Thought You Can Use Amazon’s Unlimited Storage Plan for Your Business? Think Again

Mar 27, 2015

Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels is a wildlife and commercial photographer based in Israel. When he isn’t waking up at 4am to take photos of nature, he stays awake until 4am taking photos of the night skies or time lapses. You can see more of his work on his website or follow him on Facebook.

Thought You Can Use Amazon’s Unlimited Storage Plan for Your Business? Think Again

Mar 27, 2015

Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels is a wildlife and commercial photographer based in Israel. When he isn’t waking up at 4am to take photos of nature, he stays awake until 4am taking photos of the night skies or time lapses. You can see more of his work on his website or follow him on Facebook.

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Amazon announced a couple of new Cloud Drive storage plans yesterday, with one of them offering unlimited storage space for photos priced at just $12 a year.

Considering that other cloud services charge up to eight times more for just 1TB, Amazon’s plan seems like it could become a hit among photographers.

On the other hand, a keen reader called Bob pointed out an interesting section in the Terms of Use that might keep photographers away.

Paying just $1.00 a month in exchange for unlimited space for photos, including RAW files, sounds amazing if you’re looking for a simple, cloud-based backup of your photos.

Well, turns out it might be too good to be true for professional photographers. In response to our original post regarding Amazon’s new services, Bob directed us to the following section of the Terms of Use:

1.2 Using Your Files with the Service. You may use the Service only to store, retrieve, manage, and access Your Files for personal, non-commercial purposes using the features and functionality we make available. You may not use the Service to store, transfer or distribute content of or on behalf of third parties, to operate your own file storage application or service, to operate a photography business or other commercial service, or to resell any part of the Service.

The question is, does keeping a backup of one’s commercial photos count as “operating a photography business”?

Perhaps this would be allowed as no money is being made by using Amazon’s service?

Also, how will Amazon differentiate personal and commercial photos belonging to a professional photographer?

We have contacted Amazon with these questions and will be sure to update you once a response is received.

Amazon’s major competitors in the cloud storage market, namely Dropbox, Google and Microsoft, do not seem to impose a similar restriction on using their service commercially (as long as you’re not making money by selling their service, of course).

While going over Amazon’s rules I also found a section stating that the service is offered in the United States and that access may be restricted from other locations.

This could mean that the service is only available to U.S. customers, but also that U.S. customers might not be able to access their storage while travelling overseas.

It is also possible that the relevant clause is mentioned solely for legal reasons, and that the service is actually available all over.

For what it’s worth, I was able to create a trial account using a non-U.S. address and credit card and to add those details to my Cloud Drive account.

I doubt Amazon would allow non-U.S. customers to create a Cloud Drive account, add their address and payment method, reach the final stage before confirming payment and only then be told that the service is only offered in the United States.

Either way, we will update on this matter as well.

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Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels is a wildlife and commercial photographer based in Israel. When he isn’t waking up at 4am to take photos of nature, he stays awake until 4am taking photos of the night skies or time lapses. You can see more of his work on his website or follow him on Facebook.

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20 responses to “Thought You Can Use Amazon’s Unlimited Storage Plan for Your Business? Think Again”

  1. Jarret O'Shea Avatar
    Jarret O’Shea

    I would think the purpose of that statement is to prevent a large amount of bandwidth going to these servers, which they may not be designed to handle (and which they’d want to charge more for, understandably.) As long as you’re storing backups (ie, not something you’re going to access all that often) you should be fine.

  2. David Perez Avatar
    David Perez

    I signed up yesterday to check it out. The file upload interface is bad. You basically drag your photo folder onto a “upload” spot and it starts up.

    There is no way to throttle the upload. I have 270G of images in (originals, processed, etc.). I can’t upload all that at once–it would take considerable time, and I’d blow through my comcrap data cap, most likely. The only way to stop the upload is to close the little upload window. Then to restart, you have to re-drag your folder to the upload window and it starts again, presumably where you left off…I think…I hope…

    There is also no comparison feature. You can’t easily compare whats in the cloud compared to whats on your local drive. So if you’ve updated a whole bunch of files in various directories…well, who knows. I might retag a bunch of files with new keywords. I’m not sure how I’d get those updated in the cloud other than dragging the whole folder again and hoping it recognizes the updated files…

    Video files go into a separate allowance..only 5G if you choose the photo only option. There is no way to filter non-photo images from the upload so you don’t exceed the cap. I’m within 500MB of hitting that cap, and I don’t know how it will respond when I hit it. Will it cancel the rest of my upload?

    I think the idea of unlimited photo storage is great…but realistically, the file management features are sorely lacking to make it really useful if you have anything more than a handful of files.

    1. Jarret O'Shea Avatar
      Jarret O’Shea

      This has been my experience as well (I’ve had access to this through Prime for a couple months.) My other problem was it wouldn’t store the XML files that LR creates when you edit RAW files, so if I had a catastrophic failure, I’d have to re-edit any files I restored. To be fair, that’s a whole lot better than nothing, but it would be simpler just to buy and backup via external HD. Hopefully Amazon (and MS, which similarly offers unlimited storage with a subscription to Office) will improve the software to make this simpler.

      1. Doug Sundseth Avatar
        Doug Sundseth

        If you convert your raw files to Adobe’s open-source DNG format, you can set LR to save the edits to the file itself (or manually save the edits to the file with Ctrl-S), which would obviate this problem.

        Note: I’ve not tried uploading DNG files to Amazon but I wouldn’t expect a problem.

        1. Jarret O'Shea Avatar
          Jarret O’Shea

          Thanks! Never knew that about DNGs.

        2. ryfter Avatar

          I use DNGs, and I didn’t know this either. Thanks for this. I read Jarret’s comment earlier, and was thinking, too bad DNG doesn’t just save the settings.

          Again, thank you very much for this.

          Found this out last week:

          For photos: JPEG, BMP, PNG and most TIFF files (these files typically have the .jpg, .jpeg, .bmp, .png or .tiff extensions).

          Tip: If your RAW photo file is not being recognized as a photo, you may want to try converting the file into a DNG (Adobe Digital Negative). Amazon Cloud Drive recognizes Adobe Digital Negative (DNG) files as photos, so this may resolve your issue.

          Supported RAW File Types (This is not a definitive list):

          Nikon (NEF files) Nikon D1, Nikon D1X, Nikon D4, Nikon Coolpix A, Nikon E5700, Nikon AW1, Nikon D800, Nikon D50, Nikon D610

          Canon (CR2 Files) Canon 5D, Canon 1D, Canon 1D MarkIIN, Canon Rebel SL1, Canon 60D, Canon 5D MarkIII, Canon 1D MarkIV

          Sony (ARW files) Sony A7, Sony A7R, Sony A6000, Sony NEX-5T, Sony NEX-3N, Sony NEX-6

        3. catlett Avatar

          DNG absolutely is not Open Source. I don’t understand how that myth keeps getting perpetuated. The license very clearly reads that Adobe owns all rights to make changes and, in fact retain the legal right to prohibit any company from using it. The code has not been released. In any event it is better not to save the edits to the file. If you save the edits to a far smaller xml file as most programs do then you don’t risk corrupting the original and all the the edit files upload and download much faster than the originals.

          1. Doug Sundseth Avatar
            Doug Sundseth

            You’re correct that it isn’t open source, it is rather open use and the file spec is open. For most purposes that don’t require code inspection, the result is similar. The license details are here:


            The only revocability I see is against a “licensee or its affiliates [that] brings any patent action against Adobe or its affiliates related to the reading or writing of files that comply with the DNG Specification.”

          2. catlett Avatar

            Good luck with that. Adobe never changes the rules right? They wouldn’t suddenly change the software that reads their proprietary file format and tie it to an annual fee like they did with >90% of their products.

            That’s the primary difference in REAL open source. The CODE is published, not a proprietary SDK. The code is legally opened up. Others can monitor, edit and extend the code so users are protected.

            Adobe has shown that they WILL pull the rug out from under users to help their cash flow AND they have made sure that this format has a license that Adobe alone controls. I hope they don’t screw their users on DNG but I don’t trust them and get concerned when disinformation gets spread like the one where DNG is open source

          3. ryfter Avatar

            I’ve heard the saving to a sidecar being advantageous because it could corrupt the original. I’m not sure how many I/O corruptions people get, but I don’t see that happening often. It’s like writing meta data, as far as I can tell.

            I also don’t get the time to upload/download files being any slower. I just tried this, and it looks like the file size difference is negligible, if anything.

          4. catlett Avatar

            Originals absolutely can and do get corrupted. I have had it happen. It doesn’t matter WHAT it is writing to the file. If it corrupts it then it is corrupted period. As far as the sizes you are even more mistaken. For example a D800 file is somewhere between 42 and 46 k. Does it make more sense to upload that to backup edits or to upload the 11 k sidecar that has no chance of corrupting the original?

          5. ryfter Avatar

            For file size, I was discussing a DNG with the settings saved in it, and a DNG file without the settings. I wasn’t talking about just the sidecars vs raw image. I do know there is a huge difference there. This conversation was about saving the editing data to the file itself.

            As for the corruption, how did they get corrupted during saving to the RAW file, since that is what we are talking about? All files can be corrupted, and that is why you build in backups. You need at least 2 “clean” copies of any file. One that is local, or at least more near-line storage and one that is in cold storage. (or, at least mirrored copies, at least one being off-site).

            If you are talking about files being generally corrupted because of bad hard drives, or hard drives going bad, or a myriad of other reasons, that is also out of the scope of this conversation.

            I would be very interested to know how many raw files get corrupted during the I/O event of adding sidecar data to the DNG.

          6. catlett Avatar

            Just re-read what I typed. If it doesn’t work for you then ignore it. I can’t keep explaining it. Files are more likely to get corrupted when you are writing to them and that is one of several reasons most people agree that sidecars make more sense.

  3. Renato Murakami Avatar
    Renato Murakami

    Good questions and research. Waiting for the follow up from Amazon… with those prices, I might just as well migrate all backups into Amazon, but it depends on restrictions.
    Though I think the ones we already have in place to be limiting enough.
    Amazon needs a desktop client, a batch uploader (or something similar), and then app support and the like.
    If bandwidth is a problem, make it a slow queue… as long as it’s done automatically, no problems there.
    I went with Flickr’s free 1Tb because I was able to use the old (albeit buggy) batch uploader. It wasn’t a one click deal, but I was able to up about 5000 photos in less than a week.
    I can only imagine trying to up something like that with a drag and drop interface or single file selection tool… I’m not even a pro photographer or anything like that. It should be hard enough for even amateur photographers to just give up making the backup.

    1. ryfter Avatar

      There is a folder option, as well. You can either drag files, or select a folder.

      1. Renato Murakami Avatar
        Renato Murakami

        Oooh, that’s good to know, thanks!
        If there’s a folder option it’s good enough…. I had to separate my photos in folders to make Flickr uploader work ok anyways, so it’d pretty much be the same as Flickr.
        Thanks ryfter!

  4. mike Avatar

    If you are using this for backup, why not used a dedicated backup provider like Carbonite or iDrive? Most of them have an unlimited data plan for reasonable prices.

    If you are a professional, and storage is your lifeline, why would you getting the absolute cheapest solution? Get something that has been proven to work.

    1. ryfter Avatar

      I am looking to backup photos, cheaply. I plan to keep copies local, and only use off-site backup for failure recovery.

  5. Ralph Hightower Avatar
    Ralph Hightower

    “All your base are belong to us” – Amazon