Last year Team Stuart was faced with a big storage problem. Our 9-plus terabytes of photos were a few weddings away from out growing their 10 terabytes of storage. This meant we needed to shell out a bunch of money for more hard drives to even think about storing more photos. Money that I didn't have, especially considering we'd need a whole new NAS setup. That is when I made the bold decision to forgo on-site storage and move to the cloud. In retrospect, it may have been a big waste of time.
Amazon is huge. They are so big that when they ran into a problem earlier this year, half the Internet ceased to work. They have also started to promoting and improving their photo-centric offerings. Prime Photos is offered as a perk with an Amazon Prime membership. It also advertises unlimited photo storage. What could go wrong?
I think the idea of unlimited storage is a fallacy. There was probably an internal chart showing the expected average user's storage needs versus Amazon's incredible array of cloud storage. This chart probably looked great on paper, but quickly started straying from projections. I'd imagine the people who were most attracted to the unlimited plan were people that simply could not afford to push their data to the cloud elsewhere.
I will be the first to admit we keep way too many photos. If you don't have a solid system to prune your shots and remove fluff on the go, you end up with a monumental task of going through them later. You know, the "later" that never really arrives. Not because you don't want to, but because it takes too much time that you simply don't have.
The truly hilarious part is the time and effort I put in to get the photos there, only to have the whole idea poof into smoke via an Amazon press release. Once I had made the decision to push half a million photos to the cloud, I made sure my Internet service provider didn't have an upload limit. I was assured no.
I quickly found out that my upload speeds were fairly mediocre. I could hit about 80 gigabytes a day. This meant it would take months for all the photo to get there. I would check every morning to make sure it was slowly filling. Although I've never done it, I would compare it to filling up a large pond, or even a lake, with a regular garden hose. There was even the effect of the rest of the water losing pressure. In this case, the "water" was our household bandwidth and was taking quite a hit due to the clogged up data pipes.
Eventually, after exploring upgrading our Internet to business-class fiber, finding out if Verizon Fios would ever be in our area, and even looking into whether I could get an Amazon Snowball appliance to load the data onto, I sent my entire NAS home with a coworker who had 20 times my upload speed. This did the trick and tackled the last four terabytes in about a week.
So all was good. I had achieved what I thought was the best possible solution to my storage problems. For a very digestible $59 a year I could continue to push photos to the cloud and sort them out "later."
Then came a tip from a sharp Fstoppers reader, Rafael. He warned us that Amazon was discontinuing the unlimited plan. I just about fell off my chair. This cannot be true. I searched online and found zero references to the change in policy. At least for that moment, I held on to the idea that I would be fine. How could they do that so soon? They clearly have the room for my photos.
Well, not too long after that it started hitting the news outlets. This was actually happening.
Feeling a bit panicked I reached out to a group of trusted photographers asking what they thought about the change, and if they knew of better alternatives. One astute peer noticed in my screenshot that the photos didn't seem to count against my new required plan because of my unlimited photo storage offered as a Prime benefit. The only problem is this line in their terms of service:
Note: Prime Photos is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You may not use it in connection with a professional photography business or other commercial service.
Also, I now have some serious trust issues with Amazon. Why would I, even for a second, believe that the similar unlimited benefit will not find itself on the chopping block in the future? There seems to be little we as users can do to prevent things like this from happening.
To add to the problem I recently upgraded to a huge and fast Lexar 128 GB SD card. That should help me fill hard drives even quicker. I truly cannot even imagine how all you digital video people out there do it. Just thinking of the storage requirements for a full blown 4K video workflow stresses me out.
At the end of the day, I will probably continue to push photos to their service. But now it will only be a supplemental location since I could wake up tomorrow to find a new announcement from Amazon. Do I feel like I was taken advantage of? Not really. The price seemed too good to be true. And if I've learned anything while on the Internet, it is this: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. I do think it was somewhat dishonest of Amazon to shut down something that in some cases, would result in an insane increase in cost for people who should be appreciated for being early adopters and believers in the Amazon ecosystem. I would now call myself a skeptical former believer instead.
Do you have photos in the cloud or are you a believer in local storage? I'd love to hear some of the setups you guys either use or have heard people swearing by. Assuming I don't find a treasure chest full of money to buy whatever I'd like, I will need to start the whole process over of finding a spot for all our damn photos.