Unlike other Cloud Storage and Photo Sharing Sites, Forever Embraces Permanence

Forever is a gold-sponsor of the upcoming RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City 3-6 February 2016. Founder and CEO Glen Meakem shares his thoughts on the concept of "permanence" when it comes to selecting a cloud storage or photo sharing site for your genealogy and family history data

[Editor’s Note: Forever is a gold-sponsor of the upcoming RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City 3-6 February 2016. Founder and CEO Glen Meakem shares his thoughts on the concept of “permanence” when it comes to selecting a cloud storage or photo sharing site for your genealogy and family history data.]

This coming week, my team and I will travel to Salt Lake City, Utah to participate in RootsTech, 2016, the largest family history conference in the world.  Forever is also the Gold Sponsor of the event.  We will gather with a community of genealogists, family historians, moms, and others who embrace the mission of “celebrating families across generations.”

Like many fellow baby boomers, my wife, Diane, and I have accumulated a treasure trove of valuable family memories that feature the stories of our grandparents, our parents, and our five wonderful children.  I believe that saving, and sharing these important memories with family, friends, and future generations is really important.  So, in the spring of 2012, I set out to find a comprehensive set of memory-keeping tools and services that would allow me to protect my family stories, and make sure they were accessible in the cloud for many, many years to come.

What I discovered was shocking!  The well-known cloud storage and photo sharing sites that so many people rely on to save their precious content have no long-term plan for protecting memories.

That’s why I started Forever, which is the only guaranteed online media storage and sharing service.  My team and I are bringing to market a complete memory-keeping solution to help genealogists and family historians collect, curate, and celebrate their memories now and for generations.  No one else is focused on permanence.  No one else has a perpetual plan for your memories.  No one else is doing what we do.

Comparing Amazon Cloud Drive with Forever

Take Amazon Cloud Drive for instance. Amazon offers unlimited photo cloud storage as a benefit for its Amazon Prime Members, or as a stand-alone product for $11.99 a year.  Amazon also provides Unlimited Everything storage for all your digital content for $59.99 a year.  So, for an ongoing subscription payment, Amazon will temporarily back up your precious content in the cloud.  But what happens if you stop paying for Amazon’s service?  What if you get sick and miss a payment?  What happens to your photos and memories when you pass away?  According to Amazon’s “Terms of Use,” your content will be deleted.

“If you no longer have a Service Plan or exceed your Service Plan’s storage limit, including by downgrading or not renewing your Service Plan or no longer qualifying for an Additional Benefit, we may delete or restrict access to Your Files.”

How long does Amazon give you to get “Your Files” before deleting them?  According to Amazon’s “Help & Customer Service” page, “After 90 days, your Cloud Drive account will be deactivated and your content will be permanently deleted.”

Got that?  The only thing permanent about Amazon Cloud Drive is the permanent deletion of your content once you stop paying for the service.

It’s exactly the opposite with Forever.  We are driven by the belief that family stories should never be lost, and provide a fundamentally different experience.  GeneaBloggers Founder, Thomass MacEntee, reported earlier this week that in our Terms of Service, we provide a patent-pending contractual guarantee to each and every permanent member to preserve their precious content for their lifetime plus 100 years.

Forever guarantees that Content will be preserved and accessible (using then current formats and supported devices based on FOREVER’s best judgment and assessment of future technology) in your Forever Guaranteed Permanent Account for the lifetime of the Guaranteed Member and 100 years thereafter (‘Guarantee Period’).

How do we credibly support our patent-pending Forever Guarantee?  With the Forever Guarantee Fund, which is a permanent investment fund that generates ongoing returns used to preserve Guaranteed Permanent Accounts and to fund Forever’s overall business.  These funds are fully restricted, which means we can only withdraw a very small amount from the Fund each year, and the money withdrawn must be used to continue the preservation of your Guaranteed Storage.  In this way, Forever is able to ensure long-term preservation, and eliminate risks associated with other cloud storage businesses.

While we offer many important products and services for memory keeping, Guaranteed Permanent Shareable Storage is the core of our business.  It gives our customers peace of mind and a tremendous feeling of security knowing that their memories are being saved for their lifetimes plus one hundred years, with a goal of many generations beyond.

The fact is, Amazon Cloud Drive may be a useful temporary back up for your content, but it is NOT a photo preservation site.  It is not a service that protects life stories and passes them on to future generations.  That’s simply not the service that Amazon offers.  In fact, Amazon rejects permanence.

If you want a temporary place to back up your documents, then Amazon may work for you.  But if you are like me, and want long-term photo and document protection, then come home to Forever.

I’ll be writing more in the very near future on long-term photo preservation and problems with other popular photo-sharing sites in what will be a multi-part blog series published at the Forever blog.  Until then, come see me and Forever’s booth (#415) at RootsTech, 2016.  I can’t wait to meet you.

How Will You Be Remembered? Forever.com has the Answer

Genealogy educator and author Thomas MacEntee discovers that Forever.com is the best place to store family stories, memories and special moments.

The author, Thomas MacEntee, age 3 months being held by his mother, Jacqueline Austin MacEntee.

Going to RootsTech next week? Visit Forever.com at booth 415 in the Expo Hall and find out how you can preserve your family’s memories forever.

Do you have a favorite aunt or uncle that you remember from your childhood? Is it the sound of their voice, the way they laughed or told a joke, or perhaps how they dressed that recall most? Can you put your finger on what makes their influence in your life memorable?

What about your own chance to be remembered? Besides the “what” that will be remembered about you by friends and family, have you considered the challenge of “how” you will be remembered?

Documenting Our Own Legacies

As a genealogist and family historian, I often observe this situation: we have mad skills when it comes to documenting the lives of our parents, grandparents and other ancestors. However, we often get so wrapped up in “the hunt” that we do not dedicate time to preserving our own memories and important aspects of our lives.

So do we just leave that for our descendants to do? With the current concern about privacy and information, what will be available to those researching our lives? So if you aren’t going to take the reins and control what is remembered about you, be prepared to have your life story written by someone else.

Social Media, Smart Phones and The Baby Boomer

And can we talk about the abundance of tools available for preserving our own memories? As a Baby Boomer, I grew up with what I thought was great technology, but I’m blown away by everything that is now available at my fingertips. Here is my typical week in terms of social media and smart phone usage when it comes to documenting my life:

  • Lots of time spent on Facebook discussing growing up in New York during the 1960s and 1970s. I love nostalgia (like most Baby Boomers) and just the other day my friends and I discussed television shows like Batman, Laugh-In and The Sonny and Cher show!
  • I take tons of photos and not just at family events! If I’m attending a genealogy conference, I document my work life. I even take photos of torture devices (aka the elliptical trainer) at my gym as I struggle to stay in shape. My iPhone is always filled with photos that I’m offloading to a cloud site or my computer.
  • Pinterest is an obsession as well (my family says I need a “Pintervention”) since it is fun to gather similar items and post them to my boards. I’ve created ancestor timelines on Pinterest and also boards filled with old family photos. Plus, I often get inspiration from other pins on Pinterest!

All this content producing and gathering and guess what? It is all over the place! Sort of like “virtual clutter.” If anyone asked me to find a specific photo or a message I’ve posted, I wouldn’t know where to start . . .

Beware the Digital Dark Ages

Besides locating your “memory markers” as I call them, is the issue of “data loss” on your radar as the Chief Memory Officer for your family? What happens if a website you are using to store items such as photos, videos and more just shuts down? It happens more often than you think!

As a tech expert in the genealogy field, I always urge users to embrace these important practices when it comes to uploading and using personal content:

  • Always read the Terms of Service: Ideally you would do this before you create a login, but definitely before you upload any data. The “TOS” will govern not just what the site can do with your data, but also what you can do with your own uploaded data.
  • Have a Data Exit Strategy: Remember when MyCanvas or MyFamily by Ancestry.com shut down? Many users scrambled to offload their data before the announced shut down date . . . only to find out that the export function didn’t include one data type or another. ALWAYS do a dry run by exporting all your data and look at the end result. Can you use it? What format is used for the export?
  • Futureproof Your Technology: Don’t fall behind on updates and migrating to new data types. All it takes is for a few sites to stop supporting a file format and then POOF! . . . you are at the mercy of third-party vendors who will charge a pretty penny to convert your data.

Why Forever.com Works for Me

Forever.com offers one home for all my memories, my stories and special moments. The process is easy and I can make sure that everything that’s important to me gets stored safely and securely.

One crucial part of my current formula for memory preservation is missing: I’m not ensuring that all these items are safe and secure in one convenient place and forever. Not just for me to access, but to share with my family and to make certain that these memory items “live on” after me. That’s where Forever.com comes to the rescue!

I recently discovered Forever.com which offers one home for all my memories, my stories and special moments. The process is easy and I can make sure that everything that’s important to me gets stored safely and securely.

And remember what I said about “forever” and how some cloud storage sites just disappear? Forever.com is the only site I’ve found that is committed to “permanence” which means forever. Period. Here is what I mean, with a quote taken from the Forever.com website:

Forever has the patent pending Forever Guarantee, a contractual commitment to each and every permanent Forever Storage customer that we will preserve their content for their lifetime plus 100 years, with a goal of many generations beyond.

What a great idea! It is right there in the Terms of Service for Forever.com:

“4.1 FOREVER Guarantee. Forever guarantees that Content will be preserved and accessible (using then current formats and supported devices based on FOREVER’s best judgment and assessment of future technology) in your FOREVER Guaranteed Permanent Account for the lifetime of the Guaranteed Member and 100 years thereafter (‘Guaranteed Period’).”

Forever.com has set up an “investment plan” whereby a portion of your purchase price is set aside to ensure that your content on Forever.com is protected for generations. This “FOREVER Guarantee Fund” is separate from the day-to-day operating activities of Forever.com

In my popular lecture and book After You’re Gone: Future Proofing Your Genealogy Research, I discuss working with an estate planning advisor to make sure that your genealogy research, photos, documents and more are adequately protected and distributed according to your wishes. Guess what? Forever.com has that covered in its Terms of Service:

“4.3 Preservation and Control of Guaranteed Permanent Accounts

FOREVER enables you to determine how your Guaranteed Permanent Account and Content is preserved and managed after your death.

You may designate a sequence of people to act as Account Managers for your Guaranteed Permanent Account.  You grant an Account Manager full or partial control over your Guaranteed Permanent Account and Content.

FOREVER will preserve your Guaranteed Permanent Account and Content after your death in accordance with your Account settings.”

You won’t find these features with any of the cloud storage sites you are currently using. Not Dropbox. Not Amazon. Not Google.

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Take a close look at the photo at the top of this article. It is me in March 1963, aged 3 months being held by my mother who recently passed away. It is probably the most precious item I have in my possession right now. I have the original photo, I’ve preserved it in archival safe materials, and I’ve created a high-resolution scan. And now, I need to make sure it lives on forever with Forever.com.

If I don’t do this, who will?

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Disclosure statement: I have material connections with various vendors and organizations. To review the material connections I have in the genealogy industry, please see Disclosure Statement.

©2016, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Blame the Millennials: The End of Family Tree Maker Genealogy Software

Genealogy expert Thomas MacEntee weighs in on the end of Family Tree Maker - can we blame the millenials and the subscription economy?

Genealogy Is All About Change . . . .

By now, many genealogists and family historians have learned of the bombshell announcement from Ancestry.com yesterday in their blog post Ancestry to Retire Family Tree Maker Software. There will be no more sales of the most popular genealogy software after the end of 2015 and Ancestry.com will only support existing versions of Family Tree Maker through the end of 2016.

And while the mob with its torches, pitchforks and rakes gather at the Ancestry.com castle out for revenge and making demands or starting online petitions to keep a dying (and some would say already dead) program alive, let’s look at one of the main reasons for Ancestry’s decision.

It’s the Subscription Economy, Stupid.

Over the past few years, if you’ve taken a close look at products and services, you’ve noticed a shift from “ownership” to “rental.” Examples:

  • The rise of Netflix and other streaming, monthly subscription services at the demise of brick-and-mortar stores like Blockbuster.
  • An increase in “share” services, especially for large price items such as cars: services such as Zipcar are very popular in many cities.
  • In addition, cities like Chicago where I live, have seen the increasing use of “bike sharing systems” such as Divvy with its $75 yearly fee or $9.95 a day pass.

So what is driving this new subscription economy? The Millennials and their purchasing power. In The Subscription Economy: A Business Transformation, we see a move towards monthly or yearly subscription based products such as software which have traditionally been a “one time purchase so I own it” product.

The truth is that the Millennials don’t see the value in ownership of certain items. Some of it is related to limited economic resources and being judicious in how they spend their money. In addition, Millennials appreciate the freedom that comes with not being tied down to a product: if they want to move from QuickBooks to FreshBooks, they can just cancel their monthly subscription and do so.

Take a look at this infographic, Millennials Coming of Age, by Goldman Sachs, for a better understanding of how this dynamic group of consumers is turning the purchase of products and services upside-down in the 21st century.

Why Do Businesses Love the Subscription Model?

From a business perspective, there are many benefits to dropping the traditional product ownership model, such as buying Family Tree Maker and installing it on your computer and moving towards a web-only subscription model:

  • Lower costs having to support older versions of a product.
  • Lower costs in having to program new updates.
  • Lower costs in having to push out new versions.
  • All customers are now on the same version of a program.
  • Businesses can more easily build customer loyalty and leverage the “tribe” concept.

The Future: Genealogy Un-tethered

Personally, I think the Ancestry.com move is a smart one. It allows them to focus more on their website and core customer base. In monitoring various online conversation including Facebook (where there has been much gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair), here are some predictions for the future of genealogy software:

  • The demise of Family Tree Maker is just the start of the trend in the genealogy market. However, I predict that programs such as RootsMagic and Legacy Family Tree will be on the market for at least another five years.
  • For the genealogy professional who are not fans of keeping client data online, Ancestry and other platforms will act as a “relay” system to access data stored on your computer. While the marketing staff want you to “share” as much as possible, doing so just is not feasible for those business owners who perform genealogy research for clients.
  • Eventually even the operating system for your computer will be “online;” most, if not all, of the current genealogy software programs will have to embrace the subscription model in order to be relevant and to survive.

The death of Family Tree Maker for me is like the death of an old friend: I first purchased the product from Banner Blue software in the 1990s. But it has served its purpose and I’m looking forward to what we’ll see in the future when it comes to storing and managing genealogy research data.

©2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.