Cloud Services

Backblaze to Sell Cloud Storage for a Quarter the Price of Amazon S3 and Its Other Competitors

IntroducingBackblazeB2I have written many times about the need for backup services, including an article about Backblaze that I published last week at I have also written many times about the constantly decreasing costs of online file storage services, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, Amazon S3, SugarSync, Microsoft OneDrive, SpiderOak, Box, and a number of others. Now I can combine several articles into one: Backblaze has always been known as a method of backing up data files from your computer. Now the company is expanding into file storage (of any kinds of files) and claims to have the lowest prices of any of its competitors. The other file storage services charge 2¢ or more per gigabyte per month. However, Backblaze is pricing its service at just half a cent per gigabyte per month with the first 10 gigabytes free. – A Secure File Storage and Sharing Service

The online world is crowded with cloud-based file storage services: Dropbox, Google Drive, iDrive, SugarSync, OneDrive, Box, Amazon S3, Mega, and probably a dozen more. One small, almost unknown, file storage service is offering something different: absolute file security. claims that nobody can access your files unless you give permission to someone. In fact, even the employees cannot see what is in your saved files. The company states, “Productivity and privacy, no compromises.”

sync promises zero-knowledge, end-to-end encryption. That means that all files are encrypted in your computer before being sent across the Internet and stored in the company’s servers. If anyone ever access your files on’s servers (which is highly unlikely) they won’t be able to decrypt and read the files unless you provide the encryption key to them. The security remains under your control at all times.

Another Reason to Not Install Dictation Software on Your Windows or Macintosh Computer! You Probably Already Have a Similar Product.

This is a follow-up to my earlier article, Do Not Install Dictation Software on Your Windows or Macintosh Computer! that describes the new cloud-based Dragon Anywhere voice dictation software for or iPhone and iPad and Android. Dragon Anywhere costs $15 a month or $150 a year.

google_docs_click_to_speakGoogle has announced ANOTHER REASON to not install dictation software on your computer. The new reason is also cheaper. Much cheaper: FREE. In my early testing, I found that Google’s offering works well. Google’s competitive offering works in Google Docs on any Windows, Macintosh, Chromebook, Android, iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch computer with a Chrome browser. Best of all, the new Google software is available FREE of charge and probably is already available in your computer today. Voice typing is available in 40 different languages so it should help with your French homework or for writing to your relatives in Greece.

Keep Notes with Google Keep

google-keepGoogle Keep is a syncing notepad that connects to Google Drive. It also supports photo notes, voice notes, and checklists. It is available for Chrome browsers  on Windows and Macintosh, for Android devices, and for Chromebooks. It can be an excellent tool for taking notes in the field or for transcribing information found in books and old documents. It also saves audio notes meaning you can dictate any notes or old documents into the app to save and play them back later. (It doesn’t convert your spoken words to text, however.)

It also creates excellent to-do lists. Set a location-based reminder to pull up your grocery list right when you get to the store. The next time you go to the store, share your shopping list with your spouse or significant other on Keep and watch as items get checked off in real time. There is no need for text messages back and forth.

Do Not Install Dictation Software on Your Windows or Macintosh Computer!

DragonAnywhereDictation software has been popular for several years and continues to improve its accuracy. The biggest drawback has been price: most dictation software is expensive. Nuance thinks it has a better option: Dragon Anywhere for iPhone and iPad and also available for Android.

“For years, professionals across industries have relied on Dragon on their PCs and Macs for completing the documentation and paperwork requirements that are critical to their businesses, and we are excited to extend that experience to mobile devices with Dragon Anywhere,” Peter Mahoney, senior vice president and general manager of Dragon, said in a statement.

The company pointed to field workers, lawyers, social workers, insurance adjusters, public safety officers, and other pros who conduct much of their work away from a desk. I would suggest that a genealogist will find that reading an old document out loud into dictation software is a lot more convenient that re-typing all the information, especially on handwritten documents that cannot be decoded with OCR (optical character recognition) software.

Organize Your Cloud-Based Services with ExpanDrive

I have been using a number of cloud-based file storage services for years, including Amazon Cloud Drive, Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, SFTP, Amazon S3, and a few others. Keeping all these services organized has been a bit of a problem. After all, each service has its own user interface, and switching from one to another requires at least a few seconds to refresh my memory of how each service operates. Now I have found a piece of software that treats each service as a separate drive on any Windows or Macintosh computer. I can also use multiple accounts on the same cloud service. If I have multiple Google Drives (say, one for me and one for my friend and one for my daughter and maybe another account for work) I can access all of them from my computer simultaneously.

ExpanDrive lets you access a wide array of remote server types as if they were local USB drives. You can then open, edit, and save files to these remote services from within your favorite programs, even when they are on a server half a world away. All of your present applications installed in your computer can transparently use that remote data.

Another use of ExpanDrive is to save space on a computer whose hard drive is getting full. I’ll explain that in a minute.

Twile Converts Family Trees into Visual Timelines

The following announcement was written by the folks who produce the Twile cloud-based service:

The online genealogy tool now supports GEDCOM import to automatically create a timeline of a family’s history

Sheffield, UK, August 10, 2015 – Twile ( has added a GEDCOM import feature to its online genealogy product, which lets family historians create timelines of the events in their ancestors’ lives.

“GEDCOM support has been the number one request from our users, many of which have family trees with thousands of people on them – they really didn’t want to manually add them all into another tool,” said Twile co-founder, Paul Brooks.

GEDCOM (which stands for Genealogical Data Communication) is a standard file format for migrating family tree data between different genealogy software services.

Unearthing the Dead with Mobile GPS

The following announcement was written by Ryan Vinson:

The dead shall never be forgotten – not if a certain smart American software engineer and genealogist has anything to do with it.

Ryan Vinson has developed an app that will excite genealogists worldwide by potentially unearthing long dead ancestors. He’s also hoping his Here Lies project will encourage users to explore local cemeteries and learn a little about their town or city – or those of a place they’re visiting.

The app works by getting individuals to catalogue gravesites around the world using mobile GPS data. Ryan is looking for anyone who uses the app to upload a pic of their favourite tomb or gravestone (or as many as they like). They should also add a name, date of birth and even any comments. By making a digital recording, that burial plot will remain recorded for ever – even if the markings on the stone fade from view over time. This, in turn, will make ancestors much easier to find, including those buried in long-forgotten small family graveyards.

everyStory, New Cloud-Based Story-Sharing Platform, Launches Open-Beta on iPad

everyStory is a new app for the iPad that allows users to store audio and image files for many purposes, including to preserve family history stories. The following announcement was written by the folks at everyStory:

Interactive photo-album platform aims to preserve memories by saving photos and audio for generations to come

SAN DIEGO – everyStory, a new cloud-based story-sharing platform, launches today. This one-of-a kind tool is now available for iPad devices during open-Beta and can be downloaded in the App Store. everyStory allows users to store audio and image files to a secure cloud-based system with the option of sharing photos and stories between other everyStory individuals and groups.

How to Safely Secure All Your Files in the Cloud’s File Storage Services with Encrypto

Some people are afraid to use file storage services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, SpiderOak, iCloud, and the many other services. The odds of anyone hacking into these services are very small but not zero. Actually, it is probably easier to hack into your computer in your house than it is to hack into Dropbox, Google Drive, SpiderOak, iCloud, or the other services. However, it is easy to protect your files against hackers regardless of where they are stored: simply encrypt them.

In fact, you should encrypt all sensitive files that are stored in your computer at home in order to protect against devious people around the world who are trying to gain access to your home computer as well as to protect against anyone visiting your home and surreptitiously gaining physical access to your computer. Once encrypted at home, you can safely save copies of those encrypted files on any of the online services as the files will remain encrypted. Only you can decrypt and read them. Even if a hacker should obtain copies of the files from your home computer or from the cloud, he or she will be unable to read them.

Luckily, that is easy to do and the required software can be found free of charge.

Amazon Cloud Drive’s UNLIMITED Plans: $11.99/year for Photos and $59.99/year for Everything

I have written a number of times about various online file storage providers and why every computer user, especially genealogists, should be using at least one of these services to store critical files off site for safekeeping. It seems as if every time I write about some file storage service’s new, low-priced offering, a competitive service soon announces an even cheaper plan. That has now happened again. This time the plans are for UNLIMITED storage space. Yes, unlimited. Fill ‘er up.

Amazon now has two UNLIMITED storage plans for its consumer cloud-based storage service, Amazon Cloud Drive. This represents a massive price reduction for its giant hard-drive in the sky. If you are an Amazon Prime member (which I have used since that service was first introduced, and it saves me a lot of money every year), the first service is called the Unlimited Photos plan and costs $11.99 per year. This plan will appeal to professional photographers, advanced amateur photographers, and anyone who simply has lots of digital pictures that need to be safely stored off site. A price of about $1 a month strikes me as very attractive. Where are your backup photos of your grandchildren?

How to Safely and Securely Store Your Private Data Online with SpiderOak

File storage services in the cloud are very popular these days — and for good reasons. Services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, SpiderOak, iCloud, Microsoft OneDrive, Amazon Cloud Drive, Amazon S3, Box, and numerous others offer free or very low cost file storage space that can be used for any of a number of reasons. Cloud storage serves as an added layer of data protection for your precious and irreplaceable files. Backups are kept in a secure location that is physically removed from the originals, and these cloud-based services provide such a location.

You can store backup copies of your important personal files to provide insurance against hard drive crashes, viruses, ransomware (see my earlier article at, and other computer problems. With many of these services, you can also share files, such as old family photographs, with family and friends.

Another reason to use any of these cloud-based file storage services is to share files amongst your own computing devices. Saving your pictures and documents in the cloud provides an easy way of copying those files and photos to your own tablet computer or cell phone.

Of course, the biggest concern of most users who are not familiar with cloud storage is, “Is it safe?”