So what is cloud computing? According to Wikipedia it is "web-based processing, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices on demand over the Internet" (from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computing)
So what's the benefit? It allows you to use mobile devices, such as an iPad, tablet, or smartphone, just as you would a traditional computer. These devices that are more portable than your traditional computer do have less memory, which is not a problem with cloud computing. Cloud computing means that there is no download of software. Everything is saved in the "cloud." Saving files to the "cloud" provides you with some peace of mind that the next time your computer crashes it won't signal the end of all your files. Cloud computing means the ability to access your data anywhere as long as you have an Internet connection. Finally, it can provide you the ability to share your work with others, making it easier to collaborate on family history projects and share images, GEDCOMs and other family history files.
The following websites are examples of cloud computing.
The benefits of using an Internet email provider are twofold, you can access your email from anywhere and changing Internet providers does not require you to change your email address. Genealogists may want to consider having a separate email account for their genealogy pursuits.
Another benefit of an Internet email address is the free storage available through the email provider. For example, Both Gmail and Hotmail provide users with a large amount of storage space. You can utilize this space by emailing important documents or images to yourself and storing them in your email account.
Some Internet email providers include:
In some cases, there are cloud-based tools that provide you with free software packages that help you create, organize and share your genealogy. Gone are the days where you have to buy expensive office software.
Cloud computing websites also offer you ways to publish and distribute your writings to family or the genealogical community.
Google Docs allows you to create word processing documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Because it is in "the cloud" you can share these documents with others and you can rest easy knowing that if your computer crashes your documents won't be affected
AirSet is your own personal cloud that backups your files and provides access to calendars and contacts.
Scribd is an online self-publishing platform. Read, download, print and send documents to your mobile device. Upload family histories, PowerPoint slides and genealogical thoughts. Several history and genealogical publications can be found on the site, including issues of Prologue, the magazine of the National Archives.
One of my favorite websites is Evernote. Evernote allows me to save notes, websites and images. I can then access that information from any computer with Internet access or through the Evernote app on my mobile devices. I use Evernote to save my notes and research for articles, but you can also use it to save research you find in the library, screenshots of websites that mention your ancestor and more. Evernote has many different applications and is a great way to keep information in one place. It used to be that genealogists were encouraged to keep a 3-ring binder and to take that binder full of forms, charts and blank paper for jotting notes down, when they went out to research. Consider Evernote your virtual 3-ring notebook, one that you don't have to lug around. And unlike a real notebook, it can be anywhere you are.
Backups and File Sharing
It's a given that if you use a computer you need to backup your data. Too few of us heed that advice and end up paying for it. I can be counted in the ranks of those who haven't backed up data and later regretted it. It is advisable to backup your data at least once a month, and ideally more frequently, and to several different devices. One way to backup your data is by backing it up online. Not only will it be accessible to you wherever you are but it can be easily recovered when you experience your next computer crash.
Dropbox allows you to upload files from any computer and then access those files from any computer or mobile device. Upload all or just some of your files to the Dropbox website. Once uploaded files stay private unless you choose to share them with others. Dropbox is free for the first 2GB, after that you can pay for extra storage space.
Windows Live Sky Drive
One alternative to Dropbox is the Windows-based Sky Drive which provides 25GB of free online storage. You can access Sky Drive whenever you sign into Hotmail.
Keep and Share
According to its website Keep and Share has been "in operation since 2004, KeepandShare.com has run a suite of web applications in the cloud long before the idea gained popular currency." Keep and Share is a free service with file, photo and calendar sharing.
Backup My Tree
While most online backup websites provide a way to backup all of your files, Backup My Tree does just one thing, provides a place for you to backup your family tree files.
Genealogy-specific cloud computing type websites deal with what's most important to genealogists, keeping a copy of a family tree and providing the ability to share trees with others. The other benefit to keeping a tree online is that it allows you to have access to that tree for reference as you are out researching or to show family members during visits, dinner or reunions. Don't forget that those online trees can also serve as a way to find long lost cousins.
Some websites that allow you to upload your family tree include:
Photographs are important to genealogists. Whether you are the archivist for your family's vintage ancestral photos or are just looking to preserve those digital snapshots you are taking, there are benefits to saving photos online. One of which is the security of knowing your photos are backed up to the Internet and won't be lost in your next hard drive crash. You can also share them with other family members. Sharing photos allows you to ensure that they aren't lost to the ages. The more family members who have them the more likely they will be preserved for your descendants.
There are numerous photo websites that you could consider and, in some cases, the retailers to which you upload your photos for processing will even archive those photos for you as long as you stay active on their website. Some photo-specific websites to consider include Flickr, [http://photobucket.com/|Photo Bucket]] and [www.picasaweb.google.com|Picasa Web Album]].
As genealogists use more mobile devices, it makes sense to use cloud computing to take your genealogy on the go. Whether you are researching at home, the library or in Salt Lake City, cloud computing can help you have access to all of your important information and share it with others no matter where your research takes you.