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

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My Online Nightmare

 You might call me a worry wart and you would probably be correct. But long experience does engender a heightened sense of doom. Thomas MacEntee asked some thought provoking questions on the Facebook Group, Technology for Genealogy and my very recent bad experiences ended up in the persistent nightmare about accessing and losing data both on my own computer and online.

Cloud computing is like the old Patent Remedies that still show up in ads and on TV.  The one above is quite famous. See Wikipedia:Chlorodyne. The only problem, quoting from Wikipedia, was "Though the drug was effective in many ways, its high opiate content also made it very addictive, and deaths from overdoses, either accidental or deliberate, became a frequent occurrence."

Here's what prompts my response to Thomas. I have a wireless account with AT&T for which I pay dearly. My issue with the account is that it is cranky and unreliable. Not the service mind you, that is OK and pretty reliable, what I mean is my account with AT&T. For example, on my present road trip, I am sequestered in the wilds of Nebraska on my way to Springfield, Illinois for a Family History Expo. I purchased an AT&T Internet card to use with my computer so I could work as my wife and I motor across the huge United States of America. Because I spend most of my life sitting at home or next to a WiFi connection, I seldom need my own connection to the Internet. But when I do need it, I need it. So I purchase a data plan from AT&T.

Guess what?  When the plan runs out, resubscribing is like buying a whole new setup. AT&T shows me as online and connected, but it takes me a trip to the dealership and two SIM card replacements to get online. So I am sitting in Nebraska. I have paid the exorbitant fee to AT&T and my card cannot find the network. So what good is it that I have all my files backed up online if I can't get online?

That is the basic flaw of the whole "Cloud Computing" bugaboo. You have to be able to get online to get your data. So here are the answers to Thomas' questions:

1. What do you consider "cloud computing?" Just file storage or would programs like FTM's ability to sync to Ancestry or a program like Evernote or OneNote also qualify?

Synchronization is great if it works. Family Tree Maker will only sync to one particular tree at a time. So if you happen to have multiple files, on multiple computers, like I do, the program is essentially a one time, one device tool. Not so useful and not so reliable.

2. What do you find most helpful as a genealogist about being able to access your research "in the cloud?"
Convenience is great. It is the one of the buzz words of modern advertising. But convenience always comes with a price. If I did not have multiple ways to access the Internet and copies of ALL of my data on local devices, I would be dead in the water.

3. What is your biggest fear about storing stuff in the cloud? Do you still keep a copy locally or not for everything?
I think I have answered this one already. Having all your stuff in Cloud is great, if you can access it. I think the Cloud is being touted as a cure-all like the old patent medicine, but it has some interesting lethal side effects.

Don't rely on any one source to backup your files, Cloud Computing or not.

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