Cloud Services

Cloud Storage

I have written numerous times about the advantages of storing files online, popularly called “in the cloud.” Yet many people are reluctant to use this technology because of phobias about security and the perceived threat of someone else accessing the stored data. Actually, these “threats” were resolved years ago but old fears linger on.

Corporate IT directors have to be even more cautious about storing their employers’ secrets and other corporate data. Yet, corporate IT directors worldwide have evaluated the risks and most have adopted cloud computing in a big way. According to Ooma (a provider of Internet-based VoIP telephone services to individuals and corporations alike) in an article entitled Business in the Cloud:

“Three of the leading cloud storage providers are Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive.

“Number of Users: Dropbox had 50 million users in 2011, after which it grew to 100 million in November 2012, 200 million in November 2013, 400 million in June 2015 and 500 million in March 2016. Google Drive had 120 million users in November 2013. It grew to 190 million in June 2014 and 240 million in October 2014. Microsoft OneDrive had 250 million users in November 2014 and 500 million users in October 2015. Microsoft OneDrive had the largest number of paid accounts, with 11% of users. Google Drive only had 0.42% of users paying, and for Dropbox, it was only 0.03%.”

The same article also states:

One Year of Unlimited Amazon Cloud Drive Storage for $48 (Down from $60) Today

Today seems to be the day for “flash sales” on cloud-based file storage services. (See my other article at Amazon announced this morning it is offering UNLIMITED storage space in Amazon Drive for one year for $48, a big reduction from the normal price of $60. However, this is a one-day sale: today only (Monday, December 5). I suspect it is for U.S. customers only although I do not see anything in the announcement about that.


According to the Amazon announcement, “When you upload a file or photo to Amazon Drive, you’re saving a backup copy in Amazon’s secure servers. There’s no limit to how many files you can upload, and we’ll never change or reduce the resolution of your images.”

Amazon is Offering up $50 Gift Cards when You Subscribe to a Year of Dropbox Pro for $99, Today Only

UPDATE on December 6: Amazon listed this yesterday as the “Deal of the Day” and said it was a one-day sale. However, I see this morning that Amazon is still offering it at I have no idea how long the sale will last.

As I mentioned in an article last week, “Dropbox is a very popular service amongst genealogists.” This morning, Amazon announced a “flash sale” on Dropbox Pro that is only good for today (Monday, December 5): Pay $99 for a one year subscription to Dropbox Pro, including one terabyte (1,000 gigabytes) of online file storage, and receive a $50 Amazon gift card.


That is a great deal, especially as I expect the gift card will come in handy this holiday season. However, the offer is good only for new customers or for existing Dropbox customers who are using the free (2 gigabytes) service. The offer is not applicable for existing Dropbox Pro or Business accounts, such as my account. Otherwise, I would have signed up for this offer in a heartbeat.

pCloud: Better than Dropbox?

Dropbox is a very popular service amongst genealogists. I have often mentioned Dropbox in my previous articles. (See for a list of my previous articles that mention Dropbox.) However, Dropbox certainly is not perfect.

My biggest complaint with Dropbox is that it has a rather weak method of encryption for storing your data on Dropbox’s servers. (See for an explanation of Dropbox’s encryption weaknesses.) Dropbox employees can read your personal data. If Dropbox receives a court order demanding they supply copies of your personal data to some government agency, the company must do so. Also, in theory, if a hacker ever gains access to Dropbox’s servers, that person  possibly could also read your data. The odds of a hacker gaining access are slim but not impossible.

Next, Dropbox only provides 2 gigabytes of storage space free of charge, significantly less than that of most of its competitors.

One new service is “just like Dropbox, except (1.) it is faster than Dropbox, (2.) it can encrypt every bit of data before storing on the company’s servers, making the service much more secure and (3.) it offers 10 gigabytes of free storage space with the option to obtain 20 gigabytes at no charge if a user makes some bonus steps.

Digital Maine Brings State Library Content to the Cloud

The Maine State Library is working hard to preserve historical state documents. The library is relying on volunteers, scanning technology and a cloud-based repository platform.

One current important initiative is an effort to digitize the microfilm of historical state newspapers. This initiative is supported by a $275,000 grant from the National Endowment for Humanities (NEH). The grant covers “the digitization of 100,000 pages of historic Maine newspapers published between 1836 and 1922 as part of the state’s participation in the National Digital Newspaper Program.”

Make a 1000-year Copy of Your Photos and Videos

M-Disks look a bit like CD-ROM disks although they are created from very different materials. M-Disks should be readable for at least 1,000 years although there is a question of whether or not there will be a device available 1,000 years from now that will read them. I am guessing that the technology of 1,000 years into the future will be so fantastic that genealogists of the year 3016 will be able to read anything, created on any media, and in any language.

I briefly wrote about M-Disks earlier this year at where I gave a link to a longer and much more detailed description available on at

Now a new start-up called has announced a new service that will make copies of your photos and videos with a 1000-year shelf life.

The press release states:

The Argument for Building an Offline Version of Your Family Tree

I am a big fan of storing all sorts of personal data, including my family tree, both online and also offline (in my computer’s hard drive). I like online access because of the increased security (assuming it is encrypted), the automatic backups, and the ease of access to the information when traveling, even when traveling to a local genealogy society meeting.


Simon Orde, the owner of the colorfully named company Calico Pie, has a different viewpoint. After all, he and his company produce Family Historian, one of the very popular genealogy programs for Windows. Simon has written an article that provides his opinions of online versus offline storage. I will say that his article makes a lot of sense.

GRAMPS Can Now be used as a Cloud-Based Genealogy Program

GRAMPS (an abbreviation for “Genealogy Research and Analysis Management Programming System”) was originally developed as a Linux genealogy program and later was ported to Macintosh, Windows, BSD UNIX and Solaris. (You can find my previous articles about GRAMPS by starting at

GRAMPS is now available as a cloud-based program. In theory, you should be able to use the cloud-based version of GRAMPS with any Android, Apple iOS (specifically iPad), Chromebook, Windows, Macintosh, or Linux computer. Since it runs from the cloud, no software installation is required. Best of all, GRAMPS is available FREE of charge.

I find GRAMPS to be a very powerful genealogy program. Perhaps the most attractive feature is its price tag: FREE.

GRAMPS is a community project, created, developed and governed by genealogists. Dozens of programmers have contributed to its success. Now the folks at rollApp have ported GRAMPS to an online version, accessible to everyone in the cloud. One unique feature is that the online version of GRAMPS will save your data files in your choice of Dropbox, Google Drive,, OneDrive, or Yandex.Disk.

Evernote’s Future Is in the Cloud

evernote_googlecloudI have written frequently about Evernote, a note-taking app on steroids that is very useful for genealogists and most everyone else. (See for my past articles about Evernote.) I have also written frequently about use of “the cloud” for genealogy and other purposes. (See for my past articles about the cloud. I especially recommend a Plus Edition article, (+) I am Moving to the Cloud, that has an introduction at with the full article available at

Now Evernote has come to the same conclusion that I came to some time ago: it makes sense to move to the cloud.

The Future of Cloud Storage

I have written often about the advantages and disadvantages of file storage in the cloud. (See for a lengthy list of my past articles.) Now BackBlaze, one of the major providers of file space in the cloud, has published an article with an infographic showing how popular cloud file storage services have become and also makes some predictions.

Amongst the facts mentioned:

Zoho Writer in the Cloud

If you already have a word processor installed in each of your computers and are happy with your present choice, you probably will want to skip this article. However, if you do not have a good word processor, or if you want to look at other possibilities, this may be the article for you. If you are presently using Google Docs or Microsoft Word Online or some other cloud-based word processor and are frustrated by your program’s lack of some features you want, this is the article for you. If you need a better word processor for sharing documents with co-workers or with family or even with genealogy society members, this is the article for you. If you want a good word processor for an iPad or Android tablet computer, this is the article for you.

Oh, by the way, this article describes a word processor that is FREE for personal use.

zoho_onlineZoho is an online Web service that lets you do almost anything online that you can do on a desktop computer, from creating documents to building a spreadsheet to managing a database, plus conferencing, project-management, chatting, and a dozen other functions. Zoho also duplicates many applications that Google offers with sophisticated calendars, spreadsheets, presentations, email and chat. In some cases, Zoho’s products may be more powerful than Google’s; but, in other cases, the opposite may be true. For this article, I will focus on one product called Zoho Writer.

Zoho Writer is an online word processor that is very easy to use. Yet it has most of the bells and whistles of an expensive, traditional word processor. I also find it to be much more powerful and useful than the word processor available with Google Docs.

Microsoft to Reduce the Amount of Free Storage Space Available on OneDrive

No-OneDrive-Windows-10I have often written about the advantages of having cloud-based storage space, primarily as a place to store copies of your important information, including copies of all your genealogy information, family photos, and more. There are a number of safe and secure file storage services to choose from, and their pricing also varies. Most of the file storage services give away some amount of storage space free of charge and then charge modest prices to anyone who desires even more storage space. Today I received a notice from Microsoft about the company’s OneDrive service, one of the more popular file storage services. Microsoft is dramatically cutting the free space available in OneDrive.

According to an announcement I received in email from Microsoft:

We want to inform you about some upcoming changes to OneDrive that will affect you. In approximately 90 days, the amount of storage that comes with OneDrive will change from 15 GB to 5 GB. We are also discontinuing the 15 GB camera roll bonus. As a result of these changes, you will be over your OneDrive storage limit on June 16, 2016 (visit the Storage page to check your account). You can learn more at our FAQ.

Evernote Defends User Data Security and Transparency

I have written a number of times about the note-taking application called Evernote. (See for a list of my past articles about Evernote.) Indeed, Evernote is a very popular application amongst genealogists and for good reasons: it is an excellent method of keeping track of all the scraps of information that genealogists typically accumulate when researching family history.

evernote_logoOne of the big concerns about using any application that stores data online is security. Is your personal information safe and secure from identity thieves, credit card scammers, and government snoops? It is reassuring to read a recent article from the folks at Evernote, detailing the security of your personal data when stored in Evernote. It says, in part:

We created Evernote to be your digital brain. Shortly after we set that as our goal, we wrote our 3 Laws of Data Protection to codify these principles:

Google is Shutting Down Picasa

Google_iconGoogle’s Picasa has been one of my favorite photo editing tools for several years. Now there is bad news and good news about the free service.

Bad news: Google will stop supporting the Picasa desktop application on March 15th, 2016. It will still work beyond March 15th, but Google will stop developing it and there will be no future updates.

Good news: Google is replacing Picasa with Google Photos, the company’s new-and-improved photo service. In fact, Google Photos is a better app than Picasa although I am sure it will take some time for Picasa users to get used to the change. If you happen to have photos or videos stored away in a Picasa Web Album, Google says all of your media will already be available in Google Photos. Once you access Google Photos, you’ll be able to share, download and organize all of your media in one location.

The Easy Way to Store Backups on Multiple Online Services with cloudHQ

cloudhqThis article has nothing to do with genealogy. However, having backup copies of all your important documents, pictures, videos and other items is a must for everyone. I will suggest that having backups of your important data can be a lifesaver.

I believe that everyone should have a MINIMUM of three copies of every digital file that is important: the original file stored in the computer’s hard drive, plus a copy of that file stored on a backup device (hard drive, flashdrive, CD-ROM disk, or whatever you choose) that is stored near the computer for convenience, PLUS AN ADDITIONAL copy or two, stored off-site where the copies will be safe from in-home disasters, such as fire, flood, or burst water pipes.

Three copies are a barebones MINIMUM. For safety, I would recommend even more copies be kept in more locations. Luckily, that is easy to do.

Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage has moved to Public Beta

About three months ago, I wrote an article entitled Backblaze to Sell Cloud Storage for a Quarter the Price of Amazon S3 and Its Other Competitors. It described the company’s plans to sell secure and encrypted online storage in the cloud at just half a cent per gigabyte per month with the first 10 gigabytes free. That’s about one-fourth the price of most other file storage services. The earlier article said that the new service would be available “soon.” Backblaze’s “soon” has now arrived. B2 Cloud Service is available today as a public beta.

male mountaineer standing on top of a mountain in a rough landsa

Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage for Windows and for Macintosh works similar to Amazon S3, Dropbox, Google Drive, and most other files storage services except for one thing: the prices are much lower on Backblaze B2 than on the others. It allows you to store unlimited data in the cloud. It will also store any kind of files, including text, pictures, videos, genealogy databases, and more. You can see a price comparison of Backblaze B2 versus some of its larger competitors at

Free OCR Services

OCROCR is an abbreviation for Optical Character Recognition, conversion of images of typed, handwritten or printed text into machine-encoded text. In other words, someone scans or takes a picture of a book or newspaper or printed piece of paper. The result is an image, typically a JPG or GIF or PNG or TIFF file. To convert that image to normal text that can be used in a word processor, an OCR conversion is required.

A newsletter reader wrote today and asked, “Do you have a suggestion for a free OCR program that doesn’t download a lot of “junk” onto your computer?” My answer is: “Don’t do that!”

A Special Offer for Family Tree Maker Users: MyHeritage is Offering the Family Tree Builder Genealogy Program for Windows and Macintosh PLUS an Unlimited Size Family Site for FREE

ftbThe recent announcement by Ancestry of the “retirement” of Family Tree Maker (see for details) has turned out to be a great gift for other genealogy software producers. Thousands of disappointed genealogists are now looking for alternative products. Several companies have announced “special offers” for Family Tree Maker users who wish to switch to a Windows or Macintosh program that will remain supported for some time. I will suggest that a new announcement this morning from MyHeritage should be seriously considered by any Family Tree Maker user.

Disclaimer: MyHeritage is the exclusive sponsor of this newsletter so I could be accused of bias. In fact, anyone who accuses me of bias is correct! To be blunt, I probably am biased. Even so, I do think this is an excellent offer and I will invite readers who do not share my biases to read the announcement and decide for themselves.

MyHeritage has announced a two-pronged offer: both Family Tree Builder software and an unlimited size Family Site for FREE. Of course, Family Tree Builder software for both Windows and Macintosh has always been free. (See my Free Genealogy Software article at for details.) The real gem in this announcement is the offer of a FREE family web site of unlimited size on

Easy File Encryption on your Chromebook, Windows, or Macintosh Computer with miniLock

A few people have phobias about placing their personal files in online file storage services, even though the online services have proven to be safer and more reliable than saving the same files on your own computer’s hard drive. Sadly, most of these users do not know how easy it is to add bulletproof security: simply encrypt your files before storing them ANYWHERE: online, on your computer’s hard drive, in a flashdrive, or anyplace else. Encryption is used by military and government agencies, by banks, by stock brokers, and, yes, even by drug dealers, to make sure nobody else can read the information. You can do the same. Encryption works well.

I wrote about one easy method of encrypting files in my Privacy Blog web site at If you want to keep any files secure, I suggest you read the article there.

Online Genealogy Programs for Invited Family Members

A newsletter reader asked a question today: “I am wondering if there is an online genealogy program [where the data] can be seen, added to and shared only by family members so that we can all see each other’s descendants.”

I assume my correspondent wants a service that is visible ONLY to invited family members, not to everyone in the world. Indeed, there are many such programs. Actually, they are web sites where such data can be entered and shared, but only visible to people who have been given access to the site.

While I did answer her in email, I thought I would copy my answer to a public article in this newsletter in case anyone else has the same question. Here are a few of the web sites and service I can think of at the moment: