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Online Data Backup Software

25 Mar

This a long overdue post about my experiences shopping for online data software.  There are plethora of companies out there that provide this type of service. Before I talk about my experiences, let’s quickly review the reasons for using an online backup provider.

1) Hard drive crashes can happen at anytime, without warning,  even if you backup regularly. It is very easy to have important documents or photos slip through the cracks because you forgot to back up on any certain day.

2) If there is a fire, natural disaster, etc. your computer equipment could be destroyed. This includes your data backed up on  an external hard drive that is sitting in your home or office.

3) Your external data storage device could fail or become corrupted.

4) Professional data retrieval from a mechanically failed hard drive is a slow, very costly, and unpredictable process.

I am sure there are other reasons too. The most important thing to consider is the cost versus benefit factor. The costs are relatively small if your work and time are important. For less than $75 a year, isn’t the extra protection worth it?

I really didn’t know much at all about online data backup providers, but learned there are quite a few of them available. Two of the largest appear to be Mozy and Carbonite.  Both competitors offered unlimited data backup storage for about $54.95 per year. The biggest difference between the two is that users could not back up from an external hard drive using Carbonite’s services. Additionally, Carbonite doesn’t seem to have as favorable online reviews as Mozy. Mozy seemed like the logical selection for me until I realized they raised their prices considerably about a month ago.  Mozy now limits its storage capacity for personal users to 50 GB for a cost of about $60.00 per year.

That was enough of a catalyst for me to start shopping for alternative providers.  There are quite a few websites that provide comprehensive reviews on online data backup providers and information is not that hard to come by. What is a little more difficult and time consuming is differentiating between the competition on attributes other than price. After all, isn’t reliability just as big of issue? If your online data backup provider can’t secure your data…well, Houston we have a problem.

Some of the factors I took into consideration were how long has the company been in business and how big is it? Are there any negative reviews on the company? Also, functionality of the software can be an issue as well. How difficult is their program to use? I don’t think anyone interested buying these services wants to “test drive” the software of each provider to determine which is the most user friendly. One other issue that people seemed to have strong opinions on is the upload speed of the software. Backing up large amounts of data can take a long time and some services are faster than others.

One final consideration that I explored was the level of technical support offered. I called three different companies to ask questions about their products. One company was clearly better than the others in terms of the amount time I had to spend on the phone to get a live rep. Ultimately, I narrowed my decision down to three companies’ Backblaze, Crashplan, and Idrive.  Backblaze and Crashplan offer unlimited storage for around $50 per  year. Idrive offers 150GB for about the same price. That is a considerably more space than what Mozy currently offers.

All three companies are well reviewed and offer slightly different services. The most notable difference is with Crashplan, who offers a kind of “social networking” of backup services where the user can back up data to and from other computers as well. I eliminated Backblaze because they were the most recent and smallest of the companies to hit the market. I personally wanted a company that had more of a market presence, reputation, and employees. Meanwhile, Crashplan had some extremely favorable reviews online and certainly seems to be on the up and up. However, after doing some research, there seems to be some issues with their software corrupting the files of their customers; at least according to one very angry and persistent customer who blogs about it online. This company’s website offers a free forum and I read about some issues people were having with the software on it.

So, by process of elimination, I chose Idrive.  Their customer service is first-rate and their upload speeds are excellent. It took me approximately eight hours to upload 11 GB of data. The bottom line is this: it is important to back up your data online and it is a personal decision as to what company you want to use to do so.  Don’t settle on one company without first shopping around, Pricing aside, there are many other benefits and features to be learned about by comparison shopping. In the long run, it’s worth it.

By the way, if you decide to use Idrive in the future please let them know I referred you as they provide referral bonuses to their customers. Hopefully you found this blog useful. If so, I’d love to hear from you!

The Big Three: A Landscape Photographers Guide to Sharing Their Photographs On-Line

13 Aug

 Today we’ll begin a discussion and in-depth look into the three primary places I share my images online:  Flickr, Nature Photographer’s Network, and Photo.net. There are a plethora of other websites designed to share photography, but these are the three primary ones I use and the ones I’ll be focusing on in this series of blog posts.

I know some people on photography sites are territorial and take pride in thinking their site of choice is the best one. I try to respect the opinions of others, and am not here to undermine or discredit any of these fine sites – just to provide you the reader with my personal insights and experiences when sharing my images. In an effort of full disclosure, please note the opinions expressed here are based on personal experiences and may very well be completely different for someone else. Furthermore, these opinions are general summations and there are exceptions to every one.  So please don’t take anything personal…

The opportunities available on all these sites are far too many to list here; I am only going to discuss the ones I find personally relevant.  I will not get into the technical aspects of navigating through the sites, but will simply touch upon some perceived advantages and shortcomings of using each of them. We’ll do this in three segments – starting today with Flickr. (You can view my Flickr page on the link below)

Flickr:  

Cost:  $24.95/yr for a pro account

What is it:  The world’s largest online photo sharing website.

Brief Overview

Flickr offers something for everyone interested in photography, from folks posting personal pictures of friends and family, to tenured pro’s in business for quite some time. You’ll find it all here. This site is about photographs – period. You can save, store, show off, and shop for images while perusing Flickr.

In terms of landscape photographers, you’ll find some of the best contemporary work around. However, it can be a little hard to find if you don’t know how to search for it.

The Community

The community is extremely friendly and very supportive, and even more importantly – objective. This is the site where I consistently get the most positive feedback on my work. If I am looking to test the popularity of a certain image, I will most likely post it on Flickr first. Abstract landscape images don’t seem to do as well on Flickr. If it is an image where I am struggling with the processing, I’ll look for help elsewhere and post the finished product on Flickr.  

Because Flickr has the largest community of people, you are sure to find plenty who are interested in seeing your work. It’s finding those people that takes time. The easiest way to do it  is by joining themed groups – where people display images of a certain genre or related theme.  The groups on Flickr have their own pros and cons, but are an almost necessary way of finding others on the site. As with all the sites, networking is very important here and it takes a consistent approach of spending time on the site everyday. Nonetheless, it is an achievable goal. Generally speaking, the better your work is the easier it is to do it. Overall, it is a joy to be part of the Flickr community and the uplifting spirit it presents.

Features

There are lots of fun and interesting ways to customize your account. One of my personal favorites is to sort your images based on the order of “interestingness,” a secret algorithm indigenous to Flickr. I like to see which of my images rank the highest using their formula. Sometimes it just doesn’t make any sense, but its like a Top 25 countdown and its fun!

For me, a very important feature of Flickr is that my images can show up on high on Google searches if properly tagged. This is a critical advantage of using this site.

In terms of educational resources, Flickr comes up short in comparison to its counterparts. You can search for answers to specific questions, but if you are looking to post a question and get specific feedback to that question this is not best site to do so. This is especially true of questions regarding processing, printing, and marketing. There are other, more useful forms for that particular subject matter. Your best bet for obtaining information or getting answers to your specific questions is to email the person directly through the site. The vast majority of people are very cordial and will respond when contacted.

However, there is one aspect of research that I do on Flickr that I find particularly useful and almost indispensible. Because it involves looking at pictures and not reading technical information – it also provides some of the most fun I have while doing research. I do find the photographic database tremendously useful. It easy to search using key words and  I specifically use it to locate images of places I am thinking about visiting. Before I invest a lot time and effort into driving ten hours and then hiking 20 miles to take pictures, I want to see what others have captured from the location to gauge the aesthetics and whether it is the best place for me to spend my time.

The tools on Flickr are very easy to use in organizing and structuring your portfolio.  Uploading is a piece of cake, there is no limit on size, and from there it’s pretty much a drag and drop system which works extremely well. Further, the automatically generated slide show is a great future and fun to use.

What I love:  the community, Flickr statistics, web-based search engine optimization, huge, easy to search database, excellent online portfolio display and organizational tools

 What I dislike:  pornography is allowed and can sometime show up in unrelated searches, the graphics of the group awards can be obnoxious and some of the groups are pretentious

 Educational Resources:  B           

Ease of Use:  B + 

Benefits:  A –

Fun Factor:  A

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