Imagine if disaster struck. No, I’m not talking about a tornado or flash flood. I’m talking about coffee. Your laptop is now sitting in a puddle of the liquid you use to get yourself through the morning. If this happened to you, would panic strike or would you feel secure knowing all your photos and data are safely secured in another location? Here is a breakdown of everything a photographer needs to know in order to implement cloud storage so that they need not worry when disaster does strike.
You may be wondering what exactly “cloud storage” is and what it entails. In its simplest form, the cloud is a place where files can be stored and easily accessed by users all over the world. Rather than storing files on your computer’s hard drive or another physical storage device, your files are stored on a server, located within a data center, operated by a cloud hosting company. It would be similar to if you could print out all of your photos and mail them to a photo storage center where they would be kept safe. And then, if you needed to access those photos again, you could request that the photo storage agency send you whichever copies you need. Except, in the case of cloud storage, all of this takes place digitally within a matter of minutes and without the use of a middleman because you are in control of your own storage.
By storing photos in the cloud, you free up valuable hard drive space on your personal computer and physical storage devices. It is a great way to archive projects you’ve worked on that you may not need to access frequently, but still want to be able to view in the future. It also takes some of the responsibility off of you for making sure your backups don’t get overwritten or destroyed in an accident. If you’re still wary, using the cloud is a great way to have a secondary backup to your physical storage for an added layer of protection for your photos.
Some cloud programs will even run in the background of your computer, automatically backing up anything you’ve saved to your hard drive for easy access later. However, if you like being in control of what is uploaded, there are other companies that offer self-service options which require you to manually upload, tag and name your photos before they are placed on the cloud.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all service that is perfect for every photographer’s needs, but once you figure out what is most important to you, it is easy to find a service that will fit your needs. Different cloud computing companies, such as SingleHop, Rackspace and Interoute, can furnish you with different offerings. There is a huge marketplace for cloud storage right now, making it easier than ever to find what fits your lifestyle and work style the best.
Cloud storage is a great alternative (or addition) to more traditional digital storage methods. It is also one of the most convenient and secure way to store your files. Whereas storage options such as CDs, DVDs, personalized thumb drives, and external hard drives require physical space for storage and specific hardware and/or software to operate, the cloud is accessible via the Internet. This means that you can access files stored on the cloud from anywhere at any time as long as you have an Internet-connected device handy, such as a phone, tablet or laptop. Technology is moving at such a rapid rate that specific hardware, such as firewire ports and CD burners, as well as software, such as that designed for a certain operating system or device, can become obsolete in the blink of an eye. Because the cloud is accessed through the Internet, it makes it less likely to be a technology that disappears any time soon.
It’s important to keep in mind that backups are extremely important, especially when your livelihood relies on digital files. Technology is unpredictable, so you have to make sure you’re doing everything in your power to control as much as you can. Having backups of your files ,and the photos that are contained within those files, in more than one location, and on more than one type of media, is important. A hosted private cloud is a great option alongside more traditional types of physical storage like those mentioned above. Each type of storage has its pros and cons, but by using multiple types you help to protect yourself from unexpected data loss.
It can be scary to relinquish some of the control when it comes to storing important files and photos for your business, but cloud storage is a very safe, secure and reliable option. It is important to do research into what types of cloud storage are available and what companies can offer you in terms of reliability and security.
One of the benefits of using cloud storage is being able to access your photos whenever you need them, but you need to make sure this is a reality. It would be a terrible reality if you were trying to give an onsite preview to a client and you were denied access from your stored photos. This situation would completely negate one of the biggest positives for a professional photographer to purchase cloud storage. Check with cloud storage providers to see what their uptime percentages are, as well as what redundancies they have in place. Redundancies are backups in other locations so that if one of their data centers goes down for whatever reason (think: natural disaster or power outage), they have your data backed up and accessible from another location so that you never have to go without your files.
It is also important to research what types of security mechanisms are in place at each cloud storage provider’s data centers. You will want certain types of physical security so that only authorized individuals can access the server racks, as well as some type of digital security on your files so that they are protected from cyber criminals and hackers. It would be worth researching if each company has ever fallen victim to security breaches or hacks in the past, as those that have been able to protect themselves from these sorts of attacks in the past will likely have a better chance of protecting their users’ data in the future.
Every cloud hosting company offers different types of accessibility options for their users. Some companies offer collaborative options so that you have the ability to share your files with other users. Google Drive, for example, only requires that you have a GMail account in order to access another user’s files (after they’ve shared those files with you). Some companies, such as DropBox, don’t require you to be a member in order to access files that someone has shared with you, but limit the length of time that the user can access said files. Sharing options can be extremely helpful in situations where others may need to access the photos you’ve put on the cloud, such as your customers. You can even use this service to track downloads in case you need to know which files a customer has chosen to save to their computer for future use. This can help you track photos to which you own the copyright. Choosing a cloud company with this option could possibly increase profit, since you will be able to protect yourself against illegal downloads.
It is also important to make sure you are able to access your files and photos from anywhere you might need to. Do you access your files on the go a lot? Make sure the cloud host you choose offers a mobile app or easy-to-use mobile version of their website. If you have a Mac or PC, make sure they have compatible software for your system. You’ll also want to make sure their interface is user-friendly so you can easily organize, tag, and access your photos when you need to. You don’t want to get stuck manually reviewing thousands of photos just to find one from a wedding you photographed three years ago. Instead, you can use a tagging or folder system to easily find photos when you need them. Most cloud providers also offer a search feature, so if you have clearly identified what each picture contains, the search feature will help you find photos in a pinch.
Now you are armed with the knowledge to save yourself from disaster. Remember the coffee mentioned at the beginning of the post? Yes, your laptop might be ruined, along with your day but your whole business is not suddenly down the drain. You will still be able to access the photos from last weeks shoot at your 10:00 meeting without a hitch. Remember, no same storage method works for each individual and research will reveal what will work best for your business.