Best Cloud Storage for Photographers

The 5 Best Cloud Storage for Photographers Reviewed

Are you looking for an indestructible backup space for your photos?

Are you ready to head up to the clouds? 

If the answer is yes, then you’re probably asking, what’s the best cloud storage for photographers?

It’s a good thing you asked, and you’ve come to the right place

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Up in the clouds

Cloud storage has never been as prevalent as it is now, and the demand is only growing.

Growing demands mean more supply and wider options, so it’s a good thing you’re doing a bit of research before deciding on the right cloud storage for you. You have more than enough options, and chances are there is one that will perfectly suit your needs; you just have to know how to find it.

The benefits of using cloud storage

A few years ago, before the cloud was so popular, my laptop ran out of memory so I loaded my photos onto my two hard drives trusting they’d be safe.

A few weeks later, one hard drive got stolen. Two days after that, the second hard drive flat out stopped working. When I brought it to a technologically savvy friend, the only file he could recover was — and I’m not even joking — ‘Gone With the Wind’ by Ella Fitzgerald.

I lost some of the best photos I have — still, to this day — ever taken. Needless to say, I felt like an idiot, but I learned a lot. This kind of bad luck really does occur and, yes, it can happen to you, too.

It’s now 2017, and we have the option to send our files up to the inflammable, water-proof, shock-proof, environmentally-friendly clouds.

In addition to being indestructible, cloud storage offers several other benefits.

First of all, there’s no need to go through the effort of transferring your images to a new service if you run out of space on your cloud. You can upgrade from your chair in a matter of seconds.

For me, the biggest difference between cloud storage and using my external hard drives is accessibility. I can only view the contents of my externals from my computer, but I can view and interact with my cloud files from any device.

This is a privilege you get with cloud storage no matter which one you ultimately choose. Some services require users to login using their mobile browser, but most services have a native app you can download.

But don’t trash your existing hard drives just yet

I learned it the hard way — it’s never a good idea to depend on one storage device to keep your photos, and you should always have at least two alternative external storage devices.

A huge reason for this is that you need internet access to access cloud files. For photographers, you don’t just need internet — you need fast internet.

If you go on a photography trip to remote areas, chances are you won’t be able to find an internet connection that’s fast enough for you to upload a single RAW image in less than 48 hours.

Even if you go on a trip to San Francisco, where it’s nearly impossible to avoid finding a reliable internet connection, it’s still better to have several backup plans.

Cloud services are great, but they’re not perfect, and it’s totally possible for them to lose data or muddle it up in a highly inconvenient manner.

What to look for

There are countless cloud storage options, and none of it is one-size-fits-all; it all boils down to your personal requirements. However, there are several things to keep in mind when choosing a cloud service, some more obvious than others.

I’ll stay realistic and assume your first priority is to get value for your money (or for free).

Everyone has a different budget. Likewise, every person’s priorities differ from the next person’s.

Storage

However, since you’ll be making your decision in the context of photography, the amount of storage allowance you get for your money is probably really important to you.

How many photos do you want to keep online? One GB of storage will be enough space for 4-5 RAW images or 20-25 JPEGs.

Luckily, many services offer between 2GB and 50GB as part of their free memberships. Test the waters with these free services before spending your money on one.

There are still a few more storage related questions to consider. What if you delete a file and then want to recover it later? Check the service’s file retention policies to find out how long deleted files are held on to before they’re purged.

Also, if you’re planning to store RAW photos, make sure you choose a service that allows you to upload files of that type and size.

Security, sharing & privacy

If you need to store some personal or confidential photographs, you may be concerned about security.

Most paid cloud memberships do provide some level of security.

If security is a big issue for you, look for a service that provides end-to-end encryption or password protection for your files so they are kept safe. There are several trusted (and slightly pricier) cloud services whose mission is to provide customers with highly secure file storage.

Sharing your files is a different story. The internet is largely used by people who want to connect with one another and share ideas. Cloud services typically cater to this tendency, and allow you to create links to your files and folders to share with others.

This ties into privacy again. Some services don’t let you restrict the ways in which viewers can interact with your files. If you don’t want linked viewers to be able to, say, rename or delete your files, make sure you pick a product that allows you to restrict viewer privileges.

If you’re planning to share files with a small audience, you probably don’t need to think about this option so much; but if you’re going to share your files with a large audience and attract lots of traffic, you might encounter a problem.

Bandwidth. If too many people click on your link, the file in question might be taken down for a certain period of time. This can be avoided by paying more for extra bandwidth, of course.

One last thing

Research is really, really important for finding the right cloud service. Also, it’s definitely a good idea to test the waters by signing up for a free service before paying anything — who knows what you might discover.

Once you are ready to start syncing, remember that your first upload could take anywhere between a few hours to several days, depending on how many files you have and how fast your internet is. Try to upload your first batch using the fastest internet you can find. You’ll be glad you did.

What are the best Cloud Storage Service?

Google Drive

Google Drive

PROS

  • Generous storage for free and for money
  • Access to Google systems beyond Drive

CONS

  • Not great for cross platform functionality
  • Shared storage space with inbox

If you already have a Gmail account, then you also have free access to 15GB of storage space and several other Google services.

Otherwise, signing up only takes a minute, and giving it a try will do no harm. If your photos are less than 16 megapixels, you can get unlimited space from Google Photos.

Keep in mind that your Gmail and Google + accounts use the memory allocated to your Google Drive, so an overflowing inbox will take away your photo space.

If 15GB isn’t enough space for you, paying $2 each month will get you 100GB, and $10 per month gets you a terabyte.

When it comes to restrictions on file sizes and types, Google Drive is extremely generous.

I have never seen a file that’s 5TB in size, and I do not wish to find out how long it would take to upload, but that’s Google Drive’s file size limit.

There are also no restrictions on the types of files you can upload, so you can store your RAW files as well as your unfinished Photoshop projects.

To share your photos, all you need is the shareable link. You also have the option to password protect all your files.

Google Drive doesn’t place restrictions on how much bandwidth you can use by sharing.

However, if they believe a file is being abused then they have the right to take the file down for however long they choose.

The Google Drive app is available on pretty much every operating system out there, but you need to download additional apps if you’re going to be working with tools like word processing.

Microsoft OneDrive

Microsoft One Drive

PROS

  • Higher tiers provide great value for cost

CONS

  • No end-to-end encryption
  • Many restrictions on lower tiers

This free service is built into the Windows 8 and 10 operating systems, but you can sign up on any device.

The free plan offers 5GB of storage space, which likely isn’t enough space for photographers. Luckily, OneDrive has more options.

The 50GB Storage-Only plan costs $1.99 per month.

This plan is great if all you need is storage space, and 50GB is enough. But there are several vague restrictions regarding sharing, and you can’t download any apps onto your laptop or mobile device.

The Office 365 Personal plan costs $6.99 each month or $69.99 per year for a whole terabyte of space.

This plan includes Office 365 software and the ability to download the desktop app on one computer, and the mobile app on a phone and a tablet.

If that’s not good enough, try the business package for $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year.

It provides the same premium features as the personal plan, but gives you 5TB and you can access its desktop and mobile apps from up to five computers, 5 tablets and 5 smartphones.

This is great value, but there are a minor few caveats. First of all, you can’t upload files larger than 10GB — but luckily, you can upload any type of file.

Also, if you’re looking for a super secure storage service, OneDrive only offers practical security and no end-to-end encryption.

Dropbox

Dropbox

PROS

  • Option to earn extra space
  • Very accessible and user friendly

CONS

  • Web browser 10GB file size limit

Dropbox is one of the most well-known file sharing/storing services out there, and for a great reason; it’s extremely user-friendly, and users can get extra storage for referring friends.

When you sign up to for Dropbox for free, you are given 2GB — just enough space for a maximum of 10 RAW files, which is probably not enough.

Luckily, you can earn up to 16GB by getting your friends to sign up (500MB per friend).

If 16GB still isn’t enough, Dropbox Plus costs $8 per month ($79 per year) for 1TB of storage.

You can earn extra space in the Plus plan as well, with each referral being worth twice as much as it is under the Basic plan.

In addition to 1TB of data, Dropbox Plus gives you 10 times as much bandwidth for sharing your files and allows you offline access to the files on your desktop app.

Also, there is no size limit when you upload from your desktop app.

Sharing is easy; just make sure to tweak your viewing permissions if you don’t want to grant viewers the right to edit, download or delete your files.

If one terabyte of storage isn’t enough, check out the business plans.

Just bear in mind that Dropbox doesn’t offer more than 2TB of space under any plan.

Regarding security, Dropbox is comparable to OneDrive in the sense that your files won’t be encrypted until they have been uploaded to the cloud. Once there, Dropbox controls the key and you don’t.

Amazon Cloud Drive

Amazon Drive

PROS

  • Very affordable
  • Unlimited space

CONS

  • No automatic sync

Amazon Cloud Drive is unique; it provides cheap and unlimited storage space for your photos.

Amazon doesn’t offer a free membership to their cloud, but don’t let that discourage you! They allow potential users to enjoy a free trial for three months. Also, if you already have a Prime account, then you already have access to unlimited storage for your photos.

If you don’t have a Prime account, this option is only $11.99 per year. Indeed, this unlimited service costs less than a buck a month, but why?

Well, you only get unlimited storage for your photos. There is a 5GB cap on the space you can use for other types of media. If that’s a problem for you, check out their Unlimited Everything plan, which runs at $59.99 a year, which still ain’t bad.

Like other cloud storage services, Amazon Cloud Drive can be accessed through a desktop app and through mobile apps.

The desktop app can be a bit annoying because you have to login every time you want to upload something, and there is no automatic sync option. On the bright side, there is no size limit for files if they are uploaded from your desktop.

You can share up to 25 files or folders at a time by getting the shareable link; alternatively, you can share by email or social media.

If you share an image and regret it, Amazon lets you un-share your files, making them completely unaccessible to anyone with the link.

Since there’s no limit on storage, you can access your trashed files for any period of time.

SpiderOak

SpiderOak

PROS

  • Highly secure

CONS

  • No free plan
  • More expensive than less secure options

If you’re looking for a more secure service than the ones I’ve already reviewed, then SpiderOak might be the one for you — it’s a great option for photographers who want to add an extra element of security to their cloud.

However, the extra security doesn’t come for free. If you choose SpiderOak, you’ll have to pay a bit more. There is no free membership plan, but you can sign up for the free trial which lasts two months and provides just 2GB of space, which is obviously not ideal for a photographer.

Paying $7 per month can get you 30GB, which is also a little disappointing, especially since the next available option is 1TB, which costs $12 per month ($129 per year).

If you don’t yet have 30GB worth of files, I would suggest getting the cheapest plan and then upgrading to the one terabyte plan when you run out of room.

SpiderOak allows you to queue and schedule your syncs and backups, and the service places no restrictions on the size and types of files you can upload.

You can also access SpiderOak from all of your devices no matter the operating system, and rest assured that their security systems are so reliable and secure that even SpiderOak employees are unable to access your data. The user is the owner of the encryption key.

This service is recommended for people who know their way around complex storage software because it is rather complex.

Conclusions

When it comes to finding the right cloud storage for you, it is very important to do your research before purchasing anything to make sure you’re getting what you want.

All of the options I’ve reviewed provide either an extensive free trial, or a free membership that allows a small amount of data.

Personally, I prefer to keep RAW copies as well as JPEGs of all of my images — and I take a lot of photos.

Amazon Cloud Storage is the best option if you don’t need all the extra fluff that other services provide, but do need all the money that Amazon allows you to save. For a buck a month, I’m down.

Alternatively, you can even pay $12 for the Unlimited Amazon service and then buy a cheap plan from a different company to backup your most important photos.


Best Cloud Storage for Photographers

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About the Author Luca

Hi, I am Luca, founder and editor in chief at photographyambition.com. I am crazy about photography and I always have a camera with me. When I am not busy with my day job, enjoying my family or taking photos, I am on Photography Ambition to share what I have learnt so far.

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