April 6, 2011

Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining

There's been a lot of discussion about clouds recently. Cloud computing that is. Are you in the cloud? I am and it's not only easy, it's fun and a great way to save and share important things.

Got a new find in your genealogy research and want to have multiple copies in safe places? Typed out great-grandma's recipe and want to share it with your cousins? Scanned 100 old family photos and want to make sure you have backups? Need to work on a project in collaboration with others? At your hotel for a genealogy conference and just remembered you left your notes at home? Don't worry, the cloud has your back!


What is it and Why Do I Want It?

There are many different types of cloud computing and several models of use, but I just want to describe the cloud services  I use and how and why I use them. You can Google "cloud computing" to read detailed definitions and descriptions.

I Love Dropbox!

My all-time favourite and most-used cloud service is Dropbox. With Dropbox I can store, sync, and, share files online for free. Not all cloud services will sync. If that's not important to you, don't worry about it. But I like to have at least one service that will automatically sync my uploaded files to all my devices.

Here's a brief look at how Dropbox works. Let's take an example of writing the story of Grandpa Harvey's life. I've saved my file to my computer hard drive but I want a backup and I want to be able to work on the story from my iPad, iPhone, Blackberry, Android, Laptop or other computers. All I need to do is "drop" my file into my Dropbox Account (2 GB of free storage space). Dropbox automatically syncs the file to all my devices that have the App installed. I can also access the files from any computer simply by going to the Dropbox website. I can also give other family members or contribuotrs access to the file and they can participate in the story writing, or simply enjoy reading it.

With Dropbox I can take a photo from my iPhone camera and immediately send it to Dropbox. When my husband is out photographing cemeteries for our Cemetery Walk series on Olive Tree Genealogy You-tube Channel, he can send each photo as he takes it to Dropbox. Dropbox notifies me on all my devices and my main computer immediately that a file has been added to my space. That gives me  immediate access to the tombsotne pictures hubby is taking.

Comparison of Free Cloud Services

Dropbox
2GB of free storage plus ability to earn extra free space up to 8GB. No size limit on files. Sync files automatically. Available as an App for iPhone, iPad and other mobile devices. Able to access files from any computer (Mac, Windows, Linux) or mobile device. Sign up for your free Dropbox Account of 2GB and get an extra 250MB free through this link.

Amazon Cloud Drive
5 GB free storage. Does not sync. Access files from any computer. Amazon promotes their cloud storage as a great way to save videos, music and photos. 5 GB is about 1,000 songs, 2,000 photos or 20 minutes of videos.  When you purchase songs or albums from the Amazon MP3 Store, you can  save your purchases to your Cloud Drive.

Memopal
3 GB free storage space. Get an extra free 500 MB with friend invites. Available as an App for iPhone. Use this link to immediately get 3.5 GB of free storage on signup    UPDATE MAY 5, 2011. I do not recommend this cloud storage service and will be writing a blog post to explain why



Box.net
5 GB free storage space. 25MB file size limit. Mobile App access. Website

Windows Skydrive
25GB free storage but file sizes limited to 50MB.  Create, view, edit, and share Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote files online with SkyDrive even if you don't have Microsoft Office installed on your computer. Note: I find Windows SkyDrive slow but I love the online Excel and Word programs! It allows me to use my familiar Excel and Word even on my MacBookAir.

Google Docs
1GB free. With Google Docs you create and share your work online.


Summary

Each of the free cloud storage services above with the exception of SkyDrive  allow users to pay for  expanded storage and more features.

Why do I use so many? I like to keep my cloud storage semi-organized by type of files or work. For example I use Amazon Cloud Drive for my scanned photos. I use DropBox for files I'm actively working on and files I need to easily and quickly share between computers.

I use Memopal for backup storage of my main website Olive Tree Genealogy. Box.net isn't one of my favourites but it's useful for backup of final versions of the Family History books I've published. It's downfall is the small file size it allows.

I'm not a huge fan of Google Docs so hardly ever use it but I include it here because it is good for teamwork participation. Windows SkyDrive is one I'm just starting to explore and I love being able to work in Excel and Word from my MacBook Air, but I find it the least user-friendly.

You can read what PC World had to say about Google Docs vs SkyDrive vs Amazon CloudDrive.  Spoiler: The author likes Box.net the best. Don't ask me how that got into the mix when the title is "Cloud fight! Amazon Cloud Drive vs. Google Docs vs. Microsoft Skydrive"


My Top Three

My personal choice for my top three cloud services are Dropbox, Memopal and Amazon CloudDrive. Try them. See which one works for you! Don't forget to use these links for Dropbox and Memopal to get your extra free storage space when you join! You won't be sorry you dipped your toe into the cloud.

7 comments:

Mary said...

Although I LOVE Cloud...I find it very time consuming. I've got about 10,000 pictures scanned and on my computer and back-up discs. It is taking forever to upload all these to Cloud. But heck, it's FREE

Sierra said...

I would also recommend SugarSync. Their services are just like Dropbox with the automatic syncing. In an effort to better compete with Dropbox, they now offer a 5 gig free account and the pricing for larger accounts is cheaper than Dropbox.

Genealogy Blogger said...

Thanks Mary - the last time I checked SugarSync it didn't offer free accounts. Good to know it now has those! I'll be signing up today :-)

Genealogy Blogger said...

Mary, it can be time consuming to back up files in the cloud (or anyWHERE for that matter - whether it be flash drive, external hard drive, disc...) But I don't find it takes much time to save a file I'm working on or a photo I've taken to my hardrive and then with one more click put it in dropbox or wherever I've decided to store it.

Mary said...

I should have noted that I use Amazon Cloud. Dispite it's slowness, its' AWESOME

Kay Sturgeon said...

I do have a google docs account but I don't think it will allow me to put up a .sqz file which is a back up file of The Master Genealogist. I would like to be able to store a copy of my latest backup online every week, but I want to do it manually, I dont want to be syncing as it will only be one file at this point in time.
Any suggestions which would work like that.
Kay Sturgeon

us vpn said...

The company that I work for always uses Dropbox for their file exchange.