I’ve been riding that fine line of potentially losing my entire portfolio for 3 whole years now. Not good.
So yesterday I got real with myself about my shortcomings and posted a story to my Instagram page asking photographers what they use for cloud storage and why. I thought there were only a couple valid options, but turns out there are several - each one of them caught lacking in their own special way. Let me explain:
I assumed that cloud storage was the fancy new way for photographers to secure their images and save cash in 2019. As it turns out, like usual, I was dead wrong. Everything considered, at the end of the day you pay the same amount of money for cloud-storage, if not more, and then run into three key issues: accessibility, security, expenditure, and content isolation. Ok, four key issues.
PART ONE: PROBLEM
Without quick access to your photos, what’s the point? Right - there isn’t one. There are two main problems with cloud storage as it pertains to access. 1) First of all, even among the most expensive cloud storage platforms, you run into the issue of having to download the RAW files to a computer before you can edit them or send them to a client. 2) Secondly, among the cheaper cloud storage platforms, or “cloud backup” platforms, it is quite common to lose access entirely and spend weeks in retrieval. See some examples of this by clicking on the words “caught lacking” in my first paragraph.
In the words of my buddy Joey, the internet is the internet, and if you have the right link, you’re in. Of course you can pay for higher security measures and encryption, but all that costs money. For example, your banking operates online, but you and everyone else you know pays the bank enough money to have a huge budget for data encryption - in fact their entire business model relies on it. The same isn’t true with mass data storage, so to get the security and peace of mind that myself and other professionals require, you have to spend just as much money as you would on physical hard drives. See next section for what I mean.
Let’s run the numbers. Dropbox Business Advanced is $99/month. That works out to a yearly spend of just under $1,200 per year. That’s a number I want you to remember. Obviously the amount of data used per year differs from photographer to photographer, but for the purposes of this blog we can use me as the test dummy. These are the statistics of my RAW image creation as a lifestyle photographer:
Photos taken in entire career: 475,339
Video clips taken in entire career: 8,258
Data stored in photos: 13.5TB
Data stored in videos: 2.75TB
Total data stored: 16.25TB (and growing)
2016: 65,004 photos taken, 1.7TB used
2017: 67,958 photos taken, 1.8TB used
2018: 262,641 photos + 5,225 video clips, 8.7TB used (after going full-time late 2017)
2019 (Jan 1-Mar 5): 79,736 photos + 3,033 video clips, 4.04TB used (on track for a 12TB year)
What this information shows me is that I could back up the large majority of my current hard drives by the purchase of one RAID that costs far less than $1,200, and bypass the cloud storage issue entirely.
You’re probably thinking that I could set myself up long-term by biting the bullet and giving into cloud storage, and in a sense you would be right. The 12 days transfer time would be well worth it, you would say.
But the only problem is, I live in Canada, and way up here in the frigid snowy north, our cabins and igloos are rationed out to an embarassing 1TB/month of wifi. All of the sudden, my upload would take 16 months, not 12 days. And this does not include the time it would take to remove it all, and re-upload to a different cloud storage platform if my workflow ever required a change in service. If my business scales, which it is already doing, I would need to upgrade services, but it would be near impossible to do so - and that is our next issue, the issue of content isolation.
Pretty much, once it’s up, it’s up. If you want to change services, even with my measly 16.25TB total storage requirements, it would take a minimum of two weeks (over an unlimited wifi plan, which is very expensive in Canada ($300-500/mo)) to switch platforms. Factoring in for portfolio growth, this could be 4 weeks within a year, and 6 weeks inside of two years. Incase you don’t know what this implies, it means a whole computer dedicated to a transfer task for 2-6 weeks straight.
PART TWO: SOLUTION
I’ve talked to several high-profile working professionals - those people who have performed the ultimate in trial-by-fire, and they told me what I should do. So I made this very intricate diagram explaining the process:
The plan is this: 1) working hard-drive on the desk, 2) backup RAID on the shelf, 3) backup HDD’s in Tommy’s garage, and 4) a portfolio of my best images on Google Drive to pull from at will for clients, IG, or updating the website.
I’ve decided to go this route based on the advice of RJ Bruni, Callum Snape, Renee Hahnel and Daniel Ernst. Each has a system that in some effect operates like the above diagram. All three of these people are long-time professionals in the industry, at the highest levels, and as such I feel completely safe basing my workflow off of theirs.
I hope this helps make your decision. But PLEASE, do your own research.
Thank you so much to everyone who replied to my Instagram story, and last night’s post educating me on the subject. Each one of you helped me arrive at a solution that is perfect for my current application, and even more importantly, you guys helped me tee myself up to be successful long-term with my data management.
As my business continues to grow and we do more video work, my storage needs will begin to change very quickly and I may have to adopt a strategy like that of Joel Schat and his video production team. More on that at a later date.
Thanks for reading!
© 2019 Ben Prescott - @itsbigben