Over the years, the number one digital strategy question I get from people outside of the tech industry is how do I backup my photos? The quick answer is to get them into a cloud service quickly as possible, three actually.
Digital media ecosystem debates aside, it’s in your best interest to use services from companies you imagine will actually still be around in 20 years. Google, Amazon, and Apple are all pretty good bets. Amazon burned me a while back with their music file hosting bait and switch… so I’ve personally steered clear of them since.
Automatic Backup Services
- Google Photos is my top recommendation, they have a great mobile app that can auto upload photos on your behalf over cellular or each time you connect to wifi (your pick). Secondly, Google pledges to host unlimited numbers of photos and videos that were taken with your phone (up to 16 megapixels and video resolution to 1080p) for free.
- Flickr, once a darling of the ‘Web 2.0’ social destinations has managed to stay relevant due to throngs of photographers that love the hosting, tagging and social aspects of the site. Flickr offers free hosting (1 terabyte per person) and auto-uploading as well as paid plans, too. Their future is not secure these days… however, with 12 years and about 50k photos uploaded, I’m committed to riding it out and using them as my second free photo storage resource.
- Dropbox is a great paid cloud backup service and the one that I back up ALL my files to. I spend $99/year for a dedicated terabyte of storage across all my devices and files. Each time I take a picture, the image uploads to the cloud hosting and then downloads to my laptop within seconds without me doing a thing. This comes in super handy and helps me to easily backup my photos locally.
Using services like these help you to have an instant redundant off-site hosting set-up – which is key to ensuring your photos survive no matter what happens to your devices.
Keep in mind there are plenty of other apps–like Facebook–that will offer to host every photo and screenshot you ever took and keep them ‘private’ from your friends. Beware of companies that have had checkered histories with sweeping changes to user’s default privacy settings.
Manual Local Backup
From there, I use Apple’s ‘Time Machine’ software and a dedicated 2 TB USB drive to backup my entire system including the photos, roughly on a weekly basis. This local backup could also be automated if I were to use a wireless Airport Time Capsule drive that can auto-sync in the background without me needing to remember to plug it in. It’s important to not fully depend on cloud services and keep a set of the files with you in a way that you can always access independently. At the end of each year, I buy a new USB drive and archive the old one with the previous year’s files.
This approach makes it quick and easy to delete images when my devices need more space. They are always available via one of my apps, in seconds, if don’t have it locally on my device. And when I get a new phone or laptop, it’s quick and simple to add the settings and continue the process for backing up.
Hope this is helpful. Let me know your secrets to automagic backups by sharing a tip in the comments.