I recently switched providers for my online hosting. If you’re not already, online image hosting is something you should consider, too.

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I have a friend, Jenny. Jenny had a house in the Time Check area in Cedar Rapids, IA, about a block and a half from the river. She bought the house four or five years ago. It didn’t have a garage, so she built one as soon as she could. The following year, put in a small pool right behind the garage. And then, in May 2008, she built a deck next to the pool.

She used the deck the first weekend of June for the very first time. Then it began to rain…

By the following Tuesday, people were concerned flooding in her neighborhood. Jenny talked to her neighbors and found out she would probably get water in her basement. She left work and moved everything she could from the basement to the second floor of her house.

Her neighbors thought she was a little overzealous.

On Wednesday, there was talk about the levee failing. She left again to move everything on the main floor to either to the top floor or homes on higher ground.

Her neighbors thought she was crazy.

On Thursday, her first floor had six feet of water . Of the thousands of homes in the area, only 151 had flood insurance. Jenny was one of them. Jenny did everything right; most people didn’t.

I helped Jenny the week after the flood waters retreated to gut the inside of her home. If you lived in the area at the time, and were able to see the flooded areas, you probably remember. You remember the devastation. You remember the once flooded streets lined with the insides of those homes, the piles of personal possessions, the family mementos, computers, and photo albums.

After the flood of 2008, we heard stories of people taking hugs risk to go into their homes to save photos. One of the biggest losses from natural disasters always seems to be the loss of family photos. Photos have become a huge part of our lives. It is one of the biggest ways we pass our history to our children and their children.

We are fortunate enough to live today that we can do a better job than ever to protect these family treasures. The Internet is full of companies that allow you to upload your photos for safekeeping.
I’ve been using these services before I even had a digital camera. I remember scanning a photo of my dad from WWII and putting it online and then telling my brothers and sisters where they could go and get prints of it. That was over 10 years ago and is still online. It is amazingly easy to do. But amazingly, most of us still don’t do it.

How many of you have shoeboxes full of old photos with no backup or computers full of digital photos sitting on a single computer? If there was a fire in your home today, would you feel the need to run in and get family photos?

What advantages does an image hosting service have?

  • Offsite backup — with your photos in another location, that isn’t in your home or office, if a disaster happens to your original, you still have copies someplace else. In addition, most vendors have multiple servers, so that if the physical server hosting your images has a problem, you’re still protected.
  • Central Location — when you host your images online, it allows you to get to your photos from anyplace that you have a web browser.
  • Photo products and gifts — instead of just getting 4x6s or 5x7s imaging getting your family memories emblazoned on a set of coasters or mounted in a photo album without spending your weekends doing it. Most of the image hosting sites, can print your images on a vast selection of products…and you can still get prints, too.

I’m very excited about a new service I have just started using. The site is www.smugmug.com. I have used other sites, like shutterfly.com, Ofoto.com and phanfare.com. Those services are fine, some even good, but I think smugmug is really superior to them.

I currently have about 29,000 images that take up about 85 Gigs of space. Smugmug gives me the ability to host all the images with no concern about whether they are going to be there if something happens to them on my home computer.

But Why SmugMug?

  • Easy, Drag and Drop — Smugmug’s default uploading engine is a browser based application that you just drag your photos to and then let the images upload. You don’t have to install anything on your machine and you can let it work in the background.
  • HD Video –Everyday there seems to be a new digital SLR released from Nikon or Canon and all the new cameras seem to have the ability to shoot high definition video. Smugmug lets you upload up HD videos of 10 minutes or shorter.
  • Smart Galleries — One of the coolest features on smugmug that I haven’t found anywhere else. Since I tag my photos with clients’ or kids’ names, I can create an album that includes photos with the correct tags automatically…without me having to doing anything other than uploading it. Cool, huh?
  • Multiple Labs — Smugmug isn’t in the printing business. Instead, they work with two dedicated labs to print all your photos. If one lab doesn’t offer the product you want, the other may. While there may not be other labs available right now, smugmug is obviously willing to work with more than a single, dedicated one.
  • No Hostages — If you upload an image to the site, you can always get it back down on the same resolution you uploaded in at. That isn’t the case with sites like Shutterfly. Once you upload your pictures there, there is no straightforward way to get them down to you again.
  • Passwords — If you have photos with your kids that you don’t want to just anyone to get to or photos, you can assign a different password to each album so that your photos are only seen by the people you want to share them with.

If you’re still on the fence, here is deal for you. You can try the service for free for two weeks, if you don’t like, cancel. If you do like it, you can save $5 on your first year with this referral code: bRKnz4qoIznYc.