Online Storage For Photographers

- - Working

I’ve been asked a few times about online storage solutions and a recent post by Greg Ceo got me thinking that I should ask everyone here what they use. There are several controlling factors in looking at online/cloud storage solution. Cost, speed to upload, chance of catastrophic failure, chance the company will go bankrupt. The last two are hard to determine but you have to consider that in most cases you’re dealing with heavily in debt VC funded companies and if you remember the Digital Railroad failure of 2008 there’s a chance they will suddenly turn off the lights and lock the doors if they don’t reach a certain level of profitability. My two cents on catastrophic failure are that you get what you pay for. The companies aimed at mom and dad backing up their pc for super cheap probably aren’t running as robust a solution as a company that provides storage for Fortune 500 companies. That theory is untested.

Here are a few I’ve looked at, please add more info in the comments.

Amazon S3

Storage cost 1 TB: $143/month

Can you send in a drive: yes


Storage cost 1 TB: $113/month

Can you send in a drive: ?


Storage cost 1 TB: $70/month

Can you send in a drive: yes


Storage cost 1 TB: $5/month

Can you send in a drive: no. 2 – 4 GB per day.


Storage cost 1 TB: $5/month

Can you send in a drive: no

Note: 1 terabyte = 1024 gigabytes

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

There Are 83 Comments On This Article.

  1. 2 hard drives + 1 large safe deposit box = $33 per year

    I use a two drive duplicate system. One drive stays in the bank, the other one swaps it out once a week with my storage. Easy – cheap, reliable.

    • @Mr. Lentz, I kinda do the same, except one of the drive is at the office, the other at home, one swap a week. It’s cheaper than online storage, indeed.

      • @Antoine,

        I have been through the research phase of all the online storage solutions. The fact is, in the end I sometimes am dumping many gigs worth of photos onto my drives, editing and exporting them which creates more gigs of files.

        So – it came down to the fact that current internet speeds are not quite fast enough to handle uploading a constant stream of gigs. It would take a few weeks to upload what I might shoot in two days. That’s just not practical. With my system, I can backup everything overnight, and have it in the bank the next morning. Then I forget about it, because I dont have to be concerned with whether my uploads to an online site are going through properly, erroring, slowing down because of high bandwidth usage, etc…
        The idea is there – the price and technology are not.

  2. How about flickr? Is it enough for personal, birthdays and childhood pictures? They’re not for professional but irreplaceable. I’ve been slowly backing up my photographs into flickr. Btw, have you heard about the flickr account that the staff accidently deleted?

    • @Edward,
      The file size limit and the fact that they can ban your account and delete material out of it that they deem objectionable makes them a bad solution.

    • @Edward, Flickr deletes accounts willy nilly with no warning or explanation. It’s a good place to share photos but pretty risky to count on as a backup. They also only allow 20MB files. When you run a file over 20MB through their bulk uploader it downsizes it down to like 1MB.

      I think of my flickr account as still yet one extra place that I could get a backup from for some of my images if all else failed, but I would never make Flickr a core part of any sensible backup strategy.

  3. (my site) offers storage on a per-file basis, with 3 months of storage for each file of 22mb or less (by far most images fit in this) for 1 US cent.

    It’s handy if you don’t want to commit to either the volume or pay for a subscription of any of the sites mentioned, and if you don’t want to actually get involved with the technical details of server leasing etc.

    The site is mainly for stock photographers (focus on microstock) and has a bunch of other tools (image/illustration/footage distribution, metadata management and destination tracking) and services (the keywording service is my latest addition).

    Love the site, thanks Rob :)

  4. I’ll be interested to hear what people have to say in addition to the list above. I’m currently using the bank safety deposit box method myself, but would love online backup in addition to that…

  5. I’ve been using backblaze for about a year, and have been pleased overall with the service. Does take awhile to get substantial amount of data uploaded, but price, retrieval options, work with external drives, and set-it-and-forget-it software won me over.

    Another worth checking out is Crashplan (though I’ve no experience with them). Other questions to consider are if they can back up external hard drives or just the internal drive, and what are the options for retrieving your data (if it is download only that could take a very long time).

  6. @ Mr. Lentz

    I’m at the point where I can fill up 6 TB, so within the next year, or two that will be 8 TB. Now I can start deleting files, but that’s not what I want to do. So I can have the 8 TB drive at my Studio and another 8 TB drive at the bank vault (but it may be too big for that box!) and one somewhere else off site, but that will only do for the next year.

    Thus the research that I’ve been conducting. I need to be able to back up 16TB in the next 10 years! And we all can keep doing this with drives or buy a server type solution. I’ve got video that is being saved and raw still files are getting larger and larger!

    I have yet to find an off site backup that allows me to send in a drive with 6TB! Anyone out there know of someone?


    • @Greg Ceo,

      I use 2 terabyte drives. They are cheap and if you create a simple system to keep track of them, you are good to go.

      I store everything on my computer, then when the computer fills up, I make sure I have separated the best shots from each shoot into a portfolio folder that stays on the computer. The older shoots slowly come off of my computer and onto the two drives that act as an archive system. In a small safe deposit box you can easily fit 6 drives if not more. Need more space? Just reserve another box.

    • I use livedrive. It is not $150 per year with unlimited storage. It is one of the least expensive of the cloud storage for what you get though. Around $8 a month for temporary backup. It uploads all of the info from your computer but if you delete a file, the file is then is deleted later. This is a way to make sure you have all of your files if your computer dies. Your computer dies…and then you have something like 20 days to get it all off of the livedrive server before it is deleted. Kinda nice, but not sure if its worth the money. You can also pay $16 for their “briefcase” which uploads them and keeps them there like an external hard drive. The max amount you can upload to this is 2T and it does take a while. The good things about this is that it does do it in the background and you can control what goes into your briefcase. I have had lots of service problems with this though and its ended up taking more time figuring out how to fix it than I believe it is worth.

      • Livedrive changed their business structure lately, however one of their plans allows you to use their FTP server, so it is not just a drive backup, but a total online storage.
        Prices, however, rose sensibly from the $150 they were few months back

    • @Greg Ceo, I do a similar thing with the Amazon S3. It’s really inexpensive when you’re only storing “greatest hits,” and it’s unbelievably convenient. I still use physical drives for all the RAW files, but for the finals/selects, I duplicate them to the cloud. I’ve been doing that for a little more than a year, and I love it. A couple bucks a month for what I have to believe is much more security than I could ever achieve.

  7. Crashplan, but I only use it for my basic files and personal iPhoto, not the terabytes of raw files I have shot. I have around 110 GB on Crashplan (there is no limit, I believe). Does anyone actually backup their raw files online? I always assumed it would take too long to make sense.

    • @Jeff, I do but its very slow, but I also have back up drives. Crashplan pricing is good but the upload is VERY slow…..I think of it as a backup backup.

  8. I think for photographers cloud storage is not feasible. The costs are way too high, there are simpler, less expensive solutions DIY and have you ever tried to upload TBs of data? Silly.

  9. A free solution: I exchange hard drives with another photographer – I store his backups, he stores mine. Whenever we hang out, we swap drives.

    That relationship is likely to outlast a VC-funded company. If my house goes up in smoke, I know my archive is safe and vice versa for him.

    • @Dave Getzschman, but, if you both live in earthquake prone Bay Area (or California), you could both loose both drives in one big one.
      Same for those doing same in flood prone areas, hurricane areas., etc. Although, unlike with quakes, those hard drives can get out of town in time. Tornados, less so.

      • @J, If both your houses are destroyed in a natural disaster and you live to worry about your archives, count yourself lucky.

  10. Photoshelter runs a deal about once a year in Dec/Jan offering 1TB for $500/year, which breaks down to $41/month.

    Otherwise it’s $1000/year per TB, which is $83/month, not $113.

  11. Mozy is another alternative that until recently has allowed unlimited uploads. They’ve just introduced new pricing: 125 GB $9.99/mo., additional 20GB / $2 month. Cost of 1TB = $81.81.

    One has to wonder how viable online storage is once over the 1TB mark. Takes forever.

    Dawn LeBlanc

    • @Dawn LeBlanc, re: “One has to wonder how viable online storage is once over the 1TB mark.”

      Very good point. Especially when even the fastest Internet service providers are starting to put caps on bandwidth, and file sizes are getting larger, it comes to a point where simply storing a hard drive at the office with weekly swaps is the most practical, even if it isn’t automatic.

  12. we use 3-tiered system, which works very well for us, and i personally sleep very well at night. ymmv.
    1. use a raid setup in our main machine, separate application/system files from data(by using separate volumes), which we find is critical for data integrity in case of a crash/catastrophe. we then use time machine to back everything up constantly on separate internal drives on a raid-1 mirror configuration.
    2. everything get cloned(this includes the image inventory) to 2-tb bootable external drives each week. we use two of these, swapping them weekly. this goes to an off-ste location every sunday(one could use a safe deposit/reliable friend/own office-studio-home, or sthg similar for this purpose).
    3. we also use crashplan to back everything up as an additional layer of security. costs $100/yr for unlimited storage. if you don’t choose to mail a hd for initial upload, it will take 2-6 weeks to upload everything depending on size, then it is always on. while we haven’t had a big issue keeping it updated with new shoots, this obviously will depend on one’s db size. we are a wedding&portrait studio, and don’t do vid – i would think it may not be the ideal solution for a videographer, unless mailing in a drive periodically fits one’s budget/backup strategy; it didn’t fit ours, but we also don’t need it either.

  13. I think everyone should pay attention to the lines regarding company stability.

    Also, mention of the responsibility for images lost due to system failure on the part of the storage company should be considered. What is the compensation to the photographer if for instance a catastrophic event occurs and their systems go down, burn or are hacked. I don’t know of a contract that requires the storage company to report hacks, what was taken or their efforts to find the hacker. Even online banking puts the burden on the end user ie. must have firewall, virus software etc… If you’re working on a deadline and a server goes down on the remote storage side and you can’t meet the deadline are they compensating for lost income because the client had to go elsewhere at the last minute?

    For me I enter all images on the computer using an external 2 TB drive fir storage while I’m working the images. Then I use portable 1Tb drives to hold all of my non working images by category ie. one for sports, travel, macro, scenics etc. The portable drives are held in a small vault in my office.

    I just can’t justify the fee’s for “cloud” storage or remote storage when drives are this cheap.

  14. Zenfolio – $100/yr unlimited, can’t send a drive, jpeg only. Still, I have 40gb online and it lets me sleep at night.

  15. I put all my archive of jpgs on the same server as my website, which I can upload and retrieve with an ftp program like Fetch. They give me 150gb of space with my regular website hosting service (which runs me about $82 a year) so there is plenty of room for all the jpgs and my most important RAWs (a book project, por ejemplo). You can’t put all your TBs of images but it is a little extra protection at no extra cost.

  16. I am amazed that people actually trust some unknown online server and not only trust it pay it hundreds of dollars a year. My photos, my hard drives, end of conversation.

  17. BackBlaze’s Disclaimer of Warranty (, which appears to see you have no claims against negligent loss of everything, doesn’t give me much confidence. The others may be similar. When I ran an offline storage site I at least offered a data insurance policy.

    • @Thomas Hawk, Some fireproof safes are quite moist inside (part of the fireproofing mechanism) and warn they are only for paper storage – nothing that can rust of suffer like drives and lenses. I have one that is moist but I put the on site back up drive in it inside a ziplock freezer bag. It has thicker plastic and I replace it often. I guess Tupperware or similar would work too.
      Safes should also be flood proof and not get so hot inside as to melt plastic. Some will get up to just below the flash point of paper inside. Hot enough to melt film and plastic.
      Maybe the back up site idea is not such a bad idea.

  18. Photoshelter killed their stock business with only two weeks notice. It would take that long just to download your back-ups in a situation like that, given that everyone else would be hitting up their server too.

    The upload/download times are just too slow… buy multiple cheap drives and drop one off at the in-laws or bank on a regular basis. The drives don’t have to last forever, just a couple of years until you’re replacing them with the next generation that’s twice as large.

  19. I have a desktop raid system, and HD back up at home but I also use crashplan they have a deal wear you can send them a harddrive to start up the process, which is great, otherwise you spend 6 months uploading. you really have to have stuff at more than one location incase of fire or something. the prob with putting harddrives in a safe deposit box is drives need to be run occasionally, and also you have to go through the process of back up. With online back up it just happens all the time without thinking about it.

  20. PhotoShelter offers drive uploads for $100/device.

    Cloud based storage is a way to create a geographically diverse back-up. I agree having drives at your house is cost effective, but a power surge can wipe data out. I personally have two different RAID sets that I use for local back-up. (locking a disk in a safety deposit box without a regular spin-up program is probably a bad idea).

    No back-up is bulletproof, which is why no online storage provider provides a guarantee. Their insurance company would never allow it. Would you guarantee that the hard drive you manage on your desktop would never go down? Of course not.

    Many of the online services that are “unlimited” have maximum uploads per day as a way to prevent high throttling. Some, likewise, have max downloads per day. So as Rob points out, you often get what you pay for.

    Also, you have to figure out what features you want from cloud based storage. Carbonite will back-up your files, but you can’t sell a rights-managed image through it. So price can’t be the only determining factor in your decision.

    disclosure: I’m the CEO of PhotoShelter.

    • @Allen Murabayashi,

      Mr. M,

      I have surge protection on my main line and remotely in my office. In the nearly 30 years I’ve had computers and email I’ve never had a power surge wipe out my data. Maybe I’m unique.

      Also, I highly recommend keeping two computers. One that is for all your work and one that is for online. The off line computer has all your data and is updated by using a USB or Hard Drive after virus scanning. The online computer is a small laptop or other which has nothing more than your email. This is for security of your DATA by seriously limiting the amount of online virus and other potential meanies.

      Seeing that WikiLeaks has given those in the Fortune 500 a scare to the bone about cloud storage many are already stepping back to doing those things themselves or changing their current schemes.

      How often are your servers down at PhotoShelter? How many photographers have lost data on your system? If you’re in the game of storage don’t you have an obligation to ensure that what you store is safe beyond “no back-up is bullet proof”? Are you saying doing it yourself is no better than paying PhotoShelter but I feel better if I’m paying PhotoShelter/someone else for the same risk? It seems like what you’re saying is it’s like paying for car insurance but the insurer isn’t obligated to pay a claim when you’re in an accident.

      Just thought since you got on the blog I’d throw some questions your way.

      • @KSW,

        We are not positioning ourselves as a carbonite. We provide a website that has an archive, e-commerce capability, SEO, high res file distribution, etc. The ability to store high resolution files on PhotoShelter makes it convenient for users to sell and distribute files 24/7 in an unattended fashion.

        We do believe that we can store files more safely than the average user. We RAID all the data, and it’s stored in two geographically distinct locations. This doesn’t mean we won’t ever lose data, but it does mean that we’ve mitigated risk to a level that isn’t generally possible with your average user. You might not have had a power surge, but are you claiming that you’ve never lost data? (btw, in the 5 years we’ve been around, we’ve never lost data).

        The article positions PhotoShelter against services that are strictly designed as online back-up, which is not what we are. Having a copy of your file online with PhotoShelter is a by-product of wanting to run elements of your e-commerce and marketing activity through our system.

        I don’t find the Wikileaks argument to be a congruous comparison. Wikileaks doesn’t obtain documents through hacking (at least not the major ones). They get it through disenchanted users on the inside. Given the size of photo files, it’s unlikely that someone would hack 100s of terabytes and put them on the internet where people could download them, as it would take months if not years for the average user to download the data, and then you’d have the problem of storage.

        I have no doubt that if you have a rigorous system for backing up your data at home, that you can minimize risk to a large extent. My point is that depending on what you want to do with those files, you might find that a service like Carbonite doesn’t meet your needs.

        At any rate, my point isn’t to be argumentative, it’s to frame the conversation for people who are strictly looking at price to determine the validity and viability of a solution.

        btw, you can get storage add-ons to any account tier.

        • @Allen Murabayashi,

          Thanks for the response. I’m always looking to expand the conversation and get people thinking about big picture. My successes have been a result of not just knowing how to use something but what makes it work. This is photo related so I’d equate it to people with no background in color thinking Photoshop is a cure all but really it can only be if you understand the underlying principles, color wavelengths and their interaction. Oh, and how Photoshop handles those principles.

          No thought of being argumentative by either of us as far as I can see.

          This isn’t the place to discuss hacking, or corporate data security beyond the level previously stated. Corporate does have legitimate concerns since the only secure computer is one not connected. Corporate espionage and hacking is a job for some. Even the guy running the local hotspot can read all your email but you know that.

          Yes, I’m saying I’ve never lost data. Ever. Saying that of course now every drive I own will seize and I’ll be removing the disks to reinstall and spin up in another. : )

          These are very hard times for photographers as can be seen in other stories on this site. Every penny saved is a penny earned and the comments here just may have saved some enough coin to go do another shoot.

          Again thanks for adding to the conversation.

  21. I use a three disk system. One disk that is sort of the main disk, which goes with me everywhere. I backup that to a two disk mirrored RAID system and when they are all full I split them into single disks and put one into a nicely labeled case in the safe in my studio, and the other equally protected in my house. The first disk I then keep in a stack on my desk for easy access to the files if needed.
    The idea of backing up to on online system is just way to impractible. Uploading gigs and gigs of stuff a week is just way to slow and a nightmare.
    I do however use a great ftp service at exavault ( for storing selected Hi res tiffs, etc. which allows me, and those whom I invite like clients, to access them from anywhere. You can have from 2gb to 100’s of gb and you pay for what you need with the ability to increase space or decrease depending on your needs at any given moment.

  22. Your info on Carbonite is incorrect. I do this service and it’s unlimited storage space for $54.95 a year!! Best cloud backup i’ve found for cheap.

  23. I have 2 Drobos — one at home, one at work. I swap them out about every two weeks… Works and I’m always double backed up.

  24. I use CrashPlan for online backup, but I don’t use their servers. I use their software to back up to a drive at someone else’s house in another city. You can do this for free. It was easy to set up — you can seed the drive at home and then bring it over to your friend’s place — and works fine for me so far.

    This is in addition to local backups to external hard drives and Blu-Ray following the 3-2-1 rule: 3 backups, 2 mediums, 1 offsite.

  25. I am highly cynical of using upload storage services like those mentioned. yes image files are the most valuable asset the is in my life. I have lost over 30k negatives, slides and prints in a fire. I was devistated since about a 1/3 of the images included those my father shot of Berlin during the late fifties, including the wall, inside eastern berlin etc.

    The standard I follow is simple. Data is stored in three computer/drive locations and two physical locations and on two mediums. Raid drive for the office and a drive at home. Since the drives are hotswapable an extra drives are rotated incase of fire.

    Images from two years ago are burned to data dvd’s and stored in a 6 hour fire box along with the drives.

    I think the greater risk is from theft, versus fire or failure since there are compaies out there like disk savers.

  26. I’ve been a big fan of the cloud for storing my selects. They’re duplicated, along with all my RAW files, on Blu-Ray and Hard Drives in my physical possession. It’s the cloud that I’ve been most impressed with, though, because of the ultra-low cost (when you’re only storing selects) and what I assume to be security of Amazon’s servers.
    Really, though, all of this came out of the near 100% failure rate of every hard drive I’ve ever owned. Am I the only one who’s had that bad luck? I have next to zero faith in hard disks at this point.

    • Marv Broderick

      @Bill, I’m concerned about your statement about the huge failure of your Hard drives. Why is this so??

      • @Marv Broderick, Wish I knew, Marv. I would say that over the last decade, I’ve had two-thirds to three-quarters of my external drives (used for archiving purposes) fail while offline. Perhaps it was because they weren’t spun up regularly, but that sort of defeats the purpose of a long-term archive, IMHO. I had duplicated everything onto optical media, so I had duplicate backups, but it left me with very little confidence in the ability of hard drives to last for the long term. This is why RAID makes so much sense, the modularity and redundancy. But the expense of a system like this that is based on the idea that drives WILL eventually fail just makes me believe there has to be another way–something that isn’t an eventual fail.
        I keep everything I shoot, and I’m not a deleter. But I can’t justify RAID costs–which you have to figure are ongoing as drives eventually fail–to keep files that I realistically won’t significantly monetize again. That’s why I use the cloud to keep those most likely saleable images backed up in triplicate (also on the Blu-Ray and external hard drive). The cost for a “selects” archive online (versus everything online) is, seriously, pennies. And I get to let Amazon worry about redundancy and replacing drives. And I haven’t put all my eggs in that basket, just the best ones–which can be replaced (if Amazon goes belly up) from my BDR or hard drive files.
        The bottom line is that maybe I just bought bad drives from bad suppliers. They weren’t explicitly “enterprise” drives, but they were legit name brand drives that a younger, perhaps more naive me, thought should certainly last more than a year or two.
        I just think of the whole hard drive failure thing as “not if but when,” and so I’m trying to get around it as best I can.

  27. Hi Glyn,

    Online backup is for me part of my backup strategy.
    I have been using Photoshelter for a few years now and have been happy with them as they not only offer online storage, but an integrated system of presenting your images to customers etc.

    If you are looking for online storage, other companies can offer far cheaper rates.

  28. Cloud based archival / backup / storage solutions aren’t viable yet. Not until we have much, much better upstream bandwidth. Dropbox solves all my needs for general day to day business stuff (documents, etc). But for any media, I just can’t wait days or weeks for uploads to the cloud. A typical shoot for me yields at least 15GB of data.

    Never under-estimate the bandwidth of your car and a bunch of harddisks!

  29. I looked into this myself recently. I had been using Dropbox, but the 50gb limit is not sufficient.

    Right now I’m evaluating Crashplan. Unlimited storage for 50$/yr. I don’t like the Windows client that much, but it seems to work.

  30. The belt:

    I set up two Linksys VPN endpoint wireless routers, one at my house, the other at my parents house.

    The VPN routers have an encrypted tunnel running between them, through which I backup all my media onto a NAS at my parents house.

    It’s pretty slow because of my 1Mbit/s broadband upload speed, but I just leave it running all the time and use Microsoft SyncToy whenever I add anything new.

    The NAS has SNMP moitoring to let me know if it has a problem.

    The braces:

    I also have an external USB hard disk which I sync every couple of weeks, and this stays in the boot of my car.

  31. Marv Broderick

    why does a hard drive, in storage, need to be run occasionally?

    • @Marv Broderick,

      It’s a mechanical device and you want to keep the moving parts, moving. Moisture ie. humidity can effect them. Basically the same reason you need to start an engine in storage every so often. To stop it from seizing, mechanically.

      • @KSW, Actually, it’s more than that.

        You also have to wake those little pixels up once and a while for them to keep their memory and not succumb to data decay (I didn’t make that up!)- do it once every year or so. It’s got something to do with the chemicals used for manufacturing – forget the details now, but better people than me have told me about this.

        For Mac, copy to a “null” location. for Windows, run Scandisk or CHKDSK.

        You’ll be a happy camper if you do.

        • @Andrew Ptak,

          Good addition. Copy the backup to another drive and then again to the backup for laymen. I was up very late last night.

  32. Dennis Ferguson

    I use both LiveDrive for Cloud storage (love a flat fee for unlimited storage) and physical 2 TB drives. I figure that my photos are covered even if the storage company goes out of business or if a drive fails.

  33. I use Smugmug Pro and the Smugvault that is an Amazon based service. Smugmug Pro lets me save unlimited Jpegs and Tiffs up to 25mb and the Smugvault lets be store unlimited size of any file PSD,RAW whatever and
    they charge as the size increases.

    I like Smugmug because they have been around and are proven to be a sound company that is here to stay. They have incredible customer service and a awesome viewing site that is fully customizable.

    You can not send a drive in but for me uploading is a process that I kind of enjoy. I have all my family photos backed up as well as the “Blue Chip” photos

    For me I like have looked around at all the sites and feel that Smugmug is here to stay.

  34. Carbonite is not online storage! They are a backup service and only backup whats on your desktop/internal hardrive and they only hold those backups for 30 days. They don’t backup external hard drives and the overwrite files as you go along.

    They are not online storage!!!!

    Just wanted everyone to know, I tried em out but once I finally got them to admit they are not online storage I cancelled my account, and I’m stilll looking for reliable affordable online storage.

  35. At the moment I use a combination of drives, multiple computers, and DVDs for backups. It’s all a bit of a mess, and I have been thinking that I may change the way I do things. At the moment, for example, I don’t have off-site backup, but I think I may just take the tower of DVDs to work, and hey presto, there we are!

    Regarding the online solutions, the $5 per month solutions are ideal for me, however, I use Linux as an operating system, and it seems as though none of the cheaper solutions would cater to my needs. It’s a bit of a shame really.

  36. I am a HD user like many others for my backups. I have my archives in triplicate – one set in the tower, another set stored at home in as firesafe a place as possible, and a third set across town at friend’s.

    If you are a pro photog, it stands to reason you have very sizeable archive files – in the multiple TB’s. Sure, some of these storage companies let you ship them drives for upload (for a fee!), but when your system crashes and you need to get, let’s say 3TB’s of data back into your new system that day, how do you do that?

    With even the fastest connection, this can take a very long time. And as everyone knows, the chances for a few of the one’s and zero’s to get misplaced to yield file corruption goes up with these huge file transfers. Plus, the DRR debacle has me leery of any of these online storage providers’ longevity.

    I am all for finding an elegant solution to allow me to get rid the hard-drive swap-out system I use, but none of these online storage options are as cheap, as reliable, as convenient, as flexible, or allow me instant control over my own archives as rotating through HD’s every few years.

  37. It seems like a lot of people agree that even at todays MBit connection rates uploading or retrieving multiple TBs of data is not very practical.
    I have 10TB on a raid system in the basement to work with and use a system of single large HDs for daily backups of ongoing work and monthly complete backups for remote storage.
    For around $600.- you can buy an external eSATA-enclosure with 4-5 drives that lets you carry your complete digit assets worth 8-10TB in a Pelicase. As your memory needs grow upgrade to the next generation of drives or rather buy a new set of backup drives an let the old set sit on a shelf – just in case. (This also makes you write to fresh discs every 18 months or so, so don’t worry about bits rotting away.)

    There are two points I’d like to add:

    1) I wouldn’t trust DVDs for long term storage. I’ve seen discs become unreadable after just 5 years. There is just no way of knowing what you get if you burn your own media. The composition of the media layers is subject to constant modifications by the manufacturers and the makers of drives try to optimize their writing parameters to the different kind of blanks the drives can detect. This, in turn, requires constant updates to the drives’ firmware. As models go out of production every couple of months, firmware support for “old” models typically dries up rather quickly.
    With even high end DVD writers selling around ridiculous $50 I’m in constant wonder if I’m better of with my old drive which might not handle current blanks perfectly or the modern one which may have more recent firmware but was probably reengineered to be produced more cheaply than the generation before.
    None of the tests I’m aware of has shown any benefit of expensive “archival grade” blanks as it all depends on how your specific drive with its specific firmware deals with them.

    2) As any backup-professional will tell you, loss of data due to hardware failure is a much rarer event than losing files due to operator error. Accidentally deleting files or losing track of multiple edited copies is just very easy. It doesn’t help that Photoshop users are encouraged by Adobe to work on local copies of files rather than on server volumes directly (
    So you backup strategy should also let you revive old files. Backup software like Chronosyc can be configured to place modified files in archival folders rather than overwriting it with a new (and potentially damaged) version. I like the fact that those archives are just normal directory folders that can be searched and browsed without using the backup software to unpack proprietary archival files.

    Of course, the real curse of your digital archive lies in the fact that one day you might discover that you current software will not be able to make sense of those painstakingly preserved old files any more…

  38. I was with Mozy for almost a year, and then they pulled the rug from under me – 3+ terabytes of backups wasted because of their policy change.

    Went to Crashplan, has better feature set, and a reasonably priced Unlimited plan.

  39. Allen Murabayashi does a good job explaining what Photoshelter does and does not do. I use them an e-commerce back end for my website – they’re pretty good at it – and I’m currently experimenting with Carbonite for cloud storage.

    As others have noted, the problem with cloud storage for a photographer is upload speed. There’s simply no way that any of the services (including the one that I’m using) can keep up with my data volume. I’m currently 24 GB behind (i.e., backup pending) and that’s below the average since I started using Carbonite. Because of this problem, I’m not sure if I will continue to use them. The great usefulness of these services is that they are automated – backup occurs as a background task – so in an ideal world you would never lose days or weeks of data because you hadn’t backed up recently.

    As a side note, over the last dozen or so years I’ve had 3 drive failures across probably 8 or 9 different PCs. Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) is not a reasonable measurement of drive lifespan because it is an average. You could get lucky and have a drive that spins merrily and flawlessly for 10 years, but I wouldn’t count on it.

  40. All: I’m surprised that no one has mentioned McAfee Online Backup (MOB). I use it ($60 per year) for truly unlimited storage. Carbonite won’t back up a file that is larger than 4gb – automatically (at least when I was researching). I currently have 70k files, 215gb out there. Tested the restore process, and it works flawlessly. I also have two on-site back-up drives that I rotate, but I have to manually manage those; MOB is automagic.

  41. Caroline Kay

    Have you heard of Mosaic ( They seem to really cater to photographers. They can mail drives. Their prices per TB are $45 per month. I don’t use them but does anyone have any experience with them?

  42. One advantage of Internet-based services is mobility.

    Storage is less expensive every day and hardware becomes more reliable. It’s a good idea to have an external AND online storage, especially if the online storage is automatic and easy.

    Something like Flickr really is a poor choice for back up, but as a file sharing, photo-hosting service that can also be a back up in a jam, it’s not bad. Really, I had some commercial work come from Flickr, and even a girlfriend indirectly.

    My Aperture file outgrew my iMac’s pathetic hard drive so I have a 3TB drive to hold it all. But, where to back that up? Money is tight here (or I would have an off-site server AND two external drives onsite, in addition to online back up and storage)

    I have pictures on Flickr. The film ones have Aperture and Flickr as well as something called a negative. The digital ones have only Aperture. I was living somewhere with very unstable Internet, but I’ve since fixed that.

    One huge question remains, what if whatever server farm I end up with burns down, is taken over by rebel forces, invaded by flying unicorns in heat … I know they’re fortresses, but computers are still pretty fragile. But what are the chances that an external will die, the computer will melt and the server farm will go tits-up all at the same time? And, if it all goes to hell, I imagine I won’t be concerned with old photos (who will be left to license them after the apocalypse? will we have computers? Will there be enough coffee?).

  43. Don’t pay for LiveDrive if you’re a photographer. Join the NPS ( which is a UK photographers association as an overseas member and as well as tons of other stuff you will get LiveDrive (The States version) for free!

    I did and have over 90 gigabytes backed up on it.