Saturday, November 5, 2011

Using Cloud Storage

The "cloud" offers a straightforward solution to the problem of providing secure off site storage for irreplaceable files.

I've become a little obsessive about managing and backing up my digital assets. 

I have two separate external hard drives to store all my digital photos (now totaling more than 70,000 images).  That means I have two copies of each image in storage, each on a separate storage device. Two separate storage devices are a necessity.  These things break down.  I've had two already that became useless paperweights and if I didn't have a full second set of files, I'd be up the proverbial creek.

In addition, I make a clone copy of the drive on my laptop every month.  I leave that drive at home when I travel.  In case I lose my laptop, I can reconstruct everything that was on the hard drive (up to the date of the latest clone copy).

But I have all sorts of documents and files of which I have only one copy on a portable 500 gb external hard drive I carry around with my laptop.  On that I save documents that are sent to me or which I send to others, and I save copies of photos which I create while on trips and away from my office.

Here's my worry.  If there's a flood or fire, and all my hardware is destroyed, I'm left with no photos and no documents.
I've never made a copy of everything on a third hard drive, to be stored off-site in a bank vault or at a friend's house far away from my office.  I'm too lazy busy to periodically swap out external hard drives and move one to the off-site location. So my greatest vulnerability is total loss of irreplaceable photographs and documents should my home office be devastated.

I'm now addressing this concern by using cloud storage.

In actuality, I'm not a newcomer to cloud storage.  I'm jut a newcomer to the term.  I've been using "the cloud" to store my business accounting information for the past five years, as a customer of QuickBooks Online.  More recently, I've been posting galleries of my photographs and selling prints in "the cloud" through PhotoShelter. But using the cloud as a secure backup at least for all of my better images, the keepers, is new to me.

Recently, PhotoShelter made an offer to its subscribers I couldn't refuse.  One terabyte of image file storage for a ridiculously low additional annual fee.  I bought in.  This was my chance to affordably store my keepers safely off site without the bother of physically transporting the files to a safe deposit box.

Here's the down side to this. The biggest problem I'm having with backing up my image files to the cloud is how slow it takes.  Over my WIFI connection, each raw file seems to take an eternity or more to upload.  With six years worth of digital images, that's a lot of time pushing bits and bytes upstream.  In addition, the process of uploading huge files to the cloud slows down the internet for others using the same WIFI connection at the same time.  I can't plan on doing this while my wife is sending and receiving data and reports to her office, or surfing the web.

What's the cost of cloud storage?  Amazon offers it at the annual price of one dollar per gigabyte. That means that a hundred gigs are a hundred dollars a year.  One terabyte is a thousand dollars annually. Not bad for a cabinet full of non-image files that are relatively small, but really pricey for a whole archive of photographs.  I'm sure the price will come down as the market grows for this service.

In the meantime, my computer will be busy uploading my picture files while I spend a lot of time doing other stuff off line.

1 comment:

Mark Esterly said...

Hi, Jim. Interesting post. FYI, I noticed that the NH High Technology Council had a recent Entrepreneur Forum with a presentation by a company called Mosaic Storage Systems (located in Nashua). I don't have any connection with them, but they apparently have a Lightroom plugin that will archive and manage photos. And they give you the option of mailing your photo archive to them on a hard drive, which would help avoid the log upload times. Their web site: .