September 22, 2017

Disaster Recovery for Genealogy: “Think About the Things That Matter Most”

Damage reports are surfacing in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Today we discuss how two Texas library collections have fared, and disaster recovery strategies for genealogy researchers. I’ve got a fantastic get-started video tip for those trying to rescue documents, photos, and other family heirlooms–and the two steps everyone should take to protect their priceless genealogical collections.

disaster recover things that matter most

Port Aransas, Texas

My heart goes out to those who have been in the paths of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma recently. Knowing I live in Texas, many of you have asked how my family is doing. I’m happy to report that the storms didn’t reach those of us here north of Dallas. However, our daughter Hannah and her husband, while thankfully safe after evacuating from their home on the Texas shore, suffered the loss of their car and other possessions, and Hannah’s workplace was destroyed. They are now part of the relief and recovery efforts, and look forward to when they will be able to return to their home, which is currently uninhabitable. We feel very blessed that they are safe and sound, and our prayers go out to all who suffered losses.

Disaster Recovery for Genealogy Libraries

Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, Houston, TX. Wikimedia Commons image; click to view.

As lives are secured and order begins to be restored in devastated areas, I’ve wondered how various genealogy libraries and archives have fared. Genealogy Gems listener Chris emailed me with an alert that the Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research in Houston, Texas has suffered some damage. “So sad for genies!” she writes. Indeed! The Clayton is one of the top public library genealogy research centers in the United States.

Not wanting to disturb their recovery efforts with a phone inquiry, I’ve turned to Google searching and social media for a status report. The Houston Public Library Foundation states that the Clayton is among one of 10 library locations that are “unable to open due to various building damages.” The Clayton Library Friends Facebook page offers more specifics–and this hopeful report:

“Yes, there was some flooding at Clayton Library and according to Susan Kaufman, Manager, Clayton Library is closed this week. Clayton Library staff will be deployed to other libraries that are open.

Clayton Library did suffer some water damage but it was not really that bad. They just need to decide how best to proceed since they were planning on doing renovations soon anyway.”

CityofHouston.news tells us what Clayton staff may be doing at other library branches: “The services and resources that are available at your library system include free access to WiFi and computers, one-on-one assistance with filling out applications and forms, and access to the expertise of library archivists who can assist you in preserving and saving precious family memorabilia such as books, letters and photographs that may have been damaged in the storm.” 

Chris’ email encourages us to support the recovery effort for Houston’s libraries through the Houston Public Library Foundation: here’s the link she sent to their donation portal.

Port Arthur Public Library, Port Arthur, Texas. Image from library website.

Down on the coast, another library system wasn’t so fortunate. The Port Arthur Library will remain closed for months, reports the Port Arthur News. “The Port Arthur Public Library was one of many buildings hit hard by Harvey,” states an article by L.V. Salinas. “It sustained flood damage and the subsequent mold issue inundated buildings often face afterward. It also sustained substantial damage and loss of property of its books, computer equipment, archives and more.”

Crews are working to clean up and preserve what they can. High priority is being given to their historical and genealogical resources: “One of the costlier processes was the freeze-drying of irreplaceable items like genealogy records, microfilm, Port Arthur historical photos and collections. The intent, as performed by companies contracted by the city, was to prevent any further damage from taking place, kill the bacteria that’s present and preserve the items long enough for a transference of information by experts.”

The Port Arthur History Collection is proudly described on the library website; it includes a collection of historic photos that were lovingly organized by volunteers and placed in archival-quality storage. “It’s one of our highest priorities,” states a library official in the article. “It’s time sensitive, and it has to happen now….We have to preserve it now.”

Disaster Recovery for Genealogy Researchers

As genealogists, we to have our personal and precious libraries and archives. We build trees in software–some of us spending hundreds or thousands of hours on them. We may have files, books, and other research materials. Many of us are family archivists: the stewards of priceless original family documents, photos, and other artifacts. Here’s some level-headed counsel for after a disaster strikes–and here’s what the rest of us should be doing now, before another disaster.

After a Disaster: Take It One Step at a Time

If you’ve been affected by a recent disaster, I’d like to share this fantastic, level-headed advice from Rennee Tallent, Galveston Historical Foundation’s Manager of Historic Collections (Galveston, Texas was hit by a hurricane in 1900–the “deadliest natural disaster in American history”):

I love her compassionate advice:

“Walking into [your home after a disaster] is very overwhelming. Try to take a deep breath and think about the things that matter most to you and what your priorities are. Take it one piece at a time: after you’ve finished that one, move on to the next.” -Rennee Tallent, Galveston Historical Foundation’s Manager of Historic Collections

Start your recovery efforts with whatever matters most to you, Renee says. But she reminds us that certain items are more vulnerable to destruction than others, so try to also focus on things made out of paper and photographs, then cloth, then wood. Leave your china, silver, and glassware until these other items have been stabilized.

Before Disaster Strikes: Digitize and Back It Up!

If a disaster strikes, most of us won’t have the time to grab all our genealogy research files, photographs, and other precious heirlooms. But many of these items are one-of-a-kind–unless we make them two-or-more-of-a-kind!

As family archivists, we can best preserve our past by:

  1. Digitizing it. Make high-quality digital scans of original documents and photos. Take digital pictures of three-dimensional heirlooms such as clothing, handicrafts, even quilts.
  2. Backing up your digital files. Should a disaster occur–whether storm, theft, or fire–your computer may suffer the same fate as any original documents and heirlooms in your home. So I recommend investing in an automated, cloud-based backup service for your computer.

For a few dollars a month, a cloud-based backup service will continually back up your computer files to a remote server. In the event of any loss (including a computer crash), you can download them again. Having a digitized version of those original Civil War letters or photos isn’t quite the same as the real thing–but it’s so much better than having them disappear entirely. And if you’re like me, your computer doesn’t just house your photos and research files. It may have hundreds or even thousands of work files, personal files, music, or video files and more.

I use Backblaze for my personal computer and to back up thousands of Genealogy Gems audio, video, and other files. Backblaze is made for everyday consumers: it’s affordable and easy to use. Do your research yourself and choose the best cloud-based backup for you (click here to read the 8 features you should be watching for).

Our Service “Happiness” Manager, Lacey, experienced first hand the benefits of having her computer backed up:

Right after our Genealogy Gems seminar in Dallas in early August, I came home, sat down to work, and discovered my laptop had died. I tried everything I could find to get it going again (thanks to Google search results) but it couldn’t be revived. Thankfully, I had both Backblaze and Dropbox installed on my computer, and I didn’t lose any files at all. I was able to get everything back! Even my Google account saved all of my settings and bookmarks for my Chrome browser, so when I got my new computer, just about everything was restored as though nothing had happened. I was SO RELIEVED! Planning ahead really paid off!

Backblaze lisa louise cooke(If you decide to go with my favorite, Backblaze, thanks for clicking here to purchase it. The modest commission we receive supports the free information I provide on this website and the Genealogy Gems podcast.)

My sincere wishes for the safety of your families–and your family history.

“If My Ancestry Subscription Expires, What Happens to My Tree?”

Worried about access to your online tree if you let your Ancestry.com subscription lapse? The tree should still be there. But take these steps to be sure your tree remains accessible and secure–along with the records you’ve attached to it.

What happens to my ancestry tree?

 

“If My Ancestry Subscription Expires, What Happens to My Tree?”

Many people start researching their genealogy with an Ancestry subscription. They build their family tree on the site, adding details about dozens of relatives. Then they sift through Ancestry’s billions of historical records and add hundreds or even thousands of new names, dates, relationships and other facts to their trees. They even attach records to each ancestor as evidence of what they’ve learned.

Then life calls them away for a while, like it has for Beverly. She wrote to me, concerned about what will happen to all her hard work on that Ancestry tree:

“I have been a member of Ancestry.com for a long time and have worked on several trees. I love to work on my genealogy but lately have not had time. Can I drop my membership and still retain my trees? I plan to get my membership back at a later day. Right now I am wasting $20 a month.”

Beverly, I hear your pain! We all go through busy seasons. It’s easy to cringe at the thought of paying for genealogy website subscriptions we aren’t currently using. But the idea of losing all our progress on those sites is worse.

I did a little research along with Sunny Morton, Genealogy Gems Editor and our resident expert on the “genealogy giants” websites. Here’s what we can tell Beverly and everyone else who is wondering the same thing:

According to Ancestry, the answer is yes. You can still access your trees with your login after your subscription lapses, as long as you didn’t delete the tree or the account altogether.

Ancestry continues to host people’s trees because they want our tree data to share with others, and to give people a reason to come back! Your login and password remain the same. But your account reverts to a free guest account, without access to most of Ancestry’s historical records—including the ones you’ve already attached to your trees.

Ancestry Tree Preservation Strategy 

If you plan to let your Ancestry.com subscription lapse for a while, but you want to continue to work with your online trees, consider taking these steps:

1. Download a copy of every record that you’ve attached to your ancestors’ individual files on Ancestry.com. Do this by opening the image of the record, click on the Save/Saved button at the upper right, and click Save to your computer. I suggest doing this even if you don’t foresee letting your subscription go in the near future.

2. Save each record in an organized, findable way on your computer. I recommend using a consistent system to organize these, which I explain in the free Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast, in episodes 32-33. (Genealogy Gems Premium website members have access to a 2-part video tutorial on organizing their hard drives.) If you don’t have a consistent way to organize these document images, you’ll soon become overwhelmed with files that all sort of look the same and you won’t be sure what year they are or which ancestors they pertain to without opening each one!

(What about cloud storage options, such as Google Drive or Dropbox? That’s ok, too, although I recommend using these platforms more as temporary or backup storage or to share with relatives, rather than as your primary storage. Instead, I recommend investing in cloud-based backup for your home computer. I use Backblaze personally and for my business.)

3. Download copies of your Ancestry.com treesClick here for instructions; it’s really easy. Yes, Ancestry does continue to maintain your trees, but what guarantees do you have? Data loss does happen even on big websites, and sites change their practices and policies sometimes. If that happens, you could lose all the information you’ve carefully added to your tree.

4. Start using computer software for your “master family tree” instead of keeping it online. A “master family tree” is your most complete, up-to-date version of your tree (or trees, if you build separate ones for separate family lines). Keeping your master tree on your own computer keeps all your tree data at your fingertips without any subscription required. Having one master file matters even more once you start sharing your tree on other websites or with relatives.

RootsMagicI use RootsMagic, and that is why I happily agreed to them sponsoring my Genealogy Gems Podcast. It works for Mac and the PC. I like its affordability: there’s a free version you can try for as long as you like, and the full software will cost you the same as about 90 days of access to Ancestry.com. And RootsMagic has solid relationships with the major genealogy sites: it now syncs with your trees on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org, and you can research records on MyHeritage.com and Findmypast.com. RootsMagic has tons of advanced features to help you create family history charts, books, and reports, and a great user support community online.

Ancestry and the other Genealogy Giants

genealogy giants quick reference guide cheat sheetKeep up with news and changes on the “genealogy giants” websites with our ongoing coverage of Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com, and MyHeritage.com. And get our quick reference guide, Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites. This inexpensive, easy-t0-read guide compares the “big 4” side by side to help you determine which records website may be the best ones for your current genealogy research needs.

Disclosure: this post recommends carefully-chosen products and services for which we receive compensation. Click here to read my full disclosure statement, and thank you for supporting the free content we provide at Genealogy Gems.

Backing Up Your Genealogy with Backblaze – Q & A

Backing up your genealogy with Backblaze is a critical move if you want to protect your family history. Let us answer your questions and share with you how the cloud backup service Backblaze can be the answer to effectively backing up and protecting all your genealogy data.

backing up your genealogy with Backblaze

Recently, we received some great questions concerning the cloud-based computer backup service, Backblaze, one of our trusted sponsors of The Genealogy Gems Podcast. The answers to these questions will give you with the confidence to put a reliable cloud backup plan in place so that your family history remains safe and secure.

What is Backblaze?

Backblaze is an online back-up tool that stores copies of your computer files, and allows you to restore them in case your computer is lost, stolen, or destroyed. It offers unlimited storage and supports every type of file, including large video files and genealogy tree files. Once installed, Backblaze works 24/7 through your internet connection to save every change you make. Backblaze also keeps your files safe offsite (at their data centers) with 24-hour staff, biometric security, and redundant power.

Unlike Evernote or Dropbox which are designed to allow you to work with your files across multiple devices, Backblaze is “set it and forget it” protection should the worst happen. While you can sign-in and access your files from multiple devices, it’s primary purpose is to provide a back-up plan so you can restore your data if something happens to your computer. While external hard drives are great for when your computer crashes, they can’t help you if they are destroyed in a fire or flood along with your computer because they were both in the same location. Off-site backup and multiple copies (redundancy) are key when it comes to protecting your precious genealogy research.

Answers to Your Questions about Using Backblaze for Cloud Storage

Q: I am excited to begin using Backblaze for the first time! However, I am a bit uncertain of how to actually begin. Can you walk me through it?
A: Lots of our readers are a little uncertain when it comes to using something new. We have created a blog post titled “How to Download Backblaze in 4 Easy Steps” that will walk you through it!
Q: I have a number of computers at home and I also have a network drive. What does Backblaze cover? Will it back up everything?
A: No, and here are the details. You can have multiple computers backed up on your account, but each computer will require its own subscription ($5/month, $50/year, or $95/2 years). Backblaze can back up all file types and storage is unlimited, so large files from your hard drive are not a problem. It also backs up every time you make a change to a file and your backup will always have the most current version. You can view and restore your backed up files at any time via download, USB flash drive (mailed to you,) or USB hard drive (mailed to you.) Backblaze does not however support the backup of network drives.
Q: Does Backblaze also save earlier versions of my files like Dropbox does?
A: Yes. You can locate earlier versions of files or even files that have since been deleted. To learn how to do this, follow the step-by-step directions in this article from Backblaze.
Q: I live in a fairly remote location, and have a limited Internet data plan. Will Backblaze use a lot of data?
A: Backblaze, as with any Cloud backup service, does require a strong internet connection and could take days or weeks to completely back up your entire computer. This will depend quite a bit on how much data you have on your computer. If you have a limited data plan or slow internet, you could experience delays or what appears to be high data usage while the initial backup is occurring. Here is a link to a helpful page on the Backblaze website called “Bandwidth Speed Test to Backblaze” where you can test your internet speed. Backblaze is designed not to “throttle” or slow down the flow of uploads. It strives to use your full internet bandwidth. However, you do have the option to set it to slow down the backups. The “Bandwidth Speed Test to Backblaze” page provides instructions on how to  throttle your download speed so that it doesn’t use up as much bandwidth.  While this will cause your initial backup to take longer, it can clear help ease  up on the data usage and allow for your other internet activity. You can also pause backups, or set them to start manually or at scheduled intervals. Once your initial backup is complete, the data usage should slow down.
Q: Because Backblaze backs up my computer automatically and instantly, what happens if I get a virus. Will that also be transferred to Backblaze?
“Since Backblaze is…continuously running online backup solution and is not locally connected to your machine, all of your backed up files would be available for restore with minimal or no data loss (depending on the last backup time before the machine was infected).”

A Note From Lisa About Backblaze for Genealogy

Lisa answers your questions“You’ve heard me talk about Backblaze on the podcast, and why it’s my first choice when it comes to backing up my precious genealogy research and personal files. I met their CEO Gleb Budman at Rootstech and after lots of research, I decided that Backblaze was the best cloud backup service out there! Maybe you’re still on the fence about it or maybe you’ve been putting it off, unsure of how complicated it is to set up or if it’s really worth the cost. So I got in touch with our friends over at Backblaze and we’ve set up a special offer for those of you have not yet begun protecting your data.”

As a special bonus, you’ll get the free mini ebook with purchase of “Lisa Louise Cooke’s Top Tech Solutions”!
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Buy it now or sign up for a free trial with the button below:
Buy Backblaze Now

“I Lost My Photos on My Phone!!” Here’s What You Need to Do

Using your mobile device for genealogy is a great idea, but with that convenience takes some additional know-how. Back-up your mobile device images in a few simple steps and you’ll never say, “I lost my photos on my phone!”

Back-up Your Mobile Device Easily

“I lost my photos on my phone!!”

This is NOT what you want to hear from a dear friend who is also a genealogist. So my heart sank when Genealogy Gems Contributor Amie Tennant’s email dropped into my inbox.

Amie wrote:

“I spent 6 hours researching at a cemetery and archives in a far away location. You won’t believe this, but when I got home I realized my smartphone wasn’t working. I had taken all the tombstone images with it, all the document copies were made with it, all my notes were on it. And I hadn’t even had time to back it up.”

That’s the problem, unless you back up as you go, you can’t be sure that just an hour later it won’t all be gone. These days you’re more likely to snap photos of records with your phone than a camera. But with that convenience comes the need for a new game plan to keep those precious images safe.

Back-up Your Mobile Device Images: The Plan

I put together an immediate email to Amie with a restoration and preservation game plan. If, like Amie, you are using your smartphone and mobile devices more and more, you’ll want to put this plan into place too.

First, I advised Amie to visit her phone store (for example, The Apple Store if you have an iPhone) and see if they could retrieve the lost photos and data. You never know unless you ask!

Back-up Your Mobile Device Photos

Image of Amie’s 4th great-grandfather she was able to retrieve.

Next, it’s important to consider automatic back-up options. Automatic back-ups are great, which is why I love BackBlaze. But BackBlaze is back up for your computer. The BackBlaze app on your phone only gives you access to those computer files, and doesn’t back up your phone.

One option is to back-up manually as you go. In other words, as soon as you snap that image of a record, save it to a Cloud storage service such as Google Drive or Dropbox. You could even activate Cloud back-up so that it happens automatically, though with the size of image files, you would likely need a paid subscription service to allow for adequate storage space. However, if you are going to continue to use your phone as a genealogy tool, it may be well worth the investment. Let’s look more closely at these two options:

Free Manual Option: If cost is an issue, you can save your photos to a free Dropbox account at the time you take the photo, and then move to more permanent storage on your computer at a later time.

1. Take the photograph

2. Tap the photo in my iPhone’s Photos app

3. Tap Edit and do a quick edit to clean it up (improve contrast, rotate so that it is right side up, crop to get as close-up as possible)

4. Tap Done to close the editor

5. Tap the Share icon and tap Save to Dropbox

6. Select the folder in Dropbox where I want to save the image and tap Save

However, it would definitely be faster and simpler to have your phone automatically backing up to the Cloud.

Low Cost Automatic Option: If your phone is going to be one of your genealogy tools, then automatic cloud back-up may be worth the low cost of around a dollar a month.

Personally, I am not a fan of iCloud even though I have an iPhone. I just don’t find it very user friendly to work with. Setting up your photos and videos to automatically back up to your Google Photos library via Google Drive is another option. Again, since photos and videos do take up a lot of space you’ll likely need to invest in a low cost monthly storage plan.  Click here to learn more, or Google search Google Drive Plan Cost (or substitue the name of the service you are considering) for current plans.

Bottom line: There are several Cloud services available for our smartphones and mobile devices, so there’s sure to be one that’s right for you. Where ever your images find their final resting place, make sure it has Cloud back-up.

Amie’s Response to the Plan

I quickly sent the plan to Amie. She responded by saying:

“Thank you, Lisa! It was devastating. You were right, a nice man at the phone store was able to restore them! But, I don’t ever want to have this happen again. When I set up my new phone, a Samsung Android, I noticed a setting that said something like “automatic save to Google drive” and it would sync your images. So I clicked it “on” but now I can’t find where I did that! Any ideas?”

Troubleshooting Backing-up Your Mobile Device

When people shoot me a question, my usual response is “Just Google it!” I Googled Automatic backup of android phone and got several great hits on the results list.

One article on Android Fact.com was particularly helpful. (Read the full article here.) Remember, it can get pretty expensive to be instantly uploading images with your cell phone carrier. I suggest clicking Wi-Fi Only to ensure that uploading only takes place when you are connected to Wi-Fi.

I regularly emphasize backing up important documents that live on your computer. But let’s face it: If you have a smartphone, it would be oh, so sad to have to say “I lost my photos on my phone!” So don’t wait—back up your smartphone or mobile device today.

Another Tip for Using Smartphones for Genealogy

mobile genealogy bookHere’s a another mobile computing tip my book Mobile Genealogy: How to Use Your Tablet and Smartphone for Family History Research.

Smartphones and other mobile devices offer a plethora of editing tools. It is well worth the investment of a few extra seconds to clean up and maximize images as you go. This is particularly true of records that need to be clear for future reference or printing.

Try applying a filter to your images for maximum readability. I like the Noir filter in my iPhone’s Photos app editor.

More Gems on Using Mobile Devices for Genealogy

How to Use Your Mobile Device for Genealogy: Free Video!

3 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Mobile Device

How to Download Backblaze in 4 Easy Steps

Download BackblazeDon’t be intimidated by signing up for Backblaze, the cloud-based computer backup service I recommend.
Here’s how to download Backblaze in four easy steps. Protecting genealogy data, family photos, and other files is essential!

I was pretty startled when I discovered that the cloud backup service I used to use wasn’t backing up my video files! That was a deal-breaker for me. So, after reviewing other cloud backup service options, I chose Backblaze. I’m really glad I did. Backblaze runs 24/7 through my internet connection and is constantly saving changes I make to every file. That means if my computer is lost, stolen, destroyed, or hit with deadly viruses, I’ll always have copies of my files and that even includes my large video files!

Genealogy Gems Premium website member Kathy felt a little intimidated about downloading BackBlaze for the first time:

“I received your e-mail yesterday with all the helpful information. I remember you mentioning Backblaze in previous e-mails, and I looked up their website and read the information I could find. However, it did not show the download steps, so I could not tell how difficult it would be and if it would ask me really hard questions that I would not know how to answer during backup, so I didn’t subscribe.

I have had a few external hard drives with backup programs before and they were very difficult and I didn’t want to go through that again. But, I decided that today would be the day, that I would back up my computer…I subscribed to Backblaze. I trust your judgement, so thank you for your advice.”

Have you wondered, like Kathy did, if it would be complicated to set up Backblaze? Has it held you back from taking the leap to protect your files? I want you and our other readers and listeners to feel 100% confident in downloading this awesome back-up service. Here’s how to download Backblaze to your device in four easy steps.

  1. Click here to go to Backblaze and begin your free 15-day trial by clicking on “Try Free Trial.”Download Backblaze
  2. You will be asked to create an account using your email address and choosing a password. Once you have clicked “Start Backing Up,” a pop up window will appear and you can download Backblaze to your device.How to download Backblaze
  3. Next, another pop-up window will ask your permission to install Backblaze to your device. Click “Ok.”
  4. Wait patiently. Yet another pop-up window will appear and ask you to “Install.” Click “Install Now.” It may take several minutes depending on the speed of your internet connection.Download backblaze

You have now installed Backblaze and the back-up process has begun. You can continue to use your device normally as all your data is backing up.

How to Schedule Your Back-up Time

It is quick and easy to set up a time for Backblaze to back-up your data. By clicking on “Settings,” and then “Schedule,” you have the pull-down menu options of a continuous backup (this is the option Backblaze recommends, and the one I chose,) a daily backup, or “when I click <back up now>.” Choose whatever option is best for you and then click “Apply” and “Ok” at the bottom of the window. You are all set!download backblaze

A Crucial Aspect of Your Genealogy Research

So, why did Kathy want cloud backup service? She says:

In 2013, we had a house fire and we lost everything but the clothes on our backs. I lost 30 years of genealogy, all my records and my genealogy library, plus all the ancestral photos that can never be replaced. I did have a back-up system, but it burnt right along with my computer. At first, I thought I would never do genealogy again. I would never be able to replace all that I had lost. It was costly enough to order all the birth, death, and marriage records the first time. There was no way I could do it again. I bought another computer and a copy of Family Tree Maker 2012 and decided that I would just work on some of the families that I was most interested in. I have very limited resources now, but I am enjoying trying to rebuild little bits of my tree. Thank you for all you do for the genealogy community. It is greatly appreciated.

My heart aches for Kathy’s loss. I hear stories like her’s far too often. I truly believe that backing up our precious genealogy data is a crucial (and underutilized) aspect of family history research. I hope her story will help to encourage others to start backing up today. I am so happy that many Gems, like Kathy, are now using Backblaze.

After doing my homework, I was proud to bring Backblaze on as the official backup of The Genealogy Gems Podcast. Please get the word out there to your favorite genies that Backblaze is an effective and cost-efficient way to save us from loss of our most important data. They’ll be thanking you!

More Gems on Backblazecloud storage download backblaze

Why PC World Likes Backblaze for Cloud Backup

Backblaze Security Gets Even Better for Computer Backup

What’s Your Computer Backup Plan? Better Than Mine, I Hope

8 Features Your Cloud Backup Service Should Have

cloud backup serviceCloud backup service for your computer is a must-have, but not every service is the same. Learn 8 essential features yours should have–and the company I love that offers every one of them for just $5 a month.

These days, we create SO many files we couldn’t bear to lose. Genealogy data files. Photos. Videos. Emails (and all those attachments). Unfortunately, computer crashes, thefts and other physical damage are not rare occurrences. And even though external hard drive backups are better than nothing, they are vulnerable to the same loss.

The video below offers a quick introduction to cloud-based computer backup service for your computer. I’ll tell you:

  • WHY I use cloud-based backup for all my own business and personal files,
  • WHAT kind of features I recommend in a backup service and
  • WHO I use to back up my own computers.

And check out the offer in the video for a great cloud backup service PLUS a free video class!

Here’s a quick recap of the questions to ask when considering a cloud backup system:

1. Does it automatically back up ALL your data (including videos)?
2. Does it back up any external drives attached to my computer by USB?
3. Does it have an unlimited file size limit?
4. Has it got an unthrottled or optimized backup speed?
5. Are there flexible backup options?
6. Does it restore files, folders and all data?
7. Does it offer a feature to locate my computer if it’s lost or stolen?
8. Does it allow me to add additional layers of security, such as a pass-phrase?

backblaze online cloud backup for genealogyI use and recommend Backblaze because I can answer YES to all of the above. In addition to all these features, Backblaze has a rock-solid reputation in the industry for being secure and reliable. And it’s SO affordable–only $5 per month–less than the cost of a single fast-food lunch for unbeatable security and peace of mind for ALL your data.

I encourage everyone to do the research themselves and choose the right cloud backup service for themselves. But I hope you’ll click here to check out Backblaze as a serious option.

Why PC World Likes Backblaze for Cloud Backup

backblaze thumbs up cloud backupCloud backup services are “one of the smartest things we can do” for our computer says PC World/MacWorld. Here’s why they just gave Backblaze a shout-out.

This past week, PC World/Mac World ran an article on Backblaze‘s cloud-based computer backup service, which I use and love here at Genealogy Gems. Senior Editor Brad Chacos reminded readers that “when it comes to backing up your precious data, investing in an online backup service is one of the smartest things you can do.”

Cloud-based backup services run 24/7 through your internet connection, constantly saving changes you make to every file. That means if your computer is lost, stolen, destroyed or hit with deadly viruses, you’ll always have copies of your files available to you.

One challenge of cloud-based backup is that we’ve all got more digital stuff these days. “As more and more of our lives goes digital, from movies to photos to game libraries, hard drives are filled more than ever before,” says Chacos. It’s not so easy to download that much material online if you ever need to restore your data. The solution is to ship an entire hard drive to a customer, but that can come at a pretty pricey additional charge ($100 or more). Not fun for a customer who’s already stressed about losing their data.

Backblaze has announced a new solution: its Restore Return Refund Program. “The Restore Return Refund program is for customers who do not need to keep a USB drive after they’ve recovered their lost data,” the site says. “Backblaze offers refunds for returned drives ($99 for USB flash drives, $189 for USB hard drives) within 30 days of receiving the drive, effectively making the process of restoring free! This is a great option if a customer needs to restore a large amount of data, potentially on multiple drives, but does not need to own the USB drives after the recovery.”

The Restore Return Refund Program earns a thumbs-up from Chacos. “Giving customers access to physical backups for the cost of shipping alone removes a huge potential burden from the shoulders of Backblaze subscribers.” He points out that other leading cloud-based computer backup services either won’t ship hard drives at all or continue to charge large fees for it. The Next Web and Verge also gave Backblaze‘s new program (and Backblaze itself) high marks this week.

This new program is just one more reason I’m glad I choose Backblaze to take care of the ENORMOUS amounts of video, audio and other data I create here at Genealogy Gems. It just makes sense. At just $4.99 a month, Backblaze is so affordable–and the service it provides is so crucial–that I can’t see backing up my computers any other way. They’re a sponsor of my free Genealogy Gems podcast because I’ve checked them out thoroughly and–just as thoroughly–I recommend them.

More Gems on Cloud Backup Services

cloud storage computer backup plan backblazeOnline Trees Aren’t Secure: How I Keep My Master Family Tree Safe

“I Was Robbed!” They Took the Computer AND the Backup Drive: Another Argument for Cloud Backup

New Security Measure Improves on Backblaze’s Already Excellent Service

Family Tree Maker Alternatives: Great Offers, and What I Do With My Tree

FTMaker options transplant tree family tree maker alternativesAre you a Family Tree Maker user looking for place to transplant your master family tree? Here are some great offers and my personal strategy.

With the imminent demise of Family Tree Maker software, many users find themselves preparing to transplant their trees elsewhere. But many are still trying to decide upon the ideal spot. RootsMagic and MyHeritage.com have both responded with attractive Family Tree Maker alternatives. Both companies are sponsors of the free Genealogy Gems podcast and both offer excellent products. It just depends on what works best for you. While you’re doing your homework, consider these offers:

RootsMagic Family History Software: Discount on Software, with Special Add-Ons and Training

RootsMagic 7 family tree maker alternatives“If you’re a Family Tree Maker user, we understand that change isn’t easy,” states a recent RootsMagic press release. “But with a little of your time and a little help from us, you’ll be just as comfortable with RootsMagic as you were with Family Tree Maker.”

“For a limited time, we are offering Family Tree Maker users the full-version of RootsMagic for the amazing low price of only $20We will also include the printed book, “Getting the Most out of RootsMagic” absolutely free (a $14.95 value).  To make the transition as painless as possible, we’ve set-up a special website at www.FTMUpgrade.com that includes training videos, testimonials, and more. You must visit www.FTMUpgrade.com to receive the discount.”

I am a RootsMagic user myself, as I’ve stated in the past (click here to read why). I particularly love the wide range of support for learning to use RootsMagic. RootsMagic  offers a recently-updated Mac version of its software, too. If you’re still not sure, you could try RootsMagic Essentials first for free, then easily upgrade in the future.

MyHeritage.com Family History Website: Free Unlimited Tree Hosting

myheritage logo new family tree maker alternatives“At MyHeritage, we believe there is still a place in the world for genealogy software,” says an email I received from MyHeritage’s Chief Genealogical Officer, Daniel Horowitz. “There is value in the ability to work offline, and enjoy more powerful functionality that many websites cannot offer. We also believe that people should be able to discover and preserve their family history on whatever platform they are comfortable with. That’s why we are constantly innovating new technologies and enhancing our website, mobile apps and our Family Tree Builder genealogy software.

We are delighted to offer FTM users who move to MyHeritage, and who choose to sync their family tree with their MyHeritage family site, unlimited tree size capacity on their online family site, which is normally limited to 250 individuals on a free account.”

MyHeritage.com started as a family tree and family networking website, so its roots for tree-hosting are deep. The site hosts the most geographically diverse trees in the world, which is a great reason for anyone searching for international relatives to have a family tree there. Their Family Tree Builder software is free, so there is no financial risk for downloading and using it. Having a tree on the site that syncs to your home tree will provide you with a degree of convenient, free security: your tree will be backed up in two physical locations at all times (one on the software on your computer and one on the site).

backblaze online cloud backup for genealogyFor me, the bottom line continues to be control over my master family tree–and all the other files on my computer. So for me, the answer is to

1) Use RootsMagic as my master database on my desktop computer and download the app to my mobile devices;

2) Upload sections of my trees periodically to genealogy websites as I’m researching those lines in order to generate new leads and connections. (Doing this on MyHeritage led to my first ever connection with a distant German cousin!);

3) Use a cloud-based computer backup system that automatically backs up my entire computer (including RootsMagic files) on an ongoing basis. This protects me from losing files due to theft, disaster at my home, computer crashes, and anything else that threatens my data. I use Backblaze as the official backup service for Genealogy Gems, and I love it. It’s super easy, reliable and affordable (about $5 a month!). Click here to read more posts on cloud-based computer backup services.

More Gems About Caring for Your Family Tree

Online tree out of controlDon’t Lose Control When You Post Your Family Tree Online

Best Genealogy Software: Which Should You Choose and Why

How to Approach an Error on Someone Else’s Tree

 

What Ancestry’s Retirement of Family Tree Maker Software Means for You

I think this is a long post, but this is an extremely important topic. I hope you will invest the time to read it through to the end.

Family Tree Maker Discontinued

I travel the world presenting sessions on a wide range of genealogy topics. One of the presentations that is most near and dear to my heart is called  Future Technology and Genealogy – 5 Strategies You Need. In it I not only outline 5 strategies that genealogists can use to cope and thrive in an ever-changing technological world, but I share 3 major areas that I believe genealogists should be aware of as we move into the future. One of those is the desktop moving to the Cloud.

Certainly Adobe and Microsoft have already moved that direction by discontinuing physical software sales and moving to a Cloud based subscription service. But the desktop moving to the Cloud has been a more subtle transition in the genealogy space. Today, however, our industry was hit between the eyes with this new reality.

retirement pocket watchAncestry has announced the “retirement” of one of the cornerstone products in genealogy, the Family Tree Maker desktop software. 

I couldn’t help but think that Ancestry was striving to paint a picture of Family Tree Maker as Charles Coburn (in black and white of course) in his classic double-breasted suit, gold watch in hand, walking off into the sunset in a Jean Arthur movie. Perhaps it would be more accurate to visualize him being pushed out. Let’s start with the announcment that Ancestry released on their blog late Tuesday December 8, 2015, and then we’ll probe deeper:

Ancestry to Retire Family Tree Maker Software
By Kendall Hulet

Ancestry is proud to have made a significant investment this year to bring valuable new content and records to the Ancestry site. In 2015, we’ve made 220 million searchable historical records from Mexico available, more than 170 million pages from the largest collection of U.S. will and probate records, among others. We’ve also introduced new features such as Ancestry Academy and major advancements for AncestryDNA.

We remain dedicated to helping people gain new levels of understanding about their lives, and who and what led to them, harnessing the information found in family trees, historical records and genetics. As a company, we’re also continually evaluating ways to focus our efforts to provide the most impact and best product experience for our users through our core offerings.

True to this focus, we’ve taken a hard look at the declining desktop software market and the impact this has on being able to continue to provide product enhancements and support that our users need. With that, we’ve made the tough decision to stop selling Family Tree Maker as of December 31, 2015.

Our subscription business and website, on the other hand, continue to grow and we are doubling down our efforts to make that experience even better for our Ancestry community.

Ancestry will continue to support current owners of Family Tree Maker through January 1, 2017. During this time, all features of the software, including TreeSync™, will continue to work, and Member Services will be available to assist with user questions. We will also address major software bugs that may occur, as well as compatibility updates.

These changes are never easy, but by focusing our efforts, we can concentrate on continuing to build great products for our loyal Ancestry community.

If you have inquiries regarding Family Tree Maker, please reach out to our Member Services team. We’ll also provide updates on our blog as needed leading up to January 1, 2017.”

What this Means for Genealogists

In reality, I would wager to guess that this move is a cold, calculated business strategy, not a warm and sentimental retirement. And that’s OK. Business is good. If Ancestry didn’t do well in business, we wouldn’t have such easy and convenient access to all those records.

Discontinuing Family Tree Maker is a strategic move. The goal is it to get everyone from family history “dabblers” to seasoned genealogists to enter their family tree data directly onto a family tree housed on the Ancestry website. This puts them in the drivers seat.

It is keenly important to understand what is really happening so that you can make the wisest decisions possible for the life of your genealogical research. Our family trees are not Ancestry’s responsibility, or anyone elses for that matter. They are our responsibilities, and we need to be as calculated and ruthless in protecting them as any savvy CEO.

We must understand that it is more profitable for Ancestry to quit producing software CDs, and all that packaging to put the CDs in. It’s more profitable to stop employing and paying employees to ship all those CDs. Digital content is more profitable and easier for a company to control. But is that the whole story?

Absolutely not. Information is King, and it is valuable. Your genealogical information is financially valuable to genealogy companies. (Read Ancestry’s Terms of Service to refresh yourself on what they can do with your information.) Think AncestryDNA is only about your ancestry? You must understand that it is not. Aggregated data is sold in the marketplace to other companies. (Read this article at Wired.com about one partnership Ancestry has with the Google-owned biotech company Calico.)

Not to say it is not a worthwhile effort on your part to get your DNA tested – it certainly may be. But that DNA data has dollar signs written all over it. It is valuable. But today isn’t about DNA, so let’s get back to Family Tree Maker and your tree. How do you, the genealogist, retain control in this environment? Take on a “genealogist-protected approach” to your data.

The Genealogist-Protected Approach

Step 1: Purchase a new genealogy software database program and load it on your computer. I recommend and use RootstMagic software. RootsMagic is excellent, reliable and extremely well supported. Click here to read how they are ready to help you in our transition.

Step 2: Back up your entire computer with a Cloud-based backup service. This is critical to protecting and retaining control of your data. I recommend and use Backblaze. (Here’s an article I wrote that will give you a compelling reason not to skip this step.)

Full disclosure: RootsMagic and Backblaze are sponsors  of the free Genealogy Gems Podcast. This is primarily because I use the products myself and have been impressed and satisfied with their products. Regardless of which products you choose, just be sure you put the Genealogist-Protected Approach into action.

I have stated numerous times in presentations, on the podcast, and here on the blog that I view family trees on Ancestry and other websites as “cousin bait” not primary family tree storage. Rather than upload my entire tree, I upload that for which I want to generate “genealogical leads.” My master tree and master database file is on my computer in RootsMagic, backed up by Backblaze.

You might be one of the many genealogists who has thoroughly enjoyed having your entire tree on Ancestry, and wonder now how you can get a software program that fully synchronizes with Ancestry. To address this issue, first go back and read the section above under “What this means for genealogists.” Remember, data is BIG business. The truth is that it is not financially beneficial to Ancestry to allow that to happen. They want to be where you house your master family tree. I don’t blame them. But, in my opinion, that’s not in my family tree’s best interest. Therefore, I follow the steps outlined above, and upload a gedcom of what I want circulating publicly in order to generate “leads”: hints and cousin connections.

whining genealogist protected approach paperI believe it is generally going to get harder and harder to retain control over our privacy and our data. We don’t know what the future holds for computer software. But no matter what happens, we as genealogists will still be 100% responsible for what happens to our family trees and our data. There’s no whining in papergenealogy. And last I heard they still produce paper and pencils.

 

“I Was Robbed!” They Took the Computer AND the Backup Drive (Why You Need Cloud Backup)

cloud storage computer backup plan backblazeA Genealogy Gems listener was robbed of both her computer AND external hard drive. “Thank goodness we had a web-based backup, so we did not lose our precious research or photographs.” Here’s what web-based backup is–and how you can save a whopping 50% on Backblaze backup service THIS coming Monday only).

Recently Kathy from Carmel Valley, California wrote in with a sobering message.

“Lisa, I thought you  might share a reminder with your listeners. My husband and I were out of town last week and were robbed. The robbers took only electronics (thank goodness) and did not mess up the house….another thing to be thankful for. But your listeners can not rely on external hard drives as backup. If the external hard drive is by the computer….the robbers will take that as well.

“Thank goodness we had a web-based backup. So we did not lose our precious research or photographs. It could have been so much worse. This is just another reason why your listeners should look at BackBlaze or another company that provides the same service.  I am grateful that I did.  Yes, we have to purchase new computer equipment….BUT we have our research and our photos.  Gratitude, gratitude.”

backblaze online cloud backup for genealogyWeb-based computer backup–also referred to as cloud backup–can certainly minimize our losses if we experience a disaster or robbery. My cloud backup service is Backblaze. Backblaze works behind-the-scenes 24/7 to save a copy of every file on my computer to its secure cloud storage. If I ever need it, I can log in to Backblaze and there it will be, waiting for me.

THIS coming Cyber Monday–November 30, 2015–you can purchase Backblaze cloud backup service for 50% off ONLY through Genealogy Gems. Sign up for my email newsletter now and I’ll send you a coupon code and special instructions for redeeming it on Sunday evening. This fantastic Cyber Monday offer is only valid on Monday, November 30, 2015 and only with the coupon code and instructions you’ll get via my email!

backblaze sale cyber mondaayWhy I Use Backblaze and More About the Cyber Monday Special

 

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How Cloud Backup Helped One Genealogy Gem Get Closer to Living a Paper-free Life