Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Genealogists Using the Cloud -- Pitfalls and Promises

I received a suggestion from my Australian friend, Wayne, who reportedly lives somewhere in the Australian Out Back. At his request, I will write some of my thoughts on the topic of Cloud Storage for backing up our genealogical data and all other data for that matter.

For me the practical reality of storing my data online is the simple fact that my data files exceed the capacity almost all practical online storage plans or companies. This is merely a cost analysis decision. Here are a few of the more popular programs and the advertised cost of storage. I now have very close to 4 Terabytes. In addition is the time it takes to transfer these massive files from one storage device to another and the time it takes to move that much information online.

Note that some of these companies have special introductory pricing. I am not particularly interested in having a "free" account for only a short period of time. I am also ignoring those "backup solutions" that involve a separate hardware server. This could be an alternative, but, once again, cost is a factor. Right now, a Seagate 8 TB Hard Drive is selling for $237.49 on and the price will most likely come down in the near future. I presently use multiple backup hard drives and regularly store data offsite. Hard drives seem to last about two to three years. Remember the fact that I am talking about a lot of data. You may have a lower cost and the option of online storage to supplement your own local storage may be more attractive. I do find determining exactly how much a certain level of storage to cost is very difficult in almost all the programs. Also bear in mind that the prices may change at any time.

The crucial issue is what happens to your data if you fail to renew your subscription for any reason. This is the hardest question of all to answer from the websites but could be one of the most important issues. Another issue is ownership and control of the data. You will likely find by reading the "fine print" that all you get is a license to access your own data. You must also have and maintain Internet service to use this type of system.

Another important factor. You must still maintain enough local capacity to host all your own data. These services back up data on a particular computer and/or hard drive. You still have to have the computer or the hard drive.

Now, on to the list:
  • -- Starting Plan is $59.00 a year for an individual computer that does not include external hard drives. In some plans, any file over 4 GB must be manually added to the backup. The size limitations are directed at backing up specific devices. The starting cost for my setup begins at $269.99 a year.
  • -- Based on 1 TB of storage, a 24 month contract, the cost is $104.28. There are additional charges for external hard drives and for files over 5 GB. 
  • -- $5.00 per month, per computer, claims no file size limit and no data limit. As with all the services read the Terms and Conditions of use carefully.
  • -- Free to $250 a month for 2.5 TB. 
Now what about the popular online storage companies that do not specialize in backing up files? Here is a breakdown of the amount of storage available and the cost. These systems could be used to backup your genealogy data files but the rest of your files would be at risk. It is even more difficult to determine what you are getting and the terms of use. Files can be synched with your local drive. 
  • -- Free up to 2 GB, Dropbox Pro is limited to 1 TB. The Business Account is unlimited storage for $5 per month per user. This is not a backup service, individual files must be copied and organized. 
  • Google Drive -- Google Drive for business clients get 1 TB for less than 5 users. 10 TBs is $99.99 a month.
  • Microsoft Onedrive -- 15 GB basic, 1 TB for Office 365 for $9.99 per month. 
  • iCloud -- Up to 5 GB free and $9.99 per month for 1 TB. 
Remember with all these systems you still have to purchase and maintain your local storage capacity. So I would have to purchase hard drives that would back up all my data (3+ TBs) and then pay the cost of online storage. Also remember to ask what happens to your data if you stop paying. You might also find a "better deal" than the ones I have reviewed. I suggest that you still explore the limitations. 

One practical alternative is to store crucial files online and keep the rest backed up locally. This does not avoid the issue of what happens to your data if you stop paying, but it does limit the cost. 

1 comment:

  1. If you have a Microsoft account, Microsoft often offers 100GB on the Bing Rewards program. It doesn't take very much effort for me each year to achieve the amount of Bing Rewards credits needed to get 100GB reward.

    I actually prefer using the OneDrive as my primary storage, then it syncs to two different computers, one at my house and one at my parents place. Then it tells me if there's a conflict between the computers and I can monitor how often its syncing.