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

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Dropbox shutdown foreshadows Cloud storage issues

News headlines announced, "Failing To Find Users, Dropbox Will Shut Down Mailbox In February 2016 And Carousel In March." The gist of this announcement is in the first paragraph of the story.
Dropbox, the file hosting and cloud storage company with 400 million users, has been struggling to hold up its $10 billion valuation in the face of scrutiny from investors and observers, and now it looks like the other shoe is dropping as the company streamlines its business. The company is shutting down Mailbox and Carousel, its email and photo apps. Sources tell us the plan will be to focus on its core product and developing other new productivity tools, such as its still-private collaboration app, Paper.
The promotion of "Cloud" storage has expanded across the Internet with thousands of companies offering various levels of "free" storage that escalates into a paid "solution" for your backup needs. The idea is that the companies create storage capacity through owning or renting space in a server farm and then sell or rent that space at a profit in a way that is virtually similar to the age old practice of land subdivision and apartment rental. Genealogists are caught up in storing their genealogy online in large and small "family tree hosting" programs. The larger online genealogical database companies rent storage space from even larger suppliers of storage such as the Amazon Cloud.

As the users of the Dropbox services for mail and photos have recently learned, free or paid, such services can end with little or no notice. If you happen to be using one of these services when they are discontinued, you might or might not see the announcements of the end of the service. Genealogical services are not immune to the changes in commercial enterprises. Some time ago, discontinued its online family tree program Mundia.

This type of issue illustrates the need for genealogists and anyone whose work is stored on electronic devices to use a variety of backup strategies. Right now, I use a bank of hard drives and I am in the process of transferring as much of my data as possible to the Family Tree. I also have an external hard drive that backs up my primary computer's hard drive about every half hour or so using Apple's Time Machine. I am seriously considering upgrading my hard drives to 8 Terabyte drives in the near future. I recently had my iMac's internal hard drive fail and restored all of my data from my Time Machine drive.

Recently, I have heard quite a few people comment on how they "back up everything to the Cloud" as if this were the ultimate solution to their backup issues. It is not. It is still necessary to be actively involved in transferring all your data on your computer to a place where it can be retrieved even if you stop paying to the online provider.


  1. Excellent warning, James. In addition to owners' or lessors' business-practice changes, servers' activity can be stopped (say, by electrical power outages) or they can be destroyed by fire, flood, storm and so forth. So many users do not give a thought to what can occur.

  2. Excellent article James. I do use Dropbox and Carbonite, but I still have two external hard drives for backing up my genealogy data, documents and photos. And, I transfer my Legacy database from my desktop to my laptop. And, I use flash drives just for that little extra, knowing they would be a last resort. I pray that I am covered should I have (or should I say when I have) a hard drive failure. I also use Evernote, every single day for genealogy and personal use and support them with a premium membership. I hope they continue to function.