The Birdie Monk
Holsclaw Memorial Fund
Cloud Computing &
How Technology Can Help Us Work Together
The First Birdie Monk Holsclaw Memorial Lecture
National Genealogical Society Family History Conference 2011
• What is Cloud Computing?
• How Can Genealogists Use the Cloud?
• What Are the Risks?
• Are You Already Using the Cloud?
Pupils of the Colorado School for
the Deaf & Blind
What is Cloud
“Cloud Computing,”Sam Johnston, 2009.
This ﬁle is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license.
Deﬁnition of the
Data Access Storage Services
• The cloud does “not require end-user knowledge of the physical
location and conﬁguration of the system that delivers the
In Other Words ...
• Previously, everyone who wanted to host a website or manage a
lot of data had to buy servers, conﬁgure, and maintain them, or
arrange for someone else to do this.
• Now, a layer of abstraction has been built, allowing servers,
software, databases and storage to be commoditized, delivered,
and maintained in bulk.
• The cloud allows people to know less and less about the systems
they use, because it “just works.” (Most of the time.)
Aspects of the Cloud
• Accessible APIs (application programmer’s interfaces)
• Cost containment
• Device and location independence
• Maintenance and upgrades
The Cloud Means
Cloud Computing, unattributed, 2010.
This ﬁle is made available under the Creative Commons CC 1.0
Universal Public Domain Dedication.
• Store multimedia • Quick and easy
(digital audio, video,
images, text, ﬁles) • access (platform
• Replaces “taking
notes” • web clipping
• Annotation • note taking
• Tagging • tasks and reminders
• Privacy • social media
Digital Memory for
• Capture information where you are (courthouse,
cemetery, interviewing family)
• Quickly store that information and make it
available on multiple machines, or even share it
with other genealogists
• Can completely get rid of paper notes you take in
repositories, or it has for me
• Can function as a research log and research plan
• Can be set up to work with social media, or to be
• Native editing • Create dynamic forms
interface and surveys
• Upload many ﬁle • http://
• Upload entire folders
• Share authoring and
editing rights with
one person or
Not Just Backup ...
• If you backup your data only locally, a local disaster
could destroy both your computer and your backup
• Remote backup via cloud services
• Mozy - Used to provide unlimited backup for a
reasonable price. Continues to provide powerful
backup features, but with a pricier model.
• CrashPlan http://www.crashplan.com/ - My current
favorite. Reasonably priced unlimited backup, plus
“build-your-own-cloud” backup to friends machines
over the Internet
• The software (Windows, Mac, Linux, Solaris) is free
• Backup to a friend’s computer over the Internet - free
• Backup your own computers - again, free
• Backup to an attached drive - you guessed it, free
• Backup to CrashPlan servers, or other cloud-based
servers, such as Amazon Web Services - starting at
$25 / year
• Keep ﬁles in sync between multiple machines
• Mac OS
• Mobile devices (iOS, Android)
• Syncs with any single folder on your hard drive, and
• Automatically keeps the Dropbox folder synced to
the cloud and then down to your conﬁgured systems
• 2 GB of free; up to 100 GB or more in paid accounts
• Windows, Mac, and Linux, as well as the iOS,
BlackBerry, and Android mobile operating systems
• Provides both sync and backup
• Can sync any ﬁles or folders on your system (not just
a single folder and everything below it)
• Especially good with multimedia, such as audio and
image ﬁles, automatically streaming audio and
making images viewable in albums
• 5GB free; up to 250 GB in paid accounts
• Windows, Mac, and Linux, as well as the iOS,
• Both ﬁle- and folder-level sharing is available.
• Syncs photos with iPhoto, Picasa, or the Windows
Pictures folder, and also provides a cloud-based
• 2 GB is free; up to 500 GB is available in the paid
• Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhone, Android and Palm
• Free account to receive visual voicemail (automated
transcription) and actual phone calls, routed to one
or more phones, as you conﬁgure based on day of
the week and time
• Make Internet calls to the US or Canada for free
through 2011, with the ability to record incoming
calls; perfect for recording research interviews
• Now integrates with Sprint, meaning that Sprint users
can change the number of their cell phone to be
their Google Voice number, or vice versa
Google Chrome OS
• Operating System designed for the cloud
• Minimal local disk drive
• All content ﬁles saved to the cloud
• Designed for the convergence of cloud and mobile
• All your content is anywhere you can log into the OS
• Completes the migration away from desktop
machines that started with the ﬁrst laptop in 1983
• Nothing in life (or on the Internet) is guaranteed
• Servers can go down, even with planned redundancy
and resilience, as we saw with Amazon Web Services
in the last couple of weeks
• Dozens of cloud-based websites rely on a small
number of major cloud players (Amazon, RackSpace)
• There can be privacy concerns, as have recently
surfaced with Dropbox, Evernote, and others
• You are much more likely to lose ﬁles because you didn’t back
them up than because your remote backup service failed.
• You are much more likely to undergo a catastrophic failure of
your personal hard drive than that a cloud service will fail.
Additionally, the cloud service will be more likely to have a
• If you are concerned about privacy, you can encrypt your data
before sending it to the cloud to backup or share.
• In terms of managing risk, using the cloud is preferable to not
Do You Use?
• Google Products: Google Docs, Gmail, Picasa, GoogleMaps
• Yahoo Products: Yahoo, Flickr
• AmericanAncestors.com uses Amazon S3 (Simple Storage
Solution) to deliver records images
• FamilySearch.org uses Amazon EC2 (Electronic Compute Cloud)
and other Amazon cloud services to dynamically add servers
during peak load times and to quickly deliver new versions of its
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