Wednesday, December 28, 2011

LicenseStream - Evaporating Into Thin Air?

For several days recently, the LicenseStream website has been down. ImageSpan (Which changed it's name to LicenseStream in January of 2011), was the company behind LicenseStream, and billed the site as "the market-leading licensing and royalty payment automation platform for all media types and businesses." Yet, we have never really seen a functioning business model that we thought would work.

More than one LicenseStream employee was on-site at PhotoPlus Expo back in October in New York City looking for a new place of employment, stating that the company only had enough money to last through the end of December, as they spoke to prospective employers. Oddly, as Digital Railroad ( the formal online portal for image archiving, marketing, and sales, as well as a client delivery platform) went down in flames several years ago, they shopped their company around and then, with no buyers, shuttered operations with little warning to clients. LicenseStream has, according to sources, not been doing so - at least not amongst prospective buyers that would make sense to take over operations that we checked with. Whispers of friendly staff telling image owners they had relationships with to backup their images & data have not been substantiated, however, with enough chatter on the subject, and the risks if the data isn't redundant, we strongly encourage you to have all your LicenseStream content archived, either way.

LicenseStream secured Series A funding back in February 2007 (here) and another $11,000,000 in June of 2008 as a part of a second round of funding (here). In April of 2010, a new CEO was brought in, and another round of financing, billed as "growth financing", with an unreported amount of additional funds (here).

In preparing for this posting, we checked one last time and found that the website, at least as of this publishing, was back up. Perhaps it was just a multi-day site crash over the holidays, or perhaps it was a harbinger of things to come.

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Monday, December 26, 2011

Workflow Hardware Upgrade: Wiebetech Solution

As technology changes, so do our needs as a photographer. This December, we've upgraded our boxes we use to store our images.

Here's our system:

When considering other solutions, we particularly do not like the Drobo boxes for several reasons, and want to caution you strongly before considering them. Problems abound, as reported all over the internet, however, I am sure that some people will sing their praises. Below are several problems - each in-and-of themselves would be a reason not to use the boxes. Together, they make a compelling argument to avoid Drobo. If you're not going to choose the system we're reviewing and reporting on today, then consider other solutions.

Here are some of the Drobo issues:

  1. Proprietary file format. Thus, if you need to pull a drive from their box, you cannot plug it into a Mac or PC and browse/access the files. Further, unless you re-insert the drives with the exact same configuration as when the files were written, you have no access to the files.
  2. The drives/boxes tend to be far too slow for drive-access intensive needs like opening, saving, and other file-releated needs.
  3. A mirrored drive array is not a backup, just reliability protection. You'd need to run two Drobos to do have two backups, as whatever you do (or is erroneously affected on one drive) is immediately replicated on the second. So, you're protected from "drive failure", but not an accidental deletion, or file corruption which then corrupts the file on the mirrored drive. A backup would not only protect you from drive failure, but also those accidental deletions, accidental "save" when you meant "save as" file changes, and other unwanted file changes. Further, the Drobo isn't a true "mirror", it's an odd-flavor RAID 5.
  4. An electrical fault that fries one drive likely will fry the other. You do truly need a dual drive system, with redundancy offline (and preferably off-site) in order to be properly protected. When we have both drives mounted (as explained in the video) it is for manual mirroring, then the backup copy of the primary drive goes offline (and, in a perfect world, off-site.) We try very hard to keep drives seperate to protect them, and thus, our images.
  5. The Drobo does not check the integrity of the data. This is a problem from a data-integrity standpoint.
Upgrading and evolving your workflow - and the hardware solutions that you use to care for your images - is a critical component of your business.
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