For many years I have been using Google’s Picasa Web Albums (PWA) as my online storage for photos, and especially for sharing them. I believe I first started to use PWA around 2006. The good thing about PWA intially was that I could get 1 GB of online storage for free, and with a very reasonable cost a lot more (20 USD for 80 GBytes per year). Also the fact that PWA is integrated to the free Picasa application, makes it really nice and easy to use. I really have liked Picasa a lot, due to it being very fast and simple + easy to use. The simplicity does come with a cost of having many limitations, but so far I thought this is OK. Also Picasa has been always very stable, I have a natural gift of getting most applications to crash quite quickly, but Picasa has tolerated me nicely. However, maybe the time has come to try something more heavyweight that Picasa, I am looking into taking finally the Adobe Lightroom into use, after years of resistance 🙂
When I set up this WordPress based blog two years ago, I tried hard to build a nice way to integrate WordPress to PWA photos and albums to posts and pages. My own webhotel hosted server where this WordPress blog is running, does not scale to handle the amounts of disk space and traffic that my photo collection would require. Currently I have almost 100K pictures requring 500 GB of disk space in original sizes. Too much even for PWA, so I can’t upload originals – and not everything I have. Typical low-cost (<< 100€/year) webhotels give you just a few GBytes of disk and monthly I/O quota of few GBytes, so I can’t use those. Big enough webhotel to host my photos would cost a fortune. But PWA was almost good enough.
Using suitable WP plugins and tricks, showing pictures in my posts worked out up to some degree, but I was never – and still aren’t -really happy about it. I don’t like the way the pictures and albums get shown at PWA, it is all soooo last decade, and lacking customisation. I tried to work around that by attempting to show everything through my WP site with plugins. But that turned out out be just too complicated, and still somewhat ugly. Recently Google started to make PWA albums visible also at Google-Plus (G+), their social media ”wannabe” Facebook app. Apparently Google is now trying to deprecate PWA and promote the use of G+. I have a G+ account, but there’s really nothing happening out there. Everyone’s in Facebook. But FB is of course the last place to show your pictures in, apart from some stupid snaps taken with cell phone 😆 .
The security system on PWA is also somewhat lacking and dubious, and it is hard to protect images and control access to them. Moreover the Google Terms of Service (TOS) are somewhat suspicios and controversial, so I feel reluctant to put all my pictures to PWA (and G+), or even to the Google Drive.
So I went looking for some serious alternatives for storing my picture on-line. I was looking for following features:
needs to scale to storing +100’s of Gbytes and +100K images in original sizes
Clear Terms of Service leaving no doubt that my pictures are mine & private and keep that way
pretty and customizable display of images, thumbnails, slideshows, in full screen, fast operation
hierarchy and grouping of images, easy ordering and organising
good security and access management
quick upload from many sources, integration to Lightroom and Picasa
migration from PWA a great plus
integration to WordPress, an API to support that and plugins
reasonable cost, as this is a hobby for me
I found a few candidates: Zenfolio, Smugmug, PBase, Photoshelter and many others. Then there’s of course Flickr, the Yahoo’s equivalent of PWA, but that is just as lightweight as PWA. Out of these Zenfolio and Smugmug seemed to be the most convincing ones and also most popular among serious photographers. Both offer free 14 day trial, which I started on both of them. I think Zenfolio looks like the winner to me and I have already migrated all of my PWA albums there. Next I will see how I can get more out of it and integrate it to my WP blog.