Cloud storage services are popping up faster than popcorn. I have written several times about online services where you can store backup copies of any digital files you wish. You can save copies of your genealogy information, family photographs, word processing documents, last year's income tax records, scanned images of your current bills for this year's tax records, or even MP3 files of your favorite music. You can safely and securely store whatever you wish in the cloud. The files will be available to you at any time on your desktop computer, your laptop computer, and, in many cases, even on your handheld "smartphone" while traveling.
For instance, this past weekend I was in a hotel room in Chandler, Arizona, when a newsletter reader asked about an article I wrote and published more than a year ago. I did not have a copy of the article with me in the hotel room. However, I was able to retrieve the article within a minute or two and then send a copy to the person who asked about it. I have copies of nearly every article I ever wrote stored in Amazon Cloud Drive, so retrieval is easy wherever I have an Internet connection. In fact, I could have done the same while walking in a city park by using my iPhone cell phone, which is really a handheld computer.
Amazon has long been a leader in cloud computing with a variety of services for corporations and private individuals alike. In fact, some of the big genealogy databases you probably already use are actually stored in Amazon's cloud service. While not widely advertised, the new FamilySearch website runs on Amazon Web Services. That database contains terabytes of genealogy information. See http://www.genealogymedia.com/2011/02/12/rootstech-2011-day-2/ for details. The New England Historic Genealogical Society's new web site at http://www.americanancestors.org is also stored on Amazon's cloud service.
These genealogy services chose Amazon Web Services because of pricing and security. The genealogy providers could not purchase and operate the required hardware themselves for prices as low as that of Amazon Web Services. In addition, Amazon provides multiple copies in multiple locations, performs the backups, and keeps the servers running, all as part of the included services and at prices that can be planned in advance. You, too, can protect your personal data in the same manner.
Amazon provides a number of cloud-based services. Some of them are a bit difficult to configure and use, but others are super easy to use. Luckily, Amazon Cloud Drive is one of the easy ones. All you need is a web browser to upload, download, and access your files from any computer. You can back up your files to ensure that your music, photos, and personal documents are both safe from the hazards of home storage and available to you wherever you go.
I have used Amazon for a number of services over the past few years, and I created an Amazon user name and password somewhere along the way. I forget just when and where. However, I was pleasantly surprised the first time I went to Amazon Cloud Drive: the service recognized me immediately. I didn't even need to create a new user name and password as Amazon used my existing credentials. I already had five gigabytes of space available, all at no charge.
Amazon Cloud Drive becomes your hard-drive in the cloud. You can securely store your music, videos, photos, and documents online and access them from anywhere. In fact, Amazon is famous for its high security. All files are encrypted and saved in high security servers. Files you store on Amazon Cloud Drive undoubtedly are safer than files stored on your own computer's hard drive where they are exposed to hackers around the world trying to access your home or laptop computer.
The speed of file uploads and downloads will be limited by the speed of your Internet connection.
As mentioned, the Amazon Cloud Drive offers up to 5 gigabytes of free online storage that you can access from any computer. If you need more storage space, paid plans are available for storing up to 1,000 GB (one terabyte) for one dollar per gigabyte per year. A complete listing of fees may be found at https://www.amazon.com/clouddrive/manage/
One interesting twist is the newly-announced Amazon Cloud Player, a Web-based music player that stores the music in the cloud. Amazon Cloud Drive can be your digital music jukebox, a cloud-based storage system for all of your tunes. You upload your MP3 files to the service where they are stored safely and securely and are available to you at any time, wherever you are. The Amazon Cloud Player uses the same Amazon Cloud Drive already described but with one difference: anyone who purchases an Amazon MP3 album will be upgraded to 20 gigabytes of Cloud Drive space.
You can purchase new songs and albums from Amazon and specify that the new purchases be saved directly to your Amazon Cloud Drive. The new purchases become available to you instantly and can be played on multiple music players, unlike some other online music stores. New Amazon MP3 purchases saved directly to this Cloud Drive are stored for free and do not count against a customer's storage quota.
NOTE: 5 gigabytes will store 1,000 to 1,500 MP3 songs, depending upon the length of the songs and the recorded bit rate.
MP3 music files stored in the Amazon Cloud Drive can be played back on Amazon's new, free Cloud Player for Web on any Windows, Macintosh, or Android computer. Amazon also offers a free Cloud Player for Android that is tailored for Android handheld devices. Of course, the same MP3 files can also be downloaded and then played on any other device that can play MP3 files, including iPod, iPad, and other music players, as well as to any Windows or Macintosh computer and even on most Linux workstations.
You can read Amazon's announcement of Amazon Cloud Drive, Amazon Cloud Player for Web, and Amazon Cloud Player for Android at http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=176060&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1543596&highlight= while more information about the Amazon Cloud Drive is available at https://www.amazon.com/clouddrive
Whatever your use, be it storing of genealogy data, the latest Lady Gaga album, or your checkbook register, up to five gigabytes of free and secure storage space is available to you now at no charge on Amazon Cloud Drive. Larger amounts of storage are available for modest fees. To protect your important information, I'd strongly suggest that you back up your data to an off-site location, such as Amazon Cloud Drive or any of its competitors.