when that may occur – spilled beverage, power surge, or just system age can make your hard work disappear in a heartbeat.
Backing up to a portable hard drive or a stick is a good idea, but are you really going to do that after every new task you are working on? Will you take that bulky drive with you when you are researching in an archive? Will you carry it to your family reunion this summer to show your kin what you’ve been working on? Not likely. Both storage methods are useless without the computer itself.
The cloud enables you to access your information from any device, even if it isn’t yours. I’m not saying that is smart or safe to do that; the best practice is to only sign in to a secure device! The option, though, is available and at times, might be lifesaving.
For example, your family member was just injured and is in the emergency room. They want to know when the individual’s last tetanus shot was given. I can’t remember that stuff, especially under times of stress. I can access the cloud on my phone and retrieve the record if I have saved it there.
You probably have been using cloud technology and don’t realize it. Apple iCloud, Netflix, Yahoo, and Google Mail all keep your data in cloud storage.
There are many cloud storage companies, known as computing service providers, available to choose from. Which should you select? Whichever meets your needs and budget. The big 3 are Amazon, Microsoft, and Google. I’ve used them all but like the Dropbox app on my phone. I can scan a sales receipt, upload photos I’ve taken, or retrieve anything I’ve saved to share quickly with just a few clicks.
Saving to the cloud is easy from your computer. You can download the software to use on your desktop or you can sign in via the internet to your account, then drop and drag your information. I have noticed a slight time delay between my desktop and laptop. The transfer is not instantaneous but fairly quick. When I used to work away from home, I would place my unfinished documents in the cloud and by the time I drove home, about 45 minutes later, they would be there for me to pick up where I left off.
If you’ve uploaded a family document to Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com, or any other genealogy program, you’ve used the drop and drag feature. It’s quick, easy, and secure.
How secure? I did take my laptop with me when I volunteered a few weeks ago to finish up a task for the organization where I was volunteering. I signed on to the shared internet from that location. A few days later I decided it was time to update my Dropbox password. When I logged on to the site through the internet, I noticed a sign on to my account from a location I had never visited. I panicked, thinking someone had hacked my account. I updated the password and through an option on the site, blocking the unknown location from accessing my account again. What I hadn’t realized in my panic was that the organization I was at used their own cloud servers that happened to be in the location I wasn’t familiar with. Duh! My data had been safe all along; Dropbox was simply letting me know where the servers I had used were housed.
I highly recommend saving your genealogy documents to a cloud environment. Definitely back up periodically to a hard drive, as well! The more you save the more options you have to retrieve your hard work.
I will be taking a hiatus from blogging. We have some major life-changing news brewing that I’ll be writing about in the upcoming weeks. Until we reconnect, you can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy Hunting and hopefully, we’ll be back together soon.