Family History and Cloud Computing

This entry is part [part not set] of 3 in the series Tools for Family Historians

Family history and cloud computing – a better understanding.

Given the intensely digital nature of family history research these days, many of us still lag way behind in understanding the plethora of applications available to us on the internet, that will help further our work as we try to unravel our family histories.

Many of the terms are bandied about with the assumption that we are all up to the mark and understand what is being talked about but for those who are not so sure, here is a brief look at some of the more frequently muted terms and applications.

Firstly there is the CLOUD, what is Cloud Computing?

  • The term cloud computing was developed to describe data and this can be all data, not just websites, that are stored somewhere on the internet and not just on your PC.
  • Think about it in terms of websites is this helps you. When you access someones website you do not connect directly with the owners PC, their site is being stored on their service providers system and you access it from here.
  • Understand that there are different cloud computing systems that offer different facilities. These will be looked at in a series of posts which you can link to at the bottom of this article.

So how can cloud computing help you as a family historian?

  • Take a moment to consider both the type and volume of data you are storing about your family history on your PC, do you have a GEDCOM, photos, spreadsheets, research notes, 10,000 word long narratives…… to name but a few
  • How are they stored?
  • Do you back everything up, regularly, on a remote drive?
  • What would you do if your hard drive crashed, what would be retrievable?

If you use cloud computing you gain in two significant ways:

  1. The cloud holds your data, separately from your computer, this means that in the event of some catastrophic damage to your computer, your data is stored in the ‘cloud’ away from your hard system.
  2. You do not have to be at your home computer to access the data. You can work remotely in the field, adding data that will be automatically updated to your main PC. So you could be on holiday using a tablet or laptop, adding data to the cloud.
Another term that is useful to have explained is ‘synchronising’ or ‘synching’.  The ‘cloud’ copy and changes made on your PC need to work together, updating these changes, this will happen automatically when you turn the PC on and connect with the internet or when you close an application. The data sychronizes
So where to start? What systems should I try?
As with all things it’s a matter of choice and what works for you. In the first instance it seems sensible to opt for something that comes with some free storage and the systems  suggested to look at all come with some.  You may well want 2 or 3 systems since they all have slightly different applications and as with all new things, the more you can play and practice with them, the easier they become to understand and use.
For starters then we suggest you try:
  1. Dropbox
  2. Evernote
Click on the name of the system above to explore a brief explanation of what they are and how you might use them to further your family history research.
Feel free to add your comments on how useful you find them or how you use them differently.


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