Is cloud storage a viable solution for a photography business?

Cloud storage for a photography business

Cloud storage — is it viable for a photography business?

I’ve looked into cloud storage as an off-site backup solution several times in the past. On face value storing images in the cloud seems the perfect solution technically:

  • you have access on the go
  • off-site backup
  • high availability and no maintenance

there are several show stopper reasons why it’s not viable (for me at least).

Cloud storage price point

Cloud storage is expensiveCloud based storage is very expensive. Sure, it’s cheap on a per gigabyte basis and great for low volume users but some of my files are several gigabytes in size and my entire archive is 10s of Terabytes, soon to be in the 100’s TB.

Photographers are high volume, high inode users and it’s the sheer volume of data that makes cloud storage very expensive for us. The business model is designed around a very large number of low volume users — I’m sure you’re aware of a few. The only other alternatives are enterprise class solutions and clearly they’re never going to be at a price point within my range.

There’s a massive gap in the market. At the time of writing I’ve not found a cost effective solution for bulk cloud storage.

Speed of accessing cloud storage

Cloud storage is slow to accessBroadband is heavily geared in favour of download, not upload and like many photographers I run a SOHO network and use a consumer grade ISP. To move my entire archive to the cloud at my present data rate would take over 112 days at 100% bandwidth and that’s assuming it doesn’t fail.

Could I go for a faster broadband service?

Yes but that just exacerbates the price point problem and hits me straight in the bottom line again.

Future migration to a new cloud storage provider almost impossible

Cloud storage -- future migration impossibleIf my files are all in the cloud, migrating to a new cloud service if I’m unhappy with the current one is all but impossible for two reasons:

  1. I doubt I’d have enough storage to download to in-house (why would I? That’s why I’d put it in the cloud in the first place).
  2. The amount of time to download everything from one service and upload to another.

This presents an unacceptable level of risk, especially when combined with the next two points, meaning I’m effectively locked in to the first service provider I choose.

Being held to ransome

Data inaccessibleMy images are a major asset. If I have a dispute with the cloud storage provider, let’s say I’m not happy with the service because they’ve failed to meet their SLA and I’m withholding payment until it’s resolved, in all likelihood I won’t be able to access my clients’ files.

Unacceptable level of risk.

What if your cloud storage service ceases to trade?

Closed for businessIf a cloud storage provider ceases to trade, how much notice would their users have to retrieve their data? Remember, we’re dealing with large archives that will take days if not weeks to download.

They might get fair warning but the worst case scenario is none at all.

Unacceptable level of risk.

Other issues

There are plenty of other issues too such as

  • Data security
  • Availability
  • Fallback plan
  • Data leakage
  • Archive cleaning

but for me cost and access are the biggest show stoppers.

Conclusion

In the future I’d like to make cloud storage work. It’s a great solution from a technical viewpoint but I need it to work on all levels, especially data rates and charges.

I look on cloud storage as a utility service like gas, electricity and your mobile phone. In the UK its supposed to be easy to switch from one provider to another and when I did this a few years ago it was relatively painless. I’d like to see cloud storage moving in this direction too: as a consumer I want to be able to switch my cloud storage provider seamlessly and painlessly so I can run my business without taking several months to move my data around.

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