Last week I had a good talk with some people from KineticD, and I’m still exploring their product, which you’ll hear about next week. This week, however, we’re going on a little detour, courtesy of an experience with a client yesterday.
I was actually at the client’s house to work on other things (like adding Google Analytics to their Facebook pages), but while I was there, they asked me to check on backups, particularly for the Windows system. The backup drive they’d been using was wonky and they hadn’t replaced it yet.
What’s more, they’d been using Mozy to back up their Macs, but their Mac guy had just told them they couldn’t rely on it because of problems with restoring data. (To the Mozy people reading this, I have no direct experience with the problem and can’t tell you any more.)
I did suggest that the client check out KineticD for online backup, since it’s targeted at small businesses with multiple computers, but the $2/GB price structure would mean considerably more than they were paying Mozy, so they weren’t too enthralled with that idea.
So I suggested a NAS drive that they could back all the machines up to, Mac and PC, and printed out some datasheets on a couple of Buffalo’s models, since I’m familiar with their products thanks to my BFF Jay Pechek. I also believe that it’s good to have both local and online backups.
A little further conversation revealed that photos made up the great bulk of the 25+ GB the client was currently backing up with Mozy (and this was just the home office, mind you; the actual business has completely separate systems).
In that case, I said, why not use SmugMug to back up the photos?
SmugMug seems to be the best photo sharing service you’ve never heard of. Certainly my client hadn’t heard of it. But I keep hearing of it in more places. Professional photographers like it because you can sell photos directly from the site. And when I went over to check it out in more detail, I discovered that they actually offer a special backup service for your high-resolution RAW, TIFF, and PSD files, as well as your video. (Storage is provided by Amazon Web Services.)
Unlike my mother and the Ur-Guru, I’m not a serious photographer. I’m still learning how to use my camera, and I don’t shoot RAW. My hard drive is not filled with photos—though I confess that owning cats may change that. But anyone with children or grandchildren has photos to store, and the combination of a SmugMug account with the SmugVault service may well be the best deal available for both backup and sharing.
A basic SmugMug account is $39.95/year and lets you store unlimited .jpg, .gif, and .png files, so I could actually keep all of my cat photos up there at full resolution (about 4 MB apiece) without paying anything extra. And I think my client’s camera also shoots in JPG rather than RAW, so her 20 GB or so of photos would be cheaper to store on SmugMug than on Mozy, and she could display them, too.
For those of us who have amateur cameras, a Flickr Pro account might be sufficient for photo storage and backup. You get unlimited uploads of JPG files for $24.95/year. But the pros need to care for their RAW images, and the designers for their PSD files, and that’s where SmugVault comes in.
You activate SmugVault in your SmugMug control panel under “settings.”
When you click the “Get one!” link next to the SmugVault entry, you find yourself here:
So you need to hop on over to Amazon and sign up. You don’t need to have your own AWS account for this, just to have an Amazon account with a card on file so they can charge you your initial pro-rated payment. As usual with AWS, the billing is a bit confusing.
So it’s 22 cents per gigabyte for storage, but there are also upload and download (bandwidth) charges, and a minimum charge of $1/month. Compared to Mozy Pro’s 50 cents/gigabyte plus a monthly license fee, or KineticD’s $2/GB flat fee, that’s still pretty cheap, as long as you’re just uploading the files and leaving them there. As my podcaster friends have discovered, bandwidth charges are what will kill you with Amazon S3 and their other web services.
It’s easy to use the SmugVault interface. You just click the green “add files” button and create a gallery for the vault by selecting and uploading files from your drive. I selected 3 PSD files, one of them 41 MB in size, and they went up pretty quickly.
Once the files have been uploaded, you see more information in your main vault screen.
When you browse the archives, you can delete the
files, hover over them for information, or click on them to be taken to their gallery, where you can download them.
Since I made this gallery private, people browsing around my site can’t see those files. You can also password-protect galleries, which is probably a good idea for your backups, since otherwise they won’t be very secure.
There are only two drawbacks. The first holds true for any online service: doing your first upload is going to be very time-consuming if you have a lot of photos. The second is that SmugMug doesn’t automatically upload your photos, so you have to remember to put them in your SmugVault. For some people, that’s a dealbreaker, but I’d still recommend it to anyone whose data consists primarily of photographs.