Announcing “Specify Cloud” Internet Hosting

Specify Cloud

The Specify Software Project is pleased to announce internet hosting for U.S. Specify collections.

Our Specify Cloud service enables access to a Specify collection database through a web browser with no local software to install or database server to maintain. With Specify Cloud, we pre-install Specify 7 on a fast, high-availability, internet server maintained by the Specify Project, to create a secure platform for hosting and serving your collection data.

Specify Cloud is based on Specify 7 software, which was released in January 2015 (http://specifysoftware.org/specify7). That wholly-new implementation of Specify combines the interface flexibility and database foundation of Specify 6 with web-browser access and cloud computing. The Specify 7 web application uses the same data forms as Specify 6–any form customizations made in Specify 6 are mirrored as web pages in Specify 7. Also, Specify 6 and 7 use the same MySQL database design, which means both versions can be used simultaneously with any particular Specify database. Specify Cloud is a great starting point for new collection digitization projects which prefer zero software installation and universal web browser access. It is also ideal for multi-institutional collection digitization projects interested in collaborating over a shared specimen database.

Specify 7 now includes the following capabilities, all accessed through a web browser: customized data forms, data entry, editing and saving, structured queries, simple searches, label and report printing, and image attachments with thumbnails. Specify 7 software now also has, read-only, web browsing and navigation of Specify’s Taxon, Geography, Storage Location and Paleontological data tree displays. Future releases will include support for museum transactions (loans, accessions, gifts, etc.), user account management, the WorkBench, and most other Specify 6 features. Specify 7’s open-source, software code is available for downloading at: http://github.com/specify.

Cost. Until June 2017, the Specify Cloud hosting service is offered at no charge. Our free offer includes Specify 6 database transfer and installation on a Specify Cloud server, 24/7/365 internet access and nightly backup. After mid-2017 institutions may continue with the Specify Cloud hosting service for a cost-recovery fee at a level to be established, or we will be happy to transfer databases back to Specify 6 for local use.

Eligibility. Because of funding limitations, eligibility for this offer is extended to U.S. biological research collections using Specify 6 for institutional specimen data management, and to multi-institutional U.S. collaborative projects wanting to share a database for collections digitization. The Specify Software Project will also convert Specify 5 installations at U.S. institutions to Specify 6 to move to the Specify Cloud.

Limitations. Currently, Specify 7 does not support certain administrative functions such as adding new users to a Specify database, or managing museum transactions (loans, gifts, accessions, etc.). Specify 7 also has a simpler access and permission system than Specify 6. It has two types of users, view (read-only) users and users with full read/write database privileges. Future Specify 7 releases will support finely-resolved security settings but if you have trusted users and do not need to restrict access beyond the Specify secure login, then Specify 7 and Specify Cloud will work fine. One can use Specify 6 and Specify 7 simultaneously to access a database in the Specify Cloud service. Specify 6 access to the remote, Specify Cloud copy of your database will operate fine for occasional, specialized database administration tasks, like managing users accounts, documenting transactions, and uploading data through the WorkBench, but it will be slower than with a local Specify MySQL server installation. Specify Cloud servers are located in secure New York and San Francisco data centers. Because the Specify 6 thick-client was not designed to use the internet for data transfer, Specify 6 performance with a Specify Cloud database will be slowed by a second or two for simple data entry/edit tasks and by minutes for massive data tasks such as data tree rebuilding. The Specify 7/Specify Cloud interface is a very fast, web browser-friendly mode of database access for everyday tasks such as data entry, editing, queries, simple searches, label printing, and tree viewing.

[See updates to Specify 7 capabilities in more recent release announcements on the Specify 7 home page. 9/19/2016.]

If you are a U.S. research collection using Specify, let us know if you would like to try Specify Cloud.

We are unburdening collections of the overhead to maintain their own software and servers, by supporting internet hosting of Specify databases for secure, universal web access, with zero institutional software, server and network management.