Photographers of a certain age will recall the fun of archiving analog material. Apart from all the captioning and slide mounting, you’d be forever running out of sleeves and hangers. And eventually, no matter how hard you tried to squeeze another file in, the cabinet was full. At which point you called your Bisley supplier, opened your wallet and bought more storage.

Fortunately with the interweb that’s all ancient history. Free or near-as-free unlimited online photo storage is a basic human right, so you just upload your precious images to a cloud company like Mozy and, oh dear, wait a minute…

When Mozy last week announced the withdrawal of their $5 monthly unlimited storage deal there was a predictable outcry from photographers who had been exploiting the deal by uploading terabytes of files to the company’s creaking servers. The cheek of it: Mozy were expecting people to pay for what they use rather than just help themselves to all they could grab. “Bait and switch” bitched one photographer dumped from the trough: imagine what some of these people are like at an all-you-can-eat-buffet.

Having learned nothing from their Mozy experience many such photographers are now hunting around for alternative cheap cloud storage. There are lots of online storage services around of course, but because of the size and number of files most photographers need to store, “free/cheap” and “online” are not enough: the holy grail is “unlimited”.

So far three contenders lead the pack on photo forums: CrashPlan, BackBlaze and Carbonite. None of these are what a pro photographer needs, but hey, they’re cheap. Never mind that it will all end in tears, as is very obvious to anyone who takes a few minutes to read the sites before uploading.

Here’s what CrashPlan promise with their CrashPlan+ online storage:

How do I know you won’t cancel your unlimited plans like Mozy did?

We are completely committed to unlimited backup plans and have no plans to change that policy in the foreseeable future.”

Translation: We don’t even have any Terms Of Service on our site so that promise is as good as it gets. The “foreseeable future” is as ill-defined a term as anyone could imagine, so expect your unlimited backup plan to disappear at any moment, and certainly as soon as we realise it’s financially unsustainable.

Never mind; how about BackBlaze?

How Can You Backup Everything Online For Just $5 per Month?

We have developed a highly efficient storage system that enables us to optimize how we store data. And we’re counting on some people having a lot of data and others not very much, but that it will work out on average.”

Translation: We are magicians and have developed a spell that enables us to store all the world’s data in our invisibility cloak. Also – just like Mozy – we calculate that everything will just sort of average out. Anyway, we’ve also conjured up some Terms of Service, so when it all goes wrong we’re covered, even if you’re not:

Changes to the Service

BackBlaze has the right at any time to change, modify, add to or discontinue or retire any aspect or feature of the BackBlaze Products including, but not limited to, the software, hours of availability, equipment needed for access or use, the maximum disk space that will be allotted on BackBlaze servers on your behalf. BackBlaze has no obligation to provide you with notice of any such changes.”

And Carbonite spell it out very clearly in their Terms of Service:

Selection of the Appropriate Carbonite Product

Carbonite Products are designed to serve the needs of various types of users, and certain Carbonite Products are designed solely for individual use, while others are designed for business use, as determined by Carbonite and communicated via Carbonite’s web site and marketing materials. If you are using a Carbonite Product for business or network purposes, or to backup server data, you must use the appropriate Carbonite Product. Carbonite may terminate or suspend your subscription to the Carbonite Products if you are using a Carbonite Product that is inappropriate for your usage.”

Translation: Call yourself a professional photographer? Then those images you uploaded are part of your business. We’ve therefore terminated your account and deleted your archive; you are of course welcome to open a business account and pay for use rather than piggybacking on our consumer offering, you cheap bastard.

It’s clear that none of these services are appropriate for the professional photographer, but that won’t stop plenty of Mozy refugees from running to them. And in the foreseeable future – as CrashPlan would say – the same people will be coming up with the same rants when their new unlimited deal disappears into the cloud. “Just as bad as Mozy”, they’ll moan, setting off on yet another freebie search, incapable of learning the real lesson: if you store your archive in a cloud don’t be surprised when all you end up with is vapour.

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10 Responses to “Your Free Photo Storage Is Worth What You Paid For It”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by David Hoffman, images of derby, Keith Heneghan, Gary Austin, Jeremy Nicholl and others. Jeremy Nicholl said: Free Photo Storage Is Worth What You Paid For It: http://bit.ly/eC0Lgp #togs #photography #photographers #crashplan #backblaze #carbonite [...]

  2. Mike Evangelist Mike Evangelist says:

    Thanks for your comments about CrashPlan. But I wanted to let you know that we have no plans to limit our unlimited back up plans.

    Further, if we did ever decide to change our offerings in the distant future, we would certainly allow everyone who was on an unlimited plan to continue to have it (as long as they paid, of course).

    Don’t assume that just because Mozy can’t figure out how to provide this service that we can’t. We’ve been happily and profitably providing unlimited backup for years and we will continue to do so.

    Mike Evangelist – VP of Marketing for CrashPlan

  3. [...] UPDATE: Check out this post, Your Free Photo Storage Is Worth What You Paid For It [...]

  4. Jeremy admin says:

    Hi Mike,

    You may not plan to change your unlimited backup deal, but you plans are subject to events over which you have little or no control. If too many people start uploading too much data your running costs will outrun your subscription income. At that point you either become unprofitable and go out of business, or start charging a realistic price for storage: I don’t see any way around that.

    The other issue with online storage is data retrievability. For such storage to be of use clients need to be able to retrieve files quickly: in the case of a pro photographer dealing with a local drive failure and needing to retrieve his/her online backup we’re taking a lot of data: terabytes, not gigs. Even with a fast broadband connection a 1Tb download will take several weeks at best. I suspect many people don’t fully consider this when relying on cloud backup.

  5. Andy Beach Andy Beach says:

    I believe these cloud solutions offer a good option as a secondary (Off Site) backup. A primary (On Site) backup provides ready access in case of local equipment failure. I use LiveDrive and benefit from 50MB Broadband making it viable to move larger data volumes.

  6. Ahem Ahem says:

    admin, 10-100mbps broadband is standard in Central/Northern Europe and large parts of East Asia, not sure how it is in the US or elsewhere. Granted, it takes around 10 days to download 1TB, but I use Crashplan (Mozy refugee here) as backup of last resort.

  7. And if you remember the Digital Railroad debacle a few years ago, even if you’re paying a lot for online storage, you’ve got no guarantee.

  8. Marc Plouffe Marc Plouffe says:

    I prefer to buy my own storage and have full control of my images. I don’t trust those online storage services. Once upon a time, I was a software engineer.

  9. [...] – Jeremy Nicholl: Why cheap cloud storage is a bad idea for (Jeremy Nicholl’s blog: February [...]

  10. Caroline Kay Caroline Kay says:

    Digital Railroad! Nice old school reference Scott. I have a little more faith in the cloud than I did back then…. but still proceed with caution.

    I use Mosaic. (http://www.mosaicarchive.com) They are new…. so that is scary… but I like using their product. They also promise to help me backup not only to the cloud but replace Chronosync for my local drive mirroring. Offsite backup with onsite redundant storage seems like a good recipe to me.

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