Flickr as image backup

A good friend is a tenured scholar at a small school that does not routinely provide secure network storage space to its faculty. She described art and architecture students keeping their digital work on USB drives and revealed that her second book manuscript resides on her laptop and, occasionally, gets backed up onto a CD. Her digital images live exclusively on her hard drive.

I have gotten so used to debating the merits of tiffs vs jpegs and worrying about the archivability of word-processing and CAD files that I was astounded to learn that there was a degree-granting institution in North America that doesn’t provide even minimal network storage space to its faculty. Am I hopelessly out of touch? Is this, in fact, common? I do know that there are plenty of unaffiliated scholars (and tiny museums) who have to make do without IT support but I had assumed that network space went along with office space as the minimum provision for university-level teachers in 2008.

What do people recommend for those scholars whose work increasingly depends on digital files but who lack the institutional support to maintain them? Here I would include independent scholars, adjuncts, professors at small schools, and graduate students. This problem is especially acute, I suspect, for those of us who work on visual materials and have personal catalogs of digital photographs numbering in the many thousands.

What I suggested to my friend was, first of all, that she email her manuscript to her husband, so a copy gets onto her and his email servers, where it has a fighting chance. Second, I suggested that she start migrating her digital images to Flickr, which offers unlimited storage of image files under 20MB for $25 per year with its pro accounts. I also suggested she might invest a couple hundred dollars in a RAID backup, though this doesn’t get the files off site.

Is anyone else, besides my friend, losing sleep over this? What other solutions are out there?

And yes, I know about hard-disk recovery solutions, like this one, which saved my bacon once to the tune of $2400. But relying on this as a backup strategy is, well, short-sighted.

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