As you know, I am all about preservation and protecting your family from "The Digital Dark Ages". Everyone knows how it goes....SAFETY FIRST! I will post separately about how you should have 3 copies of all your photos but today we are only covering online solutions. If you don't have an online backup right now, stop what you are doing and BACK. IT. UP. I feel like I should be able to come up with some puns about "backing it up" but I have nothing. I apologize. :)
It seems every day a new online storage company pops up and that doesn't make this decision any easier. In my opinion, the first thing people should do (and something they usually don't) is to learn the difference between "Cloud Storage" and "Online Backup". They are both great tools and though there is overlap between them, they do not do each other's job very well at all. I use both. Below is a quick rundown on what they are and how they can help protect you from a devastating loss.
Cloud Storage (aka Online Storage)
Main function: Cloud Storage (companies such as Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, etc and also photo-specific companies like Amazon Photo Storage) acts like an external hard drive in the sky. You move things on, you move things off and many can be set to sync with certain folders on your machine. When you need more space, it is generally more expensive (also similar to a hard drive). It's main function is to give you more space for your data with the benefit of accessing it anywhere and sharing with anyone. Many of the providers have a free version of the service with a small space allowance, a paid unlimited plan, or free unlimited allowance with limitations on file type and individual file sizes (for example, limited video or only smaller sized photos). Because it's a sync storage system, you would typically have their app on your phone and it would get a good amount of use.
How reliable is it as a backup solution? Not very, relatively speaking. It does serve as backup in the fact that it is one more version of a file is out there but beyond that, it falls flat. It doesn't cover all the bases of a reliable, permanent online backup solution (discussed more below). Because of this, most of these companies do not claim to be online backup providers, but merely list backup as a feature of their service. HOWEVER, this is a fantastic solution for backing up the images we take with our phones until we can get it home and on our hard drive.
Main function: Online Backup (companies such as Crashplan, Blackblaze, and Carbonite) exist solely to protect your data from theft, fire, crash, etc by duplicating it to on offsite location via the internet. Unlike cloud storage, there is no moving back and forth or sharing with others. It's just here to protect your goodies. The plans typically include a large or unlimited amount of backup space with no restrictions on file type or individual file size. These companies do have mobile apps for accessing a file in a pinch but it's not meant to be used frequently.
How reliable is it as a backup solution? Very reliable. The biggest advantage is they protect you not just from hard drive failure but from yourself. I mean it covers our butt when WE mess things up. With the cloud storage solutions like Dropbox, you can forget (or procrastinate) moving things. Even if you have it set up to sync, you could still lose something because you copied it to the wrong folder on accident. Online backup will back up the whole machine (and sometimes attached externals) automatically. It also protects you from accidentally deleting things (you know you've done it). It will keep a version of your deleted files (forever or for a limited time), so something you deleted or changed two weeks ago can still be recovered. Another advantage is they use hard core security measures to protect you from hackers, using encryption to make sure even their employees cannot read your files. It will protect all of your files (photo, video, audio, etc) where cloud storage probably won't.
For the purpose of permanently protecting your family's memories, online backup is the bee's knees. But for temporary backup needs (like phone backup, which is also important), sharing files, or syncing between devices, cloud storage rocks. So, you really need both, like yesterday!
Quick note: I did major in IT so I know a bit about all this good stuff but I realize there are many ways to go about this and it's not a one size fits all solution. This is just what I personally believe in (and many experts do agree) but I'm sure some don't, and that's ok! As long as you are backing it up, I'm a happy gal. I welcome any comments or emails that I can share with my readers if you have a cost effective and reliable setup you'd like to share!
Backblaze, Carbonite, and Crashplan are trusted and well-known online backup solutions. I use Backblaze and I love them, they have been fantastic every time I've needed to recover something. I really couldn't be happier. Just the other day I needed something after I deleted it weeks prior and I was able to recover it and last year my whole hard drive crashed and I was able to get up and running very quickly. I have no experience with Crashplan or Carbonite but have also heard great things. Oh and heads up, that initial backup can take weeks but that's just how it is. They are in the ballpark of $3-5/mo, depending on the plan.
That all being said, you still need cloud storage to back up your phone when you are out. Good news is, there are enough great cloud storage companies that you can probably meet this need for free. The fit really depends on your lifestyle and habits so it's hard to give one recommendation. I use Amazon Prime Photo for phone photo backup because it's unlimited space and included in an Amazon Prime membership (which I got way before they offered this) or available for a small fee without the membership. I can keep a ton of photos even after I sync to the computer without having to worry about the phone backup space. Google Photos is also free but they shrink your bigger files and that's not cool with me from a photographer standpoint (you can pay for an account that does not compress the files). iCloud, Dropbox, and OneDrive have small free plans but you have to pay for large or unlimited space. If you're already paying for a large Dropbox or iCloud account for another reason, then definitely use it for your phone backup too if it makes sense.
It's a wild world of online storage and backup solutions but I hope that helped you see things clearer.
Feel free to post in our Online Group if you have any questions at all!
Happy Backing Up...??
*I contacted both Crashplan, Carbonite, & Backblaze and asked for a promo code for you guys. I got a reply from Backblaze thanking me for mentioning them and said they'd make me an affiliate. So, disclaimer, I will get a small % if you sign up with them by clicking the link above. That was nice. And of course, I wouldn't recommend them if I didn't believe in them.
**Updated Jan 2019. I'm open to corrections or updates if you have them.