Whether you have spent years building your family tree or are just starting out, the thought of losing all your hard work is terrifying. While you can back up your data to another hard drive or burn it to a CD, these usually require a commitment to remember to do it from time to time. If you work on your genealogy frequently, you may find that you are having to back up several times a week, if not daily.
Even if you already have a backup system in place for your family tree, consider what other items of importance you may have on your computer. Losing family pictures, scans of important documents, etc can be devastating. Backup services can be used to protect these items as well.
There are a number of free backup services available.
Dropbox is a free service that gives you 2GB of free online storage. Just download the software, put the files you want to be backed up into your Dropbox folder, and the program will automatically backup any data within the folder. The program also detects changes in the files and will backup the changed pieces to make sure your online backups are always up to date.
There are a couple other nice features with Dropbox. First is that it allows you access your data anywhere. If you're away from home and want to show someone your genealogy research, all you have to do is access your files from a web browser or mobile device. You can even make changes, which is handy when you're researching in a library and come across data to include in your tree.
The second feature I really like is the ability to share your data. All you have to do is put a file in your public file within your main Dropbox file. If you are contacted by another researching interested in your family, you can easily share your GEDCOM. It also allows for collaborative genealogy research as other users can make changes or additions to the file. You control who has access to your data.
If you need more than the free 2GB of online storage provided, you can upgrade for a fee to get larger storage capacity. Currently the paid options include 50GB and 100GB of storage. Users can also refer others to get an additional 250MB of space up to a maximum of 8GB. The person referred to Dropbox also gets the additional storage.
Windows Live SkyDrive
Windows Live SkyDrive offers users 25GB free online storage. Unlike Dropbox, which does automatic backups, you do have to remember to backup to this storage system. This program works with Microsoft Office including PowerPoint, Word, Excel and OneNote. Even if you don't have these installed on your computer, you can still design, view, edit and share these files.
You can share files with an individual or group. You have the option of sharing only specific files or everything in your storage space. Skydrive is accessible anywhere, allowing you to work wherever you have internet access, regardless of whether it's your personal computer or not.
Signing up is simple. If you already have Hotmail, Messenger or XBox Live, you can sign in with those. If you don't, you can sign up for a hotmail or live account right from the Skydrive signup page.
IDrive is another online backup service. The free plan gives you 5GB of online storage space. You can get up to 5GB more if you refer friends to the service. There are paid plans for those that require more storage.
To get started, you have to sign up and then download the program. Select the files or folders you want to back up. Unlike Dropbox, which requires you to save all your data in the Dropbox folder in order to be backed up, IDrive allows you to pick files or folders located anywhere on your computer.
You can backup now, schedule a backup for later or enable continuous backup. With continuous backup enabled, IDrive will watch for changes to existing files or the addition of files. If it finds them, it automatically performs a backup. For those with concerns about bandwidth, there is a feature that allows you to set a limit on how much bandwidth the program can use.
Whenever you need access to your files, just log onto the IDrive website and search for the file. You can restore the file to any computer, no matter where you are.
For more ideas for protecting your genealogy data, check out my previous post on backing up your family tree and keep an eye out for future posts with more free programs.
Note: Some of the links to programs are referral links. If you prefer not to click on them, just do a quick internet search for the name of the program.