Let’s talk about cloud computing and genealogy today.

I’ve been taking my own advice lately and using a hybrid approach to backing up my data (including all those family photos, family group sheets, primary sources, and other digital genealogical records).

Cloud computing should be part of this mix. For our purposes, cloud computing is best defined as using virtual servers owned and managed in another location to back up your data.

I’ve used Dropbox to upload my really precious stuff, but hit the limits of a free account pretty quickly. The advantages of having every file for my genealogy research accessible from the cloud is with the $99/year to me.

Cloud Computing and Genealogy

This is in addition to Time Machine, which I’ve used on my Macs for years and love it with much love. It creates an automatic incremental backup of your entire system every hour the computer’s active. And it keeps weekly and monthly data sets as your backup life progresses. I back up to a 2 TB external drive that I’ve been very happy with. It has over a year of backups at this point. It’s incredibly easy to retrieve files when you need them. So that covers a local backup I can use easily when needed.

Vendors for cloud computing aren’t hard to find: Gator, Dropbox, Mozy, and now titans like Apple, Google, and Amazon see a business opportunity. Costs and pricing plans vary. Some services charge per volume of data, but you should look for a flat rate with no data-size limitations. My personal preference is CrashPlan.

It may take some research to find a vendor that’s right for you. Don’t lock yourself into a long-term plan until you’re sure you like the service. And even then, competition will probably continue to drive costs down.

In addition to the obvious factors of cost and ease of use, also consider the security and privacy of your data.


A final word on this from NDIIPP: “Consumer cloud storage is still in its infancy and business models are still being invented, so take your time and make an informed decision before you open your wallet or start uploading your precious stuff. Ask your friends, relatives, neighbors and co-workers about their experiences and recommendations.”