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.