Online Cloud Storage – There are many useful and convenient online file storage options, including Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, Amazon Photos and Adobe Creative Cloud. Both have limitations and problems for the high-volume photographer looking to backup their images online.
The size of my photo library has exploded over the past few years. A combination of professional shooting activities and many adventure trips have increased the number of photos I take. The higher resolution of my new cameras has greatly increased the file size of each image.
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I use Lightroom to organize and process my photos, and I protect against disk failure by storing my photos on multiple arrays of disks (RAID). I’m also good about keeping a second copy of the photo on another car in my house. However, this strategy does not help with theft, power surges or fires in my home, so an external backup is needed.
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Online file storage providers have easy-to-use sync and backup programs that allow you to back up and access photos across all your devices. For the occasional photographer, the storage provided is probably more than enough. For a high-level professional or serious photographer, all services fail for one reason or another.
My current photo library has 130,000+ photos, which takes up 3.5 TB+ of space. In 2018, I added 44,000 photos that take up 1.9 TB+ of space.
With that size of photo library in mind, let’s look at the limitations of each service as an off-site photography solution.
For the size of my photo library, only the Advanced Business subscription, with a minimum of 3 users, meets my needs. Although it would work, they didn’t let you buy a single user license for $20/month. It requires a minimum of 3 users which comes in at $720/year.
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Google Drive offers 15 GB of free storage for your Google account, which won’t get you far from photos. They offer the following paid plans through Google One:
Although Google offers enough storage, I would need the 10 TB plan, which is more expensive than Dropbox, coming in at $1,200 per year.
Google also offers Google Drive cloud storage as part of their G Suite software, if you pay to host your email there. Google Drive in G Suite doesn’t offer unlimited storage at $10/user/month, but it does limit storage to 1 TB unless you have 5 users. At a minimum of 5 users, this will cost $600/year, and although It’s a better deal than the Google One plans, but it’s still very expensive.
Microsoft offers a variety of OneDrive storage plans, some included in their Office 365 subscription. Their free OneDrive plans offer only 5 GB of storage. Here are some other paid plans:
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Microsoft’s Office 365 Home technically provides enough storage for me, but it’s only 1 TB per user account, so you have to go through the hassle of creating and splitting your storage across multiple OneDrive accounts.
OneDrive for Business also has ample storage space, but like Google’s G Suite, Microsoft requires a minimum of 5 users to get unlimited storage, otherwise, you’ll only have 1 TB. The plan matches Google’s $600/year pricing option.
Microsoft, Google and Dropbox all focus their services on general file storage. Amazon, on the other hand, recently changed the name of their cloud storage solution to Amazon Photos, indicating a special focus on photography, not general file storage.
If you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber, and many people already are, the inclusion of unlimited photo storage along with free shipping, Amazon Video, Amazon Music and more make this a screaming plan compared to other file storage options.
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I actually tried using Amazon Photos with my photo library in Lightroom but I encountered two limitations.
One option that Amazon Photos provides is called backup. Point the program to a folder or folders on your computer, and it will automatically back them up. This works great, with one exception.
If you edit images as JPG or TIFF files, or if you save RAW file changes to XMP side files, Amazon Photos keeps those copies, but creates sealed versions of the files each time they change. This happens when you do image editing, but it can also happen if you just make changes to embedded metadata such as keywords. When you go to restore, you get one or more versions of the file with all these timestamps.
Yes, everything is backed up, but restoring from a disaster will leave you with a different disaster and multiple versions of various files if you’ve made changes.
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I also tested the syncing capabilities of Amazon Photos. Sync keeps folders on your computer in sync with cloud storage on Amazon Photos. It works without the mess of these timed file versions but creates a different problem in Lightroom.
I tried moving some of my photo folders into a folder synced with Amazon Photos. The process worked fine, but in Lightroom, I get a Metadata Status of “Converted to Disk.” It seems the Amazon Photos file sync action changes the file metadata on disk. Lightroom gives a warning that this image’s metadata has been changed by another program. Should Lightroom import settings from disk or override from catalog?
Since I can’t figure out exactly what these metadata changes are, the resolution of this is not very clear, and I don’t want my Lightroom catalog to be filled with “metadata changed” warnings.
Outside of my camera and my computer, no tool is more important to my photography than my Creative Cloud subscription from Adobe. I pay $58/month for access to all Creative Cloud apps, but it only includes 100 GB of cloud storage. Here is a list of prices for Creative Cloud storage upgrades:
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The online storage option linked directly to my photo app is the worst deal of the bunch. Adobe storage plans may be convenient, but they are very expensive.
Google, Microsoft and Dropbox offer high-capacity file storage solutions for photographers, but you’ll face a small number of users and very high annual service prices. Adobe’s solution is more expensive.
Amazon Photos offers a great deal with unlimited photos as part of an Amazon Prime subscription, but their Backup solution makes a bit of a mess of your files when it comes time to restore, and Sync doesn’t work well with Lightroom. Amazon Photos gets pricey too if you need to store videos or other non-image files.
While the file storage solutions from the big tech companies are solid and convenient, and I continue to use them for general file storage and project-based file sharing, they don’t work for me as an online backup solution for my large photo library either. depending on price or technical limitations.
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I’ve chosen a backup solution from Backblaze instead. They offer unlimited data backup for $50/year per computer. Although the initial backup process can take days or weeks, even on a 1Gbps internet connection, the price is very compelling compared to other options. So you have cloud settings, what do you put on them? The cloud is versatile and can store almost anything. However, just because you can save something, doesn’t mean you should. There are certain documents and programs that are fine in the cloud while others should stay away from it.
Cloud storage is secure and easily accessible, making it an ideal platform for storing large amounts of your data. However, you may want to consider whether to store files in a public or private cloud. Here is a general list of products to move to cloud storage:
Dropbox offers you many applications that make it a great tool for hosting web pages or blogs. It’s also a great way to share documents with multiple people or computers. Google Drive is another public cloud that is useful for sharing files as well as storing your photos or to-do lists.
Business documents are more complicated as some files are more secure in a private cloud. Your financial data should be kept on a private server but the payment request can be stored on a public cloud. And don’t forget, you can always store your photos or other files in a private cloud if it suits your needs better.
Online Photo Storage Options For Professional Photographers
Although the cloud is very secure and you can take steps to protect your data such as encryption, a data breach is always possible. Some documents are too sensitive to be entrusted to the cloud. In addition to security issues, certain applications will not work well with the cloud.
Highly regulated documents such as health records or medical research that must go to the FDA may not be the best documents to put in the cloud. Applications that are critical to your daily workflow should also be backed up off the cloud in case the server goes down. This may seem obvious but putting illegal or pirated data on the cloud is not a good idea either.
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