Is it safe for you to use a cloud service to backup your photographs?

As we all rely more and more on backing up via the convenience of cloud services, we have to ask ourselves, “is it safe for us to use a cloud service” more than ever. In this article we look at the pros, cons and why we should or should not use cloud services. A cloud service could be an essential part of your backup solutions, which we talked about in a previous article, so you need to decide wisely.

What are cloud services?

I know a lot of people don’t understand what a cloud service is as it’s so accessible and not much thought goes into it. Basically you’re loading your data into rooms full of hard drives or equivalent storage, where the data will be stored on a number of huge devices, accessible through the internet. If one set of devices goes down for any reason, they usually have a backup or two.

There are many different companies who offer storage for your photographs and raw files, from Google, Amazon, Mega, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox and many many more. Each one offers a certain amount of storage, usually for free, with the choice to expand that storage for a cost.

What can go wrong?

Although for the most part it is highly unlikely that you would lose your data overnight due to a companies system losing all their stored data, it could potentially happen, and there have been times when cloud storage systems have lost content from people’s uploads.

There are other, more common reasons for things to be wary of or go wrong though, and here are a few things to be concerned about.

• Cloud services ending for whatever reason (company closing, being bought over etc) is a real threat and has affected numerous cloud services in the past and continues to do so. When this happens they usually give you at least 30 days to download all your data, or occasionally will transfer your data to another service for you. However, it could happen and you could potentially lose all your data and photos.

• Changing their terms of uploads, while not so common can easily happen as shown with Google. From June 1st 2021 Google Photos will no longer support their unlimited free uploads (at slightly compressed resolution), so all uploads will be at full resolution and will eat up your free 15GB that they offer quite quickly (depending on your usage). That means you’ll have to pay to upgrade your storage for any future data you upload. The good news is, you will not lose any data you have placed there before the cut-off date.

• You can change your computer and realise that the license that you thought meant lifetime subscription as a one off payment is only valid for one computer, so when you want to start uploading your images off another computer you have to re-subscribe.

• Privacy can be an issue, and some cloud services may state that they can use your images at any point. Although the chances of this are extremely low, it’s something you should be aware of.

Should you use cloud backup?

Of course you should use cloud backup, but you need to look for a service that looks like it’s sustainable, a service that is well known with a good history behind them.

Using cloud services as back up for your images is invaluable in this day and age, but please remember it’s part of your backup solution, and just like any part of that chain, it can sometimes fail. The benefits of a great cloud service outweigh the negatives. You’ll have access to all your work instantly, on any device, whatever you are, plus you can share images to friends, colleagues and clients quickly a safely.

In one way, it’s the ultimate off-site backup solution. If you were to lose everything because of some catastrophe, you’ll still have your photos in the cloud, sand that in itself is worth using a cloud service.

Published by Mark G.Adams

Fujifilm And Olympus Documentary Photographer, YouTuber & Blogger.

11 thoughts on “Is it safe for you to use a cloud service to backup your photographs?

  1. Thanks Mark! Very timely, as I just had an incident with one of my external hard drives. Backblaze supplied me with a copy of my data and no issues. However, it was a bit of a hassle from a time spent standpoint. It takes a while to process the request, wait for the drive to show up at your door and then copy the contents over, back up to the cloud again, etc. I am in the process of transitioning to SSDs because my 2tb drives (Western Digital) one by one seem to be failing. Wondering what your experience is with your primary drives.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Touch wood I have never had a drive fail on me. I use a WD MyCloud 3TB for all my photos, music and video plus everything is also backed instantly to my WD Passports, while all my images are on Google Photos. In the event of one, or even two of them failing, I always have my photos safe.

      As for my photos specifically, as Google will now be not supporting unlimited photo backups for free (as a reduced resolution), I have signed up to them on their monthly plan.


  2. Well Done Mark…Juliette, My WD drives still going strong, but two of my Seagates went on my and I lost everything on them. Good job they were backed up. But even backups can go Wonky.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve had terrible luck with Seagate drives. Just found out that the WD drive I’m experiencing issues with is not actually failing but Mac is refusing to read it. Ironically, or not, this drive contains all the same data that I copied over from the failing drive!

      I heard Google photos charges a nominal amount. I use Backblaze and sometimes Amazon since I’m a Prime member.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello Mark, a very useful article because a lot of people just don’t have a backup, and sooner or later that will go wrong.
    For years I also placed my jpegs on dropbox and google photos, until they changed the conditions.
    But now I mainly shoot Raw + Jpeg, and with many and large files it is an expensive case in the long run to put them all on the cloud.
    If I only shoot Jpeg then cloud would be more interesting for me.
    But for me the Raw’s are the most important, so I have a different workflow.
    My computer has two internal disks with a total of 3GB, the data is backed up between those two disks, I do this for about 1 year. Regularly all Raw’s go to an external disk, which in turn is copied to a 2nd external disk.
    So I always have a backup of Raw’s on at least 2 external drives.
    When they are full I just start with two new external disks.
    I know, it is complicated and takes effort, but the cost of high capacity disks is negligible these days, so this was, at least for me, the best and cheapest solution.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am the same, all my raw files get backed up at least twice while jpegs are also backed to the cloud. Important raw files tend to go to my Mega account while all jpegs to Google Photos.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice overview article, Mark. One thing to consider is that the current lot of cloud storage services like OneDrive, iDrive, Google Drive, Box, DropBox etc. shouldn’t really be considered BACKUP solutions. These are more cloud-based extensions to your local/on-premises storage and come with a wealth of advantages (convenience, easy sharing, basic photo albums etc.) but are also subject to human error (i.e. erase a “local” file and your cloud storage service will dutifully sync that erase command to the cloud version of the file. Erase ALL your local files, and … you see where I’m going with this).

    That’s why I think it’s important to complement any cloud storage solution with a dedicated cloud backup solution such as Backblaze, Crashplan, Carbonite or whatever. These are designed to protect your data from whatever bad/stupid thing happens to your local copies, and they also tend to be much less expensive in terms of $ per TB stored.

    Personally, all my local files get mirrored to a backup hard drive at home, that mirror gets backed up to CrashPlan, and all my “keeper” or work-in-progress photos (i.e. anything that I’ve processed or am working on) get synced up to OneDrive. My finished photos also get sent up to Flickr Pro for good measure. As a result, anything worth keeping is stored in 5 places: local data, local backup, CrashPlan, OneDrive and Flickr. Overkill? Maybe. But it’s relatively inexpensive and entirely automated. Plus I get to sleep at night 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed, this is more a look at if we can trust any cloud services, the full backup solutions is indeed linked from within the article and very much as you have pointed out. I myself back up to Google Photos for my jpegs (which is just very convenient for clients and family), my WD MyCloud and a couple of WD external drives. Although I’ve never, in the decades I’ve been using computers, never had a drive fail, it is of course a very real possibility. And of course I think we’ve all used cloud storage that has suddenly closed down (I’m thinking of the service before Mega as my example), or cloud services that you pay upfront for and they’ve disappeared.

      Of course the only truly safe backups are multiple local backups with at least one off premises. Sadly, I know a lot of people who only keep their photos on their computers! Really scary thought!

      Thank you for input Eric, much appreciated, and I’m sure readers will appreciated your insightful comment as it can’t be overstated enough at how important backing up is.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. One thing I forgot to add: for something as critical as data, I try to stick to large, reputable, well-known firms (Microsoft, Apple, Google. DropBox etc.) that are (ideally) publicly traded and have a large, diverse portfolio of businesses and consumers in their customer base. These firms are far more likely to have robust datacenters, strict regulatory compliance practices, deeper pockets (well capitalized, less likely to go out of business) and will generally still be there when you need them.

    But as many have experienced with these firms, they can be fickle, especially when it comes to their “free” products. You get what you pay for…


    Liked by 1 person

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