Never Lose Your Precious Digital Memories

You’ve probably seen this come across the screen of your iPhone:Not-Enough-Storage-1

“But I bought the 32gb/64gb iPhone!” you cry. You go to Settings to find out that you only get 5GB of iCloud Storage and that you have to pay $20.00 per year to get 10GB more. If you use your camera frequently for photos and videos, you may be inclined to just choose one of the upgrades. iCloud storage is not solely for photo and video backup. iCloud also backs up your iMessages, app data, device settings (wifi networks and passwords, paired bluetooth devices, etc.), home screen and app organization, iTunes store purchase history (not the actual songs though), ringtones, and visual voicemail. You can also store documents in iCloud. ” But what about Photo Stream,” you say hopefully, “Photo Stream will back up your photos.” Be careful, Photo Stream comes with a catch: only your latest 1000 photos (not videos) are backed up for 30 days. Apple thinks that this will give you enough time to plug in your phone to your Mac so all your photos can be saved into iPhoto. Do not fret. There are many free and cheaper options than paying $20 a year for a measly extra 10 GB. (Note: If you have Android, this guide will be helpful because you can still use any of these options, except Flickr & iCloud)

Google+

“What? Google’s social network. I don’t use that. Nobody uses that…”

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While that may or may not be true, Google’s social networking app features a rich photo management suite that I would argue trumps competing services. Ever since Google folded Picasa (remember Picasa? It was like Photobucket or Flickr. Yup, visions of Myspace are coming back now, aren’t they?) into Google+, the company has been beefing up the services and capabilities of Google+ Photos by integrating the photo-editing abilities of Snapseed, an amazing app whose company Google purchased. While the search giant also purchased that amazing iOS photo editing app Snapseed and made the app free, it also has built most of the apps features right into Google+ Photos.

What does it offer?

Google+ offers free and paid options for storing your pictures and media. About a year ago (fact check), Google combined the storage space for your Gmail, Drive, and Google+ Photos into 15GB of free storage across your Google account, which it calls Drive storage. If you need more, you can pay $2 per month for an additional 100GB or $10 for an additional 1TB. Higher storage options are available for those who need crazy amounts of storage.

How does it work?

Step One:
a) After you download the app for the app store and sign in with your google account, the app will ask you if you want turn on Auto Backup. You also have the option to backup your existing photos and video here as well. Click the blue button and Auto Backup will be on.
b) If you already have Google+ installed, open the app. Click the menu icon in the top left hand corner. In the menu, click the gear icon in the top right hand corner to open the settings menu. Here, click ‘Camera and Photos’ and under the Camera heading, you will see Auto Backup. From here you can turn on Auto Backup.

Step Two:
You have some options as to how and when your photos and videos backup to the cloud. Using the same process in part b) of Step One, head to the Auto Backup menu. The first thing you see under Auto Backup is the option to toggle “Full Size Backups”. By default, photos and videos are backed up to Google+ in full resolution, which means that content will use part of the 15GB of free Drive storage. If you disable full “Full Size Backups” you get unlimited storage of compressed photos and videos that doesn’t impact your Drive storage. However, these photos compressed to 2048 pixels, but this isn’t terrible. The largest you’d want to print a photo that is 2048 x 1536 pixels is 10 x 13 inches, with 8 x 10 inches being a high quality print.

You can choose to have your photos to backup over your mobile network & wifi or just wifi. The same two options go for backing up your videos. By default, the former option is turned on, which could eat into your data plan if you take a lot of pictures and videos. I’d set both to wifi only upload. At the least, turn on wifi only upload for your videos. If you’re an Android user, you can set your phone to only backup when its charging, which can help save battery life.

Step Three:
Once you’ve set all of that up, your photos and videos will be backed up to Google+. The backed up photos and videos are private, so only you can see them. I have found Google+ to be the most realiable and stable photo and video backup service.

Other Cool Features / Problems

Google+ Photos includes two unique features: “Auto Enhance” and “Auto Awesome”. The first automatically detects imperfections in your backed up photos and enhances a copy of the photo accordingly. “Auto Awesome” create GIFs and full range of motion pictures out of photos in a sequence. Select photos and videos from an event are turned into short movies similar to Facebook’s year in review videos. Also, photos that are taken close to each other time wise may be put into a 4×4 or 8×8 grid. If you take 3 or more pictures of your friends in front of a landmark while you’re abroad, “Auto Awesome” will erase all of those people moving in the background. Since all of your photos are in the cloud, you’ll have to either download them from the web if you want a copy on your computer.

IMAG0207_BURST001-MOTION
Example of GIF

All of that is pretty amazing stuff, and it does that without you having to do any work. If you decide that you want to purchase more storage, you may want to look into downloading the free Google+ Auto Backup app for Mac, which you can use to backup some or all of the photos on your computer to Google’s cloud, just in case your computer gets stolen or breaks. However, two downsides emerge when using Google+ Photos: sharing backed up content and managing photos locally on computer. If you want to share a photo with a friend, you’ll have to either share it first to Google+ or download to picture to your phone and then share it. Second, unlike Dropbox and OneDrive, your media is not locally stored on your computer.

Flickr

Flickr still exists?…

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Flickr is the originally online photo storage and sharing community. It was around before Friendster and Myspace. Bought by Yahoo in 2006, the service fell out of prominence due to Yahoo’s lack of focus on development and innovation with the service. Ever since Marissa Mayer took over Yahoo in mid-2012, Yahoo has been bringing in new talent and pushing out major updates and refreshes to its services, including Flickr.

What does it offer?

Early in 2013, Yahoo gave all of its Flickr users 1TB of free storage space. However, it wasn’t until late last year that its iOS app was updated to automatically upload photos, but not videos (there are third party apps that backup videos to Flickr, but they don’t work all the time). Android users do not have the auto upload feature. The app has pro editing tools and customizable filters, which are comparable to those included in Google’s application. Another downside is that in addition to automatically uploading new photos, the service only uploads your 25 most recent photos to Flickr once it is enabled. On the bright side, you don’t have to share that 1TB of storage space with any other service, which means that you’ll probably never run out of space for your photos and all of their full resolution glory.

credit: CNET
credit: CNET

 

How does it work?

When you open the app after downloading it from the app store, the app will ask you if you want to turn on auto upload. Like Google+ Photos, it will upload those photos over cellular and wifi by default. To change this, open your Settings app and find Flickr. From there, you can pick if you want to include backup over cellular data. And that’s it.

Other Cool Features / Problems

Besides being a place you can store your photos, Flickr is also a photo sharing community. However, I don’t think many of us have a lot of friends on Flickr. If you do or get some of your friends to join and actively use it, then this app is perfect. You can visit people’s profiles to view their “Photostream,” which is like a person’s “Wall” on Facebook, and to view “Activity,” which is comparable to an instagram feed with non-square, high quality photos where you can so who has starred or commented on your friends photos. It’s also easy to share photos and videos you backup to friends,

OneDrive

What is OneDrive? And what is SkyDrive?

Microsoft’s rebranding of SkyDrive to OneDrive is not just a name change. The software mogul wants its cloud storage to be the one place where you store all of your photos, videos, documents, notes and files.

Credit: wctechblog.com
Credit: wctechblog.com

 

What does it offer?

Microsoft giver its OneDrive users 7GB of free storage. If you enable to the auto camera backup, you get an extra 3GB of storage to store your camera’s photos and videos. You can also earn up to 5GB through referrals, with each friend you get to sign up adding 500MB to your overall storage. If you get 10 friends to sign up and you enable the auto backup, you can get a maximum total of 15GB for free, which is just as much storage as Google Drive. If you or your family already subscribe to the $99.99-per-year Office 365 Home Premium plan, where you can get up to 100GB of OneDrive storage (20GB for each household member), then using OneDrive to backup your camera shots is a great deal. Microsoft’s mobile app is available on iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Blackberry. If you don’t have Office 365 and need more than the provided free storage, you can add 50Gb for $25 per year, 100GB for $50 GB, and 200GB for $100.

How does it work?

Install OneDrive from the appropriate app store. After you sign into your Microsoft account, the app will ask you if you want to use OneDrive to back up your auto backup your videos and pictures.

Other Cool Features / Problems

OneDrive is tightly integrated with Windows 8, Office 365, XBox, Office Online (the company’s new rebranded Google Drive competitor), Outlook, and other Microsoft services. Their target audience for OneDrive is people who use Windows PCs and/or people who are already invested in Microsoft’s other products. Unlike Flickr and Google+, OneDrive doesn’t have any editing options in its service. If you use the Photos app on your Windows 8 device, you can edit the photos and they automatically save to OneDrive. On the up side, OneDrive has a desktop sync client that works the same as Dropbox’s. Something to note, is that Microsoft has a strict code of conduct for the files you upload to the service. OneDrive shouldn’t be the place you store your porn collection and shouldn’t be used by the KKK, since files that depicts nudity or that incites, advocates, or expresses pornography or racism are forbidden. While there are even more guidelines laid out in OneDrive’s Terms of Service, I don’t know how strictly Microsoft enforces these policies. (source: http://www.cnet.com/news/onedrive-dropbox-google-drive-and-box-which-cloud-storage-service-is-right-for-you/) Lastly, you cannot perform a manual search for pictures in the iOS and Android apps.

Dropbox

Oh! I’ve heard of this one. The cloud storage thingy.

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You and everyone else has probably heard of Dropbox. This cloud flexible cloud storage solution has been around long enough many mobile apps use Dropbox as backend storage for users’ app data.

What does it offer?

Dropbox is great because it is ubiquitous. It is available on basically every platform around. On mobile, it is available on iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Kindle Fire, and Windows Phone (3rd-Party). It has Mac, Windows and Linux desktop clients as well. The service offers up 2GB for free when you sign up, with an extra 3GB added when you turn on the automatic photo upload. While 5GB may seem pretty weak compared to other services, you earn up to an additional 16GB if you get 32 of your friends to sign up (you get 500MB per friend that signs up). In addition, you can unlock an extra 3GB by completing the “Get Started” guide, connecting your Facebook and Twitter accounts, following Dropbox on Twitter, sending the company feedback, and linking your account to with your Mailbox for iOS account. That’s a grand total of 24GB of free storage, but that’s a lot of work. More space is available in 100GB, 200GB, or 500GB quantities, costing $10, $20, and $50 a month respectively.

How does it work?

Dropbox is super easy to setup. Just install the app and follow the onscreen instructions. You’ll probably want to install the desktop client as well. That too will have easy instructions. By default, dropbox backs up your photos and videos over wifi only, but you can switch on cellular backup in the app’s settings. Recently, Dropbox released a mobile gallery app titled Carousel. This app also automatically backs up your pictures and videos while adding automatic organization and easy sharing.

Credit: Mashable
Credit: Mashable

 

Other Cool Features / Problems

If you use both the mobile app in conjunction with the desktop app, all your photos and videos will be available locally in a Dropbox folder on your computer in addition to being backed up online. This means you don’t have to be connected to the internet to view your media. If you edit a picture on your computer and save it, the photo is automatically backed up to the cloud. Dropbox is similar to OneDrive in that the company wants its cloud storage service to be the one place you store all of your photos, videos, documents, etc. While the service does not have any built in editing tools or cool features like “Auto Awesome,” Dropbox is reliable, quick, and simple. Organizing your photos manually is easy too, either by grouping photos into new folders you create on your computer or by selecting multiple photos in the mobile app to create a gallery. With the release of Carousel, organization has become even easier, since the app automatically organizes your photos while providing an easy way to navigate through your media.

The Verdict

…tl;dr…

After reading all of that (or skipping to this section), you’re wondering, Great, but which one do I use? Well, that depends. If you have an iPhone, a Mac and like using iPhoto to edit your photos, Dropbox is your best bet. Google+ Photos is great if you want the most storage for the cheapest price and like the automatic enhancements that the service does to your photos and videos. And while Flickr does provide 1TB of storage, the app only backs up photos and doesn’t have a desktop sync like Dropbox. If you have a Windows PC, OneDrive will work seamlessly, since it is capable in it’d own right. I personally use Google+ Photos, but the choice is up to you.

Originally written for The Colgate Maroon News (condensed piece) 

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