Ask LH: Where Should I Back Up My Photos Online?

Ask LH: Where Should I Back Up My Photos Online?

Dear Lifehacker, I recently had a hard drive fail which contained lots of family photos which hadn’t been backed up anywhere. After days of trying to get my photos back, I was successful, though they were all in an unsorted heap and I had to undertake the painstaking task of resorting them into photos again.

I use Dropbox to backup all my documents, but due to being a free user I have limited space and it would not fit my photos. Is there anywhere in the cloud in which I can store them? I see Flickr offers 1TB of photo storage, would this be a reliable backup? Thanks, Picture Perfect

Burned hard drive picture from Shutterstock

Dear PP,

You have had an extremely lucky escape. A failed hard drive can easily mean that your pictures are never going to come back, or that you’ll need to spend potentially large sums on paying experts to restore your data. This is worth noting because it demonstrates the importance of two key principles:

  • Stuff that you can’t replace (such as photos) should be backed up in more than one way.
  • Photos are so valuable that you shouldn’t automatically say “I have to do this for free”.

So before we even get into cloud backup, I’d suggest this: acquire another external hard drive and perform a backup immediately. Then make a habit of augmenting that backup regularly. External storage is so dirt-cheap that there’s no reason not to do this.

On to the question of online backup. Yes, Flickr offers 1TB for free, which is more space than any of the other major players. As such, it’s definitely a useful potential backup source.

Bear in mind that by default Flickr makes all photos viewable in public. If you don’t want all your relatives made available to the entire web, then make sure you change the default value for uploads in your settings to ‘Private’.

The biggest challenge with Flickr is that it doesn’t provide a method for automating backup of your photo collection as you add new ones. It is possible to achieve that to some extent using automation tools such as IFTTT.

If that seems too fiddly, then give some thought to paying for extra storage in Dropbox or another cloud service. Better to pay a little for completely automated backup now than regretting your cheapness later.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • I have never had any problems with Amazon’s AWS service.
    I’ve been using it for 4 years now, with a simple script to call Dragondisk to perform the backup from my external HDD (which is my secondary backup).
    I back up a lot of photos plus a bit of video, and the bill at the moment is $4 per month.
    Price per MB has dropped every 12-18 months (which is fair), and the reliability of the service (not uptime – reliability against loss) is available at 2 levels – 99.999% and 99.99999% (slightly more expensive).
    Some slight level of tech chops helps, but it’s generally been easy and quick to set up.

  • I use Crash Plan to back up all my photos. It’s automated cloud back-up with unlimited space plans. It has plenty of other back up options. I paid $80USD for a 2 year subscription. I like it because its set and forget. You get a weekly email to tell you what its backed-up. Use Hola or a VPN to get the US Price of $4USD per month instead of the AU price of $7AUD per month.

  • It is always a good idea to have an external hard drive plus uploading the most valuable pictures to the cloud. I’ve looked and tried many services and I think the best is to go with a solution that backs up to AWS. However, lately I’ve found about Amazon Glacier which is more cheaper than S3 – same reliability. To upload to Glacier you have to get a third party service, I tried to do it myself but it is bit complicated for me so I ended up using Zoolz it is Unlimited and 3$ a month which is really saving me a terrible amount of cash.

  • I’ve been through a few close calls with data loss and have built my backup setup with a few layers of redundancy.

    First of all, my data drives are configured in a mirror raid config to ensure it survives basic hdd failure.

    Each night the data is then copied via script to an external drive as a local backup.

    Each night the data is also backed up to crashplan.

    Finally, any of my major photo collections are backed up onto Flickr (but not all).

    This ensures I can recover quickly for basic data loss, but also have the safety of off site cloud backups

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