Amazon has ended its unlimited cloud storage. Reverts to 1TB for US$59.90

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Recently Amazon announced that they will no longer be offering unlimited cloud storage through Amazon Drive. Instead, the company will be offering cloud storage starting at 1TB for US$59.00 a year and the cost increases accordingly for each 1TB needed for up to 30TB.

This is disappointing news for me as I have been relying on Amazon Drive (since the announcement of unlimited cloud storage) for a safe place to store and grow my photo collection.

As someone who picked up photography as a hobby, I have amassed almost 100,000 photos and I need a safe place to store them apart from my usual portable hard drive as my main repository of photographs. That amounts to almost 900GB. I am almost hitting the 1TB limit and now that they announce that additional 1TB of storage would cost another US$59.90, I would have no choice but to shop elsewhere for a cheaper alternative to store my expanding collection of photos.

I have started migrating some files that are not photographs or pictures to my OneDrive account (I have 1TB courtesy of the Office 365 account and intend to keep it in the long term) They are mostly pictures taken from my smartphone, past and present (I am sentimental, although a majority of them are rubbish photos sent via WhatsApp and stored on my phone). They don’t constitute a large portion of the space required, just maybe 20Gb or so.

To make the migration easier for the thousands of documents and smartphone pictures stored in various folders, I employed the use to MultCloud, a cloud migration web app, that assists you in migrating swathes of files from one cloud to another. It is free to use and allows you to transfer up to 2TB of data. For VIP users (in a form of a subscription) you can have an unlimited transfer to multiple cloud storage services at one go and also speeds up the transfer by transferring multiple files in parallel.

I can clearly see the benefit of subscribing to the VIP services for a month, as the transfer can get quite slow. It is definitely easy as you simply tell the web app which folder you want to transfer from one cloud to another. But before you do that, you have to map all your cloud storage services under the MultiCloud interface. That way, it will recognise all the cloud services you have and it will then initiate the data transfer. Other than file transfer, MultCloud allows you to synchronise data between two cloud or simply use MultCloud as a one stop app to access all your files across multiple cloud services under your wing.

Once the file migration is complete I will close down Amazon Drive and will no longer use its services.

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My next solution is to start backing up the hard drive with all my photos using BackBlaze. BackBlaze primary feature is to create backups of your PC or Mac, especially your personal files. For a flat fee of US$50, you have unlimited data for backing up your files from ONE computer as well as any attached portable hard drives that you have. This means that BackBlaze allows me to backup my portable hard drive containing all my photos (and some video files).

This is not the best solution as it solely serves as a backup repository but since I rarely access most of my photos taken during my photography session, there is no need to access those files from BackBlaze’s servers. So long as my portable hard drive is still functioning, I will continue to use that and not disturb any of the files that have been backed up in BackBlaze. Should my hard drive fail, then I simply get a new one then restore all the files from BackBlaze.

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The beauty of odrive

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Some of you by now would have multiple free cloud storage accounts spread across the net. From Dropbox, to Box, to Google Drive, Microsoft One Drive and many more. Some of you may even have a paid cloud storage subscription for increased storage capabilities. You might have encountered some slight annoyances in logging into individual accounts just to access your files, and some of the services may or may not provide native sync support to sync all your files between your computer, and the cloud. Each cloud storage options may even offer different services and capabilities. In short, each has its own strength and weaknesses in accessing, updating, uploading, and syncing files.

For my situation, I have 2 free dropbox accounts, totalling around 12gb of storage space, a free Box account that gives me 50gb, One Drive, 30gb, Google Drive, 15gb, and Amazon Cloud Drive, unlimited storage space. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could consolidate all your cloud storage into one main folder? Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could combine all these cloud storage space into one big one?

Introducing odrive. I encountered odrive while tinkering with Amazon Cloud Drive. Since it doesn’t have native sync support, and the upload application Amazon provided for PCs and Macs, only provides simple uploading services without all the bells and whistle, odrive is a wonderful software that allows you to have sync ability between Amazon Cloud Drive and your computer. It goes one step further; allowing you to link most other cloud storage services out there under one main odrive folder. Within this folder you will then see individual folders being made based on the accounts you link. So it does not interfere with the file structure that you have created for the other cloud storage services you have. This feature is a big plus as it now allows you to access odrive once, and all your cloud storage services are under one roof. No more logging in to individual accounts, no more using separate shared folders provided by each cloud storage services, and no more using separate uploading apps to upload your files to all the different accounts.

The second big plus, and this is the major selling in my opinion, is their progressive sync capability. Progressive sync allows you to control which files and folders you wish to sync. When you initially set up odrive, you can see all the file you have in the cloud regardless of which account is linked. But the files are not immediately synced to your computer. You get to set which files or folders you deem important to you and you simply sync them. For example, if you have a folder with all your important documents that you work on it on your computer everyday, simply sync that folder to your computer and any changes you made to your document will automatically be updated and synced to the cloud. This way, less frequently used or accessed files in the cloud can remain in the cloud untouched. This is important as it frees up precious storage space in your computer. There is no need to sync every file you have on the cloud to your computer, if only a handful of them are needed and updated frequently. You can sync and unsync anytime you want and once it is unsync, the actual files will be removed from your computer, but not the files in your cloud.

This feature has huge implications in the way files are uploaded to and from my computer and the Amazon Cloud Drive using odrive. I am using Amazon Cloud Drive to upload and store all my photos I have taken with my DSLR. There are more than 60 000 of them. These images are not frequently accessed, now that I have edited them using Lightroom and showcased the very best. I would very much like the keep the original. I have uploaded all my files after days of non-stop uploading. Now, I got the chance to try how fast it would be to download my entire database, should I need to rebuilt my hard drive, after a catastrophic failure. So I tried downloading a single folder containing a couple hundred photos through the web browser. Once you click on ‘download folder’, what Amazon Cloud Drive does is that it will download a zipped version of the file. I discovered that the download speed wasn’t so great despite having a fiber broadband connection. And downloading a single, huge zipped file is not practical. What if I got disconnected from the internet, or my computer crashed in the middle of downloading? That could mean that I would have to start downloading those photos from the very beginning, wasting time and effort. Not good.

This is where the beauty of odrive comes in. You can sync the folder or folders containing your previous photos and odrive will immediately download them to your computer. And the download speeds are way much better. Why is that? odrive downloads the actual individual files, rather than allowing Amazon zipping the files for you and downloading those files as a single large file. odrive downloads several files simultaneously, downloading through multiple download streams. It essentially maximises your download connection speed, increasing the overall download efficiency. And because it is essentially syncing the files to your computer, you can pause them and continue another day. So while downloading 500gb of files back to your computer may take some time, at least you can download (or sync) in batches, telling you the percentage in which the files has downloaded, the files left to sync and even tells you which files are done syncing that you can access immediately. This is perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Now some of you might be wondering; if I have a laptop, or a computer with an SSD, syncing that many files would overwhelm my computer storage space. Yes it will. So in order to prevent that, you can simply offload the syncing process to a external portable or desktop hard drive to provide ample space for syncing. Simply tell the odrive to move the main odrive file to another drive and you can then begin syncing files without eating up your precious storage space in your computer. Essentially, you are not locked out in selecting where to sync the files to. So let’s say, you suffered a major hard drive failure and you forgot to backup your files to another drive before it fails completely. However you have your files backed up in Dropbox, or Box or like me, Amazon Cloud Drive. And you decide to get a multi bay NAS with multiple hard drives plugged in for Raid 0 or Raid 1 setting or a bigger external drive to hold your data. Simply move the odrive to either of those two. Now you have a lot of storage space. Once that is done, simply choose the files and folder you wish to sync, and voila, the files will start to download.

In summary, odrive is a wonderful app that helps you not only in consolidating all your separate cloud storage services, but also adds a unified set of functions and capabilities and integrates it elegantly to all the cloud storage services. I highly recommend giving it a try.

One week worth of uploads.

So how long does it took for me to upload almost 500GB of photos to Amazon Cloud Drive? Almost 8 days, non-stop. My Macbook Air was literally switched on, 24/7 for an entire week, so that I could get every single 65,000 or so photos totalling close to half a terabyte uploaded to the cloud. It was not fun at all, especially when the Amazon Cloud has no native sync support. It simply offered a desktop app, where you simply drag and drop files to the app and it will upload to the cloud. The good thing is that I consolidated all my photos in a single giant folder, consisting of even more folders to organise my photos. So I simply drag that huge ass folder to the upload application and it soon started uploading to the cloud.

Speeds vary, but personally it was generally fast, and I did not encounter connection problems to the cloud servers at all during the upload process. There weren’t any issues of missing files, double uploads, repeated files, or anything like that. The file structure was maintained perfectly, and as the progress bar inched it way to the finish line, the Cloud Drive slowly fills up and the chart tells you how many photos, files and videos you have in the cloud. I am taking advantage of the first 3 month trial period, uploading  a massive number of files in such a short time. I shudder at the thought of downloading every single one of them, should my current hard drive fail and I am forced to get a new one and repopulate my new drive. I wonder how fast it would be over the long term download process.

In the end, while the uploading is a huge hassle and extremely inefficient, it is relatively economical in simply paying 60 bucks year for unlimited cloud storage. I am still mulling whether cloud backup or raid redundancy is the best solution for me, given my needs. While having both is good, as it provides not only local backup, but offshore backup as well, in truth, I don’t really have the luxury of doing that. In the end, I have to choose and weigh my option carefully. The local backup solution required a pretty heavy investment in getting a DAS, or NAS with all the hard drives needed to populate it and creating proper redundancy. The cloud backup solution requires you to upload any new files regularly, keeping to a schedule so that in an even when the drive fails, you will encounter minimal file loss.

I will continue to use the free trial and see how it all pans out in the future. I really do hope that Amazon have plans to add new features to the cloud drive, and perhaps one day, rival that of Dropbox in terms of functionality and ease of use. I still find dropbox to  be the gold standard in cloud storage in terms of functionality.

Amazon Cloud Drive Impressions

The Amazon Cloud Drive offers unlimited storage to backup your files to the Amazon Cloud. A relatively new player in providing unlimited file storage for just 50 bucks a year, its practically a steal. So how does it perform? And does the service suit my needs well? Remember I am trying to find an inexpensive, if albeit inefficient way to back up my photos archive that I have slowly accumulated over the years, either through photography, or from the photos I took using my iPhone.

The Amazon Cloud Drive offers a very simple service to anyone who wishes to upload files, big and small to the Cloud. It has potential, but currently, I feel that the services offered are a little too simplistic and basic. Unlike more sophisticated offerings from Dropbox, Box, Google Drive or Microsoft One Drive, you simply use the web or app interface to upload your files to the Amazon Cloud Drive. No fuss, no gimmicks, it works as intended. However, there are several key features that are not present yet on the Amazon Cloud Drive, features that are already mainstays from the more mature platforms like Dropbox.

For one, there is no auto sync feature. You can download a third party software to manage your files from your computer to the Amazon Cloud Drive, but some of which would require additional fees for licensing and usage of said software.

Managing thousands of files using the simplistic web interface is a little too unwieldy. It does not have the more complex set of features and functions that would make file management from the Cloud a little more efficient. The Amazon Cloud Drive app is a very basic app, that only allows you to upload (or download) files to and from the Cloud. You cannot (yet) do any file management functions from the app. The app only functions 2 things; upload and download. The Cloud Drive is also unable to edit files like word documents, or excel sheets or powerpoint presentation. You can view photos you have uploaded, but for most other file formats, there is very little you can do from within the web interface itself.

However simple it is, the Amazon Cloud Drive, is strangely still my favourite, not just because of its low price point, but also the fact that its a simple, no gimmick Cloud service. Th upload speed to the Amazon Cloud Drive is by far the fastest and most reliable among the other services I have used, making uploading of large amounts of files relatively easy. I organise my thousands of photos into its various folders, making my entire photo collection neat and tidy. Such neat organisation makes it easy to export the same file structure and files within those folders to the Cloud. And because I rarely access or modify those photos that I have already archived, not being able to sync and update the files in the Cloud is not really a big issue, yet. Remember, I am primarily using the Amazon Cloud Drive to merely dump all my photos into a safe place. Yes, I have half a terabyte of photos to upload and it will take days over time, but eventually when it is finished, I simply have to upload any new photos I took and saved periodically, maintaining my file organisation that I have adopted for my older photos.

Will I stick to Amazon Cloud Drive main repository for all my photos? Maybe. I am still split on whether to invest in local storage solutions like NAS or DAS, or simply just go the way of the Cloud. Both has its pros and cons, which I need to constantly evaluate as I consider how I would like to store my photos. But for now, Amazon Cloud Drive is the most cost effective way to keep my photos safe. Until then, it might just be my solution of choice, until something better comes along.

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Smugmug for photographers

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Ever since I bought my new camera, the Olympus OM-D EM5 Mark II, I have been using Flickr and WordPress to first, store the images, and then showcase some of my very best images through WordPress. It worked well for a while. Flickr is free with 1TB of space to store your photos. That is more than enough for most users, including me, since I don’t upload all my photos taken, but instead, only the ones that I want to showcase through WordPress.

But I realize that it doesn’t really integrate well, especially when you need to showcase lots of photos on one blog post, it can get quite manual, getting the links to the photos from Flickr, and then arranging them properly so that it displays well.

Recently I stumbled upon Smugmug, a place where you can store and share your photos at the same time. As an added bonus, in the last couple of years, they have completely revamped the look and how you share those photos. They now have many beautiful templates to choose from based on how you want to present your works, at the same time, having complete control on how it looks.

It’s not free. As a Power user, one of many tiers of subscriptions based on your needs, I pay USD 60 a year for various features that are useful for me. That includes the ability to choose the templates I want to present my images, and allow full customization. Also, with a paid subscription, I can upload an unlimited number of photos I want, organized to my needs. This full control and full flexibility is what I personally feel, that the cost is worth the subscription.

I registered for an account and got a 14-day trial. I was initially quite overwhelmed at the sheer level customization you are allowed to do based on the templates designed by the people of Smugmug. But within the hour, I had the basics of a working website in order and already it looks more or less presentable. As smugmug is a web service catered to photographers for novices and professionals, naturally, the templates designed by Smugmug, are designed in a away to put your photos at the forefront in any website designed by the tools provided for users. And those templates are remarkably gorgeous. And having a more gorgeous website does not come with the added complexity. That’s the beauty of Smugmug in my opinion. It comes with a powerful and intuitive tool to design the website you want. You can see the changes in real time, you can make sweeping changes to the overall layout of the website, but also give you granular control of each and minute detail in every photo gallery you created in showcasing your works. That, in my opinion was what sold me the very instant I realized that I have the control to design it my own way.

Another aspect that comes as part of a sweet deal is that Smugmug is also a place where you can store all your photos, not just the edited or enhanced ones, but your entire folio in an easy to create Folders and Galleries. Just like how you would organize your entire photo collection into folders based on either date, subject or location, you can do all that in Smugmug just like how you do it in when you back up your photos on your own personal hard drives. Because Smugmug give you unlimited storage space, you can use it as a cloud service to back up your entire photo collection. This is particularly useful is some catastrophe were to happen to your own physical hard drives where your photos are stored. And if you do need to download the entire collection again, you can download the entire folder at one go, not just individual photos. Thus, having a systematic way to organize your photos is possible in Smugmug and the tools provided by them to do so, is easy and works remarkably well.

I would highly recommend Smugmug to any photographers out there who are either starting photography as a hobby, or a current enthusiast or a professional to try it out and see how you can integrate Smugmug in your workflow.

Do visit my Smugmug page as well.

1TB offer by Flickr

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After the recent acquisition of Tumblr by Yahoo, Yahoo also updated and ravamped the ios and web based version of Flickr and at the same time increased the storage limits that you can upload to Flickr to 1TB. That is a pretty slick deal. And a deal I have been waiting for for a very long time.

I have tons of photos taken over the years using my DSLR and my iPhone that I’m dying to offload to the cloud. About 200GB and counting. This new flickr offering 1TB of space is just such a sweet deal. Now I can dump my entire collection and need not worry too much about harddrive failure and such. And in the long term, my photos will be safe and I can retrieve it anytime I want. I can even browse using my phone and can show my collection to virtually anyone in the future. This is such a sweet deal, and one of the biggest storage offering I have come across so far. Avid photographers will surely like this deal on top of the ability to upload really high resolution pictures that they have taken using their professional DSLR. Browsing the pictures are so much easier and so much more beautiful. Now, flickr has become a beautiful site, offering stunning images in large formats and ultra high definitions.