Long-term archival solutions are problematic. Even when stored in an archive that’s free from environmental influence, high-end optical discs are expected to last between 50 to 100 years at the most. Standard CD-Rs are estimated to last less than a decade, and even fingerprints or markers can dissolve the data on discs over time.
Computers and hard drives are subject to moving parts, electrical surges, power dropouts and the variety of processes that can lead to corrupted files and drives. Most external drives pack in a limited warranty of between three to five years, and even when continuously migrating your old files and photos between new computers and backup drives, the files are subject to possible degradation during the transfer process.
Human error, of course, causes far more problems with data than anything else, and keeping up with backups can be a time-consuming, accident-prone process when doing so manually.
Luckily, keeping your head in the clouds can sometimes be a good thing. As file transfer times and costs decrease, online services in "the cloud" are becoming more popular with photographers, not just as an archival solution, but also for transferring files instantaneously, delivering images and projects to clients over long distances, and synchronizing edited images and portfolios between computers, smartphones and tablets.
It’s true that uploading files online presents the problem of security; however, your computer certainly isn’t safe from hacking. Personal computers are also open to computer viruses and malware while cloud services employ tech workers who continually monitor and adapt their extensive networks for any problems they may come across. Use a strong password, changing it periodically, and you’ll be reasonably protected.
Even if choosing to continue your current archival workflows, it’s a very good idea to look at cloud storage as a backup to your backup. Unlike your computer and even your home or your studio, perhaps the biggest advantage to cloud storage is that it’s almost 100% safe from fires, weather, floods, physical theft and any number of cataclysmic possibilities.
There are several basic cloud services like Box, CX, Dropbox and SugarSync, which are popular for their simple-to-use, drag-and-drop online interfaces with associated applications for installing to mobile devices and tablets. The Box and Dropbox services both start free of charge with 5 GB and 2 GB of storage space, respectively.
Dropbox is a leading service because it also offers several bonus gigs of storage that are awarded by completing tasks over the course of holding an account, like installing a one-click desktop application on your computer, for instance, adding the synchronized Dropbox app to your tablet or smartphone, or inviting friends and colleagues to join.
To buy more storage, the box service offers subscription rates, which start at $9.99 a month for 25 GB and $24.99 a month for 50 GB. Box business options start at $15 per user per month with 1000 GB of online storage and extra features like password-protected sharing, desktop sync and version histories.