The cost of photography is not what it used to be. So many people take pictures now that a new market has emerged for the sale of images at a far less cost than ever before.

Shutterstock is the leader in providing royalty-free images by subscription. No, they do not leverage the cloud to serve images. They're a company that got started early in the market with a service to sell the images taken by the founder of the company.

Jon Oringer started Shutterstock in 2003. He started with 30,000 images he shot himself.
Shutterstock now accepts 180,000 images per week. It is a subscription service. It
costs $249 per month for downloading up to 750 images.

Oringer is a programmer. He used his programming skills to build the Shutterstock
service from scratch. For instance, under his direction, the company created its own email marketing system.

This was the time before the cloud. These days startups have a menu of choices.
They can use a cloud service for hosting their applications. They can take advantage
of services that manage e-mail campaigns. Any number of new marketing channels
exist that were nonexistent in 2003.

But, does that mean Oringer is at a disadvantage? Well, the company's number one
status would make one skeptical of that premise. The service now includes 12
million images that they store on hundreds of servers in different data centers. The company was able to leverage its strength to acquire Bigstock, now a wholly owned subsidiary of Shutterstock.

Oringer said the company has benchmarked cloud computing against its own systems
and found the Shutterstock network to be more effective in terms of reliability, cost and speed of retrieving files. Services such as Twitter, Facebook and Wordpress have similar stories to tell.

He wonders if sometimes it may just be easier for companies to do their own
hosting. Servers are more affordable than ever. You can run a Linux server with free
software from services like Ubuntu.

If he started the company today, Oringer would use services that did not require him to build from scratch. That would possibly mean not build his own email marketing
system. Instead, he'd use one of the services now available.

Oringer is a case example of a company that has done just fine by running its own
servers. In many ways, the network he has created is its own asset. The servers can
be configured the way that is best for the entire operation.

As more photos are accepted by Shutterstock, Oringer will keep adding servers.
Video is still in its infancy as far as the royalty free market goes. File sizes are
exponentially bigger.

Will Oringer reconsider his strategy and start using cloud services?

That day is still to come. Our guess is he will keep on adding servers.