Cloud storage and backup is becoming very popular with genealogists these days. If you're still a little unsure what cloud storage is all about, it is essentially off-site storage capacity accessed through the internet, and purchased on an as-needed basis. Think of it as a shared, off-site hard drive that you can use to store or backup just about any data you want, limited only by your budget. Most cloud websites make it easy to share your files with others that you designate. If your computer dies, or you inadvertently delete or lose a file, you can easily restore the data from your cloud storage. If you want to learn a little more about why genealogists should consider backing up data to the cloud, then check out D. Joshua Taylor's online presentation from RootsTech 2012, titled Do I Trust the Cloud? In general, cloud storage is an excellent addition to a traditional genealogy backup plan.
Cloud storage offers several advantages for genealogists looking for easy-to-use backup solutions. You get off-site backup that will still preserve your data if your house is robbed, or burns to the ground, or a lightning strike manages to fry both your computer and the external hard drive you accidentally left plugged into it. Cloud storage also lets you access your files from different computers or even from smartphones and tablets, and easily share files with other people. Cloud backup also happens automatically in the background if you have things set up right, which means your important backups are always current.
Cloud storage also brings with it some risks, however. With offsite storage you run the risk of losing access to your account, or having your data accidentally deleted, or even permanently removed by the service provider because you haven't paid your bills. Cloud storage can also mirror the mistakes you make on your own computer--if you accidentally delete a file on your Mac or PC and don't catch the mistake quickly, the file may be deleted from your cloud-based backup as well. Many cloud storage providers offer a version-history that lets you avoid these mistakes, but some may charge extra for that option. If that's not enough, there's also the chance that your web-based storage provider may go bust.
All of that said, I personally use both Dropbox and Google Drive as cloud-based storage and sharing solutions for my every-day working files, including my genealogy software program files, documents, images, etc. If you're considering this option, or are unhappy with your current solution, then Elise Moreau's offers a good overview of the five most popular cloud storage options in 5 of the Best Free Cloud Storage Providers and Their Features.
While cloud storage solutions such as Dropbox, Microsoft SkyDrive and Box.com can operate as a basic backup solution, their primary purpose is easy file sharing and syncing between multiple devices. I use them mostly for the files I use on a regular basis, or to share files with family, colleagues, or clients. In addition to these accounts, I'm also looking into a true online backup solution -- one that runs in the background and backs up any files and folders that I designate on a regular basis. I have a Mac so Time Machine makes backups to a networked drive very simple, but I would like the extra level of backup protection that real-time, off-site backup provides. Many genealogists I know use solutions such as Mozy or Carbonite for this, but there are many other interesting solutions as well, such as CrashPlan+, Backblaze, and more. Just to give you an idea of what's available, Tim Fisher reviews 27 Online Backup Services and Melanie Pinola shares the pros and cons of the Best Unlimited Online Backup Services. You can also find any number of genealogists blogging about their favorite cloud backup solutions, such as Susan Farrell Bankhead, CG, in The Cloud with Silver Linings. Dick Eastman also regularly writes about cloud backup and storage for genealogists, although most of the in-depth articles are only available with a Plus subscription.