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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Hi-Tech Studio: Cloud Storage Basics

Fast transfer rates and falling prices per terabyte have made the cloud an excellent option for off-site long-term archive storage



The art of backups. Yes, there's an art to creating a viable backup strategy, and it involves identifying your needs, then coming up with a plan that meets those needs without becoming the main preoccupation of your life. There was a man obsessed with keeping a diary. He spent hours on it every day of his life, and when he reached a certain age and started pondering the inevitable, he and his heirs offered the diary to museums for posterity. But here's the thing, instead of a chronicle of one man's place within a changing world, if you looked at the entries from any particular day, an awful lot of his diary entries were about writing in the diary. Backup can become the same thing. You can become so overwhelmed by the possible loss of data that you obsess over redundancy plans.

Backing up your data is critical, but know your limitations, and come up with a system that works for you. Keep it as automated as possible, and make it part of your routine. In a recent episode of his Trey's Variety Show, Trey Ratcliff of the Stuck In Customs website and a panel of experts discussed strategies for backing up. It was geared to photographers, some of whom are extremely tech savvy and some of whom aren't. As the panel delved into error rates resulting in file corruption in one file system versus another, one of the panel broke into the conversation to say that the reason people don't back up their data is because of conversations like this one. If you have a dedicated server that manages your image files over a pair of 20 TB NAS boxes that automatically pushes files to an S3 data center, you don't need to read this article. If you subscribe to the "pray and hope for the best" backup strategy, read on, and we'll help you come up with some cloud solutions that can become part of your routine.

Fundamentals
As a rule of thumb, a sound backup strategy is to have your data backed up on at least three devices in at least two locations. That can be a pair of large hard drives configured as a RAID at your studio and a copy of the RAID on a third hard drive that's kept at your home. That's about as simple as it gets, and if you have about 5 TB or less of data to back up, you can do it all on a few relatively small single-enclosure drives. Western Digital, Seagate and others all make 6 TB drives (that actually contain two physical hard drives) that are the size of a couple of hardback books.

If you're dealing with more than 5 TB, things get a little more complicated because you can't just physically move hard drives around, at least not easily. So now you're looking at the need for some kind of cloud storage to maintain that two-location guideline.

Is There Safety In The Cloud?
Cloud-based storage has become viable for large archives in the past couple of years as the cost per TB has gone down and bandwidth for transmitting data has increased. Cloud storage has gone from being useful for your most valuable images—sort of like a virtual safe deposit box—to being a solid choice for backup of your entire archive.

On the upside, you can access your cloud files from just about anywhere as long as you have a fast Internet connection. On the downside, you need to organize carefully, and the storage can get expensive if you plan to archive everything. The costs, however, continue to fall, and we're at a point now where a cost-benefit analysis will show cloud storage being well worth it for most pros. It's simply a matter of how much you want to store in the cloud.

There are a few different classes of cloud storage. There are file-based services where the images are never seen or displayed in any way. There are services that cater to photographers' needs for image delivery and e-commerce. And there are services that offer both storage and display/social networking/self-promotion opportunities. There's value on all three types, if you have the personal capacity and interest to stay active across the board.

File Storage, Archiving And Delivery
Adobe's Creative Cloud has been rather controversial, but the Creative Cloud concept clearly has benefits. For one thing, you automatically get the latest versions of the applications you sign up for, with all-new features and upgrades as soon as they're available. For another, you can work on your files from any device anywhere, whenever you want, and collaborate with anyone you want. You can sign up for an annual Single-App Plan (full version of one desktop application, presumably Photoshop for DPP readers) for $19.99 a month, or a Complete Plan (full versions of Photoshop, Illustrator, Acrobat and more) for $49.99 a month. Both plans require a one-year commitment, and include 20 GB of storage for file sharing and collaboration; the Complete Plan includes full access to services to help create mobile-ready content and apps. www.adobe.com

 

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