Online Storage; You Might Need It, But Take Care—It Can Bite You! Page 2

In addition to being safeguarded against loss, your data is protected against unauthorized access. Lose a notebook computer and you potentially lose every data file therein. But your online data is guarded by time-proven cryptographic methods and passwords that diligently authenticate users.

Finally, online storage sites sometimes offer other important and useful services. In some cases—depending on your exact needs—you’ll be better off connecting with an online vendor that specializes in one particular service. But many sites are multipurpose and provide controlled file sharing, private and public photo album sharing, online printing and commerce opportunities. Commerce opportunities give photographers a chance to sell their work without the expense of building a storefront or developing a relationship with a stock house.

The Dark Side
On the surface, online storage sounds like the perfect long-term storage solution. But don’t unplug the back-up network hard drive just yet. There is a risk, just as there is a risk in doing business with any third party. You shouldn’t put all of your cash in one S&L and you shouldn’t store the only copy of your priceless images on only one server.

One of the online photo pioneers, AOL Pictures, ceased operations in 2008 after 10 years of service. Much to their credit they offered customers a safe and orderly transition to other service providers. The 1500 photographers who relied on Digital Railroad, however, were not so fortunate.

Jungle Disk ( uses multiple Amazon S3 data centers to safeguard against data loss and downtime. Storage is inexpensive—about 15¢ per GB on a buy-what-you-need basis. Access is as easy as clicking a desktop icon, or you can schedule automatic backups. Jungle Disk Plus, available for the nominal fee of $1 per month, adds these important features: web-based file access, block-level file updates (load only the changed portions of large files), and upload resume (resume uploads of large files where they left off in the case of disconnection). Although Jungle Disk storage is online, all file handling operations are the same as if you had a giant external hard drive under your desk.

In October 2008, Digital Railroad went off the tracks, derailing several hundred photographers. In one announcement the company stated, “It is very likely that all the images located on the Digital Railroad servers could be permanently inaccessible.” Later, a statement from Diablo Management, the firm that managed the foreclosure proceedings of Digital Railroad, Inc., confirmed that all of the images had been “…destroyed, recovery is not possible.” Losses were estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of images—and an indeterminable dollar value.

The decade that has seen presumably invincible financial institutions, retail giants, automakers, and other indestructible businesses hit hidden icebergs and sink can expect more surprises. Online data storage is part of a comprehensive back-up program, not the only part. It has its risks but it also offers many compelling reasons to use it. Properly monitored, online storage is a powerful and useful resource for photographers.