Years ago when I started this blog, certain types of hosting were much more expensive than they are today, particularly if you wanted hosting that didn’t suck.
Storing and transmitting websites that were mostly text (say, a blog), for example, was relatively cheap and widely available. However, hosting a lot of pictures (such as one might embed in a post about shooty goodness with friends) was pricey: the storage itself added up, and bandwidth costs were non-negligible.
Around that time, Google was in its do-no-evil phase and was offering free photo hosting for users, with the additional benefit of free embedding in one’s blog posts and other websites. Considering I was but a college student at the time, not utilizing them for hosting would be foolish indeed. Thus, I would upload my photos to their service, PicasaWeb, and get the necessary snippet of HTML to embed a thumbnail and a link to the full-size image in my posts. Fantastic.
More than a decade on, Google has given up the do-no-evil mantra, and also stopped offering that photo hosting service, as well as their excellent photo management program, Picasa. While it appears the thumbnails of the photos still exist and are still available on my earlier posts, clicking them to see a full-sized image results in a 404 Not Found Error.
Fortunately, I still have the originals on disk and will update them at some point, but it’s definitely more of a hassle with a bunch of manual work needed. Apologies if you’re running into issues seeing images in old posts.
Lesson learned: using third-party services as a key part of one’s site is probably not the best of ideas. Doubly so if you’re not paying them — remember, if you’re paying them you’re a customer. Otherwise you’re a liability or, worse, the product being sold. Such services can be discontinued at any time.
Using a content distribution network (CDN) to make things more efficient and faster? Awesome, but always be able to turn off the CDN or switch to a different provider at any time without much hassle. Using off-site backups? Smart! But be sure the backup service is a backup of your own, locally-maintained files rather than being the sole repository.