Business challenge

As the popularity of its photo-hosting platform soared, Zenfolio knew that to keep service levels high and costs under control, it had to rethink its storage strategy to support growing data levels.


Zenfolio uses IBM Cloud Object Storage to store subscribers’ image uploads to its platform and is working with IBM to migrate 12 PB of data from its on-premises storage infrastructure to the cloud.


USD1 million

in savings expected over the next three years


Zenfolio to deliver on its promise of unlimited uploads


IT operations, relieving pressure on the IT team

Business challenge story

Meeting growing demand

Founded in 2004 with the aim of helping photographers turn their artistic passions into successful businesses, Zenfolio provides subscribers with a platform to upload, display, share, and sell their photos and photography services. Subscribers benefit from unlimited storage, photo galleries, and integrated tools for social media, marketing and e-commerce.

The Zenfolio platform is popular with amateur and professional photographers. Today, the company has tens of thousands of subscribers, every single one of whom expects Zenfolio to store their files safely and securely. Subscribers’ uploads are not just anonymous image files, they depict priceless memories – weddings, birthdays, graduations, vacations – and can often embody a lifetime of a subscriber’s work. For photographers all over the world, Zenfolio represents a valuable digital archive of irreplaceable images.

But with so many people regularly uploading photos, how could Zenfolio store and protect rapidly growing data volumes? How could the company keep its platform running smoothly and ensure the same high level of service to subscribers with 10 photos as to subscribers with 10,000? Critically, how could Zenfolio meet these requirements without operating costs spiraling out of control?

“We promise unlimited storage, so users can upload as many photos and videos to their account as they want,” says Yuri Kolesnikov, Director of IT Operations at Zenfolio. “It’s a major selling point of our service, but it poses a significant challenge in terms of data storage. We currently host over 2 billion images on the Zenfolio platform and that number is growing all the time.”

Previously, Zenfolio hosted all 2 billion photos – around 12 PB of data in total – on on-premises storage. Managing the data centers was a heavy burden on the company. As well as maintaining all the infrastructure, including the networking and power equipment, the IT operations team also had to deal with internet providers, and plan for capacity and floor space – taking up time and effort.

Due to physical constraints in its data centers, it was becoming increasingly difficult for Zenfolio to scale the storage environment to meet growing requirements. As the existing infrastructure approached full capacity, the company took the opportunity to move to the cloud.

We found that IBM Cloud Object Storage represented by far the best value, coming in at 45 percent and 33 percent more cost-effective than competitors.

Yuri Kolesnikov, Director of IT Operations, Zenfolio

Transformation story

Cost-effective scalability

Eager to harness the power of cloud computing to scale its data-storage capabilities and simplify management, Zenfolio enlisted the help of IBM.

“When we discussed our evolving data storage requirements with the team, they proposed IBM Cloud Object Storage – and we’ve never looked back,” says Kolesnikov.

IBM Cloud Object Storage offers practically limitless scalability – exactly what Zenfolio needs to store huge quantities of unstructured data, and to satisfy its customer guarantee of unlimited photo and video uploads. What’s more, with data stored in IBM-managed data centers, IBM Cloud Object Storage promised to relieve pressure on the Zenfolio IT operations team.

“We ran a total cost of ownership comparison with other cloud storage providers on the market,” says Kolesnikov. “We found that IBM Cloud Object Storage represented by far the best value, coming in at 45 percent and 33 percent more cost-effective than competitors.”

In particular, IBM offered the best price for “cold vault” storage of data that is accessed infrequently, as IBM Cloud Object Storage uses data-dispersion techniques to keep storage costs low while ensuring that customers’ photos are protected. Cold vault storage has a low per GB price, and customer photos can still be accessed within milliseconds.

As well as migrating the existing stored images from its on-premises storage systems to IBM Cloud Object Storage, Zenfolio will direct all new photo uploads to the IBM Cloud™. The IBM team is supporting the migration, helping Zenfolio to maintain the existing storage infrastructure until all 12 PB of existing data has been moved to the cloud.

Based on our models and predictions, moving from on-premises storage infrastructure to the IBM Cloud will save us about USD1 million over the next three years.

Yuri Kolesnikov, Director of IT Operations, Zenfolio

Results story

Saving big

Zenfolio anticipates saving a huge amount of time, effort and money thanks to IBM Cloud Object Storage.

“Based on our models and predictions, moving from on-premises storage infrastructure to the IBM Cloud will save us about USD1 million over the next three years,” says Kolesnikov.

Currently running both its IBM Cloud Object Storage and on-premises solutions in parallel, Zenfolio plans to shut down its data centers completely once the migration is complete – generating enormous savings.

Moving from on-premises storage to IBM Cloud Object Storage will also take the pressure off Zenfolio’s IT operations team. Once complete, Zenfolio will no longer need to worry about data-center management, hardware maintenance, capacity planning, or related activities.

All data will be stored in secure, fully managed IBM data centers that are staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This will take the pressure off the IT operations team, freeing them from routine tasks, enabling employees to focus on other value-add activities.

Looking to the future, Zenfolio is confident that IBM Cloud Object Storage is the right platform to support its increasing capacity requirements. With a growing set of subscribers uploading more and more photos, Zenfolio predicts its storage needs will grow to 24 PB within the next five years, but this is no longer a cause for concern. IBM Cloud Object Storage offers practically unlimited scalability, so the company can simply keep growing its storage environment in line with customer demand.

“We’re highly satisfied with the service and support we’ve received from IBM so far,” concludes Kolesnikov. “We’re very much looking forward to what the future brings. IBM is continually making substantial enhancements to the IBM Cloud Object Storage service, and we’re already exploring how we can take advantage of the integrated Aspera® high-speed data transfer feature to accelerate upload times and make our service picture-perfect.”

Zenfolio logo in orange on transparent background


Zenfolio is an all-in-one e-commerce platform that enables aspiring and professional photographers to showcase and sell their work. In addition to website design and hosting, the company offers printing services and a broad range of marketing and e-commerce tools. Headquartered in Menlo Park, California, Zenfolio serves tens of thousands of photographers from all around the world.

Solution components

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