Many photographers argue that online cloud storage is simply not necessary. They claim their images are tucked safely away on assorted DVDs and external drives. While this sort of redundant system is sound practice, it only provides one half of the solution. Catastrophes like theft, fire, and flood can erase years of hard work, and bring a business to its knees. By keeping an entire catalog of precious files in one place, you risk spectacular disaster. In order to create a truly secure archive, digital files must be saved to an off site location.
Online cloud solutions have become much more affordable in recent years. In fact, Mozy.com provides unlimited storage space for just $4.99 a month. The price is the same regardless of how much data you upload. Best of all, Mozy can handle nearly every file type imaginable. This includes RAW images from every camera manufacturer, in addition to DNG, TIFF, JPEG, PSD and more. You'll never have to worry about losing photos, video, audio tracks, or text documents again. Online cloud storage provides photographers with peace of mind.
Mozy has created an uncluttered interface that makes the actual backup process quite simple. It works well with both Mac, and Windows operating systems. Start by logging in to your secure account and choosing which files to back up. Users are given the choice to select individual images, or an entire folder. For my work flow, the folder option is the most effective method. Of course, every photographer will have to develop their own unique system to best suit their individual needs.
It can take several hours to back up large amounts of data. The precise upload times are largely dependent on the speed of your internet connection. With a cable modem, five gigabytes took approximately six hours to finish. The process can also slow down the entire computer. For this reason, I find the best time to backup is right before going to sleep. Just be sure to turn your screen saver on, as the computer must be left to run during this process.
The backbone of a good workflow is organization. If your images are scattered haphazardly throughout several drives, archiving will be a tedious process. Thankfully there are several programs designed specifically for photographers looking to maintain an orderly catalog. Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture are widely used throughout the industry. While Photoshop's strength is in image editing, these programs really shine in their organizational features. The expression "garbage in, garbage out" certainly holds true with digital photography. If you begin with a well kept library, it will be much easier to retrieve files when you need them.
To start the image recovery process, select "restore files" from the menu. After you choose which files to extract, you are presented with an option. Do you want to copy the files directly to your computer, or order a DVD? The web restore is free, but a DVD is accompanied by an additional set up charge of $30, plus fifty cents per gigabyte. and $40 for next day shipping. Although the DVD restore is expensive, it's recommended for users trying to restore large amounts of data as a web restore could take several days to complete.
There are several alternatives to Mozy. While we have not tested all of them, here is a brief overview. Carbonite offers unlimited storage for $54.95 a year. This actually works out to be less than five dollars a month. Amazon S3 offers tiered pricing based on usage. They charge for transferring data both in and out of their servers. To see how they structure their fees, check this link. Swiss Picture Bank differs from the competition in that they do not charge an annual fee. Instead, users pay a one time fee for storage capacity of 1GB to 100GB.
For those who still feel online backup is not worth the effort, I recommend using a simple alternative. Create a "greatest hits" folder comprised of your favorite RAW images. Copy these files to a flash drive and store it at work, or another area away from your home. You can pick up four or eight gigabyte drives for less than fifty dollars. While this is not necessarily a high tech solution, it does provide you with an extra level of protection.
I like to think of cloud storage as a 401k plan for photographers. It's not a fool proof system, but it could be a very wise investment towards the future. Mozy's terms of service state "Mozy, Inc. cannot guarantee complete security". While this statement does not necessarily inspire confidence, they claim their "servers are located in several world-class data centers across the globe. Each data center adheres to the highest standards of security for optimal data protection". Basically this means that despite Mozy's best efforts, there is a chance for data to get hacked, or lost. Personally, I'm hopeful that I will be able to reproduce and share my images over the long term. How will you preserve your photos in the digital realm?
If you are already using a cloud solution, I'm curious to hear about your experience, and the company you use. Thanks!