Thumb drives, often called flash drives or jump drives or other names, are great inventions. I try to carry one in my pocket at all times. These are great for portable and backup storage. Are you at a relative's house and want to have copies of the family photos he or she has on the computer? Copy the photos to your thumb drive. Meet someone at a genealogy conference who has a text file with information you have been seeking? Copy it to your thumb drive.
However, what do you do when you don't have a thumb drive with you? The answer is easy when you have Internet access: copy it to your FREE thumb drive in the cloud. You probably already have one.
You can use any computer, including an iPhone or Android smartphone or an iPod Touch or an iPad, to copy files to and from your free storage space on Google Docs. All you need is a Google account, the same one you use for Gmail or for other Google applications. If you do not already have a Google user name and password, you can obtain one within a few seconds at any time when you have the need.
You can upload, store, and even optionally share any kind of file, including music, video, photos, word processing files, spreadsheets, or ZIP files. Google gives you about one gigabyte of free storage space with each account although no single file can be bigger than 250 megabytes.
Once the file is uploaded, you can click on the file and then click SHARE to give access to others. You can also share entire folders if you wish to do so. Then again, if you prefer, you can keep the file private, not visible to anyone else.
You can upload from any computer that has an Internet connection. In the case of photographs when visiting your relative, you can use that relative's computer and Internet access to connect to Google Docs and log in with your own user name and password. You can then upload files to your own storage space. Another method is for your cousin to log in with his or her own account, upload the file, and then share that file with you. Either way, you can retrieve the file later when you return home.
Google Docs has always proven to be very safe and secure. Hacking in to your account is extremely difficult. However, you should be aware that files stored on Google Docs are not encrypted, unless you encrypt them yourself first before uploading. In theory, someone could hack in. However, in practice, the odds of that happening are very slim. I feel safe storing family photographs and Aunt Tilley's pickle recipe on Google Docs, but I won't store the password to my bank account on Google Docs unless it is first encrypted before being uploaded. Luckily, several free encryption programs are available for both Windows and Macintosh.
One gigabyte of free file storage available to you all the time is not bad for a free service! If you need more than a gigabyte, I'd suggest you investigate the many other online file storage services available. Some online backup services offer two to five gigabytes of file space but typically do not offer all the other services available from Google Docs.
To access your free thumb drive in the cloud at any time, go to http://www.google.com/docs