External drives, CDs, network directories : the enemies of your photo library

Whether you are a private individual or a professional, from the moment you start using digital photography, the question arises: how can you be sure not to lose your data? And how to share your photos easily?

So you will set up a backup system: on a USB key, a DVD, an external hard drive, a shared network directory… Let’s take a look at these solutions and see if they are durable… and user friendly.

USB stick, CD, DVD: say goodbye to them

Recently, while I was helping my father-in-law configure his new computer, I realized that for years he has been storing his travel photos on USB sticks.

USB sticks and memory cards use flash memory.

He ignored that a USB stick has a very limited life span. USB sticks or flash drives use what is called flash memory, a storage format that by essence is not sustainable. USB sticks should never be used to store data permanently, but simply to transfer it.

So I explained all this to my father-in-law, and what did he answer ?

“You know, I also have all my photos from the 2000s on CD-Roms!”

You can’t imagine my face when I heard that.

Yes, this kind of face.

Burnable CDs and DVDs are today endangered species, but have long been used as a backup medium, and still are, in families but also in companies.

Big mistake!

I have another story about this. When I was a student I went to Greece for 6 months for an Erasmus exchange, and when I came back home in France, I burned all my photos on 2 CD-Roms. My laptop having crashed, I only had these CDs to keep track of my 6 months abroad.

Some time later, I wanted to show my photos to a friend: unfortunately, one of the two CDs was unreadable. These photos were lost forever. Too bad, isn’t it?

Burnable DVDs are no better. These devices have a limited lifespan and are extremely fragile.

Conclusion: if you have photos stored on USB sticks, CDs or DVDs: move them quickly to a more reliable medium (if they are not already lost).

External hard drives: not as reliable as you might think

External hard drives have the reputation of being a robust backup medium. Yes, they are certainly more reliable than CDs… but they have some issues too.

First of all, external hard drives don’t live forever.

Yes, an external hard drive can die suddenly, and this happens more often than you might think.

First of all, you should know that a hard drive is provided for a certain number of read/write cycles. Depending on its use rate and storage conditions, the average life of an external hard drive is from 5 to 7 years. Without mentioning the risk of failure!

SSD hard drives, which are the new standard, are no exception to this rule since they are based on a flash memory system, such as the USB stick.

Therefore, they cannot be fully trusted.

“Yes, but external hard drives are still very convenient for sharing photos”, are you going to tell me?

It’s true that if you work as a team within an organization, the photo library will often find its place on an external hard drive that you will pass on to your colleagues.

But really, you think it’s convenient?

What if your colleague deletes photos by mistake?

What if you need to manage different access rights for different people?

And honestly, is it really that easy to find your way it out in this mess of files?

Everyone will end up copying all the data onto their own computer’s disk, and you’re done with your attempt to centralize your photo library.

Among our corporate customers, many who have been there no longer want to hear about a shared external hard drive!

Shared network drives and NAS: collaborative, really?

If you are computer literate or work in an organization, your photo library may be accessible from a shared network drive. This is a folder accessible to all users on your local network. This folder can be stored on a single network computer, a server, or a NAS (a shared storage device on a computer network).

Shared networks drives on Windows.

Regarding reliability, this system is far above that of a USB key, of course. But be careful, you must plan a second backup system, otherwise you will lose all your data the day the machine fails.

Moreover, since your data is stored physically at your place, you can still lose everything in the event of a fire, for example.

Finally, if you look at the collaborative aspect of this system, you’re not far from the external hard drive. Of course, no need to move the hard drive from one workstation to another, everyone can access the photo library at any time. You can also limit access rights by directory, and prevent users from deleting files.

But honestly, to find what you look for in this folder tree structure, it’s not always easy. When you have thousands of archived photos, it sometimes becomes a puzzle to find the image you need.

The hosted photo library: reliable and collaborative

You might have guessed what will follow: CDs, USB sticks, external hard drives and even shared network directories are not effective solutions to manage your photo library. They can even turn against you.

This is exactly why more and more organizations are choosing Piwigo to host their photo library.

With an online photo library software, you have a user friendly user interface to sort and organize your photos: by title, by theme, by date or place of shooting…

Piwigo backoffice
Piwigo backoffice

You can share a photo or directory with a person at any time with a few clicks, without any danger.

“Previously, our photos were stored on external hard drive and CDs, and indexed in a spreadsheet. A real challenge to find a file! Now it has become very easy and fast for the whole team to navigate through our photo library. Piwigo has completely changed the way we work! We chose Piwigo because the tool was complete, easy to use and affordable.”

Remi Ancel, Documentation Manager, Archea Museum

You can choose to download Piwigo for free from piwigo.org, and host it on a server of your choice.

You can also create an account on piwigo.com: in this case, we take care of the hosting and the backup of your data. Even if you delete a folder or a file by mistake, we can go back and recover your precious lost data.

For more information, please read the article: Where are photos stored with Piwigo, which details the security measures taken by our team.

Where are photos stored with Piwigo ?

Looking for an online solution to manage your photo library, someone recommended Piwigo, but you don’t really understand how it works, and where your photos will be hosted? Don’t worry, you will find everything you need to know in this blog post!

Piwigo.org or Piwigo.com ?

Firstly, you will need to understand the difference between the two options available, this difference could be confusing for some :

  • On the one hand you can download the open source Piwigo software on piwigo.org;
  • Or on the other you can create an account on piwigo.com.

1 – You host Piwigo by yourself

If you choose the first option, you will download files for free from piwigo.org, which you will have to install on a server. You will have to subscribe to an offer from a web hosting service and deploy your Piwigo yourself before you can upload your photos and organize them.

Manual installation of Piwigo

In this case, your photos will be stored on the server that hosts the application. Thus, if you install Piwigo on a shared hosting, at Gandi for example, your photos will be saved on the storage system associated with this hosting.

To find out more, check with your host to find out exactly where this storage system is located because it can be “remote”.

2 – You choose Piwigo.com

If you choose the second option, and sign up with piwigo.com, your Piwigo library will be created directly on our platform.

Sign up form on Piwigo.com
Sign up form on Piwigo.com

In this case, your library will be hosted on dedicated servers (which means that they are not shared with other sites). Piwigo rents these servers from OVH, a french host. Our servers are located in France at the Roubaix, Strasbourg and Gravelines data centers. Your data is stored on the hard drives of these servers, i.e. exactly where the Piwigo app runs.

To answer the question many users might ask, especially public administrations, we do not use the services of Amazon (AWS), Google (Cloud Platform) or Microsoft (Azure). We do not use them for two main reasons:

  • Firstly, we do not want to entrust them with our customers’ data;
  • Secondly, these services are very expensive, which would in all logic increase the price of our offers.

What guarantees for you data safety ?

If you choose to host your Piwigo yourself, it is up to you to make sure that your hosting provider has done what it takes to ensure that your data is safe. You are also solely responsible for backing up your data and files.

But if you choose one of our offers on Piwigo.com, we take care of everything: let’s see how we ensure that your data will not be lost.

Piwigo.com’s technical infrastructure is based on coupled servers. Each “main” server is duplicated by a “secondary” server that serves as backup system.

A Piwigo.com account is hosted on a main server (photos and database). Every night, each main server is synchronized to its secondary server. And every night, we make a copy of each database, and we keep at least the last 30 days. This allows us to restore your photo library in case of handling errors. To make it simple, we can restore an album that you deleted by mistake.

backup server
Every night, each main server is synchronized to its secondary server.

In addition to night-time synchronization, we have set up a backup system with finer granularity. Every 15 minutes, a script checks if there have been any changes on your Piwigo: add/edit/delete photo/album/tag/user/comment.

If any change is detected, your account is automatically synchronized on the secondary server. All these mechanics allow us, in the worst case scenario, to lose only the last 15 minutes of activity.

What if I want to switch hosting ?

One of Piwigo.com’s promises is to fight against “customer lockdown”.

We definitely don’t want to put a brake on you the day you want to switch to another hosting, or even to your own infrastructure. If you host your data on Piwigo.com, you can download your database and files at any time. You can move your Piwigo on to your own server if you wish, keeping your photo library exactly the same.

You will not lose the many hours spent organizing your content, visit history or user comments. All these operations are documented, just follow the guide!

But you can also decide to move your Piwigo from your server to Piwigo.com. We regularly carry out this operation for our customers. We take care of everything: data transfer, database import, Piwigo updates and extensions. This transaction is not billed as we consider it to be part of the services associated with the Piwigo.com offer.

To sum things up :

Piwigo offers two different ways to use its photo library management software and therefore, two different ways to store your files:

  • On the server of your choice if you choose the free download on piwigo.org
  • On our dedicated servers if you choose one of our piwigo.com offers.

Both solutions are used by thousands of individuals and professionals, and might fit your needs. It is up to you to decide which one is best for you!