The safest way to ensure you always have access to the photos on your smartphone is to create a backup. It sounds so obvious, but let’s be honest: when was the last time you created a backup of the photos on your Android phone or iPhone? I’m guessing the answer is a ’no’, otherwise, why would you read this article?
Phones with cameras have created a photography revolution. Practically everyone has a smartphone, and the majority of the smartphone owners are photographing every aspect of their life with their smartphone. The average smartphone is filled with photos made with the phone. Now, wouldn’t it be a shame if somehow you lost those photos without having a backup?
The single most important reason to create a backup of the photos on your smartphone is so that you’ll have a copy of your precious photos in case something happens to your phone. Even though the smartphone is without a doubt one of the greatest technological innovations in human history, it’s also a very fragile piece of machinery. It can easily break, get lost or stolen, and when that happens, all your photos are gone. That’s why you need to create a backup of the photos on your smartphone.
Photo backup with cloud storage
There are many options nowadays to create a backup of your photos automatically. Most of these solutions are even free, depending how many photos you have that need to be backed up.
All of the solutions below use online storage services, aka cloud storage. The main benefit of cloud storage is that your files can be accessed online. This means you can access them anywhere in the world as long as you have a device with an internet connection.
An old-school option is, of course, to save your photos on an external hard drive or computer. However, storing your photos on a physical device other than your smartphone has the same risk as keeping the photos on your phone. Sure, you’re spreading the risk a little bit. But your other device could also break, get lost or stolen. With cloud storage, you don’t need physical storage, like a computer, phone or external hard disk, anymore.
That’s why I recommend a cloud storage solution to backup your photos. The options are:
- Google Photos
All of these solutions work in similar ways. You connect your phone to the services, and the upload starts. Once uploaded, all your photos are backed up in the cloud, and it doesn’t matter what happens to your phone anymore. The differences between these services are the company behind it, the ease of use, and the pricing.
Google Photos/Google Drive
Strictly speaking Google Drive and Google Photos are two different, though related services. Google Drive is an online storage service. You can save any file to Google Drive. Google Photos, on the other hand, is a dedicated storage service for photos and videos only.
Google Photos offers unlimited storage space for free. Unlimited and free? Yes. There’s one big caveat though: If you want to use the free storage option, then Google Photos compresses the photos you upload to a ‘High Quality’ resolution and not the original resolution. Google Photos only allows a maximum format of 16MP for photos and 1080p for video. If you want to upload higher resolution photos, then those will be counted towards the storage capacity.
Is this bad? Well, it depends on the size of your photos. Most smartphone cameras have a resolution lower than 16MP. So, any photo made with your smartphone will very likely be smaller than 16MP and meets Google Photos’ requirements. Only if you shoot photos bigger than 16MP will it matter.
Google Photos storage capacity is linked to your Google Drive’s capacity. Again, if you use Google’s High Quality setting, then you have unlimited storage space. If you choose to upload using the original quality of the photos, it counts towards your Google Drive storage capacity. A free plan to Google Drive gives you 15GB storage. This 15GB counts towards all your files and services that are backed up in Google drive. Your Gmail account for example also uses the storage space of your Google Drive account.
Read the article How Google Photos works with Google Drive if you want to know more about the connection between these two Google products.
How to automatically back up photos to Google Photos
Saving your photos to Google Photos is very easy.
1. First, install the app.
2. Sign in to your Google account
3. Go to the settings of the Google Photos app
4. Select ‘Backup & synch’
5. Set ‘Backup & synch’ on
All photos found on your smartphone will then be synched to Google Photos. Once synched, all your photos are stored and available online. Simply go to photos.google.com and log in to your google account to view your photos.
For a more in depth video how Google Photos works, watch the video below.
Dropbox is one of the best cloud storage services available. In fact, it’s one of the first to start the whole cloud storage service after which Google, Apple, and Microsoft followed (read: blatantly copied Dropbox).
The biggest advantage of Dropbox is that it’s platform independent. I hate racists and discrimination, and the good thing is that Dropbox doesn’t discriminate. Unlike Microsoft for example, Dropbox doesn’t make a different version of its tool for different systems. Whether you’re working on a computer (Windows, Mac OS) or a smartphone/tablet (iOS, Android) Dropbox works on all of these systems and in the same way.
Dropbox comes with a free version. However, a drawback of Dropbox in comparison to Google Photos is that the free version of Dropbox only offers 2GB of free storage space whereas Google Drive offers 15 GB of free storage and Google Photos even offers unlimited storage for free.
Google makes billions selling ads and cloud storage is just a side gig for them, so they can afford to offer much more free space than Dropbox. Dropbox is a listed company, and the only thing Dropbox sells is cloud storage. So, it’s understandable Dropbox offers a smaller storage capacity.
Having 2GB of free storage isn’t much if you want to save all your photos in the cloud. You could earn a bit more free space, but even with that extra space chances are it still may not be enough. If you want more space than the free 2GB, then you’ll have to pay for it. Prices as of September 2018 start at €9.99/$9.99 per month (or € 99.00/$99.00 for a year subscription) for 1TB storage.
Dropbox is very easy to use. When you install the Dropbox app on your computer, it acts as an external hard drive. This ‘Dropbox folder’ acts like any other folder on your computer. The only difference is, everything you add, edit or delete in the Dropbox folder is immediately synced to the cloud. This means all changes to your Dropbox folder are immediately available online and across all devices that have your Dropbox installed. The mobile app for Android phones and iPhones works the same way.
How to automatically backup photos to Dropbox
There are two ways to upload your photos from your smartphone to Dropbox automatically:
Option 1 Plugging your smartphone to a desktop
- Install the Dropbox app on your desktop computer or laptop. The desktop application is available for Windows as well as Mac OS
- Plug your smartphone to your laptop/desktop
- Once plugged you should get a notification from Dropbox if you want to upload photos to your Dropbox account. Select ‘Import Pictures and Videos using Dropbox’. All photos are uploaded to the folder ‘Camera Uploads’ in Dropbox
Every time you plug your smartphone to your computer with Dropbox installed, it automatically uploads new photos to the Camera Uploads folder. That’s it!
If you don’t like plugging your phone with a cable to your computer you can go for option 2 which is wireless.
Option 2 Directly from your smartphone to Dropbox via de Dropbox app on iOS or Android (only for paid plans)
- Install the Dropbox app on your phone
- Go to the settings of the Dropbox app (tap the person icon)
- Under Account settings select Camera Uploads
- Toggle Camera Uploads on.
You also have the option to choose whether or not you’ll only upload via wifi or if you also want to upload using cellular data, e.g. if you’re on an unlimited data plan.
- Once you’ve enabled Camera Uploads in the Dropbox app then every time you open the Dropbox app it will automatically upload all new photos to a folder called ‘Camera Uploads’ in Dropbox and synch it across all devices.
That’s all you have to do from now on: get on a wifi connection and simply open the Dropbox app. That’s it!
Let me first of all state that I’m biased towards Microsoft products in the sense that I tend to dislike anything Windows related because it often works inferior compared to Mac OS. Having said that, Microsoft sometimes does have a product that offers some value to some people. OneDrive could be such a product.
OneDrive is Microsoft’s answer to Dropbox and Google Drive. The main advantage of OneDrive is that it is part of Office 365. In other words, if you already have an Office 365 subscription, which gives you full access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook, then you automatically also get at least 1TB storage on OneDrive.
As of September 2018 Office 365 Personal costs € 69 per year (1 licence + 1TB OneDrive storage) and Office 365 Home costs € 99 per year (5 licences + 5 TB OneDrive storage) Regarding costs this is already a better deal than Dropbox or Google Drive.
The only benefit to OneDrive is that you get 1TB of free storage if you already have Office 365. If you don’t have Office 365 and also don’t intend to get it, then I recommend you stick with Google Photos because that one is free. Dropbox, as well as Google Photos, are also easier to set up and use in my experience. Again, on a Mac OneDrive works less smooth than Dropbox or Google Photos.
How to automatically back up your photos with OneDrive
1. Install the app
2. Sign in with your Microsoft account
3. Open settings and tap “Camera backup’
4. Set ‘Camera backup’ to on
iCloud is Apple’s answer to Dropbox and Google Drive. The biggest caveat with iCloud is that it’s an Apple product that only makes sense if you’re already using the Apple ecosystem (iOS and OS)
If you’re using Android or Windows, then there’s absolutely no point in using iCloud – unless you’re switching from an iPhone to an Android phone.
Should you by default use iCloud when you’re using an iPhone? Well, even though I live in the Apple ecosystem myself, I’m not a fan of iCloud, and I, therefore, don’t use it nor would I recommend it. It’s just not as good as Google Photos/Drive and Dropbox.
iCloud offers free storage space of 5 GB, which is better than Dropbox, but still worse than Google Drive. Dropbox, as well as Google Drive, are also way ahead of iCloud in terms of ease of use. Both Dropbox and Google Drive are pretty straightforward in usage and synch effortlessly across devices. The synching on iCloud isn’t always as smooth.
As of September 2018, the pricing of iCloud (per month) for extra storage is 50GB €0.99/$0.99 200 GB €2.99/$2.99 2TB €9.99/$9.99.
Summary – Which tool to choose?
When I look at the ease of use, Dropbox and Google Photos are the clear winners. Just open the app on your phone, and newly made photos are automatically backed up and synced across devices.
When it comes to pricing, then it gets a bit trickier. In terms of bang for buck, Onedrive is the clear winner. Not only has it the cheapest option for 1TB of online storage, but you also get Office 365. However, if you don’t mind compressing your photo files, then Google Photos is the best choice because it’s free and nothing beats free.
Whatever option you choose, make sure you choose. Because not backing up your photos may lead to disaster in case you lose your phone. Try the free option of each of the tools on a selection of your photos and see what works best for you. Good luck!