Friday, January 23, 2009

Ryan Pyle Blog: My Archive is Back Online


I remember that frightful morning in October like it was yesterday, waking up to an email that told me that Digital Railroad had just 48hrs left to live, and that anything left on the servers would be erased and gone forever. Now, this was tough to take at the time, and thinking back to the havoc and stressed it caused me, much of my anger still hasn't subsided. While I knew a lot of the DRR managers and editors personally, and I don't blame them for this, I simply can't believe that an entire company servicing so many can vanish so quickly. I know there are a lot of horror stories out there from the DRR collapse and many were much worse than mine, but below is a brief summary of my difficulties.

I became a loyal member of Digital Railroad in the summer of 2005. I thought the service was genius, a chance to manage and display my own images to clients. I bought in to the service, used it and promoted it heavily to other photographers I knew. Life was bliss for years. No service interruptions, no problems, no issues to report at all. Actually I think once there was a service interruption when they were upgrading servers and lost images temporarily, but within a day or two everything was backed up and back online. So, apart from that issue DRR fulfilled all it's promises to customers like me who wanted more control over our own archives.

Then came the Marketplace, DRR's big move to enter the stock photo industry by using images they had stored on their system by members like me. It seemed like a decent natural progression, the problem was that it seemed like DRR had to really expand their sales operation and "ramp up", so to speak.

Now throughout my career I've always backed up everything: digital files, RAW, TIFF and scanned negs. So when DRR went down I didn't actually lose anything per say. So, if I didn't lose anything why has it taken me so long to get my archive back up and running at full capacity?

What I lost was organization. What I lost was some captioning information. What I lost was the hours and hours it took to upload all those images through the Chinese firewall. Now, I had over 7000 images in my archive, a collection of corporate and editorial work, organized in to hundreds of groups and galleries.

Digital Railroad, or I should say management company handling the sale of assets, told everyone that they had only 48hrs to get everything off the site. That wasn't exactly true, they allowed more than a week. My goal when I first got the message about the shut down was, this is no problem. I can just FTP everything to my new archive space at photoshelter, the problem was that all of the 1500 independent photographers and dozens of agencies all thought the same thing at the exact same moment. Needless to say the bandwidth was so jammed during that week I only managed to get about 20% of the images FTP'd across safely, and much of those images were corrupted and had to be "replaced" later.

From mid-October to just last week was the time it took to replace, upload, re-caption (some) and re-organize my entire archive. The reason it took so long was complicated. First I live in China and bandwidth here is severely restricted. The firewall means that anything FTP'd from China has to leave at a snails pace, and even all the hotels I stay in when I am working didn't offer much better internet connections then what I had at my home. I've had to leave my computer on every night uploading and FTP to photoshelter for months now. The second reason was that I was working consistently for that entire stretch and things just never managed to finish it off. The last reason is simply that the task at hand was so large and daunting, I had a lot of starts and stops and even hired a few people to help me out during times.

What did I learn from the whole mess? Nothing really. I back images up and apart from keeping two seperate completely updated archives I don't think there is much I could have done differently. Having a full time assistant would have made my recovery time faster but I don't have one. So there it is, just a huge cluster F*ck that nobody predicted and that almost everyone got caught in. Painful, very painful.

What are my plans going forward? Simply to keep my photoshelter archive ( as updated and current as possible, and continue to add strong images to it. I hope another DRR meltdown will never happen again, but now that photoshelter picked up all the extra business from DRR they should be sitting pretty for years to come. Fingers crossed.


Ryan Pyle

1 comment:

  1. This is just a follow up to this blog posting. I was interviewed by PC magazine regarding my problems with my online archive. You can view the article by following this link:




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