Cloud services promise a secure back-up for your precious digital memories plus the ability to access those memories from a multitude of devices and computers – basically, if you have a Web browser, you’ll have access to your cloud-based photos. We think they’re a critical piece in protecting your digital memories, but there certain things you need to be mindful of before choosing a cloud service to store your digital photos, videos or other data. Here are three things to ask yourself before taking the plunge:
1. Is the back-up seamless across your computer and mobile devices?
The last thing any of us want to do is extra work. A good cloud provider should be able to monitor select folders on your computer and automatically upload any new content that it discovers. For instance, if you add new photos into your “My Pictures” folder, the service should automatically recognize that new photos have been added and upload them instantly with no interaction on your end. It should also have a mobile app to do the same, whenever you snap new images with your phone.
The good news is that this is almost universally standard across most cloud platforms at this point — but not all, especially on the desktop. It also pay to look for an app that is compatible with both Android and Apple’s iOS, in case you or a family member switches phones.
2. Do you want to store more than just photos?
While photos are a central part of our digital lives, they’re not the only piece. If your hard drive is over-flowing with documents, music, games and videos, you may want an “all purpose” cloud service (like Dropbox or Google Drive) instead a service, like Flickr or SmugMug, that’s optimized for images.
Clould services devoted strictly to photography will offer some benefits over all-purpose cloud systems. They tend to be less expensive (Flickr, for instance, gives away a whopping 1TB for free) and are obviously optimized to organize and present your photos in the most pleasing manner possible. All purpose services, like Box, Dropbox or Google Drive, take a more utilitarianism approach to their photo layouts and tend to cost more for storage, but they can store a variety of digital files, allowing you to centralize your digital life with a single cloud provider. The all-purpose services also tend to have better desktop syncing options than photo-centric cloud providers.
3. Will this company survive?
Choosing a cloud service provider is a bit like playing stock-picker – you’re not only weighing the costs and feature benefits, but you’re placing a bet on the viability of the business itself. After all, it’s a bit like a bank, but instead of money, you’re trusting the service with your digital memories. But unlike a bank, there’s no FDIC to ensure you get your images back in the event the cloud service goes bust. And many services on the market today may well go bust.
While there’s no hard-and-fast rule for predicting which cloud providers will survive and which won’t, you can maximize your chances by, at a minimum, avoiding start-ups.