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Online Photo Site Shuttered, Images Erased

The sudden demise of Digital Railroad, a photo archiving and commerce site, has led to the erausre of photos stored by its audience of 1,500 professional photographers.

Photo sharing is one of the most popular online activities, driving enormous growth for Fickr, Photobucket and even Facebook. But be careful where you store your photos. The credit crunch apparently was a factor in the sudden demise of Digital Railroad, a photo archiving and commerce site used by about 1,500 professional photographers. Janice Chen at ZDNet writes that the sudden collapse of Digital Railroad has left customers without access to their photos. The company closed its web sites Oct. 31, saying that "given DRR's current cash position, it can no longer keep these servers operational."

Users are referred to the web site of Diablo Management, a company that specializes in liquidations of distressed assets. Diablo reports that it was unable to find a buyer for Digital Railroad's assets.

"Without a commitment for the purchase of its assets, DRR’s senior secured creditor will move to take physical possession of the hardware on which the intellectual property of DRR and the copyrighted images of its customers and partners reside," Diablo says in its notice. "The creditor will have all information erased from the storage devices and then sell the equipment at auction. Digital Railroad had hoped that it could preserve the images on the storage devices so that the owners of these images could recover them. Unfortunately, this was not achievable."

The involvement of Diablo suggests that Digital Railroad's troubles were not sudden. The upside is that the professional photographers that use the site are unlikely to have used the site as their primary or sole image storage, and likely have other copies elsewhere. That may not be true for users of other sites that may run into financial trouble. The lesson learned: if you have any inking that your provider is in trouble, be sure you have backups.

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