Getting a smartphone? How about a 32GB iPhone? Nope, space runs out too soon. How about a 128GB one? Too expensive. How about a phone with an external memory card slot? But what if it gets stolen?
Too many problems with one simple solution… Enter photo cloud storage.
The idea of the 21st century would be incomplete without the word “Cloud” in it. It was something that used to be only for tech nerds a decade ago. Today, it is now something every photographer and creator looks forward to having.
What is Online Cloud Storage?
What is the purpose of your Hard Drive, SD Card or USB Drive? In short, all these storage mediums are localized, meaning you’ll only have this data while you’re physically accessing your computer. But what if all of this data was moved onto a room full of hard drives, and connected to the world through the internet?
You’re already using internet to access cloud storage technologies every day. You just don’t know it. Instagram, Snapchat, Gmail and Facebook all have your pictures, emails and videos. They’re available to you at all times, from all devices and are accessible within a few clicks.
In essence, cloud storage involves the use of data centers with cutting-edge technologies to store users data, photos, videos, documents and more, while giving them access via the Internet.
How does Cloud Storage Work?
Cloud storage involves piling data onto hardwares within data centers scattered throughout a region(s). This hardware is connected to the internet with redundant connections, accessible from all corners of the world, if required.
Usually, Cloud Storage systems have hundreds of data servers linked together to a master control server. Clients (you) send files, photos, videos, etc. to a data server maintained by the cloud provider. This eliminates the need for having a local copy on your device.
But, where is your stuff now?
Is Cloud Storage safe?
A data center, irrespective of its size, has to keep your data safe at all costs, from physical or virtual damage. For starters, extensive redundant cooling systems are run to keep the electronics from overheating. Next, there are always usually 1 – 2 backup generators to keep the servers running at all times.
There are specific organizations that run thorough checks on the data centers’ specifications and robustness. For instance, UptimeInstitute certifies data centers from level 1 – 5 depending on their level of security, reliability and safety.
Once you’ve put your data on the cloud, it may be stored in a multitude of locations across the globe. The location of data centers is usually kept classified to mitigate data theft or physical damage. Multiple copies are made and stored in various cities, countries or even continents.
How much Cloud Storage do you need?
The exact amount of storage you need for the cloud will depend on the types of files you plan on storing. In this article, we’ll limit ourselves to photos and videos. Even with this classification, the size of the file can depend on the quality you plan on having.
For example, a 4K video will obviously use up more space than a 720p video. If you’re a graphics designer, then the RAW files would obviously be several times bigger than the JPEG ones.
The following table may come in handy. It takes into account the average files that may be stored on 25GB of storage.
|File Type||Average Size||Number of Files|
|Smartphone photo||3 MB||8300 photos|
|Smartphone video (1 minute)||150 MB||166 videos|
|1080p HD movie||10 GB||2 movies|
Time for a practical example:
Sure, you may want to make more videos, take more photos, but you can always choose a lower resolution or delete the unnecessary ones. Plus, there are some cloud storage providers that let you store unlimited photos, given you follow their resolution/quality rules!
Ok, lets get stuck into the list!
Top 10 Best Photo Cloud Storage Providers
1. Flickr (1Tb Free or $5.99/mo for ad free experience)
- Flickr Pro for $5.99/month
- $49.99/year for additional stats and an ad-free experience.
If you want the biggest bang for the buck, and if photos are your primary diet, then this is the way to go. Flickr needs little introduction. Owned by Yahoo, it is one of the best photo hosting sites on the internet. In addition, it has inbuilt services like sorting and sharing photos.
- 1TB free space for images/videos only
- No limit on resolution of images/videos
- You can pay extra to avoid ads and see stats on your photo
- Part of a global community that likes to share their content
- Automatic sorting and tagging makes searching easier
2. Google Drive (15Gb Free or 100Gb from $1.99/mo)
- 100GB space for $1.99/month
- 200GB space for $2.99/month
- 2TB space for $9.99/month
- 10TB space for $99.99/month
While Google is best known for their search features, email, maps and Google Plus. They in fact have one of the best photo cloud storage platforms available! If you have a Google Account (Gmail), you’ll have access to Google Drive, where you can store all types of files. This is easily one of the best photo cloud storage options!
- Google accounts are free to create.
- You get 15GB of free storage space.
- You can store all types of files, not limited to photos and videos.
- With integrated basic photo/video editors, there’s no need to download files to edit them.
- Unlimited photos.
3. Dropbox (2GB free or 1TB for $9.99/mo)
- 1TB for $9.99/mo
- 2TB for $19.99/mo or $199/year
Much like Google Drive, Dropbox allows you to store all types of digital files. The file structure is particularly intuitive and doesn’t take long to get used to. Dropbox is already a known name in the Cloud Storage market and has a loyal customer base. Accessibility is offered through PC, Mac, iOS and Android devices.
- Dropbox is easy to use with a fluid interface.
- You can store any types of file on it.
- Initially you get 2GB of free storage.
- Earn an extra 500MB by referring it to a friend.
- Paid packages bundled as Dropbox Plus and Dropbox Premium.
4. Microsoft OneDrive (5GB free or 50GB for $1.99/mo)
- 50GB for $1.99/month includes Office365 online
- 1TB for $5.99/month includes Office365 for PC/Mac.
- 5TB each for 5 users includes Office365 for PC/Mac. (79.99/month)
Another big name in the field of cloud computing (or computing as a whole). Microsoft OneDrive strikes a good balance between price and features, designed in a similar manner to Google Drive. The concept of OneDrive extends Microsoft’s already-extensive products list, i.e. Windows and Office.
- Allows storage of all types of files.
- 5GB of free storage space.
- Availability of a free productivity suite allows you to view, edit and modify files.
- File structure is extremely simple, thus, no learning curve.
- Sharing files and folders is very straightforward.
5. iCloud (5GB free of 50GB for $0.99/mo)
- 50GB for $0.99/month
- 200GB for $2.99/month
- 2000GB for $9.99/month
Just as other tech giants started offering Cloud services to their valued customers, Apple entered into the game as well. Their service is a great hit among iPhone and Mac users as it seamlessly integrates into their devices. However, we’ve all heard those nags about “not-enough-storage” from our iPhone brethren. Lets explore the service, and see how it pans out.
- 5GB storage space for free
- Requires zero knowledge for operation
- Integrates very well with Apple devices with particularly fast sync.
- Easy to understand price plans
- File sharing launched in Beta phase
6. Adobe Creative Cloud (Starts from $9.99/mo for 20GB)
- 20GB for $119.8/year or $9.99/month
- 1TB for $239/year or $19/month
Adobe Creative Cloud has been built from the ground-up specifically for photographers. The storage service comes with attractive image galleries, group libraries and integration with other Adobe apps. The features list is quite extensive and sophisticated, but it comes at a price.
- Integration with Lightroom and Elements to make quick edits
- Support for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android
- Support for RAW file formats
- Load of stock images, videos and templates compatible with Adobe Stock
- Allows shift from desktop apps to mobile eco-system
7. Mega (50GB free or 200GB for $6/mo)
- 200GB for $6/month
- 1TB for $12/month
- 4TB for $23/month
- 8TB for $35/month
Not the most popular Cloud Service Provider, Mega is a New Zealand based heavy weight. The company puts a lot of emphasis on security while offering a generous free tier of storage. Combined with a nifty mobile app and a fluid web interface, this is a good alternative to the tried-and-tested giants. While this is a relativity unknown company, it is still a best photo cloud storage for those on a budget.
- Zero knowledge encryption for extensive security
- Fluid interface that follows a drag-and-drop procedure
- 50GB free storage
- Support for a command-line client
- Allows preview of files such as streaming of music and videos
8.Amazon Drive (5GB free or 100GB for $11.99/year)
- If you’re an Amazon Prime member you get 5GB video storage, unlimited photo storage
- 100GB plan for $11.99/year
- 1TB plan for $59.99/year
Contrary to what one might expect, Amazon Drive’s review have been quite harsh. Often complained about its pricing structure, the service provider deserves a second, third or even a fourth chance. The purpose and features of Amazon Drive are similar to other service providers.
Amazon distinguishes itself (or tries to!) by following a media-centric design and approach. Following a pay for what you need model, the cloud service has several storage-tier plans.
- 5GB free storage
- Unlimited photo storage
- Content support and music integration from Amazon Prime
- Support for Windows, Mac and Smartphones.
- Collaboration features under development
9. Box (10GB free of 100GB for $10/mo)
- 100GB for $10/month
- Business plan includes unlimited storage with a file upload cap of 5GB and 2TB bandwidth at $15/month
Anyone can sign up for a free individual account. However, it must be known that the service’s endless portfolio was built to suit to business needs, not photographers’. The service checks all the marks of a typical cloud storage setup. Plus, it allows you to share your files with your colleagues, assign tasks, leave comments and get change notifications.
- Preview files from Box’s website
- 10GB initial limit with 250MB file size limit
- Extensive cross-platform support
- Ability to share links with passwords, expiration dates and restricted download access
- Plethora of collaborative tools suit a teams’ needs
10. Canon Irista (15GB free or 100GB for $1.99/mo)
- 100GB for $1.99/month
- 500GB for $6.99/month
Yup, you guessed it right. Canon has jumped into the crowded online image space with its “Irista” service. Some people dub it as Flickr without the cool moves! Initially, you get 10GB of free storage which can be expanded based on the package you choose. One thing in particular that must be appreciated is the purpose behind the service.
Canon has launched this service with professional photographers in mind, so if you belong to that lot, its worth giving it a try.
- 15GB free space
- Accepts JPEG and common RAW files
- Options to filter images by camera or lens type
- Social media integration brings Facebook and Flickr into the fold
- A total of six subscription plans
How to keep your Online Cloud Storage Secure
Thumb drives and portable hard disks are becoming obsolete and are attaining the same status as Floppy drives. Sure, it’ll take some time, but we can’t avoid the obvious technology taking their place: Cloud Storage. The idea of having access to your data at all times, from any location is enticing and convenient, to say the least.
However, as cloud storage technologies become more widespread, hackers become increasingly ardent on exploiting loopholes and initiating zero-day attacks. iCloud hacking episodes and Sony database compromises are not hidden from anyone.
So, Let’s discuss a few ways through which you can keep your online cloud storage as secure as possible.
Back up Data Locally
This may go against the entire purpose of using cloud storage, but it is nonetheless a rule of thumb. It’s just like maintaining multiple copies of data like everyone did in the old days. Surely, it doesn’t make sense to make copies of audio and HD video files. But you should do so for documents, photos and other sensitive material.
The way to go is simple. Follow a simple file structure, separating your sensitive data from the not-so-sensitive one. Make electronic copies of the sensitive files on your computer/laptop and on a removable disk. This way, even if disaster strikes, you can have a prior version of the data at your disposal.
Avoid Storing Sensitive Information
There’s a difference between corporate and consumer services. For a Cloud Storage Service Provider, corporate level customers would be the number one priority, due to the higher revenue proceedings. Cloud storage consumers often prefer free services such as Google Drive, OneDrive, etc. A comprehensive security system is undoubtedly in place, but would you still trust your “files” on a public server?
As stated earlier, hackers have successfully made their way through iCloud servers. Therefore, treading with caution should be a prioritized move. A good approach would be to only place the files that are accessed the most. Furthermore, avoid placing text files with passwords to online accounts credentials on cloud storage.
If you must place such files over the cloud, then don’t forget to encrypt your data.
Encryption is a top-drawer way to guarantee security of your data. The basic concept is as follows:
- You have a file that needs to go to Cloud storage.
- You use a special software that creates an access password for the file.
- You move the password-protected file on the cloud.
Since, there is a password on the file now, no one would be able to view the contents of the file.
The easiest way to do so is to zip/compress files and encrypt them with a password. Software include “WinRAR” or free ones such as B1 Free Achiever.
When you need to share the file with someone, simple hand them over the key as well.
(Please note that files compressed and encrypted by B1 Free Achiever can only be de-compressed and de-crypted by the same software.)
If you plan on going up against the NSA, then you can shift to other alternatives such as TrueCrypt. The software is a bit harder to setup but offers encryption algorithms such as AES, Serpent, etc. A list of encryption software can be found here.
Use Encrypted Cloud Services
If the previous option sounds tedious to you then how about shift to a service provider that encrypts your data automatically? Almost all cloud service providers have some sort of encryption mechanism in place. Google Drive uses server-side encryption while others like Mega encrypt the file at your device. The latter means that only you would have access to your files; not even the service provider would have access to it.
SpiderOak, Wuala and Tresorit are some examples of service providers that use such encryption. Such service providers have stingy free offerings, not fit for everyone. But at least you get peace-of-mind for the money you pay.
Strength of Passwords
Why does Google, Microsoft and Facebook keep on rejecting your simple Password? Why does it keep on recommending you build a password that’s not based on common names? A study revealed that 90% of passwords can be cracked within seconds. Therefore, due diligence should be placed with usernames and especially passwords.
One mistake often made is using the same password for multiple accounts, sometimes even including banking services. That is extremely dangerous and can turn pretty ugly if someone could get a key-logger into your computer.
Without going into too much details, here’s how you can create a good password:
- Choose a random word from the top of your head such as “nutellanuts”.
- Now capitalize a few characters, i.e. “NutellaNuts”.
- Add a few special characters, i.e. “Nutella_Nuts!”
- Add some numbers to it, i.e. 666Nutella_Nuts!111”.
You can modify it a little every time you’re creating a new account. This way it would be easy to remember while maintaining uniqueness.
Sharing your passwords
Some cloud services allow you to share your files with others through a special keyword or phrase. People often make the mistake of setting their password as the phrase. Sure, its easier to remember for you, but do you really want your password floating around? Doing so greatly increases the risk of your cloud data.
Similarly, some cloud services allow you to create a live sharing link for your files which can be accessed through a passphrase. It is highly recommended that you use a different password for public activity, so that no one can even come close to accessing your data.
Protect your System
You may have subscribed to a top-tier package of an ultra-secure cloud service provider for your files. But what if your computer gets infected at the very root? Key-loggers are nifty little software that can track your keyboard activity, sending it over to a malicious entity. Your computer is always at risk to such software as long as its connected to the internet.
A hacker can easily get access to your system by running a simple “find” script on the keystrokes, gaining access to the securest of files. Now, he/she doesn’t even need to make a brute force attempt on the Cloud Service Provider, since he/she has the credentials.
Use an Antivirus and update your Operating System regularly to avoid such an episode. The free Microsoft Security Essentials works quite well and is included automatically within Windows 10. If you’d like to go one step up, take a look at this link.
Read the Fine Print
Every digital corporation wants to get their hands on your data. Google thrives on the concept, though it doesn’t extract every service’s data for advertisement purposes. The point is, never forget to read the “Terms of Services” before moving your sensitive material onto the cloud.
Most of us don’t like to go through the “boring” stuff, simply clicking on “I accept”. Doing so can sometimes be hefty. In 2011, Twitpic gave itself the right to “use or distribute” pictures shared on its network. A clarification was later issued, however, this shows the seriousness of the problem.
On a separate note, read the SLA or Service Level Agreement so that you would know the reliability provided by the cloud service provider. For instance, Google claims that its services are available 99.978% of the time. What happens if your work happens to coincide with the 0.022%. Some might shrug off this minute number, while for others it may mean losing their business.
What Cloud Storage Solutions Other Photographers, Videographers & Creators Use
To better understand what the best photo cloud storage providers are for creators and photographers. We put the call out there is see what others are using in the real world and how there functions work. Hopefully some of these insight will be helpful!
Eric Simons From Hyperprojector.com
I work in video production and have a lot of footage and custom VFX assets that are vital to my work. Cloud storage backup is essential. Video, especially 4K video, has large file sizes, so it’s important to find a backup that doesn’t charge excessively for your usage.
I found the best bang for my buck comes from Backblaze. For $5 a month, I have backed up terabytes upon terabytes of footage and assets. Backblaze has been my backup for two years now, and I’ve had zero issues. I’d highly recommend it to to video professionals.
Mike Vannelli From thinkenvy.com
I am a video producer and we do product photos alongside the commercials we make. We use a couple platforms for storing out photos in the cloud. For all our photo backups, we use Google Photos. This platform offers free and unlimited “high-quality” backups of photos and videos.
By “high-quality,” this means that photos max out at 16MP, so if your photo is higher then it will be downsampled. Same with videos, if they are higher than 1080P, the videos will be compressed to a 1080P video file. We use Google Photos as a “last resort backup,” where we know the files aren’t being saved at the highest quality, but just in case something happens to our original RAW files or 4K video, we still have a version of them.
For delivering viewable photos to clients, we use PASS which is another free service that allows photographers to upload and send custom galleries to clients to view and download their photos. There is a lot of customization that can go into the client’s gallery, like putting your logo, watermarking the photos or allowing the client to purchase prints. The last cloud storage platform we use for photos is JumpShare.
We use the paid service for this, which is $100/year for 1TB of storage. We only use this platform to delivery large file size zip files of the RAW images to clients. There is a 10GB upload limit, via the browser or app, and it is one of the faster uploading and downloading services we’ve used. There is a free plan for 200MB, which is still good for delivering anything small, since their web viewer is one of the best.
Amber Brito From NexusTek.com
Anastasia From Maytech.net
To keep my content backed up and secure I’m using Quatrix. It’s fast and secure file sharing service, easy to use, yet provides provides strong encryption both at rest and in transit, granular permissions, and a full audit trail. I’m working with multimedia files, and I have automated my video uploads in Quatrix.
Moreover, highly sensitive files you can enable PGP encryption (PGP stands for Pretty Good Privacy). So far there are no known methods which can break PGP encryption, so it’s pretty safe.
The main features are the following:
- Simple, secure file sharing
- Quick, easy set up
- Reliable, dependable sharing software
- Compliant file sharing, wherever you are in the world
- Unlimited file transfers
- Branded file sharing solutions that integrate with your website
- Easy administration access, across the company
Wrapping It Up
Thats it folks! Hopefully this guide on the best photo cloud storage providers has been helpful for your next project. When it comes down to it, most of these services provide the same functions and features. Now all you have todo is decide how much storage you will need for you photos or video!
I would also love to hear your thoughts on what cloud provider you are currently using as this list will most likely be updated!