Lonely as a cloud
Those of you who have been following my journey as a photographer for a while will probably be familiar with the gallery sites that I’ve been using for quite a few years now under the name of Fotopic. If you’ve tried getting onto any of these sites recently, you’ll have been unsuccessful. It seems now that this could be because the owners of the site, Snappy Designs, may have gone under.
Cosmically speaking, that’s not a total calamity for me. Other websites are available, as they say. And I have plenty of pictures out there on Facebook and Flickr right now. Since Fotopic changed hands following the business failure of its creators, there had been a number of service outages, and the performance and general look and feel of the service had been stagnating. But it was a good deal while it lasted.
Assuming that the Web rumours are true, there are consequences, of course. Obviously, I’ve paid a subscription for the Fotopic Premium service that makes me a creditor of the firm in terms of the unexpired portion of my sub. More importantly, if Fotopic is really out of action there are issues for a gallery I host which acts as the website for a society I’m connected with. Finding and building a substitute will take time which would eat into my business hours these days. But I’m sure we’ll find a way around that.
But this does emphasise an issue I’ve been increasingly concerned with. There’s a lot of talk in computing circles about “the cloud”. The idea is this: instead of having programs that run on your computer, and files that live on your computer, you subscribe to a service that is offered across the Internet. It’s like webmail – all the e-mail functionality is somewhere Out There on a server, instead of resident on your own computer. This means that you can log in anywhere, using a variety of different hardware platforms, and have access to all your applications and all your files. Your stuff may be physically located almost anywhere in the world, in massive server farms that may have hundreds of individual file server machines. You don’t have to know where your stuff is, only how to get to it.
Well, that’s all well and good. But it does rather rely on the people you are contracted with staying in business, or your connection to the Internet staying on. A business failure, a bank foreclosure, or (in my case) a farm tractor with a big load of hay bringing down the twin copper cables that bring the Net into my house will sever your link to your stuff.
My pictures are vital to me., They are my stock-in-trade. My years working close to the IT guys in Ofwat taught me the value of proper backup facilities, not only on-site but also off-site. Suffice it to say that I am now covered against hardware failure or loss of kit. I’d been planning to change the way my various websites interact; now I shall have to revise those plans, but that’s not too much of a problem. For others – well, perhaps the answer is not to put too much reliance on outside services for those things that are really important to you.
Meanwhile, here’s a picture to be going on with: