Saturday, February 4, 2012

RootsTech is over...

Went to the final sessions today. Interestingly, they didn't have a closing session. Most big conferences I've attended have had them.

I went to two sessions today--One about using the Library of Congress (LOC) website and the second one about using Fold3.

The LOC one was good. At least I'll have a better chance of navigating the site in the future.

The one on Fold3 was better. They've added so much to Fold3...I didn't realize how it had evolved. I think this is the one I'm more likely to use. Not that I'd turn down info from the LOC but it looks like I can do so much more with Fold3.

In going through the exhibition hall, I found there seems to be a new movement afoot to put every body's work in a cloud (upload it to a server somewhere in a server farm). Lots of commercial software has been moving in this direction. You access the program in the cloud, you work in the cloud, and you store in the cloud. I know the cloud. I trust the cloud. A cloud can be a good place (think Katrina in New Orleans). However, the business model concerns me.

When I buy a software package that I install on my laptop, it's mine. I can put info in it and port it out to anyplace or anyone whenever I want. When you add the info to one of the cloud programs, what do you have in hand and how much control do you have on how the info is used? I'm not saying that any info would be misused. The "cloud people" constantly tell you that you own the information. They just store it for you and provide the program. I kept asking myself the question, "So, why do they keep trying to reassure me?"

When you set up one of these things up, some let you import from your current software while others require that you re-enter all of your information (ugh!). I've got about 1,800 people in one database alone.

The pricing also concerns me. I can go with a version of software I own for $x.xx and I own it. I don't have to pay storage fees, access fees, nothing. When a new version comes out, I can plunk down more cash or not. When your info is in a cloud and you can't or don't want to pay the annual fee anymore, what happens? Do you just walk away from your work? Does the cloud keep it?

From my point of view, it's handing over too much control to another party who will be able to control the price. It's low now but what will it be five years from now?

If I need cloud storage (and I do because I live in Florida), I have lots of other options some of which are free. Yes they require a bit more work; for example, you might have to move copies of files into special folders that get backed up to the cloud. But that's minor when you look five years down the road at how these genealogy-related cloud businesses might be operating. Again, I don't mean to cast stones; however, I do think a "buyer beware" is in order.

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