By Dan Bullman
In today’s digital era, it’s so simple to copy your photos onto your laptop hard drive and forget about them, thinking they’ll be there whenever you need them. But if your laptop crashes or gets stolen, and you haven’t backed up your photos in another place, then they’re gone forever. Most forms of digital storage are unreliable in the long term. Hard drives crash, computers die, and CDs and DVDs get scratched up and become unusable.
If you want to preserve your digital photographs then it is important to develop a strategy to back them up. Many people have started looking to the cloud as a place to store their photos. Could cloud storage be right for you?
Here are a few questions you should ask yourself if you’re considering cloud storage:
- Do you want to use a free storage service, such as Google Photos or Apple Photos? Or are you willing to pay for a service with more features? If so, how much are you willing to pay?
- Do you want to use cloud storage as a backup solution for all of your photos or just some key ones? How much data do you have? How often will you need to access your photos?
- What types of files do you have? Camera raw files? Tiff files? JPEGs? All of the above?
- How fast is your internet connection? Uploading files to the cloud can be very slow.
There are a few free applications, such as Google Photos and Flickr. These services could be a good option to back up your digital photo library if you don’t want to spend any money. The problem with a lot of them is that they either compress your photos, which means a loss in resolution and quality, or dditionally they don’t support RAW or TIFF files. So if you’re a raw shooter then this isn’t a great solution for archiving your photo library.
Luckily there are a number of services which will store your digital photographs for a small fee. There are many different companies that provide cloud storage, so I’ve decided to focus on only a few in the rest of this article. Be sure to do your research and find a service that fits your backup needs.
A Few Options for Cloud Storage
Google Drive is a relatively cheap and reliable cloud storage service. All Google accounts are given 15GB of free storage. From there you can pay as little as $1.99/month for 100GB, $9.99/month for 1TB, and up to $299.99/month for 30TB. Google Drive allows you to organize your own folders and supports all photo file types.
Amazon Cloud Drive
Amazon Cloud Drive touts an impressive unlimited photo storage plus 5GB for video and other file types for only $11.99/year. Additionally, if you have an Amazon Prime account, then this service is already included as part of your subscription. The one catch is that file uploads are limited to 2GB per individual file, so if you have files that are larger than that then you may not be able to upload them.
Microsoft One Drive
Microsoft One Drive has plans that offer 15GB for free, 100GB for $1.99/month, and 200GB for $3.99/month. Additionally, Microsoft is currently running a deal where you can get the Office 365 application package and 1TB of storage for $6.99/month. A big disadvantage to this service is that you cannot store more than 200GB without purchasing additional apps from Microsoft. But if you have less than 200GB, then One Drive is a really cheap option for back up.
The Basic plan gives you 2GB of storage for free. Upgrading to a Pro account will give you 1TB of storage for $9.99/month. The highest level plan is a Business account which will give you unlimited storage for $15/month per user. Dropbox doesn’t offer the most competitive prices among cloud providers but it’s a popular option that you may find reliable. However, if you have more than a terabyte of data, and files that break the size limits of some of the other unlimited providers, then Dropbox may be the best option for you.
Mediafire is one of the cheapest cloud storage options among the major players in the market. They offer 10GB of storage for free and up to a terabyte for only $2.49/month. Most impressively, their Business accounts offer up to 100 terabytes of storage for $24.99/month. If you’re looking to get into cloud storage for relatively cheap, then Mediafire is definitely a good bet.
Alternatives to Cloud Storage
Cloud services are not the only option you should investigate as a place to store your digital photos. Like any other digital backup, cloud storage isn’t full-proof. A quick internet search will show you numerous horror stories of peoples’ data being lost in cloud storage glitches and failures. This section of the article will explore a few other possibilities for saving your digital photos.
External Hard Drives
External hard drives are a good option if you need a lot of readily accessible storage for an affordable price. I use one terabyte Toshiba drives that only cost about $60. There are many other brands that offer similarly priced drives. One advantage external hard drives have over cloud storage is speed of access. You can store these files and keep them in your home or office, meaning they are readily accessible. Trying to download files you have stored on the cloud can be extremely time consuming.
Another advantage is cost; hard drives are relatively cheap when compared to continuously paying for monthly fees for cloud storage over the longterm. The drawback of hard drives is that they will eventually fail. Many are only reliable for 2-5 years, so it is important to back up your files to multiple places. But if you can’t afford a RAID hard drive system and you have a lot of data to backup, external hard drives are a good place to start.
USB flash drives are another option for backing up data in your home or office. Prices are continually dropping on flash drive storage. Flash drives don’t have a lot of storage capacity, but 16GB flash drives are as cheap as $6. This makes them one of the most inexpensive options to back up your most prized images. I use them to back up my portfolio and store the memory sticks at a relative’s house. It’s not a solution for all of my data, but it gives me an added layer of backup that could save some of my best photos in the event of a disaster.
You can also back up your data on CDs or DVDs, but at this point I wouldn’t recommend it. This kind of media is quickly becoming obsolete, and while it’s cheap, CDs and DVDs are easily damaged or corrupted. Additionally, you can’t store that much data on discs. Most CDs have a capacity of 700MB and DVDs cap out at less than 5GB. On top of this, many computer manufacturers, such as Apple, aren’t including disc drives in a number of their products. This means you’ll have to purchase an external drive just to read your discs in the future. You’re better off storing files on a hard drive or flash drive with a USB connection.
Ultimately, there is no holy grail, one-size-fits-all solution for backing up your digital photos. The main theme is that you should not rely on a single source of backup because it can easily become a point of failure. If you haven’t stored your photos in more than one place and that one backup fails, you’re likely going to be out of luck.
Backing up your photos doesn’t need to be expensive; it just requires that you be strategic. I believe that cloud storage is best utilized as part of an overall storage strategy for your digital photographs, rather than the only point of backup.
Is cloud storage right for your backup needs? That is for you to decide. I hope this article gives you a starting point to get you on the path to reliably backing up your digital photos.
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