Digital Railroad Derails

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Digital Railroad's goodbye message will be taken bitterly by most.

Todayâ''s collapse of Digital Railroad is making me think about the value of Internet-based storage. Digital Railroad, until this morning, billed itself as a web-based archiving tool for photographers. Not only could you house your entire archive, but you could also tag images with keywords â'' allowing Photo Editors such as myself to search them and purchase image rights. While they did announce a week and a half ago that they were in trouble, trouble tolled a sudden-seeming death bell this morning with an announcement that site users have 24 hours to retrieve their data or lose it forever. Yes, thatâ''s the sound of thousands of photographersâ'' screams echoing in their homes. No, that sound is not heard in the forest of the Internet.

Iâ''ve always been a proponent of backing up your back-ups. (All it takes is for one photographer to not back-up their files and then lose everything from a one-time only shoot). And surely some people have done that and wonâ''t be struggling. A lot of people use the site for more than storage â'' they use it for their business model. All of those keywords will be gone, as will the ability to quickly sell pictures. It wasnâ''t just photographers who used DRR, though. I often buy images from Redux Picturesâ'' stock arm. They re-sell images from their wealth of photographers and from The New York Times. I just talked to Lori Reese there and she said that they are actively working right now to switch over to PictureMaxx. A visit to the venerable VII archive looks normal though I donâ''t know what will happen tomorrow â'' if the sites will just cease to function. People who remain faithful to the idea of Internet archiving will likely trudge over to competitor Photoshelter now. They have until November 4th to get a 3 month free addition to the yearly subscription. I just had my first real interaction with them earlier this month, buying an image through their now defunct stock-selling division. Looks like they decided to focus on the personal archive just in time. This disaster may lead people to keep their own archives where they can see them. Iâ''m sure the pie chart of a photographerâ''s time just slid a few extra percentage points into the business side of things. And as with any company downfall, competitors that can manage to survive this recession will surely benefit.

While Photoshelter is well known, I think working photographers should consider Digitalfusion. I heard Art Streiber sing it a love song last week at Photo Expo and I have to admit that it was pretty convincing at the time. Not only do they store everything, theyâ''ll process it, host sites for clients to see edits and do your retouching. Of course in this age of economic chaos, even the best deals make us weary.

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