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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Is Cloud Storage For You?

Recent announcements by several tech giants have brought cloud storage into the mainstream. Will it work for you as a professional photographer?

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Mosaic is aimed squarely at photographers, with pricing and services tailored to our needs.

Service Options

There are a variety of options available for cloud storage, with varying costs and benefits. At a basic level, you'll find options for simple online backup. In most cases, this approach involves an automatic backup of photos, documents and other files stored on a particular hard drive. One of the more well known of these services is Carbonite (www.carbonite.com), which offers what they term an unlimited backup option for one computer at $59 per year.

The storage space you can consume with Carbonite is unlimited, but after 200 GB of storage is consumed—a limit most photographers have far exceeded by now—the backup transfer speed slows significantly. As a result, it can be very time-consuming to achieve a full backup of all your photos. Considering this limitation, if you use this type of online backup service, you may want to reserve it for only your most important images, providing an additional layer of protection for those images, with the rest of your library backed up locally.

For truly unlimited online storage without restrictions, you'll have to pay a bit more—sometimes much more. For example, another popular provider of online backup services is Mozy (www.mozy.com). To back up the volume of data typical for photographers, you'll need the MozyPro service. This costs $3.95 per month per computer, plus $0.50 per gigabyte of storage per month. For 1 terabyte of storage, that translates into a cost of over $500 per month, which is obviously a relatively high price to pay for an online backup.

One of the more innovative solutions for cloud storage aimed directly at photographers is Mosaic (www.mosaicarchive.com). To begin, the pricing structure separates the data-transfer cost from the data-storage cost, which can greatly help reduce the overall cost for photographers. You'll pay $0.40 per gigabyte for transfer, but only $0.025 per gigabyte per month for storage of from 1 to 4 terabytes (the price per gigabyte goes down for larger storage capacities). For 1 terabyte of photos, that means a one-time fee of $400 to transfer your photos and then just $25 per month to store those photos. While you could theoretically upload your photos online via Mosaic, they also offer a hard-drive transfer service. They'll ship an external hard drive to you so you can copy your photos to that drive and then ship the drive back for it to be transferred to Mosaic's servers.

Perhaps more interesting, Mosaic also offers a plug-in for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, which allows you to manage your Mosaic storage directly through Lightroom. Conceptually, you can take your images offline once they're stored safely on the Mosaic servers, enabling you to free up storage space on your local computer. The images can still be managed through Lightroom and retrieved from the Mosaic servers if the original is needed at a later time. Of course, this approach assumes you're comfortable using Mosaic as your complete storage solution, which probably isn't realistic for most photographers. Still, this plug-in provides considerable value for photographers who make use of Mosaic services, since it provides an easy method for adding new images to your online storage and keeping track of which images have been archived and which haven't.

Future Potential

There are obviously some significant limitations for photographers when it comes to cloud storage of their full library of images. Apple's upcoming iCloud service will simplify (and virtually automate) the process of synchronizing photos across multiple devices. But this approach is obviously not viable for the huge volume of data most photographers would be interested in storing in the cloud.

In the short term, cloud storage is an excellent solution for making a relatively small number of images available as a portfolio presentation using a variety of Internet-connected devices. For storing a complete catalog of photographs, the costs, transfer times and other considerations present some obstacles. However, cloud storage offerings are likely to improve significantly as competition increases, thanks to the sudden rise in interest for cloud storage solutions. Especially when supplemented with the option to deliver files to the server via an external hard drive shipped to the service provider, cloud storage offers advantages at which many photographers will want to take a serious look.

Tim Grey is a photographer and author who has created a wide range of video training titles for photographers. You can learn more at www.timgreystore.com.


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