Best Cloud Storage For Photos

By Paul Niemeyer
June 27, 2013

Photos contain all the beautiful memories of life. Thanks to smartphones and digital cameras, taking pictures has become very easy and affordable. But imagine losing all of your beautiful photos one day, and they weren’t backed up? It happened to me once and it was devastating. A computer crash left me bereft of all those precious memories gathered on holiday. Yes, it can happen. And it will happen. Are you prepared?

Best Cloud Storage for Digital Photos

After learning my lesson, the search for a cheap cloud photo storage and sharing service began. There were a few simple rules that needed to be ticked off, and since SD cards are prone to failure, they obviously wouldn’t cut it anymore.

  • I needed around 200GB to 100GB of storage space
  •  I wanted my pictures to auto-backup, from the computer’s local folder to a cloud storage service
  • Photos needed to be accessible both locally and on smart-devices, plus a few bare basic editing features would be appreciated.
  • The cloud photo storage solution had to be cheap: around $10-$20 per month.

Which Cloud Storage Service Fit The Bill?

Selecting the best cloud storage solution wasn’t going to be an easy task, I knew, and no single service can please everyone. Yet, the following five cloud storage services run the gamut of various criteria, and everyone single one of them easily fulfilled my personal laundry list of requirements.

  1. JustCloud
  2. SugarSync
  3. SpiderOak
  4. Dropbox
  5. Amazon Cloud Drive

Organizing Photos

Before we go any further, a small word on photo organization software is in order. I personally like to use iPhoto (since I’m on a Mac) or Adobe Lightroom. Both programs organize pictures in a database, where they are tagged and labeled. Lightroom has an advanced feature set for editing, so it’s certainly a program professional photographers looking for unlimited cloud photo storage should check it out.

Lightroom organizes picture in a catalog, which can be auto-backed up to any cloud storage service. Eliminating the hassles of painstakingly categorizing and tagging pictures, and manual backup.

1. JustCloud

JustCloud’s biggest selling point is “unlimited storage”, which is actually a misnomer, but since no one has unlimited data — it’s not an issue worth harping on. I’ve been using JustCloud for quite a while and have yet to encounter any space or bandwidth limitations. Some claim JustCloud lays down the law if people upload or backup more than 750GB, but since I barely break the 250GB threshold, I can’t personally verify JustCloud’s stance on the 750GB issue.

As you can imagine from the information above, I signed up with the 250GB plan because that’s just about right for me. One day I might try out the unlimited offer, yet, for now 250GB is more than sufficient.

Selecting Photos Within JustCloud

The process of backing up catalogs, individual JPEGs, RAW photos and various other image evidence of some rather wayward nights, is easy and simple on PC, Mac and mobile devices as well ( though I haven’t had the chance to try out JustCloud on an Amazon device yet, but the process was smooth on my iPad and a friend’s Surface Pro tablet)

Accessing JPEGS from JustCloud is simply a matter of signing in and downloading them, once again, this works on computers and mobile devices as well. Sharing said pictures is also a pretty straightforward process, though I find myself using file sharing less and less these days…out of lethargy.

Transferring and Starting a Backup

The most important part, of course, is transferring photos into JustCloud’s servers. After selecting the files,  either schedule a backup or hit the “Start Backup Now” button. Photos (along with any other files of your choosing) will start transferring. Fortunately, since JustCloud use Amazon’s AWS servers, making the transfer process pretty quick and smooth. So it largely depends on the Internet connection being used, on how fast or slowly photos get uploaded.

Browsing Photos From Anywhere

On-the-go access to pictures is  really important to me, in case I want to show off the latest shots of my trip to Yosemite. The process on JustCloud is simply a matter of firing up any web browser, logging-in and downloading the pictures.

Sharing, downloading and browsing files within JustCloud’s web app comes with a slideshow feature on mobile devices.

JustCloud Web Slideshow

2. SugarSync

Although I personally use and recommend JustCloud to others, it may not be everyone’s’ cup of tea. Which brings us to SugarSync. Around for a couple of years now, SS established itself quickly as a serious alternative to Dropbox, and offers more free space (5GB) as well. Also, SugarSync comes with a bit more flexibility in regards to their plan structure:

SugarSync features built-in 256-bit AES encryption for files, so that only you can see what’s going on — even the NSA will have a hard time finding out what kind of files are being stored online.

Organizing Photos With SugarSync

SugarSync provides a myriad of ways to organize photos and other files. You can import photos via any desktop computer or laptop, download SugarSync’s mobile app for Android, iOS and other mobile systems. The desktop and mobile versions feature an extremely easy to use and very intuitive UI (user interface).

Always remember to use a test folder when figuring out a cloud storage service for the first time, and check out our SugarSync review for a more detailed look at the backup provider.

Browse Your Synced Folders

Part of the joy of capturing pictures is also sharing them, with friends and family. Fortunately, SugarSync provides quite a few options when it comes to file sharing. Files can be set to private or public sharing, giving users total control over who will be able to see what.

Share files privately or publicly with SugarSync

Controlling Photos via SugarSync’s Web Panel

Of course, like most modern cloud storage services, SugarSync has a web panel, allowing access to all backed up files — or the ability to upload new ones. Switching to the Gallery view starts a little slideshow showing off your best shots right away.

View Your Photos on the Web

3. SpiderOak

Frankly speaking,  SpiderOak shouldn’t be considered a primary a cloud storage solution. Since it lacks a couple of the fancy bells and whistles that JustCloud or SugarSync come with. But, SpiderOak is the perfect solution when security is absolutely paramount, and since it does sync across multiple devices, ease-of-use isn’t necessarily compromised.

Visit SpiderOak to get started for free

SpiderOak does a pretty good job of file syncing, file sharing and backup. Add top notch security features, and SpiderOak is certainly a great option for people who want to keep their baby shower photos hidden from the NSA. Photo sharing is handled via creating a common shared folder, which can only be accessed by people who have the password (provided by you). Speaking of passwords, SpiderOak has no means of helping users recover lost or forgotten passwords, please keep that in mind when considering the service.

Share files in a super secure SharedRoom

SpiderOak Pricing

SpiderOak doesn’t offer an unlimited scheme, unfortunately. You can either use the free account, which is capped at 2GB or upgrade in increments of 100GB for $10 per month.

Final Words

Pictures are worth a thousands word, and countless memories, please don’t lose them — use a backup service. Do not solely rely on local storage, because local storage or the machine it runs on (sometimes both), will eventually crash. That’s why I recommend cloud storage. Although we’ve mentioned five and taken a good look at three, have a look at this cloud storage comparison  chart for further choice. Who knows what might catch your eye.