Best place to store media

What is the best place to store media files? on my computer or on the cloud?

Probably both. Active copy local and backups both local and in the cloud.

Consider what would happen if you are unfortunate to have a house fire or something that destroys your computer and maybe any local backups. Also consider if your cloud backup “disappears” for whatever reason. Many of us have put a lot of time and effort into our genealogy data and definitely don’t want to lose it.

Firstly, you probably don’t want to be posting your information quite so publicly. You never know what scoundrels are gathering it up to add to all kinds of spam lists.

Secondly, I am a fan of storing both locally and in the cloud. It rather amuses me how people roll out the tired old crap about you never know when the cloud provider will disappear. Cloud providers such as Google Drive and Dropbox have been around than many people have been online. Both of them provider and app to install on your computer which will sync to the cloud. So there is a copy both locally and in the cloud. If Google disappeared tomorrow, your local copy still exists. If your computer dies today, your cloud copy still exists.

My media folder lives in the Google folder on my PC. I believe by default this folder is named My Drive. Inside this folder, I have a folder named My Genealogy in which I have a series of folders labelled as to what type of records they contain and each of those folders have subfolders for each letter of the alphabet where I file the various media items by name. so what this would look like for a 1950 Census record for my grandparents:

C:\Users\kmfunk\My Drive\My Genealogy_Census\1950Federal\F\Funk_Richard-and-Lois-1950FedCensus-WapelloCoIA

I link that file to the appropriate item(s) in Rootsmagic, which thinks it is in a local folder, which it is, and creates the link. All the while, each item I add to my hierarchy of media folders gets synched to the cloud version of Google. I do periodically back the entire My Genealogy folder up to an external drive which I swap out with an identical drive that I keep at my sisters house. I also have a backup service, iDrive, where my files backup to at 2am every night.


In a certain sense, there is no such thing as “in the cloud”. All the cloud services I’m aware of (and there are several) operate by having a special folder on your local disk and then they make a copy of that special folder and all its files in the cloud. When you are using a file, you are never using the copy that’s in the cloud. Rather, you are using the copy that’s on your local disk.

That being said, most of the services also offer a feature where the copy of a file on your local disk is only there when you are using it and when you are not using the file it’s only in the cloud. That may be what you are talking about when it comes to keeping your files “only in the cloud”. I’m a sample size of one, but I think that’s an awful feature that nobody should ever use. I think everybody should keep all their files on their local disk at all times while also having a second copy being maintained automatically in the cloud.

Strictly speaking, the “in the cloud” services are intended primarily as sharing services and not as backup services. For example, I have two computers and I use both OneDrive and Dropbox to be sure that all my files are on both computers. But as a practical matter, the sharing services automatically are a sort of offsite backup. If my house burns down and both of my computers with it, then I can recover all my files from the OneDrive and Dropbox clouds. These are not my only backup mechanisms, but they do serve that function even though their primary purpose is file sharing.

Dropbox defaults to keeping your files both places. OneDrive does not. Therefore I recommend that any OneDrive user change the option so that it keeps the files both places. I’m not a Google Drive user nor an I-Drive user, so I do not know what their respective defaults are.

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I use Carbonite which doesn’t require a special local folder. You just flag what you want copied up into the cloud.

Carbonite is intended as a backup service and not a sharing service. But I only use it for a backup, and it has saved me a few times.

Another consideration, in addition to what others have said about using both local and cloud services, is that any connected service is susceptible to malware, in particular, to ransomeware. Cloud services or any service that automatically synchs your files are susceptible because ransomeware will encrypt every file that it has write access to. So in addition to storing media on your computer and using a cloud service for location diversity, it’s prudent to periodically back up all of your important files in some normally disconnected media.


True cloud backup services like iDrive and Backblaze do not use a local special folder on your computer and all files are both on your computer (local) and on servers elsewhere. Sharing cloud services do use a special folder with a focus on sharing files not backup.

Yes, I use Carbonite in addition to OneDrive and DropBox. Plus I have removable backup disks that I rotate to my daughter’s house. And I make sure that the removable disks are not always connected to my computers. A ransomware attack is likely to encrypt files anywhere it can find them. The only way to be 100% sure it can’t find files is to have them on a removable device that actually stays removed except during the backup process.

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A good point although I am not sure how exposed a real backup service like iDrive is to ransomware attacks on your computer. I have one time machine drive always connected (at risk) and a 2nd drive only connected briefly every 10 days along with rotating flash drives with the latest stored “offsite” in my car. Fire, flood, thief or power surge would get both drives and computer but cloud and car copies should be safe.

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