Making the Most of Imagesharing Services

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For sites running on limited hardware or shared hosting accounts, it may be crucial to save on both space and bandwidth, and what better way than to host the videos on YouTube and the images on Flickr? The same actually applies to larger sites not generating much money, but they tend to be able to afford custom solutions like stored data in the cloud or static files on servers.

Serving the images from any of the photo-sharing sites out there is a sure way to keep both bandwidth and storage down, especially if the site in question is running a lot of photos. A good example would be a videogame site, pumping screenshots not seldom less than around 700 KB in size each, and with larger screens and HD resolutions comes the need to share them in that resolution as well. Say you shoot out two screenshot galleries every day, each containing 10 images. That's 140 images every week, or 560 per month. At around 700 KB each, that adds up for sure; to over 380 MB per month actually. You don't need to be a mathematician to understand that such a site will require a lot of megabytes in bandwidth, as well as storage in the long run.

That's why photo-sharing sites are interesting. Pumping images in to Flickr means that you needn't worry about those things. Now, it may be a bit of a stretch to have the big videogame sites running their screenshot library on Flickr, but what about the ones relying on more traditional photography?

There is money to be saved here, by "doing a YouTube" with images as well. After all, even the best of them are embedding videos these days, so why not images?

Naturally there are drawbacks, most importantly the fact that if your image host goes out of business you'll lose all your images. You can sort that out with backups, of course, but you'd need to put them in again manually. On the other hand, these services are rarely small players, and if you stick to the big ones it isn't likely they'll go away. Again, if you can rely on YouTube you should be able to rely on the likes of Flickr. There is some trust involved, after all.

Another issue is loading time. If your image host is struggling to serve the images, for one reason or another, your site will suffer for it. In the long run I believe that images are more of what I like to call "direct content" than video, and that's why I tend to store and serve them locally whenever I can. If I really need to serve them from someplace else to keep a site up, I'd look into file servers and cloud solutions before relying solely on a third-party service.

However, that doesn't mean that I don't think about going the third-party route, and as a dedicated Flickr user I sometimes use it as an image host. It is convenient and saves both time as well as bandwidth and space. Despite all I've said so far, those are hard facts to argue with.

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