Backing Up Photos To The Cloud

As part of my new approach to photo management, over Christmas, rather than letting my laptop sit idle, I left it syncing every single (digital) photo I've ever taken to Dropbox.

My old way of storing and viewing photos was flawed and had to change. All my photos were stored on a Netgear ReadyNAS box. The idea being they're "backed up" (I know, however, that they're not) and accessible from any PC and not lost if ever a PC was.

The problem with the ReadyNAS was that, for whatever reasons, browsing photos on it via the network was painfully slow - to the point of being impossible. In the end I never bothered looking at them. The NAS box became the equivalent of keeping photos in an old shoe-box in the loft.

Not only was the ReadyNAS slow, but it didn't offer the level of backup that I'd like of such treasured memories. Losing all my photos would really, really upset me. Losing work is one thing, but memories you can't replace is something completely different.

As new photos were taken I'd add them to a folder on my desktop to then be sorted in to the right folder on the NAS at a later date. Trouble being I rarely had time to do this, so there were, in effect, two sets of photos. Only one of these was every viewed. The one on my desktop.

It was all a big old mess.

Enter Dropbox

Now all my photos are in one place (three actually) and backed up to a level that gives me complete peace of mind, using Dropbox. It would take a nuclear war (apparently) to wipe them out.

As soon as I copy photos from a camera to the My Photos folder in Windows (I've linked it to the My Dropbox folder) they're auto-synced to the cloud and then also down on to my Mac Mini, which is also running Dropbox.

Because my photos are now physically stored on my laptop I can view them at a speed you'd expect. This means I can look at photos I've not seen for years.

In total my "photos" folder has 16,200 files and takes up 26GB of space. To sync to Dropbox I had to "go pro", which costs about $20 a month. You can't put a price on keeping photos safe though, if you ask me. I also use Dropbox for work-related tasks and it's worth every penny.

As part of the exercise I had to move all videos out of all the "photo" folders in to one central folder on my laptop. Syncing all the videos to Dropbox would have taken forever and used up all the space on their largest plan. Instead I'll keep videos on the laptop (so I can actually watch them) and copy to the NAS every week or two as a backup. Not ideal, but, hopefully, in a few years time I'll be able to do the same thing with them.

If you worry about your photos you should put them in a Dropbox folder! Now.


    • avatar
    • Jon
    • Tue 18 Jan 2011 03:57 AM

    I've been using livedrive.com for about a year now, it's inexpensive, and has unlimted storage. Pretty much the same as DropBox. The peace of mind is as you say priceless. I learned the lesson when my External HDD which had the photos on failed. I now have a backup to a local external HDD and the cloud!

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Tue 18 Jan 2011 04:04 AM

      Hmm, unlimited space. Nice. Bout the same price as Dropbox. Wish I'd known about it earlier. I'm kind of hoping Dropbox will lift their 100gb limit at some point.

      Did you lose your photos completely? Ouch! happened to the friend whose this hard drive was


      I'm determined never to let it happen to me.

      I was talking to my neighbour the wedding photographer about it recently and he said he backed up to a external drive. I asked where it was and it was on his desk next to the computer. What if you get robbed, I asked. He was then convinced he needed to be "in the cloud".

      Show the rest of this thread

  1. Hi Jake,

    I too discovered Dropbox a while back. Another great thing you can do is to dump pictures, of your kids for example, into a special dropbox folder which you share with your parents e-mail. Have your parents register a dropbox account, install the client and map the shared folder. Then they can set up their desktop to show a slideshow from your dropbox folder. This way they keep getting served new pictures of your kids on their computer.



      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Tue 18 Jan 2011 06:20 AM

      Genius! Will do that next time I'm over at the folks' house. Might not mention the "cloud" though, as that will confuse the hell out of them. Does me for that matter. What exactly *is* the cloud? ';-)

      Show the rest of this thread

    • avatar
    • Dan
    • Tue 18 Jan 2011 06:36 AM

    Wow Jake, your Christmas sounds the same as mine except I bought my ReadyNAS and DropBox together. It would be really useful the ReadyNAS had a DropBox client itself.

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Tue 18 Jan 2011 06:39 AM

      My ReadyNAS is storing less and less now. The only thing I doubt I'll take off ever are all the MP3s. It's just a fancy storage for the jukebox that is my Mac mini. Had I discovered Dropbox before buying the NAS box I might not have needed it at all.

  2. Good choice. I almost went with Dropbox for my backups, but that 100Gb limit was too low.

    If I had gone with them, then I'd have taken the Packrat option too - unlimited versioning! Sweet!

    As it stands, I have approaching 200Gb of data (mostly photos), and that figure grows all the time.

    They're backed up - in the first instance - to a server at home. That server has two 1Tb drives in it, and they're NOT in a RAID config. Instead, once the backup (via rdiff-backup) has finished, I manually run rsync to mirror them. At some point, I'll get around to scheduling that, but at the moment I quite like the fact that I'm doing it manually - it's a handy precaution against accidental deletion!

    However, as you've said, they're in the same building. I used to also mirror the data onto external hard disks, which I handed to a friend when visiting. That wasn't foolproof (sometimes we're busy and don't see each other), so I now also back up to a cloud service.

    And let me tell you, pushing ~170Gb (as it was at the time) to the cloud took... A while. I forget how long. To be honest, after the first week, I was just kind of resigned to it taking a long time...

    That's the problem with the cloud. I still need my temporary local backup for a short while anyway. If I go out and shoot 10Gb of photos in a day (which is both the maximum my storage cards would allow, and coincidentally my "personal worst"!) then it'll take a couple of days to get backed up.

    So I'm not getting rid of my local backups, but I am going to stop lugging hard drives to friend's houses. ;-)

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Tue 18 Jan 2011 07:18 AM

      200GB!? And I thought 20 took a long time. What do you take photos of to get 10gb per day?

      To help keep things reasonable the first thing I do with a new compact camera is reduce the size of photos it takes to something good enough for a 8*6 print, while keep file size down. I'm also quite good at removing duplicate photos, where 5 photos were take of the same thing to "guarantee" a good one - I'll always delete the other 4.

      Show the rest of this thread

    • avatar
    • Xander
    • Tue 18 Jan 2011 07:26 AM

    For 12 months I had a 2Tb MyBook NAS drive which failed twice in that time. Over Christmas I replaced the MyBook with an HP MediaSmart Server which runs Windows Home Server & can be configured to duplicate selected folders onto other drives.

    Although I'm fairly happy with that, I do printout and keep the photos that I would be devastated to loose, mostly photos of my family.

    The problem with using cloud storage for something as important as family photos is that there is always a risk that the company could go out of business without giving any notice.

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Tue 18 Jan 2011 07:33 AM

      "always a risk that the company could go out of business without giving any notice"

      That's covered by the fact the files are synced between your PC(s) and the cloud. The file exists in both places. If Dropbox pulled this plug this very minute or a nuclear bomb took out all their infrastructure I'd still have the files on my laptop (and my Mac for that matter).

      Show the rest of this thread

    • avatar
    • Jorge Coelho
    • Tue 18 Jan 2011 08:29 AM

    Mozy Home is a nice option too. It's actually cheaper than Drop Box and Livedrive and it's also unlimited.

  3. In addition to the standard image backups, I've been using Carbonite for several years for similar purpose, it's an excellent idea.

    Does dropbox change the icon for the files/folders so you can see if they're pending backup or currently backed up? That's a minor but nice feature - files & folders that have been backedup have a little green dot, files & folders pending backup have an orange dot.

    Either way, a good addition to your recovery plan!

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Tue 18 Jan 2011 08:55 AM

      Yep, file icons get a green tick once synced. Can't remember what it before that, but it let's you know. There's a tray icon that animates when it's busy and hovering over that will let you know what it's up to. All very impressive.

    1. Yeap, Carbonite is a great option. Unlimited backup for $54.95 a year.

  4. Started using Picasaweb myself to back up photos -- 20GB for $5 a year! https://www.google.com/accounts/PurchaseStorage?hl=en_US

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Tue 18 Jan 2011 02:03 PM

      I used Picassa for a while, but fell out of love with it and in love with Window Live Photo Gallery, which is, essentially, the same thing, but without the bloat. Picassa used to annoy me how it refused to update folders for ages after you'd added new files. That and other annoyances. Windows Photo Gallery does just what I need and nothing more.

      Show the rest of this thread

    • avatar
    • Doug Finner
    • Tue 18 Jan 2011 04:56 PM

    I've been using DreamHost for a while. You sign up for a web hosting service (about $9/mo). They provide you with a 'backup' user account that's good for 50 gb. If you go over, it's a small charge (I'm running 20 gb over an it's under $3).

    They do not make backups of this account so it's not bombproof but it's a nice option for off-site storage.

    I like it better than most backup services because some of them will delete files on their server if you remove them from your side (it's a backup, you removed it so you must not need it any more, right?). With DH, it's up to me what I keep and what I toss.

    The only hassle I've run into is with my wife's Mac...I can't figure out how to reliably mount the DH backup FTP site in the background.

    • avatar
    • Craig Boudreaux
    • Thu 20 Jan 2011 09:10 AM

    For sharing DropBox is great, but for just backup Carbonite, and other similar solutions have a better price point, though you have to do extra work to get Carbonite to back up any videos.

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