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Whether you shoot your digital photography with a compact or DSLR camera, you’ve invested too much money, time and effort for your valuable pictures to be lost because of inadequate file protection. Throughout the digital age, photographers have been copying their original files onto external drives and DVDs; and they have proven to be workable solutions. The downside of those back-up options is that they are typically kept at the same location: home, business or studio. That makes them vulnerable to theft, fire and various natural disasters, which is why it’s a good idea to add off-site storage to your back-up strategy.
As digital technology has evolved, it is no longer necessary for files, of any kind, and even software to be stored together on a single computer or its localized back-up system. In recent years, the cloud concept has been growing in popularity, as individuals and companies realize that important files should also be copied to and stored on off-site servers. There are many companies that provide this service via the Internet. In most cases, these services are only a few dollars a month for more capacity than you’ll ever need; plus, they will copy and store virtually every kind of photo or edited file: RAW images as well as DNG, TIFF, JPEG and PSD.
Many of these online systems automatically back up your entire hard drive, so it is also protecting your non-photo files, such as video, audio and text documents. You can also select specific files and folders if those are the only ones you want copied to a cloud server. The better services work with both Mac and Microsoft operating systems.
Upload time is a function of the total size of the files you want to store and the capacity of your Internet connection. An hour per gigabyte is not uncommon, so your initial upload could take days if you want to protect many gigabytes of digital photos. As you add picture files, some cloud services again automatically upload just those new images, which won’t take long. Other services allow you to schedule back up at a specific time or period, during the middle of the night, for example. That’s a good idea because some of these services slow your computer when they are actively uploading.
Before you can thoroughly benefit from an online cloud service, you must first organize your digital picture files. If you’re like many photographers, then your photos are probably stored on several drives and/or discs. Invest in photo archive organization software to help you make the process simple, quick and easy. Then, that same organizational structure will be copied by the Internet cloud service, also making it easier to retrieve all your files if disaster does strike.
File retrieval and restoration is typically a painless process with the better services. Although restoration to the hard drive on your computer (or a new computer if that was your disaster) is free, it could very likely take a number of days to be completed. Some of these services offer the option of preparing and sending you DVDs of your files. This will restore your files faster to your hard drive than via the Internet, but you’ll pay a set-up charge, a per-gigabyte fee and that expensive overnight shipping cost to have your files the next day.
If you have some misgivings about your digital photo files being stored on some unknown server in some unknown location, then you’re only practical alternative is to continue to copy them to DVDs or a flash drive and keep one set of DVDs and the flash drive at a different location, such as your business or a relative or friend’s house. That’s a bit of a “regressive” solution, however; and will require you to spend a considerable amount making the copies; plus, that other location may not always be accessible when you need those back-ups to restore files to your computer.
The cloud concept is “progressive” technology, and is likely to become the norm quickly. In fact, many companies already use cloud technology to share applications and data among multiple locations and wherever their employees and customers may be. If major corporations are comfortable with storing their valuable and secret data offsite, then you should have no reason to hesitate to advance to this technology, as the best method to store and protect your digital picture files.