Just to state what is (hopefully) obvious: your computer hard drive where you just organized all your digital pictures is NOT a backup. That’s the home of your originals. A backup must be a second (or third or fourth) copy of your files. By the way, Facebook is NOT a backup! (I’ll talk more about why in a minute.)
So I scolded you enough in the last post about backing up your precious photo collection. By now you should’ve done your physical backups, but THE CLOUD is an incredible off-site solution you also need to use for archiving. Note I said also, meaning “in addition to,” so if you haven’t done your physical backups yet, quit jumping ahead. Do those right now and then come back here to zap your pics to the heavens!
THE MAGICAL CLOUD
The “cloud” is a magical place that’s not really in the sky. But if it makes you feel better envisioning it there instead of in a bunch of boring server rooms across the country/globe, go for it. This online-only option for storage is remote (not local to your own home/office/computer) and redundant (assuming you’ve picked a reputable cloud service). It’s secure and private (again, assumptions abound but precautions can be taken if concerned).
The absolute best part about anything stored “in the cloud” is that it’s accessible from anywhere. Well, technically anywhere that can get an internet signal. And since that ranges from airplanes and cruise ships these days, it’s pretty safe to say that “pert near” anywhere counts as close enough. Of course, this high-tech option has a major problem if there’s a power outage or internet service is down. You can’t get at your photos like you could if they were printed out and put in 3-ring-binder-type photo albums on your bookshelf.
However, your photos in the cloud will NOT end up waterlogged from the fire department trying to save your house from burning down (or completely turned into ash dust if they were not successful in the least). Unlike your physical backups, your cloud-backed-up photos cannot be wiped out by tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and other examples of Mother Nature’s wrath. This is a major advantage of cloud archival storage.
First of all, let me state what should also be obvious…Facebook (or Instagram) is NOT a backup. While it may be “in the cloud,” these social media communities do NOT save your photos at full resolution for easy download at your convenience. That’s how they lose out on being considered a backup resource. Can you download your Facebook photos, posts & entire history? Youbetcha. And you should at least once a year just for the fun of it. Go here to learn where the data is saved, what is saved and how it can be downloaded to your computer as an archive.
Now that you made all your physical backups, you’re probably feeling pretty archive-savvy. Hopefully I don’t freak you out by mentioning the word “cloud” when it comes to backups! Because that magical “place” should definitely be part of your archive strategy. The trick is that it can be a bit overwhelming with all the options out there. The hardest part is trying to figure out which one is right for your situation and making sure everything is set up correctly to do what it should. After that, it’s pretty much on auto-pilot. Get, it clouds, plane…you with me?
“The Cloud” is not really a white puffy shape holding your data, of course. But it is sort of “out there” or “up there.” That’s why it is an excellent segment of your archive strategy — because your physical copies can be destroyed/damaged/stolen/lost/etc much easier than you may realize. Having a whole drawer full of DVD backups won’t save your photos if your whole house goes up in flames. Or gets soaked by the fire department’s hoses trying to put out the fire. Or if a pipe bursts and soaks through the ceiling right onto your computer and where you store all your external hard drives.
Remember how I said those physical backups needed to at least have one copy in an ALTERNATE LOCATION. This is why. No one knows when something bad is going to happen so being prepared in advance is the only way to insure it doesn’t destroy your photo collection too.
Cloud storage is simply the ability to save files on servers in remote locations that can be accessed via the internet from any enabled computer or device. What makes it so convenient is that it’s always there. No need to carry around your external hard drive or pile of DVD cases to have access to all your images at any time in any place.
March 31st is known as WORLD BACKUP DAY! It’s a day dedicated to reminding everyone the importance of backing up their priceless data, primarily photos in our case! Their warning “Don’t be an April fool!” is an annual reminder to do what should be done regularly, but sadly, is not. Learn more about backups and take the pledge with me on this site.
According to Backblaze, 30% of people have NEVER backed up their files. Yet 29% of disasters are caused by accident, 113 phones are lost or stolen every minute, and 1 in 10 computers are infected with viruses each month (sources per World Backup Day website).
For one thing, if you have physical backups stored in the same room/home as your main computer, and something bad happens to your property, BOTH are gone. Whether that be fire, flood, tornado, hurricane, theft, power surge, or other natural or manmade disaster, the point is that your originals (on the computer) AND your copies (on DVDs or an external hard drives) are likely destroyed as well. Double (or triple) bummer.
Sure, you can send the destroyed devices off to Drive Savers, who work miracles on rescuing data (& I highly recommend their expertise if you are up a creek without a paddle), but that involves risk and cost without a guarantee. Are you willing to risk all that just because you’re too lazy to follow a simple archival strategy? Click the banner link to learn more about what they can do and save 10% on any rescues you may need done.
If you follow my 3-2-1 BACK-UP BLAST-OFF plan, you need 3 copies, in 2 different media formats with at least one of those off-site — as a minimum! 3: Technically, the term “copies” would mean 3 versions IN ADDITION TO the original. But I think you are fine having at least a total of 3 — originals plus 2 copies. 2: To get two different media types, you need to mix up your storage choices. In other words, both copies should not be on external hard drives (EHD) due to high failure rates. Instead, you should have one EHD and one set of DVDs or USB flash drives. 1: Now make one of those copies reside off-site in a location far enough away from your primary location that a tornado, hurricane or flood would not ever affect both places at the same time.
I’m sure you’ve heard the Benjamin Franklin quote:
“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
Well, I’d like to amend that by adding “data loss” to his list. It’s almost a given that each of us will have at least one data loss (likely due to technological hardware or software failure) in our lifetimes. The only questionable part is when, because you never know when your time has come. So being properly prepared is the only way to survive this calamity.
Everyone asks…can cloud storage count as off-site? Well, technically yes! It is definitely “off-site” and it’s in another media type so that checks off two of the boxes on our 3-2-1 Back-up Blast-off plan! Some experts warn against cloud storage due to its “stormy” issues of security and privacy. Others point out that some cloud companies have come — and gone due to bankruptcy, taking with them your data in some cases.
In my personal (and professional) opinion, the cloud offers an easy, economical, nearly effortless solution to not only backup but also to sync continual changes to an alternate, off-site option that I can access from almost any digital device via the internet. That’s worth it’s weight in gold to me! I can worry less about data security/privacy problems, although some celebrities with photos of themselves in compromising situations would beg to differ. If you don’t have anything to hide, or I should say, if you aren’t afraid to show or share everything you put in the cloud, then no worries.
However, there are plenty of ways you can protect your data in the cloud, such as passwords, encryption, etc. I won’t go into detail in this post but you can search online for assistance in this area.
My number one rule regarding the cloud as a photo backup strategy is that FACEBOOK IS NOT A PHOTO BACKUP SOLUTION! Neither is INSTAGRAM! Gasp! I know many of you are either freaking out or scratching your head right now. Allow me to elaborate. Facebook and Instagram are social media SHARING sites. Facebook currently stores more than 250 BILLION images. And, more than 100 MILLION photos are uploaded to Facebook each day. Wow-za!
If you want to see a cool visual representation of what happens online in just one second, visit this cool webpage for “live” data updates for Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Google and more.
SIDE NOTE: Many of us prefer to have our photos look their very best on Facebook. We’re not satisfied with the extreme compression and down-sampling Facebook has to do to hold all the photos of you and your friends out on the town, cats doing crazy cool things, and selfies, of course! If you are a professional photographer (or want to play one on the internet), you’ll want to follow these specific instructions for how to get your high-quality photos to be well-represented on Facebook. You can also download this guide if you’re a photographer concerned about Facebook’s (lack of) image quality.
Things to keep in mind:
Some cloud backup services offer unlimited free storage, but only for photos that don’t go over a certain file-size limit. This means your “backup” is apples for apples. You have the files, but they aren’t the same high-resolution as your originals.
What does this mean? Say you had a JPG photo file that was from your 12 mega-pixel digital camera. Upload that to Facebook and the max you’ll have is 2048×2048 pixels, or 4.19 megapixels. Same goes for Google+. Twitter shrinks a shared photo down to 375×375 pixels or just 0.14 megapixels. And Instagram, the photo-loving site itself, only allows a maximum of 612×612 pixels, or 0.37 megapixels.
Maybe you’ve witnessed this compression phenomenon firsthand when you tried to download a photo or two off a friend’s Facebook timeline, only to find it was too tiny and poor quality for you to print it out or do anything else with it at all. There are a few solutions to working around this fact. One is offered by Facebook when you upload photos into albums at least. Choose the “high quality” option to limit compression. Other experts suggest making your file a PNG24 instead as those are not being compressed. One thing to consider is the higher-quality photo file will cause the page to load slower so keep that in mind and maybe only use it for certain specific photos.
One issue to consider with a cloud storage solution is the time it takes for your files to be uploaded via the internet. If you are using your home wi-fi to start a backup with a cloud site, it may freak you out how long the initial backup will take. It depends on how much data you have to backup of course, and the speed (or lack thereof) your ISP offers for uploads.
Typically the base level internet packages do not offer much for upload speeds as most of us are more worried about downloading data. But if you intend to do a major cloud backup, it might be worth asking your ISP for an upgraded plan that bumps your upload speeds to a higher level, at least until your initial backup is complete. After that, the incremental backups won’t take nearly as long!
One other way to speed up your uploads is to NOT use wi-fi but plug directly into your router via ethernet cable. This will ensure the highest possible speeds.
CLOUDS NEED INTERNET
One basic fact is that the cloud needs the internet. Without it, you can’t get to heaven, so to speak. Internet access connects you to the cloud. Most of us are pretty connected in today’s world but if you’ll be in a remote area with limited (or slow) internet access, access to cloud storage will be a challenge.
These days you can get online on planes, cruise ships, trains, vehicles, practically anywhere — so this isn’t usually a concern. However, if you are traveling and can’t access free wifi internet, you’ll be paying for service. When this happens, you typically do NOT want to use your expensive data plan for uploading photos. Save that for when you are on your own free (& protected) wi-fi.
What’s awesome about having your photos stored in the cloud is that they are accessible to you from any internet-enabled device. So you can show and share your pics with anyone right from your mobile device (phone or tablet) while you are away from home, visiting family, on vacation or anywhere on the planet.
THE [KITCHEN] SYNC
Cloud storage isn’t the best unless it can sync, meaning update regularly. Say you upload your photos to your cloud provider. Then you go back and edit a few of those photos. You don’t want to risk losing your updates, do you? And you don’t want to manually go to upload the ones you edit each time back to the cloud. You want it to happen auto-magically! And that’s what syncing can do. It checks every so often (some intervals can be determined by you) to see if any files have been changed. If they have, it will upload the new version to the cloud for you. Done deal.
I’m not going to delve into great detail over all the options available as this will become its own specific series at a later date. I will mention many of the choices out there and let you do your own research to decide your best solution. You may want to study their privacy policies, security protocols, sharing options, file types, and of course, storage limits.
Google Drive, Crashplan, and Dropbox are three of the heavy hitters for cloud storage. Best of all, these offer automatic uploading and syncing, which are a must-have when it comes to backing up photos. Unless you are the type who manually backs up photos daily. [I doubt those people exist. And if they do, they certainly aren’t reading my Spring Fling Digital Photo Organizing Challenge blog!]
Personally, I use the first two right now. I’ve only used Dropbox for “other” file types and sharing with colleagues but I know many people depend on it for photo storage too.
The giant among all things online is a pro at saving your stuff. Best of all, if you’ve been using Picasa like me to organize your photos, you are automatically linked to Google for a number of awesome features like Web Albums, backups, and so on. Now there is a whole lesson on Google+ and how that works with your photos but if nothing else, Google gives you a way to save your photos on its servers.
iCLOUD FROM APPLE
Signing up gets you 5GB of free storage with options to upgrade for an additional monthly fee. For example, you can pay $19.99/month for 1TB (terabyte) of storage in the U.S. and Canada. However, that number isn’t just for photos — it also includes Mail, Backup, iCloud Photo Library beta, and iCloud drive, as well as a few other apps that use iCloud to keep files up-to-date across devices. None of the media you’ve purchased counts against that storage though.
If you’re an Apple lover like me, you’ve heard of the recently released (in beta) iCloud Photo Library. The Camera Roll and My Photo Stream were merged into a single “All Photos” album on your device. Learn all about its features and functionality here.
AMAZON CLOUD DRIVE
Another giant in the online world, Amazon offers cloud storage (as well as actually operates cloud storage for the large majority of other cloud storage companies). They know the cloud because in many cases, they ARE the cloud!
A recent announcement was made that all can receive unlimited cloud photo storage as an added benefit. You had better be taking advantage of this as well as your free two-day shipping! It’s a no brainer! It has an app that makes mobile uploads (& viewing) a breeze.
The only hitch is that there’s a 5GB limit for videos (& other file types so if you take quite a few clips of action footage, you’ll reach the limit on that. Of course, you can always buy more storage if need be. Since this news came out, I made sure to take full advantage of this solution and am happy about it so far!
A true backup runs like Crashplan or Backblaze. You set it up and after the initial backup upload to their servers, all backups will be incremental — only updating/adding any new files or recently modified ones through syncing. The best part is that you can put these services on “auto-pilot” so you don’t really have to remember to backup. That said, I’d prefer you take matters into your own hands to consciously impact the youth.
TIME MACHINE BY APPLE
Time Machine is backup software through OSX by Apple. It automatically records to an external hard drive that you designate as your backup.
Shutterfly is the photo printing giant of the industry. Founded in 1999, this massive company owns several brands under its umbrella of photo-gift-related publishing. You can enjoy unlimited photo storage for free with no need to purchase to avoid deletion. One really cool feature of Shutterfly is its recent purchase of the This Life app for organizing photos via mobile, desktop and cloud. I’m a definite fan of this system and will be writing a detailed review in the coming months.
Snapfish is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. Owned by printing/computing giant Hewlett-Packard, it still offers unlimited photo storage for free as long as you buy at least one thing — even if that’s one 9-cent photo print — per year.
Dropbox was designed as a file-sharing site — not necessarily a photo-specific site, although it has evolved into a solution that is often adequate for many users wishing to save their photos.
Flickr is an image-hosting site launched in 2004, but acquired by Yahoo in 2005. A new, much-improved user interface design came out about a year ago that brought back many of the fans who’d left. Giving everyone 1000GB of free space, Flickr’s generous storage policy makes it a favorite of photographers and photo fanatics alike.
SmugMug is a 13-year-old family-owned company that stores your photos online, and so much more. Its highlights include the gorgeous gallery sites you can create yourself to feature your photos. You can even opt to sell them should you choose the commerce options in its Business plan for $25/month. The cheapest Basic plan is just $3.34/mo, with a Power user at $5/mo and a Portfolio package for $12.50/mo.
Mylio is not necessarily a cloud hosting solution only. It’s a brand-new photo organizing option that definitely looks like an ideal choice for me. I’m only new to it so I can’t fully vouch for it but intend to “test” it extensively this year. Maybe I’ll be able to do a full review in a few months. I do know that it has the seal of approval from many top photographers in the industry so that should say something.
PictureLife, Trunx, Shoebox and Dropshots are all options with an app that I’ve been using for a while now. I’ll cover these at a later date.
In summary, know that the cloud should be part of your 3-2-1 Back-up Blast-off plan as it satisfies two of the three criteria — a non-physical copy that’s not physically present.
Tomorrow we’ll talk about sharing photos on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and so on.