Scott Allen from the Utah Education Network, recently took his audience at the 2014 BYU Family History Conference into the mysterious realms of the “Cloud” and explained what that means. Technically, the Wikipedia defines the cloud as a “model of networked enterprise storage where data is stored not only in the user’s computer, but in virtualized pools of storage which are generally hosted by third parties, too.”
Allen explained that we have pictures or information that we want to keep on our home computers or devices, but in case of fire or other disasters, we want to be able to keep them safe. Pre-Cloud users kept copies of pictures and information on CDs or DVDs and hard drives in bank vaults or other safe storage. They also gave copies to others and sent discs or memory sticks to interested parties. When we put our data into cloud storage, though, we keep the original information at our home, and store the data in a format that can be used by others in facilities in different places in the world. Now, everyone can have access to this data, with permission, in a much easier way.
The Cloud can also be downloaded to all the mobile devices that a person owns, like iPhone, Android, iPad, not just a computer. And if information is put on the computer, all devices will be synced, so the information can be taken wherever the genealogist goes.
Allen listed several other advantages to Cloud storage online: 1) no cost for storage facilities; 2) automatic backup in case of problems; 3) retrieval from anywhere; and 4) information easily shared.
Some disadvantages exist: 1) retrieval not as fast as local storage; 2) infections with malware or viruses can occur like any download; 3) encryption may not be done as it is transferred to the cloud (Allen said that more and more places are encrypted now so this is no longer such a problem); 4) no control over hardware or network where your information is stored. If there is a problem with the network, information may not be able to be stored or retrieved. According to Allen, however, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.
Many other cloud storage websites, both free and paid, are out there. Check genealogical websites or genealogy conferences for information about the preferred sites of other people. Non-Cloud storage also exists in http://pogoplus.com/devices and http://labs.bittorrent.com/experiments/sync.html and elsewhere. Apps are also available or will be available for syncing or editing the material on the sites.
Many choices are out there besides the Cloud sites listed above, or storage in bank vaults and on disks and memory sticks where software becomes outdated too quickly and has to be done over and over again to keep up with technology. For the genealogists the Cloud is a new and different way to share and keep material safe.