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Cut the ties: online storage for Genealogy

Online storage in the cloud


These days we live online, work online, store personal files online, and more. It’s not about locking into a single IT platform – it’s about releasing us from platform dependence. It is a really important concept, or concept shift, that is happening in the world of technology and social networking. Moving digital files between your work and homecomputers can be a nuisance, and when you add smartphones and tablet computers to the mix, you’ve got yourself a giant headache. There are many options available to us now for storing, collaborating, sharing and accessing our data. This post will discuss three of them: DropboxGoogle Drive and Microsoft Skydrive, for which you need a Windows Live account first.

The idea behind online storage is to leave your files on ‘cloud’ computers, so that you can access them from any Internet-connected device, wherever you are. That means you can stop emailing big files to yourself, and you can stop carrying those USB thumb drives that fill up quickly, especially when transferring photos and video. These services also make it easier to share documents with others.

The three apps share some common features. You can store just about any type of file — photos, videos, songs, spreadsheets and more — on distant servers operated by those companies. All you need is a Web browser and an Internet connection. To upload a file to the online storage service, you simply move the file’s icon to the browser window. The original file remains on your computer.

To access a file from another computer, go to the service’s Web site and log in. You can make changes on that computer and move the file back online. You can create Web links to entire folders or specific files for sharing.

You can install free software to simplify these transfers. The software creates a special folder on your computer for that particular service. Anything you add to it will automatically get transferred to your online storage. If you or colleagues make changes from another computer, the original version gets automatically updated.

What is the cloud?

Part 1: Test driving Google Drive, Dropbox and Skydrive

Google Drive

The list of documents you’re used to seeing when you sign into docs.google.com is being replaced by Google Drive. Just like before, you can upload, edit, share and create files online. But with Google Drive, you can access your files wherever you are, from any device, and you can work with even more file types by installing Google Drive apps.

To access all of your files, folders and Google Docs, you have three options:

  • Sign into Google Drive on the web at drive.google.com
  • Open the Google Drive folder on your computer (created when you install Google Drive for your Mac/PC)
  • Go to the Google Drive mobile app on your Android device.  It’s not yet available for iPhone /iPad.
  • From Edudemic.com: An excellent article on how to create your Google drive, set it up and enable it, as well as some useful things you can do with your drive.
Test driving Google Drive


Dropbox is an online virtual storage utility that allows you to make your files accessible from almost anywhere. Here’s how it works. After installation and connecting to the Dropbox server, the Dropbox interface is just like any folder on your computer. You simply drag and drop to move files around and any files or folders that are uploaded to Dropbox will immediately be synchronized within your account. In addition Dropbox also keeps track of every single change made to the contents of your storage and any changes are instantly updated to all computers linked to the account.

If you are not on any of my computers? Absolutely no need to worry. Just get on the Dropbox web interface and you will be able to access your files from anywhere in the world. The Dropbox web interface also remembers all the changes you make to your files and allows you to restore to any previous versions of the file. You can even un-delete files that you may have accidentally erased.

Where Dropbox really shines is the way it allows you to share whatever you want with other people. Every individual folder can be shared with other people and every member of a shared folder will be able to add, edit, and delete the contents inside but will not be able to access anything outside of that specific folder. This file sharing system is perfect for team projects, or for anything which needs collaboration among its members. There is also a public folder that allows you to share files with non-Dropbox users through the use of a hyperlink.

 Test driving Dropbox


Microsoft Skydrive

You need a Windows live account  to access  Skydrive. There are also  mobile apps available for the iPhone, iPad and Android  phones. In addition, you can also install on your phone the Microsoft OneNote app to take notes on the go. Your notebooks will automatically be stored to SkyDrive and synced, so they’re always up to date and available from your phone, PC, or web browser.

Install the free SkyDrive app on your computer, you can access your photos and files from almost anywhere, store them, and securely share them. Put theSkyDrive app on all your computers—Windows 7Windows Vista, or Mac OS X Lion. As with the other options, You can access Skydrive either online or in the Skydrive folder on your desktop.


Access files across PC or Mac

With SkyDrive installed on all your computers, you’ll have automatic access to the latest version of your files wherever you are.


Simple sharing with anyone

Share even large files and photos with your friends. All they need is a web browser—no worrying about attachment limits or what software they have.


Mobile access

Photos and files in the SkyDrive folder on your PC are automatically available on your phone. Get the app or just use the phone’s browser.


If you already have a Skydrive, you can upgrade your storage space from the free 7gb to 25gb. Otherwise the costs are as follows:

Free storage is 7 gb without the free upgrade

Test drive Windows Skydrive

 Part 2: Differences between Dropbox, Google Drive & Windows Skydrive


All three let you share by creating links. On Dropbox, friends with that link can view the content, though you’ll have to go through extra steps to create a “shared folder” for others to edit documents.

With SkyDrive, you can give people editing capabilities with that link. In fact, you can give some people a view-only link and others a link with editing privileges. You can share via email and decide whether recipients can edit documents. You can also post content to Facebook, Twitter and other social networks directly from SkyDrive.

Google Drive also lets you choose whether links come with editing capabilities. But unlike SkyDrive, you can’t create view-only links for some and editing links for others. It’s one or the other for particular files and folders. You can also email items as attachments or as a link to your Google Drive account.

Dropbox and SkyDrive can automatically turn the photos you share into galleries, so that friends can view them through an interface that resembles what you’d get on Facebook or a photo-sharing site.


Searching on Google Drive is fast and versatile. You can search not just by file name, but also the contents of documents. It uses an optical-character reader to pull out text from newspaper clippings and brochures. Dropbox searches based on file names only. SkyDrive searches contents of documents in Microsoft formats — Word, PowerPoint and Excel — but it won’t even index the file names for other types, including photos.


Dropbox has the most software options.

For desktops, there’s a Linux version besides ones for Windows and Mac computers. Microsoft and Google support Windows and Macs only. Microsoft’s software won’t work on Windows XP, or on earlier versions of XP’s successor, Vista. So many SkyDrive users will be stuck with the Web-based interface.

Dropbox  and Skydrive offer phone apps for both Apple and Android devices. Dropbox also the only one to support BlackBerrys. Google doesn’t have a version for iPhones or iPads yet; its app only works on Google’s Android system. Dropbox has a feature for restoring files you accidentally deleted or overwrote. That means you can go back to an earlier draft of a document if you change your mind — up to 30 days, or forever if you have a paid account.  Perhaps Dropbox’s  greatest strength is the API it’s built on, which hundreds of developers have used to create apps that utilize Dropbox. For example, the app, 1Password uses Dropbox to sync all my passwords,logins and software keys across all of my devices.


The services give you plenty of free space for word processing, spreadsheets and other basics, but not enough for extensive storage of photos and video.

You get 2 gigabytes for free on Dropbox, 5 GB on Google Drive and 7 GB on SkyDrive. Those who used SkyDrive before April 23 can claim 25 GB of free space, though others might be eligible too. Dropbox lets you earn additional free space by recruiting friends or performing such tasks as installing Dropbox’s software.

Signing up for additional free accounts gets cumbersome, so count on paying if you need more. An extra 100 GB will cost $50 a year on SkyDrive and $59.88 on Google Drive, while 100 GB including the free space will cost $199 on Dropbox. Cheaper plans with less storage are available.


Comparison table. Summarises cloud storage options for each of Skydrive, Google Drive, Dropbox and Apple’s iCloud.

For a more in-depth  discussion of all the sharing and syncing options available, see the article: Google Drive vs. Dropbox, SkyDrive, SugarSync, and others: a cloud sync storage face-off.

Whatever you choose,  you should ensure that you keep local backups of your files on external drives or network drives in addition to files stored on your computer’s hard drives.All three of these options have their merits and I am using all of them. You can never have enough storage.



About the author

Michele Berner

Permanent link to this article: http://genealogyclues.com/?p=598

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