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, Ancestry.com 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 FamilySearch.org 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.