The best online photo storage and photo backup options

Digital cameras have revolutionized amateur photography more than anything since Edwin Land introduced the instant camera in 1948. Not only did the digital format eliminate the need to buy film, but people no longer have to pay to develop and print each photo - instead, they simply view the shots on a screen and print only the best images.

And thanks to the 10-megapixel cameras and easy editing tools built into every smartphone, almost anyone can take high-quality digital photos and record video all day long.

The fact that it's so easy to take an infinite number of photos presents photographers with a new problem: Where do I store all my pictures? What's the best way to back up my photos to protect them? Often one of the few online photo storage solutions is used, but most of them fall short when it comes to protecting your images.

Social media

One of the best features of digital photography is the speed and ease with which you can share images with your friends and family. It used to be that pictures were sent via email, but that has changed with the explosion of social media.

For many people, their social media page has become a de facto photo archive, but relying on Facebook and Instagram as an online photo repository can be a serious mistake. One problem is image quality.

To accommodate all those images, the sites compress them, which degrades image quality. Download a photo from Facebook and compare it to the original you uploaded: The file is smaller and has a much lower resolution.

More importantly, photos uploaded to social media are not safe either. Accounts are often hacked and profiles are accidentally deleted, both of which can leave you unable to retrieve your photos. If either of these things happen, you could lose your precious memories forever.

Photo management sites

With the evolution of digital photography and the maturation of cloud storage, several websites have emerged that offer online photo storage. From Flickr to Shutterfly to ThisLife, there are countless companies vying to be your digital photo library - each offering different features and pricing for storage space.

However, there are some issues with using these sites for photo backup.

1. 1 They are photo management sites, not backup services.

2. 2 They provide a service for you, these sites have everything under their control.

3. 3 The site can stop its activity.

First, they are photo management sites, not backup services. Consequently, they have very different levels of security. Several sites belonging to Shutterfly - including Tiny Prints, Treat, and Wedding Paper Divas - were hit by a data breach a few years ago. When you store your valuable images (as well as your personal and payment information) with an Internet company, you expect them to keep your data safe.

Secondly, these websites have everything under their control because they are providing you with a service. They are happy to let you secure photos on their site, but if Flickr decides that a photo you uploaded violates their terms of service or is offensive in some way, they can lock you out of your account. Once you are locked out of your account, you will no longer be able to access your own photos.

Finally, there is a big problem if you entrust your photo library to a commercial website: The site can go out of business. For example, the closure of EverPix in 2013 caused a huge headache for customers who had to restore all their photos from the online archive.

Are there reasons to rely on photo management sites when you want to share and edit photos? Absolutely. Are they the best way to back up photos? Not really.

Native backup options

If you want to back up your photos, you can use a native solution like iCloud Photo Library for your iPhone backup or Google Photo/Google Drive for your Android device. While these options are convenient, you should be aware that there are concerns about their security, flexibility, and cost.

For example, one of the biggest limitations is the fact that these systems are designed for specific platforms. The iCloud photo library, for example, only works with Apple devices. Tying customers to one platform may help Apple sell products, but most homes today are multi-device environments. One survey found that about 35 percent of iPad owners and 28 percent of Mac owners have an Android smartphone. Want to switch from an iPhone to an Android smartphone after storing your photos in iCloud Photo Library? Good luck! Moving iCloud photos to Android devices is not a simple process.

Moreover, while these native programs are advertised as free, these "free" versions offer very limited data. With iCloud Photos, you only get 5GB for free, while Google Drive limits its free offering to 15GB. A person's typical digital photo collection is larger than what Apple and Google are relying on to sell this extra cloud storage.

Would you prefer a backup solution that's not only secure, but flexible enough to support Mac, PC, iOS and Android devices, plus affordable for the average digital photo collection? Read more.

Two-fold protection

When deciding how to back up your photos, make sure they are preserved, secure and accessible. Given the shortcomings of the above options, consider a backup solution that automatically backs up to both a local external drive and the cloud, providing dual protection for your photo collection.

This double protection means that your digital images are protected:

⦁ Access from anywhere, as you can access a photo file from your cloud backup from any internet-enabled device.

⦁ Protection from data loss because you have a local backup. Whether your laptop gets stolen or you get locked out of your Flickr account for some reason, you still have your pictures.

In addition to double protection, Acronis True Image offers several unique features that other photo management services and backup solutions don't. For example, you can automatically back up your cell phone to your home computer over Wi-Fi, so the photos you took during the day are instantly protected when you walk in the door. Your Facebook profile - including contacts, photos, and posts - can also be backed up, so you lose nothing if your Facebook account is hacked or accidentally deleted. Instead, you can quickly restore your profile.

Plus, with just one license of Acronis True Image, a family can get backups for an unlimited number of mobile devices and 1TB of cloud backup storage in the secure Acronis Cloud for a quarter of what they would pay for iCloud Photo Library for five mobile devices with 200GB of cloud storage each.

Final thought

Using photo management sites can be helpful, and social media is definitely a fun way to share your favorite images, but it can't replace the security and flexibility of a true backup solution. To protect your online photo library, you should use a true backup software solution with cloud storage, like Acronis True Image.