I’ve been using Microsoft’s Skydrive service to host all of Anotherwindowsblog images for quite some time now. I’ve been happy for the most part. I mean, how can anyone not like having 25GB of free online storage? How can you not like having no bandwidth limits to worry about like other free services impose on you? All was good until just the other day when my photo albums were taken offline due to maintenance. Ever since using Skydrive, I have noticed that this maintenance issue occurs very often. I’m a nice guy. Really. I am. But like everyone else, there’s always a boiling point and Skydrive has finally pushed me to that limit.
Whenever you choose a online service to host your data, no matter what type of data it may be, one of the most critical issue is availability. If your data is hosted online, then it must be available 100% of the time! Obviously, no company can ever guarantee 100% up time but they usually offer customers a pretty close percentage number. Anyways, in my case, if the Skydrive service is down or if it’s performing maintenance on a server where my photo album is sitting on, I won’t have access to it. If I can’t get access to it, then neither can anyone else and that means my readers. My photos will just seem to disappear from the blog page until the servers are bought back online. This isn’t a problem if the downtime was kept to a minimum but the other day, my album was offline for five hours! And like I said earlier, this seems to be a common theme with Skydrive, or least to my account. I’ve finally had enough and starting looking for another image hosting service for my blog.
There are definitely a lot of options one can use for image hosting. You as the user have to decide what you are looking for in a image hosting service. Are you looking for a service that provides you with a lot of social media integration? Then Flickr should be your best bet. Looking for a image hosting service that offers you a powerful built-in photo editing tool? Look no further than the ever so popular Photobucket. Looking for something more simple? Than consider ImageShack, Tinypic or Picasa.
As for my case, I needed a service that was just simple to use and most importantly, reliable! Since I don’t need any social integration for my photos, I immediately eliminated Flickr. Photo editing was also not needed so out went Photobucket. Although there is a bandwidth limit for free Photobucket accounts, I doubt I will exceed that limit. ImageShack seems to be a viable option for me but ever since that hacking incident, I’m staying away from them. As for Tinypic, I admit that I occasionally use that service when I need to quickly upload a pic or two on forums and such but I never considered using it as a long term image hosting service for a blog of any sort.
People are probably wondering why I don’t just use Picasa as my image hosting platform since it’s owned by Google and Anotherwindowsblog is hosted on the Blogger platform (which is also managed by Google). I actually did considered using Picasa and in fact I initially have uploaded over 100+ pictures to my account and have started replacing the image links on my blog posts. However, I was about 10-15 posts in when I noticed that all of my .PNG and .GIF photos were automatically being converted to .JPG! I had been using the Picasa desktop software to bulk upload all my images and after some searching around, I found that this is how it’s suppose to be. There was no way I would accept that. Besides, I have no clue as to why Google wouldn’t allow bulk uploads of PNG and GIF files since they are both widely used and recognized picture formats. Anyways, long story short, I decided to leave Picasa behind.
It took me a while but I finally realized that I could be using a Dropbox account for image hosting. It turns out that other users out there have similarly used Dropbox specifically for this sole purpose. Here is what finally swayed me to switch over to Dropbox as image hoster of choice for Anotherwindowsblog:
It’s Dropbox, dude. Dropbox has been around for a while now and it’s a widely popular syncing service. One of the main functions of Dropbox is to be able to allow you to access your files and documents no matter which computer you log in to (work, home, public). Files changes and saves will immediately be replicated across all computers you have Dropbox installed. I’ve been a member of Dropbox for not that long but nothing has ever failed me during that time. Nothing.
No special features. As weird as that may sound, this is a huge advantage for me. Dropbox doesn’t give you any type of photo manipulation or specialties such as social integration with Facebook and Twitter but that is completely OK with me as I don’t need it! I just need Dropbox to host my pictures reliably. Nothing else matters.
Bulk uploading. Many image hosting services also provide the option for you to upload more than one photo at a time. However, I can assure you that it cannot beat Dropbox’s bulk upload. Why? Because all you need to do is copy all of your pictures, no matter if it’s 10 or 200 pictures, to the special Public folder and Dropbox will automatically start uploading them to your Dropbox account. That’s it! All it takes is a couple of clicks. If you can copy/cut and paste, you can work with Dropbox.
Automation. One of the best feature of using Dropbox as your image hosting platform is due to how Dropbox works in general. Anytime you upload a photo to the Public folder, that photo (or file) will get its own dedicated URL which can be used online for hot-linking. In my case, I use this URL to hotlink the pictures to my blog. The cool part here is that anytime in the future I need to edit a photo I have already linked to a blog post, I don’t have to do anything to re-establish the link should I save the changes. For many image hosting services, each photo does have a special URL but anytime you make changes to that same photo offline, you’ll have to re-upload them and you’ll then get another special URL for that updated picture. This however makes the original URL useless (because it still links to the outdated picture) and so now you’ll have to go back to your blog post and re-insert the new URL. Dropbox eliminates this problem.
For example, lets say that I uploaded a photo to Dropbox and have linked it to a blog post. Now lets say an hour later I decided to edit that same picture within Windows 7 to adjust the brightness level. As soon as I re-save the picture back to my Dropbox folder (which syncs to my Dropbox account) and assuming I didn’t change the file name in the process, my blog post will automatically show the new and corrected picture because the URL pointing back to that picture didn’t change at all!
No restrictions. The only thing Dropbox impose on you is a storage limit. Other than that, you’re free to do whatever you want. Your photos can be of any size and resolution, which some free image hosting services have limits to. There are also no bandwidth limitations that I know of. Sweet!
How to Use Dropbox
Here, I’ll already assume that you have a Dropbox account. If not, you can go over my other post on how to do so.
Dropbox provides every user account with a special folder called Public. As the name implies, any files you dump into this folder or sub-folder can be shared with the public. It is in this folder that you dump any and all of your images that you wish to hotlink back to your blog or website.If you can’t find the Public Folder, then you’ve most likely created your Dropbox account after October 2012. Dropbox now automatically disables the Public Folder feature for accounts created after that date! Instead, Dropbox wants you to use the Share Link feature instead. However, the link you get is NOT a true hotlink, which is what you want when hosting images on your blog as shown here. The good news is that Dropbox actually allows you to re-enable the Public Folder feature with a click of a link. Simply visit this Dropbox help article, scroll down to the “Creating a Public Folder” section and click on the link that will help you enable back the Public Folder feature.
As you can see here, I have nested under the Public folder a sub-folder called 151-200 (images for blog posts 151-200). You can also see a green little check-mark next to each picture. This symbolizes that the photo has been synchronized with my account and is ready to be linked. Anytime I need to upload a picture for my blog posts, I simply drop them into this folder and I’m good to go! Dropbox will synchronize the files automatically.
So, once the pictures have been successfully uploaded to Dropbox, you can then grab the public URL for the file. Remember, you only get this special URL for files in the Public folder and no where else within Dropbox. Simply right click on the photo, select the Dropbox link and select from within it the Copy Public Link option.
You should have a link that resembles something like this:
Once you have the link copied, you can now use it to directly link the photo to your blog post or website like I have done here. That’s it! Very simple indeed. Remember that you can edit any of the pictures without having to re-link them as long as you don’t change the file name of the photo itself or moving the file to a different directory.You also have to remember NOT to change the folder name as well once you have it set! If you have stored and linked hundreds of photos from a folder within Dropbox and accidentally rename that folder, guess what happens? Yups! The URL link will then change for all files stored inside that folder! If that happens, then you’ll have to then re-link each and every photo again! Please remember this!
In the End…
It’s true what others have said about Dropbox being a one-of-a-kind service. Many users have found many more ways to utilize Dropbox other than just for basic file syncing. As a image hosting platform, I love it. Technically speaking, Dropbox is not really built as a image hoster. However, there’s also nothing stopping users from using it that way although if the site you maintain occurs a lot of traffic (I mean a lot), than you shouldn’t use Dropbox although again, there’s nothing preventing you from doing so. It’s just that I’m scared Dropbox will decide one day to cut off direct linking to images and then I’ll have to start all over again. But for now, I’ll stick with Dropbox for as long as I can!