Cloud storage services are growing steadily in popularity whether it’s from smaller firms like Box or heavyweights like Apple and Amazon. Cloud services promise a secure back-up for your precious digital memories plus the ability to access those memories from a multitude of devices and computers – basically, if you have a Web browser, you’ll have access to your cloud-based photos. But there certain things you need to be mindful of before choosing a cloud service to store your digital photos, videos or other data. Here are three things to ask yourself before taking the plunge:
1. Is the back-up seamless? The last thing you want to do when paying for storage is any work. A good cloud provider should be able to monitor select folders on your computer and automatically upload any new content that it discovers. For instance, if you add new photos into your “My Pictures” folder, the service should automatically recognize that new photos have been added and upload them instantly with no interaction on your end.
2. Do I understand the terms of service? Whenever you transfer images from your possession to a businesses, you agree to abide by their terms of service. Many of you probably check off the terms of service button without reading them (and who can blame you, they’re awful to read). However, for something as important as your digital photos and videos, reading these terms is really a must. You can skip some of the lawyer-ese and instead look to the answers to two basic questions: 1. does the service claim any ownership of your images (i.e. will they use them in advertisements). 2. Does the service have a provision for the transfer of your data in the event that the company goes out of business?
3. Will this company survive? Choosing a cloud service provider is a bit like playing stock-picker – you’re not only weighing the costs and feature benefits, but you’re placing a bet on the viability of the business itself. After all, it’s a bit like a bank, but instead of money, you’re trusting the service with your digital memories. But unlike a bank, there’s no FDIC to ensure you get your images back in the event the cloud service goes bust. And many services on the market today may well go bust. During the Dot Com bust in the early 2000s, many photo companies sprang up for photo hosting and photo printing and quickly disappeared when the bubble burst. Some of these failed companies allowed their customers pretty easy access to the images they had stored online, others made it a costly hassle. There are a lot of cloud companies popping up today and there are a lot of the same conditions that gave rise to the original Dot Com bubble (low interest rates, plenty of Silicon Valley venture capital, irrational exuberance, etc.) so you should tread carefully.