5 alternatives to Google Photos cloud storage for backing up your work

Nov 23, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

5 alternatives to Google Photos cloud storage for backing up your work

Nov 23, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Google Photos has been one of the best photo hosting cloud services out there, offering storage for an unlimited number of your photos absolutely free – as long as you didn’t mind a slight hit in image quality. But that is coming to an end and Google is abandoning its free tier. You still get your free 15GB (shared across all Google services, like Gmail, etc), but if you want any more than that, you’ll have to pay now.

It was a sweet ride while it lasted, and there aren’t really any great free alternatives out there now. But now that you do have to pay, what are the other top paid alternatives out there? Let’s take a look at five of them.

Amazon Photos (free for Prime members)

Until I started researching for this post, I didn’t even realise Amazon had a photos storage option (and if I did know, I forgot!). Well, it turns out that they do! Amazon says that it offers unlimited full-resolution photo storage and if you’re already an Amazon Prime member, then you’ve already got access to it at no additional cost whatsoever.

  • Free Storage: 5GB
  • Paid Storage: $12.99/mo as part of Amazon Prime. Unlimited photo storage and 5GB of video storage. Additional video storage is available for the cost of $1.99/mo for 100GB, $6.99/mo for 1TB and $11.99/mo for 2TB.
  • Platforms: Windows, iOS, Android and Fire TV.

SmugMug

SmugMug is one of the few online cloud solutions that’s specifically dedicated to image storage. Sure, one could argue that Amazon Photos is, but it’s just a part of a larger overall service. For SmugMug, images are the larger overall service and they offer a number of packages for both individuals who want to just back up and show off their work to professionals who want client galleries with online print and product ordering.

  • Free Storage: Free 14-day trial
  • Paid Storage: $66/yr for unlimited storage
  • Platforms: All via website, iOS, Android & Lightroom plugin

iCloud (Apple-only)

For anybody who’s ever bought an iPhone, you know what iCloud already is. You get 5GB of free storage, shared across all apple services (much like Google’s free 15GB). iCloud seamlessly integrates into all Apple devices, including your iPhone, iPad and Mac and sync photos between them as you create new ones. There is a Windows app available for it now to access your files, although it’s still very centred around the Apple ecosystem and there’s no Android app.

  • Free Storage: 5GB
  • Paid Storage: $0.99/mo for 50GB, $2.99/mo for 200GB, $9.99/mo for 2TB -You can also get a bundle deal with Apple One.
  • Platforms: iOS, macOS, Windows

Dropbox

While not strictly a photo-hosting service, their app does offer automatic backup of your smartphone’s camera roll. And as image files are files just like any other, then any images on your computer can also be backed up to Dropbox at will. It’s one of the most popular services out there and is supported by many third-party image-related services as an integrated storage platform.

  • Free storage: 2GB (+ extra free space from various activities)
  • Paid storage: $9.99/mo for 2TB, $16.58/mo for 3TB
  • Platforms: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android

Microsoft OneDrive

Microsoft’s OneDrive has been around for a while now and offers various levels for individuals and families. It’s available for both Windows and macOS as well as iOS and Android mobile devices. Of particular note is that Microsoft offers two paid plans which also include Skype as well as various Microsoft Office applications.

  • Free storage: 5GB
  • Paid storage: $1.99/mo for 100GB, $6.99/mo (or $69.99/yr) for 1TB with Skype, Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint, $9.99/mo (or $99.99/yr) for 6TB for up to 6 family members (1TB per member) including Skype, Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
  • Platforms: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android

Your own NAS (be your own cloud!)

A common option these days is to essentially run your own cloud system. I’ve been doing it myself for several years. The disadvantage here is that you need to maintain your own storage space and hardware, but the big advantage here is that it’s largely free. The software (usually) costs nothing – or at least the free versions of the software offers enough features to satisfy most home users. And if you want to add more storage space, it’s a one-off cost to add another drive to your system, there’s no monthly fee.

One app that I’ve been using for several years now, ever since it was initially released as “BitTorrent Sync” is Resilio Sync. Resilio Sync is available in multiple versions from free to a $59.90 one-time purchase for individuals, a $99.90 one-time purchase for families or from $30/mo for business. The different levels don’t change the amount of storage you have (because that’s down to you), but they do offer different levels of features and support in how you back up your various devices to each other.

Resilio Sync is available for just about every platform out there including Windows (32-Bit and 64-Bit), OS X10.8 or later, Linux for i386, x64 and ARM, as well as FreeBSD for i386 and x64 systems. There are mobile apps for iOS, Android and Amazon devices. You can even download versions that install directly into NAS systems from companies like Synology, Drobo, and Western Digital.

If you want to go completely open-source, another piece of software I’ve come across recently is Syncthing. Syncthing is similar to Resilio Sync in that you are essentially your own cloud, except Syncthing is completely free, and it’s 100% open-source. It’s also available for a wide range of platforms, more so desktop platforms than Resilio Sync. There’s also an Android app, although there is no official iOS app.

I’ve found Syncthing to run particularly well on the Raspberry Pi. With the Raspberry Pi 4 having a pair of USB 3.0 sockets, it makes for a good, relatively inexpensive, backup box, with a couple of large capacity USB drives that you can access from anywhere on your local network or across the Internet.

And if you don’t want to deal with 3rd party apps or extra hardware like a Raspberry Pi at all, Synology NAS devices also come with their own operating system for essentially being your own cloud backup and it comes with some photo-specific features, too.

How do you back up your photos and video?

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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4 responses to “5 alternatives to Google Photos cloud storage for backing up your work”

  1. Yael DEFAYE Avatar
    Yael DEFAYE

    Are you also going to compare Google One, Flickr Pro, 500px Awesome, and other options like smugmug, pixieset, etc? I know it’s a lot of work but it could be interesting to see what paid entry level photography storage services have to offer.

  2. Daris Fox Avatar
    Daris Fox

    Just roll your own on a NAS, sure it won’t be for sharing like Flickr but it’s more cost effective long term and you’re not creating a dependency on a third party.

    I have two Synology NAS systems at two separate locations which sync over an OpnSense VPN which serves a dual purpose of allowing me access to my systems when travelling but you can use the in-built VPN if you wished. I also use the Synology Hyper Backup to sync the two boxes overnight and one a week I back up to a LTO tape drive to create an archival copy.

    If you don’t know how to do this, then find someone. Data is one of the few areas you shouldn’t skimp on after it’s the lifeblood of your business.

  3. Albin Avatar
    Albin

    Got legacy extra storage from OneDrive as an early “SkyDrive” adopter, but Dropbox dropped me with the “three device” limit for small but important active file sync that supports Mint/Ubuntu Linux with other platforms – I’ve increasingly used Mega for that. It’s been reliable, excellent desktop clients, speeds similar to MS and DB, and 50GB free. Android local storage sync (like on desktop PCs) is impossible with all the crummy OneDrive, DB and Mega proprietary mobile clients, but there are some good third party apps – I use AutoSync (MetaCtrl) for OneDrive and Mega.

  4. MegaNickels Avatar
    MegaNickels

    Drop box gets the job done but it’s pain in the ass. The UI is garbage and it drops uploads too often.