|Cloud computing is the future.|
What does cloud computing mean to photographers of all levels? The access to applications and storage has been unequivocal to technology since the dawn of the Internet age. The cloud makes it easier to work across platforms because you can access and update image files on one platform (a Mac, for example) and pull them up on another (perhaps a PC or smartphone).
Servers and Storage
The most vital part of the computer network is the server. A server is designed better than a consumer computer because it runs all the time and has many people accessing it. Figure 3.1 shows you what a server looks like. In the back of the server are many Ethernet ports that are connected to other servers. Servers are kept in data centers. When you send information by email or through prompts on the web (like a Google search), the first place those requests go is to your local data center.
Consider the devices--smartphones, laptops, tablets and desktops--that can access the same servers. Not only can these devices access the server via an Internet connection, the server can access the device. In addition, many of the devices are able to access one another via the server. Companies offering cloud services specialize in niche services. They might focus on device-to-device services, while others offer storage, social networking, photo sharing, and links to on-ground services such as printing of photographs. A few websites offer so many services that visitors can get confused and overwhelmed.
In terms of photography in the cloud, there are millions of users sharing (and storing photos) at dozens of websites such as: Flickr, Picasa Web Albums, SmugMug, Shutterfly and Snapfish. Millions more photographers host their own websites on servers that are accessible via the Internet anywhere anytime. Most photographers today are also thinking about storing and/or backing-up their images in the cloud. Storage and backup services are as abundant as websites whose primary focus is the sharing of photos.
With two models, private and public, the cloud is widely accessed. Private clouds are replacing office computer networks. Instead of having several computers connected and run by a host computer, companies are buying servers and linking their computers to that. Public clouds, used by corporations and individuals, consist of a process of buying cloud resources such as data storage and processing. An example might include using Google App Engine to store and run an application that a developer has written the computer code for so the public can access it.
The cloud is broken up into parts or components, which relate to services and hardware. The servers and infrastructure at present are adequate in terms of dependability and security, but have a long way to go in terms of broadband speed and access. There are dozens of options in several online editing programs for amateur photographers and professional photographers working with web images, but none that professionals would use because the size and kind of files are far too big and complex for cloud manipulation. In other words, a massive program like Photoshop can’t exist in the cloud because they use too much memory and would be very unstable at the bandwidths available today. Smaller online platforms such as Pixlr and Photoshop Express are typical of what are being offered to photographers via the web.
The part of the cloud that is of interest to photographers begins with the providers of server space for photographs. Dozens of companies, including Amazon and Google, are in the storage business. All have large-scale storage services that are reasonably priced for amateur photographers. Once a photographer needs more than 500 GB of storage, the costs become pricey. Each storage provider offers packages and services that are unique to its business model
The infrastructure of the cloud includes software that runs the servers. Companies such as Akamai, EMC2, and Dell have products to protect the server data from access by unwarranted parties and to make data transfer fast and dependable.
Photographers have access to software platforms via the Internet, including online image processing programs where customers access the software/applications to process an image. It allows consumers to access and use the developers’ applications that run inside a web browser. One thing is certain about the cloud. It is expanding so much that in just a few years the desktop of your computer will likely to be part of it. In the cloud will be the place you’ll upload photos, manipulate them, and even print them. Things will be all remote, all the time.
Using the cloud can involve computer-to-computer access, a process that doesn’t require the computers to have the same operating systems. (Windows versus Mac won’t be an issue.) For example, you can download the software from GoToMyPC.com to your home or office PC or Mac so that a remote computer can access it. When you keep the first computer on and connected to the Internet, you can go to your remote computer, perhaps a laptop at a coffee shop, and connect to the website GoToMyPC.com. This site takes you to the desktop of your home or office computer while you are online at the coffee shop.
Another cloud feature to understand is file syncing, which means that images saved on one device are also saved on other devices. Syncing files among a group of devices is possible and is independent of the operating system on which the device runs.
Many people use the cloud application Dropbox to sync files on their devices. Dropbox uses Amazon’s S3 servers to sync files on multiple devices. Initially, you need to download the application on each of the devices to which you are syncing. Each device creates a Dropbox folder so that when you change one file, say, on your Mac, it automatically syncs to your other devices (Android, PC, iPhone).
Some storage companies offer additional services. SugarSync not only stores images, it allows you to sync your data to your other computers and devices. The most recent addition to syncing, Adobe Revel, has been designed solely for photographers taking and manipulating photos on one device and then syncing them to others via an Adobe server, where a high-resolution version of the image is saved.
Risks you take when you put your images into the cloud include hackers, security and photo theft. Although it might seem alarming to have your images lost or stolen, it’s not likely if you cast an observant eye on technology news. Keeping abreast of how the companies you are involved with are doing can let you know ahead of time the future of your backups. Most experts recommend that you store your images in both external hard drives and the cloud, not letting go of using external hard drives. They’re bigger, better, and cheaper than ever and, unlike the a place like the cloud where you have no idea where your photos are physically, you know where they are in your home or office.