Backing up your photos: the most tedious of things (until something goes wrong). Luckily, so far, I have not had any horrific backup issues that I hear stories of. By this I mean people losing their entire photo collection or various year’s worth of work do a dead hard drive. Having written that I assume one will strike imminently and turn me into some sort of gibbering wreck, curled up in a corner muttering about losing my life’s work and sticking jelly babies up my nose.
Having said that, it’s something I have become more paranoid about in recent years. Several years back I went for a simple option of buying a large external hard drive. It was reasonably cost effective at the time as I had maybe 300GB of images to backup so bought a 500GB unit. This quickly became too small and I needed a new hard drive, so I bought another 1TB drive. Great foresight by me there as you can tell. Guess what? I filled it up with images.
So then I took the next step and bought a NAS with two 3TB hard drives in it with a RAID setup. I know any super tech geeks are probably shaking their heads at the amateurism of my NAS, pony tails bobbing around whilst they push their glasses up the bridge of their noses. I am not an IT wizard, and I suspect the same is true of most other photographers, but it works for me and has plenty of space for now. There must be a better way though…what if my house burns down? I am far too lazy to keep another hard drive full of images at the office and keep backing that one up regularly too. That’s far too much hassle. So what to do? THE CLOUD (cue heavenly music).
Given than cloud storage has become so incredibly cheap it seems like it’s the perfect thing for photographers, or at least lazy ones like me. No need to worry about hard drives breaking due to getting pissed on by your cat. No need to worry about your house burning down. Who cares as long as your photos are safe… right?
I’d read a few articles about people using Zoolz or something and various other cloud based storage for their photography. Every system seemed to have pros and cons, and none was much better than the other. My concern with Zoolz etc. was that I had never heard of them. Would they even exist in a year’s time? Dropbox? Yes. Google drive? Yes. But both are expensive for what you get. I think Google also has an 18mb file limit for photos too, so that’s fine if you still shoot with a Canon 10D, but not for most people. Then there was Amazon, a behemoth of all things internet. Given that 70% of my non-food related shopping is done on Amazon, they seem like a safe bet. I don’t think they’re going anywhere any time soon.
Amazon Prime offers you a very competitive package. You get next day delivery on pretty much anything you could ever want. You get access to Amazon Instant Video so you can watch shitty teen movies and eat popcorn until you vomit. And now you get unlimited photo storage thrown in too! All for £79 per year. Sounds like a good deal eh? It recognises Canon CR2s as images so you can upload away. Anyway, I plumped for it and started trying to upload my multiple terabytes.
I downloaded the app for my iMac and dragged a bunch of files into it (maybe 10GB worth) and off it went. Everything was going fine so I went downstairs to watch a shitty teen movie. When I went back up stairs an hour later to check it had stopped after uploading a few files. I repeated the process, assuming I had done something wrong, but the same thing happened again. It seems the app is not made for bulk uploads, which is very annoying. It worked if you tried to upload a few hundred MB at a time, but who wants to sit there all day dragging a few files every 20 minutes? Not me.
What next? Off to the website where you can upload via your browser. This seemed to work better with a simple drag and drop interface. I tried it with a few files and it worked fine, so again I tried to upload a big chunk of photo goodness (or crapness in my case). It got through about half of the volume before stopping. An improvement on the app but still not ideal. I’ve now been at it for maybe 6 weeks, uploading my RAW catalogue piece by piece, often adding around 500 files at a time, so around 10GB assuming each file is 20MB. Accessing files you’ve uploaded, renaming, moving, downloading is all very simple to do.
There are still a number of issues with the platform though:
- Sometimes it won’t upload one or two of the files but won’t tell you which ones. This means you have to search back through everything uploaded to see what’s missing and then upload that file
- It will occasionally log you out part way through uploading. You then have to log back in and start from where you left off
- It seriously eats your bandwidth. I have taken to only uploading during the day whilst I am at work or starting the uploads just before I go to sleep. I have fibre optic broadband but the uploading just kills your ability to do much else on the internet with any degree of speed. You can still use it, but it takes time to navigate between web-pages and so on
- It doesn’t like Fuji RAF files. If you try hard enough it will upload them, but most times it will fail when it meets a Fuji file. I’ve got no idea why, as it will occasionally work
- It doesn’t like very large files. When it comes across a TIFF or PSD that has sneaked in amongst the RAWs, or a panorama made using the newer Lightroom tools it will stall. Again, you have to start where you left off, once you have realised that it has stalled. I haven’t got round to uploading my processed TIFFs or PSDs yet, but I am pretty sure it’s gonna take a while to work it all out
So, that’s pretty much it. I have no idea how this compares to other platforms, but that’s what I’ve found with it. Overall I think I’m satisfied with it. It seems to perform ok but just has some limitations you need to work around.
I’ll be much happier when all my files are uploaded and then I just have to add the odd new folder each time I go out shooting. Adding 2TB of images was always going to be painful, but I am nearly there. Now I can start having those indoor barbecues I’ve always dreamt of without worrying about losing my photos.