A year ago I asked my IT daughter, Sarah, to explain “the cloud” to me. For those of you who don’t have an IT person in the family and don’t know what “the cloud” is, Sarah has written a great post, “What is The Cloud?”
Even this cloud has silver linings. One is the ability to manage research files.
When you are working on a project, you want to be able to access your research files from any internet device, or you’ll be toting around files you may not need and leave files home you do need.
Three options to access your files are Dropbox, Microsoft SkyDrive, and Google Docs. (I apologize that when I tried to link these sites for you, they were blocked, probably because they linked to my personal pages. You can get to these sites by Googling the name.)
There is a difference between these tools. With Dropbox you may store documents, spreadsheets, photos, images, etc., and you may also keep the same files on your computer hard drive. As you update the document, it automatically syncs with your Dropbox file. With Dropbox, your first two gigabytes are free. If you need to exceed two gigabytes (GB) you may opt to pay $9.99 per month for 50 GB or $19.99/month for 100 GB.
Microsoft SkyDrive allows you to store documents, images, and photos on their site and also on your hard drive with Windows Live Mesh. The first 25 GB is free, then there is a charge to exceed that.
Since I don’t trust all internet sites to be around forever, I like having a hard drive backup.
Google Docs is a popular site, but you may only store documents in Google format. It’s a Google spreadsheet. You may not store Word or Excel files, nor images. Nothing is backed up on your hard drive. This format is good for collaboration because when someone else is working on the document you may actually see the changes they are making as they make them.
Me? I really like Dropbox. I work to keep my storage within the free limit. When I finish a research project, I pull it out of Dropbox and store it on my hard drive backed up by Carbonite.com.
Just yesterday I was at the Family History Library researching Madison County, New York Deed Indexes for the Smith family. As I went through the “S” entries, I spotted a Sexton listing. (I am also searching Sextons in Madison County, but it is a totally different family living in a different part of the county and I hadn’t planned on searching Sextons that day.)
To make the best use of my time and not have to search that index again, I went to Dropbox, pulled up my Sexton research files, and added the details from the index to my research notes. Now, the next time I’m at the library searching Sextons, I will have those deed citations ready to search.
Do you have documents or images stored in “the cloud?” What site(s) do you use?