Preserving Those Holiday Memories: A Review of Online Photo Storage Solutions

Camera shutters go into overdrive this time of year, but how do you make sure those pictures and memories are safely stored and backed up?  “The cloud” comes to our rescue.

Up to a few years ago, backing up your photos meant purchasing an external hard drive, plugging your camera into your computer, copying the photos to your computer, then copying the photos again to an external hard drive.  Given this complicated process, many shutterbugs put off backing up their photos until it was too late.

However, we now mainly take pictures with our phones, which gives us many automatic, cloud-based options that simplify the back up of our precious memories.  Let’s take a look at the different available services.

  • Google+: Put the Google+ app on your iPhone or Android device, and it will automatically offer to back up your images for free.  If you allow the service to downsize your phone to a still-printable resolution, you get unlimited storage!  The photos go to a private album and are not shared until you explicitly do so.
  • Flickr: This Yahoo-owned service allows you to store up to 1 terabyte (!!) of photos, plus you can download them at a later time at full resolution (not many sites allow this).  Just install the Flickr app on your phone and allow it to automatically upload new photos whenever you open the app.
  • iCloud: Apple’s cloud system is more of a temporary online storage solution.  Your photos (and videos up to 15 seconds) are automatically stored in your iCloud Photostream for 30 days only.  However, during this time, they are also copied to your other Apple devices (such as your iMac or Macbook) for permanent storage.  So while your photos may not be preserved “in the cloud” indefinitely, you will have multiple copies (if you have multiple devices setup for iCloud) in the event of a hard drive failure on one of your machines. UPDATE (2014): The new iCloud Drive in iOS 8 allows you to store your photos on iCloud permanently, but it deducts from your free 5GB of storage.  However, editing a photo on one device automatically syncs those changes to your other Apple devices.
  • NEW Amazon Prime Photos: Amazon announced unlimited storage for Prime members in 2014.  There are apps available for iOS and Android that automatically backs up your photos at full resolution to Amazon’s Cloud Drive.

So which one should you use?  If you’re an Amazon Prime member, then Prime Photos is probably your best bet for unlimited storage.  However, if you find yourself taking pictures with your iPhone and later editing them on your iPad, then iCloud Drive works great for keeping everything in sync between your device. Flickr is also a solid solution and 1 TB of storage is likely enough for everyone.  So pick your personal preference and rest easy knowing that your photos are backed up.

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