What’s the worst thing that could happen to you as a photographer? If you say it’s loosing your photos, you are absolutely right! If you have been in this situation you would know how it feels. If you haven’t, I really wouldn’t want this happen to you, because I can tell you the feeling is the same if not worst than if you’ve just lost your dog (or cat or what ever you consider dearest).

So, what’s the most sensible thing to do to preserve your most preciousszz possessions and to prevent this disaster to happen? I hate to sound like a broken radio, but there are 3 things you can do: Backup, Backup and … yes you guess it … Backup! It won’t prevent any accident that might happen to you at any time, but at least if you lost your photos you have them store somewhere safe where you can get them back.

“But I have back them up in my external hard disk at home!” I hear you say. Well that’s good, but what if, God forbid, something happen to your hard disk (trust me it had happened to me) and you can’t get them back? Ok, so you still have another backup disk you lock up in some bank vault somewhere in Swaziland. But what if John McClane‘s evil enemy comes back to life and rob that bank? Ok maybe not that epic, but you get the gist.

Luckily there is one more place you can store your photos … in the Cloud!

No, not the white fluffy thing in the sky. Though you can think about it that way.

In this short guide, I will try to describe to you what Cloud Storage is all about, then I will tell you what are the advantages of having a Cloud Storage for our photos, and finally I will give a check-list to determine which Cloud Storage solution that is best for you.

What is Cloud Storage

The Cloud Storage, which is also called by many names such as Remote Storage Backup, Internet File Hosting or Network Storage etc., is an online storage solution where you can store/backup your file (it doesn’t have to be photos, it can be any files).

Physically, they are computer servers, an array of clever hard disk with massive capacity, located somewhere in the world (who knows, maybe they ARE in Swaziland). The point is you don’t care where they are because you can access them from everywhere in the world where Internet exists.

With DSLRs able to create multi-megabytes of RAW files and modern smartphones capable of taking tens of megapixels photo, the activity of accessing these massive files and moving them around the ‘wire’ would’ve been a very slow and time consuming exercise, not to mention prohibitively expensive, not so long ago.

This is why storing and accessing files over the internet used to be only available for business customer. Even if there is a way for regular consumers to get a service, we wouldn’t be able to afford it.

Today with the internet speed rapidly improving, with that I mean it’s getting faster; coupled with the ever declining cost of storage per megabyte, Cloud Storage companies are starting to offer affordable solution for us ‘mere mortal’. Many of them are willing to give you ‘enough’ FREE storage to get you started and if it’s still not enough, they offers reasonable upgrade paths with reasonable prices.

The time is never perfect to start thinking seriously about employing one of those Cloud Storage solutions to backup our files, and especially our photos.

5 Advantages of having your photos in the Cloud

1. You can access your photo any time – anywhere as long as you can access the internet, which these days means almost all the time. The simplest or best cheap cloud hosting is enough to store thousands of pictures.
2. Easily re-share your photos directly from your cloud account, publicly or privately.
3. Some services feature Auto-Backup function, which means it will upload your photos automatically to the cloud. Very useful feature when you are on the road shooting, the resulting photos would be backed up to your storage, ready for you to access them at home in the comfort of your PC or Mac.
4. Since the storage is virtually unlimited, it can grow or shrink depending on your need, as long as you pay for it of course. But the ability to add or reduce your storage ‘at will’ is a major advantage.
5. The cloud storage solution normally employs sophisticated technology such redundancy (if one disk is broken, another ‘clone’ will take over the job automatically) and data distribution (your data is not stored in just one physical disk, but rather spread out in several disks often located in different places). Peace of mind is indeed priceless.

7 Questions you have to ask before your choose a Cloud Storage Service Provider

When choosing any of these solution providers, especially the one the suits the need for Mobile Photographers, you might want to use the following check list:

1. Have you ever heard the name before? I know this seems superficial, but in this case it really make sense. Would you trust your most precious possession to somebody whom you’ve never even heard the name? I wouldn’t. So, Google it, ask your Twitter/Facebook friends and read reviews like this blog.
2. Does it have a mobile app? We are Mobile Photographers, it is obviously very important for us that there exists an app to access and manage our storage from our mobile, which ever OS we have (iOS, Android, Windows, etc), otherwise don’t bother to even look at it.
3. How much FREE storage that it offers? It’s always nice to get FREE things, it’s even better when get a lot of it. So have a shop around, read this post here to check which service give the most free storage, or just visit their website and check it there. But be careful, some services give away FREE storage but only as a trial basis, after your trial is over you are forced to pay for the service or you won’t be able to access your files.
4. How secure is it? Nobody wants to have ‘Paris Hilton incident’ happens to us. So have a read what type of security they are employing (normally you can read it in the Terms and Condition). Having said that, this is admittedly the ‘Net’, no matter how much secure it is there is always ways to break it. So if you are a Paranoid type, for the love of God, don’t store your ‘antiques’ on the cloud, use your own disk instead.
5. Does it feature Auto Backup function? This is not a top priority, but since we are always out and about and connected, it would be great to have the option to auto upload our shots as we shoot it.
6. Does it allow you to re-share directly from the app? A decent cloud storage service would allow you to re-share a photo, some photos, or the whole album as you choose it fit. Normally it comes in the form of a shortened URL which you can then share it via any channel as you wish, e.g. email, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Some of the service offers private sharing, which means only people in the share-list (emails usually) who can see the photos.
7. Does it give you a full size and resolution of the original photo when downloaded via the mobile app? I would expect that if I store a particular photo to the cloud I would be able to download back ‘exactly the same photo’ – same size same resolution. You see, some services upload in full resolution but reduce it when downloaded via the mobile app, possibly to reduce bandwidth. It’s up to you, if you are ok with this then you have no problem. But as I know, photographers are perfectionist so I suspect many of you won’t be happy with this limitation.

Perfect Timing

As I mentioned earlier, this is the best time to start to think about getting yourself a Cloud Storage. In fact, since many services come with FREE storage offer why not trying each of them and see which one that most comfortable for you. The check list I wrote above is just a guideline, at the end of the day, there is nothing better than just dive in and experience it yourself.

Let me know if you’ve been using any Cloud Storage service for your mobile needs, or ask me if you have any questions.

In a future article I will list some of the Best Cloud Storage providers that I’ve come across. Just watch this space.  Follow us to get the latest updates.

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