As the world’s 1st mobile photo book platform, storage is probably one of the main areas you are curious about in regards to Tapsbook, so we wanted to share the storage challenges we faced and the rationale behind our decisions in this blog.
You may be asking, if my photos are already online (Facebook, Google, Instagram), why do I still need cloud storage? Good question – you don’t. Tapsbook is smart; if your photos are already online, it won’t upload them again to cloud storage (to save you money), but if the photos are offline (on PC or Mac), or you edited the photos in Tapsbook, the photos need to be stored somewhere online for you to view on iPad. Where and how do we store them? Read on to find out…
1. Hybrid storage
The biggest challenge when we designed Tapsbook was: “How can we fit our entire photo collection, potentially hundreds and thousands of photos, into a small iPad device, which is very limited in space?” Heck, my Canon 5D MKII’s single CF card (32GB) is larger than the total storage of my iPad! So how do we solve this problem? Cloud.
However, a pure Cloud based storage solution would not work either because it would create a poor user experience if you have to wait for photos to download from the Cloud; it would also be impossible to support offline viewing and editing.
Our innovative solution combines the best of both worlds and uses a hybrid solution, where we use iPad’s flash memory as local cache and Cloud as permanent photo backup storage. In addition, we use aggressive “eager-loading” algorithm to integrate the two seamlessly to offer the optimal user experience.
2. Bring your own storage
Once we decided on the hybrid storage strategy, we then had to figure out which cloud storage vendor to use. There are lots of choices out there: Amazon S3, Google Drive, iCloud, Dropbox, and many more. This was a difficult choice as there are many areas to consider (price, quality of service, speed, etc). Unlike all other photo service vendors who made the decision for you (hopefully correctly), we give the right to choose back to you. We firmly believe that as the owners of the photos, the users should decide where their photos should be stored. Although not a new concept in some industries, “Bring Your Own Storage” (BYOS) is a new frontier we have entered into for the photo service industry.
So why BYOS? Wouldn’t it be much simpler if we just pick one and make it work? Yes, it would have been much simpler for the Tapsbook development team to use a dedicated storage vendor because we would only have one set of API to deal with. However, we chose to open this up as we believe it will offer significant benefits to our customers:
- Increased privacy – you want to know where you precious photos are stored and who can access them. You wouldn’t want to risk having Tapsbook – or any other photo service provider – to pick a cheap service where your photos are saved on a shared hosting site and other people can view your photos (who knows who are looking at your photos).
- Better security – you want peace of mind that your photos are safely stored forever. Let’s be honest…anything can happen to a service provider, a company can shut down with just a notice, and their service will go away, along with your photos that are stored in their storage account. BYOS enables to you to have that separation in case things go wrong.
- Tighter cost control – you want to use a service provider that is economical while ensuring photos are stored safe and sound. The simple fact of the matter is many of you already have a storage account somewhere, such as Dropbox and Google, and many of them offer generous free tier service. Therefore, it is economical to consolidate your storage into one reputable vendor.
3. A turnkey solution
At Tapsbook, we like simplicity. While there are many good reasons to BYOS, some of you may still prefer we take care of it all for you. “Just make it work” – got it! As a big believer of flexibility, in addition to BYOS, Tapsbook also offers fully integrated storage option. We currently use Amazon S3 cloud storage as our private storage provide, and it is the default option for everyone. You can change this from the storage settings option (it is in fact the only setting we expose to you as we are committed to simplicity) in the user profile section.
Hope this helps to provide a glimpse of our priorities (benefits to our users are always most important to us) and why we made the decisions we did. If you have any comments, please comment below…we welcome the conversation!