How To Choose A Cloud Back-Up Service

Back in November we took a look at some of the reasons back-ups are a good idea. I also made some recommendations for best practices for backing up photos. In that blog, I noted that effective back-up strategies include some kind of cloud/remote back-up.

When it comes to cloud back-up options, there are an endless supply of options to choose from. How do we choose one from the many services offered? Are there differences? What are the costs (if any)? Are there storage limits? There are many other factors to consider too.

This week - let’s look at some of the factors that you should weigh in selecting a service:


  • Storage Space: With the ever-increasing file sizes of today's cameras, storage space should always be a factor you consider. Your needs here will be unique to the number of photos you make and how many you eventually end up keeping and backing up. Most services will offer you tiers of storage based on how much you spend. Most storage services offer a free option (with limited space) all the way up to unlimited storage space (for a fee). If you shoot jpeg, casually every now and then, 250 GB should be more than plenty. However, if you shoot a lot or shoot everything in a RAW file format - you'll need more space, 1 TB is a good start - but you could quickly out-grow that too.


  • Compression/RAW/File Formats: Some cloud storage options don't store an uncompressed version of your photo files. On these services, when you upload a photo, the service will irreversibly compress your file. This means that the overall quality of your photo in lowered. Permanently.

Other cloud services don't support the uploading of RAW file formats (or other uncompressed file formats).

When selecting a service, it's a good idea to select a service that allows for a wide variety of file support options. Personally, I wouldn't recommend a service that doesn't support RAW files.


  • Device Support: With many of us commonly using multiple devices, it's great to be able to access your cloud back-up from any of them. While this isn't a deal breaker, you should look to see if the service you're using has any device and/or operating system limitations. The more devices you can use your service with - the better.


  • Privacy/Reliability: You should also consider the privacy you require for your back-up. Personally, I wouldn't recommend a social media service as a cloud backup option. You can tweak your Facebook privacy settings as much as you'd like - but you should assume your data (including your photos) is constantly being scrutinised for 'monetization' opportunities. Not to mention that most social media services aggressively compress your file images. For this reason: Instagram, Facebook, Flickr, etc... don't really make great back up options.

The service you select should also be reliable. After all, this is ultimately a back-up. And in the event that you need to restore your files from a back-up you want to be sure that you're able to do so with some kind of assurance that: a) it will work; and, b) it's easy to do.


  • Cost: As I mentioned earlier, most services will let you test the service with either a time-boxed trial or a free storage option tier. When it comes to cloud services, the old adage is usually true - you get what you pay for. While I recommend taking advantage of as many free storage options as possible (from the point of view of finding a service that fits your needs), at the end of the day - I do recommend paying something for your favourite service. You'll usually get, more storage space, more flexibility, privacy, support on many devices and a single back-up service (which makes it easier to manage).


Have a look at some of the services around the web. Start a free-trial or limited-storage trial with a few of them and select the one that's right for you. 

Let me know which services you use in the comments. Are you happy with them? What do they do well? What don't they do well? Are there other factors that we should consider when selecting a service? Please let me know!

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Feature Photograph of the Week - Fishing on the Yangtze

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  Fishing on the Yangtze River in China’s Hubei province.

Fishing on the Yangtze River in China’s Hubei province.