Cloud Storage: Smart, Inexpensive Ways to Keep Your Memories Safe

July 14, 2015

In the last few months my wife, as well as two of our friends, gave birth for the first time. Last week, we had a get together at our house so everyone could get some baby cheek squeezing in. While everyone was there, I thought I would try to find a picture of myself as a baby to see how much my son looks like me (side note: a lot). I was pouring over photos trying to find one, and it struck me that my son will never do this. Nobody has shoeboxes full of photos anymore.

Today, with personal photography having migrated from film, to digital cameras, and now by and large to built-in cameras on smartphones, the physical shoebox has been replaced with a digital one.

Everyone who takes a lot of pictures—from new parents to selfie-obsessed teens—notices how quickly the storage on their phones fills up. Since you don’t want to lose those precious memories any more than your parents did when they were filling up shoeboxes with prints, you have some options for digital storage.

Just a few short years ago, the storage process involved a computer, some cables, device drivers, and maybe more than a few headaches for the less technologically inclined. Now, many turn to cloud storage. Facebook, for instance, claims it stores over 100 petabytes of data in the cloud which is about 100 million gigabytes, or enough space for 100 billion 1 megabyte pictures.

If you do choose to store your photos on one of the many cloud services, there are a few tips to keep your photos -- some of your most cherished personal files -- safe.

Create a strong password – Your cloud storage account is no different than your social media, bank, or other website you might need a password to access. Use different passwords for all of them, and make it long and unpredictable. Never, ever, share your password.

Pick a reliable company – It might seem tempting to save a few bucks with a smaller startup, but if the company ever goes under and you don’t act quickly enough, you could lose all of your photos. Don’t worry though, most of them will tell you before they delete every baby photo you’ve ever taken forever. And on that note…

Back up your photos on a hard drive – Obviously you can’t show Aunt Sheila all of those pictures of your recent trip to Italy if they’re on an your computer or an external hard drive, but it’s the best way to ensure they’ll be around for the long haul (as Breaking Bad fans will know, as long as you don’t leave them around any magnets).

Here are some of the most popular photo storage sites, along with their prices and storage limits:

Flickr – Free with ads, or $24.95/year for ad-free and up to 200MB per photo

Dropbox Carousel – Free up to 2GB, $10/month up to 1TB (1,024 GB)

Amazon Cloud Drive – Comes with Amazon Prime membership ($99/year)

Apple iCloud – 1,000 most recent photos free, $0.99-$20/month for more than that

Google Photos – Unlimited free storage up to 16 megapixel images and 1080p video

Do you use cloud storage for photos? What service do you use?