Genealogy Backups on the Cheap

How are you backing up your genealogy data if you are on a tight budget?  Having allhard_drive your storage in your house or apartment is just asking for trouble.  It needs to be backed up on external sites and at a trusted friend or family members house.

Resource Hogs

Photos are the storage resource hog in any genealogists collection.  Each new generation seems to come with higher resolution capabilities and in general, folks forget to set the resolution lower than the often default 10 – 14MB image resolution.

It doesn’t take many hi-res photos to add up to a lot of gigabytes of photo images.  Even at lower resolution settings, the easy of photo taking today at low to no cost results in storage bloat.

Add scanned images and documents to the mix and the storage requirement grows almost with a life of its own.

Genealogy program Data

My databases aren’t inordinately large at 250,000 names or so per database but each of them adds up to over 1GB in size.    I have 35 databases and even with that number, the total file sizes are slightly less than 35GB or the equivalent of 2000 or 3000 hi-res photos.

Our genealogy data isn’t necessarily the storage hog.  It’s our genealogy photos and scanned images. A 1GB database takes about the same amount of storage space as 71 images of 14MB or so in size. It isn’t a large count if you have documented the life of your ancestors in photos and document images.

Which of them would I cult loose if forced into that miserable situation?  The photos!  The data has taken tens of thousands of hours to research and compile.  I probably won’t live long enough to invest that amount of time into recreating the databases if they were lost.  

Loosing the photos and image would be like getting shot in the gut, but I’d survive with a permanent hole in my heart.

Offsite Image Storage Solutions

Flickr.  Thanks to the new 1TB of free storage on Flickr, all of us should have an account there that contains a copy of our genealogy images.  Yes, it’s free and yes, they could take it away with a simple policy change, but they haven’t so far and we might as well use it while the offer is in place. 

Flickr allows users to set viewing options from private to public and includes the ability to tag images by topic and lat / long addresses.  You can easily move your images into ‘Sets’ or folders.   

The Flickr Uploader tool is super easy to use and adds the topic tagging and Set grouping you designate.

If you upload images that you want to share with the world be sure to include specific licensing instructions and designations for them.  Most folks use Creative Commons Licensing or even Public Domain designations if they make their work available for use by others.

Be sure to mark your images, sets and even the whole account with the licensing you want to protect your images.

Other Free Storage Sites.

The other most popular free storage sites are

  •, with its 5GB free storage.
  • Dropbox, with its variable free storage limits bases on how many invites you extend and a variety of other possibilities.
  • SkyDrive, with its 7 BG of free storage
  • Google Drive, with its total of 15GB free storage (all your Google tools combined like mail, docs, photos, etc.)
  • SugarSync with its 5GB free storage,  and my favorite,
  • Tresorit with its 5GB of free client-side encrypted data

Watch for new account or free upgrade options for all of these sites except for Google and SkyDrive.  ‘Deals’ are announced with some frequency but are very short lived so jump on them if you see them.

Encrypt your genealogy data on your computer using TrueCrypt before you upload it to any of the free sites.  There is no reason to make your data available to then or any hacker of any of your accounts unless you don’t care about the privacy of your data.  Remember your database contains information about living people.

While you are thinking about security, DON”T upload birth, marriage and other certificates and documents for living persons to any offsite storage site unless you encrypt it will TrueCrypt first.   That means you won’t be able to upload those images to Flickr because it cant’ read and mange files that don’t use the typical graphics / photos file types.

Remember This Is A Budget Storage Discussion

Yes, you should also have a paid off-site storage account with folks like Carbonite, Mozy, etc., but this discussion is for genealogists on a really tight budget.  

If you sign up for an account one each of the above sites, drop a copy of your files on each of them.  That spreads the risk of loss due to site closure or other factors.

If I only need 35GB for all of my data storage, most of you should have plenty of room on the free accounts for your data storage, unless you have 1,000,000 or more names in your database.

I haven’t found any other free photo storage sites that exceed Flickr although a new Chinese startup is advertising a maximum of 15TB of free storage.  You’ll have to decide if that is where you want your images stored.

Think though your options.  Spread your risk and then actually make regular backups of your data and images.  It is nice to have a baseline backup but don’t’ loose your incremental changes because you neglect to updates your backups regularly.

Copyright (c) Lee Drew 2013-09-05 07:00:00
The URL for this post is:

About lineagekeeper

Family history research is a favored avenue of relaxation. It is a Sherlock-like activity that can continue almost anywhere at any time. By leveraging a lifetime involvement in technology, my research efforts have resulted in terabytes of ancestral data, earning me the moniker of Lineagekeeper. And yes - We are all related to Royalty.