Backup solutions in the cloud – what do you use?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Julia, Mar 7, 2017.

  1. Julia

    Julia Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 9, 2013
    Dresden, Germany
    Hey guys,

    As many of you will do as well, I am struggling with disk space to keep all my photos around. I take RAWs (and will continue to do so), but of course they take up a considerable amount of space. I do backup to an external disk via Time Machine, but (a) Time Machine itself is notoriously buggy and just nukes itself a few times a year, and (b) my other external drives to which I regularly backup keep dying on me. It's always been like that for the past 15 years, resulting in data loss here and there. So, setting up yet another external disk backup solution isn't something I am currently looking into.

    What I'm looking for is a good backup solution in the cloud. I have a fast internet connection, without any caps, so I can up- and download until the router explodes.

    EDIT: Since it seems I didn't use the right terms of expressing what I was looking for: Ideally, I am pushing my not-always-needed LR catalogs of my images from, say, 2006-2014 to that service in the cloud and no longer store them on my computer. I am not looking for a solution that forces me to keep that data around locally.

    But I'm having trouble finding a good service that is
    • affordable, especially when you have to backup 30-60GB of data;
    • absolutely reliable (as much as a service can be);
    • fast and doesn't throttle you;
    • has a good user interface (either via a stand-alone app or web interface);
    • offering RAW preview ideally;
    • backing up my entire LR catalog ideally, so I can just restore it and not lose all my edits;
    • maybe even backing up video.
    I have a private Flickr account, but it doesn't take RAW files. Dropbox doesn't offer previews of DNG or RAW files, which sucks when you want to download a particular image, but can't see them.

    I'd love to hear what services you guys use to backup your photos. I'm not a professional, so I'm hesitant to pay hundreds of Euros/Dollars per month. I'm happy to shell out up to 100 Euros/Dollars a year for a good backup plan, but I don't want to go broke over it.

    Even though I'm capable of hacking together my own solution with external drives and multi-layered backups, I don't want to go down that route again. The time and effort needed to maintain this is ridiculous; I'd much rather rely on a company that focuses on this and knows what they are doing.

    Thanks for your suggestions!
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2017
  2. ThomD

    ThomD Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 1, 2013
    SF Bay Area
    I don't use any of the cloud backup providers, but when I need a basic recommendation for a technology solution, I start with The Wirecutter

    The Best Online Backup Service

    I don't always agree with their recommendation, but they give a good overview.
    • Like Like x 3
  3. stevedo

    stevedo Mu-43 Regular

    May 12, 2012
    Steve Douglas
    Hi Julia, I use OneDrive from Microsoft. I subscribe to Office 365 which gives me the full Office suite for up to five devices (incl. Apple and Android), 60 minutes/month of Skype and most importantly 1TB of storage for up to five users, so 5TB in total. I currently have 439GB stored including my RAW files (ORF) which can be previewed, some videos and my LR catalog. I pay about £90/year. I also backup to 2 external hard drives so my files are in 3 separate places. I don't store any data, including photos, on my laptop.

    The way I look at it is that I get up to 5TB of storage with all the other stuff for free.

    • Like Like x 1
  4. hias

    hias Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 6, 2016
    I use Amazon Prime, they offer unlimited image storage + some GB for other stuff (my catalog backup for example).
    Oly ORF and some other RAW formats count as image.
    With all the other services prime offers I think it's absolutely affordable - 50€ or something a year, there is also a pure storage plan, unlimited storage for 70€ I think (correct me if I'm wrong).
    Reliable - well, I think so... no problems so far.
    It's fast enough and the user interface is absolutely ok, they also have mobile Apps for file access.
    No RAW preview as far as I know (I didn't thought about that, as I use it for backup only, but it would be a nice feature).
    I don't do video, but I think it's not included in prime, not sure about this.
  5. @Michael

    @Michael Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 2, 2016
    Minnesota, US
    Michael Janke
    I also use OneDrive.

    Interesting - I've run it continuously for years, without issues.

    My setup:

    I have a small catalogue (<100GB) to manage, so my techniques might not work for you.

    Lightroom - I run the automated catalogue backups to a Onedrive sync'd folder, so multiple backups of my catalogue are always backed up and sync'd to more than one computer and to the cloud.

    Photos: I store all of them in a Onedrive sync'd folder. That folder is sync'd to more than one computer (in addition to the Onedrive cloud).

    Onedrive: Onedrive sync's my two laptops and an old Mac Mini whose sole purpose is to wake up once a day, sync to Onedrive, and backup those files out to Time Machine.

    TimeMachine: I boot the Mini from a small, external SSD drive (because I got tired of failing drives and poor performance and because the two internal drives are dead), and have two Time Machine volume(s) in a redundant pair of cheap external USB drives (mechanical, spinning rust), which I rotate or replace periodically as they fail or fill. I.E two cheap TimeMachine drives, which TimeMachine uses in rotation, every other backup. At semi-random periods, once every year or three, I put a new, cheap, external USB drive in service, and shelve one of the old ones.

    In theory, I can recover any current file from either laptop or the cloud, and I can recover any deleted file to any point in time back to when TimeMachine started, many years ago. :)

    That the external TimeMachine drives are not spinning 100% of the time, is probably why I'm getting good life (years) out of cheap drives (<$100).

    Last edited: Mar 7, 2017
  6. Neil_jo

    Neil_jo Mu-43 Rookie

    Feb 1, 2017
    Neil Johnson
    I've been using Zenfolio for about 6 years now and am pretty happy with it. It is a bit expensive but I have unlimited uploads and can also upload my raw images as well.
    Plus you can set it up as a web site and sell images form it. I have never sold any and just use it as my backup.

  7. Speedliner

    Speedliner Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Mar 2, 2015
    Southern NJ, USA

    Inhouse Windows file server (old PC) running RAID. All of my data is stored on it. Only pictures I'm actively working are on my C drive.

    File server is backed up nightly to Crashplan over the Internet. First run took many days, but the nightly backups run in hours. $60/year is tremendous bargain for the fail safe it provides.

    I also have a Netgear Readynas commercial NAS. My C drive is synchronized to it in real time so the files I load to my PC are replicated quickly and never at risk.

    The file server's data share is also synchronized to the NAS for local backup.

    Last. I have an external drive from iosafe that is fire and water resistant. The file server is backed up to it nightly.

    So that's a little overkill. File server backed up to 3 locations, one offsite.

    C drive is a little vulnerable being backed up once to a local device. Enough for HD failure protection, but not enough to protect from a fire. So c drive files are copied to the file server as soon as possible. Minimal risk, but if I was a working Pro I would also copy them up to a "working" directory on the file server so they get the redundant backup ASAP.

    My humble recommendation is to buy a QNAP NAS and use it for storage of your files. QNAP is the only current commercial NAS that supports Crashplan with a native app. This is the simplest way to get file server storage for your data and automated off site backup. Converting an old PC would be next.

    If you don't get data off site, it isn't safe. If you are a pro with too many TB for remote backing up, then buy an iosafe NAS and gain the fire and water protection it provides.

    Bottom line is this. You have a lifetime on a disk drive. Is your data safe from theft, fire, water, device failure and accidental or vandal erasure? Pro or parent that doesn't want to lose baby pictures, that's the question to ask.
  8. vm666

    vm666 Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jan 19, 2013
    I don't understand. 60 GB is not a "considerable" amount of space nowadays.
  9. Julia

    Julia Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 9, 2013
    Dresden, Germany
    Well, if you only have a 250GB work-issued MacBook and need to run several virtual machines that are each 40GB in size ... ;)
  10. gpburdell

    gpburdell Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jul 16, 2014
    First thing to do is get rid of your crap shots. Maybe you already do. So many people spray-n-pray then never delete the thirty variations of the one frame they sort of like.

    My backup strategy is two layered. First is the at-home solution intended for low RTO (Return-to-Operation). Both my laptop and desktop backup via TimeMachine to my Synology NAS. Backups occur in the background every hour or so, in a layered snapshot manner allowing me to go back to prior versions of files if I find I've corrupted something. Altaro Ooops! Backup is (was) a similar solution for Windows users. It can take quite a while to recover a full drive from the cloud; far faster to do so from a network drive (NAS) in your home.

    Additionally, my active photo folders sync between my laptop and desktop via CloudStationDrive on my Synology NAS; it's sort of like Dropbox or GoogleDrive but works from my NAS rather than the public cloud. Yes, it also works remotely; when on trips I connect my laptop to hotel wifi and it syncs back to my home NAS hundreds or thousands of miles away.

    Second layer is the "oh crap my house burned down" disaster recovery layer. For that I use Code42's CrashPlan. Unlimited cloud backups, it's priced per computer. I bought a four-year family plan covering up to ten computers a couple years ago. Handles my two computers, my wife's computer, my kids computers all. Runs in the background and provides versioning. You can set your own 441 bit encryption key; I'm certainly not interesting enough for someone to expend the resources to try to crack it.

    I don't know about Time Machine nuking itself. Mine is rock solid.

    Where do you work that they don't issue you a computer capable of supporting your work? I'm assuming you're not putting your personal photos on a work computer as that's usually considered a poor decision.
  11. MoonMind

    MoonMind Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Oct 25, 2014
    @Julia@Julia I hear you ... I can recommend Mega; RAW preview is available (just checked), and conditions and functionality for backup purposes is top-notch. You have to decide if the free account (50GB) is enough for you, if not, the upgrade packages are reasonably priced. But I think you had lots of good recommendations already.

    But honestly, what I'd do (and actually do) is something akin to what @Speedliner@Speedliner proposed: Get a good NAS (I use Synology products and can recommend them) with weekly local backups to another (USB) drive - I set up a cascaded solution that also gives me backups of the backups, but that's certainly paranoid.

    I understand your hesitation after a couple of failing drives, but I'm at this for more than thirty years now, and failures aren't that common, so if you have physical backups (several), you should usually be fine. I also have about half a dozen spare drives lying around just in case, SSDs and (old) HDDs - storage is dirt cheap these days, so there's no reason not to "overdo" things.

  12. Speedliner

    Speedliner Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Mar 2, 2015
    Southern NJ, USA
    My thing is that it all has to be automated. If I have to touch it, it will not get done reliably and you know when the failure will occur :). Backing up to external drives and periodically taking one to a friend's house wasn't going to happen often enough. Crashplan provides such peace of mind.

    Julia, if you have so little data, Crashplan would be fine for your PC since your incremental backups should run quickly.
  13. vm666

    vm666 Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jan 19, 2013
    I mean that 60 GB of space is cheap now. You could duplicate your data to 64 GB USB keys. USB storage keys may corrupt some time; as they are cheap, you can use several of them, switching keys at each backup. So if a key dies, you still have the previous backup.

    A small NAS or DAS with two disks in RAID1 can be a solution too.
  14. Julia

    Julia Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 9, 2013
    Dresden, Germany
    That's a great idea, no idea why I didn't do that first since I usually like their recommendations quite a bit. Thanks for reminding me!

    I've looked at them and the service looks ok (I don't care about selling or sharing, just backup), but it doesn't look like you can preview raw files unless you upload a same-name jpg of the same file? At least that's what I found in their support pages. Can you tell me if it's really not possible to "simply" have a raw preview?

    I always get rid of everything but keepers. If I go out on any given day to have a fun shoot, I usually only keep 1-2 images. There are some events where the images stack up because that's just the nature of the those events, but I don't keep the crap around. Don't want to look at it :)

    I'm not the only one with Time Machine trouble. All of my colleagues have the same problem, not just with the backup server we have at work, but with their own backups at home. At some point, TM just tells you that an error has occurred and all you can do is start over. You can't even access (easily) your previously backed up data anymore. It's a known issue, if you google for it. It's been going on for years, so I'm no longer placing my trust exclusively into that technology.

    And the computer I have from work is very well capable of supporting my work. We all use our work machines as personal machines as well; we are a small developer shop, not a huge company with imaged machines like SAP where I used to work. It's not a poor decision to use one machine for work and play, you just need to know the risks and what you are doing ;)

    Sorry, as I said initially, managing my own setup is no longer an option. I did that for a few years and it's not worth my time. I'm perfectly happy to pay someone to take care of the technical aspects for me so all I have to do is push a button :)

    Thanks to everyone for your suggestions so far!

    In regard to Backblaze and similar services – I think I did look at them in the past and the issue they raise is that you actually have to store the data on your hard drive (or external drives). What I want to do is push my data into the cloud and NOT have to keep it around. It's going to be on one local backup anyway, but if I don't need my LR catalogs with photos from 2006-2014 at my disposal at all times, I don't see any point of keeping them around on my computer. I do have jpgs of all those images in Photos app, and I only require the RAW images in case I want to edit them, or order a print.

    Sorry if that wasn't clear from the original post!
  15. siftu

    siftu Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Mar 26, 2015
    Bay Area, CA
    I'm late to the party but I use amazon drive and you can copy one direction with tools like rclone. I'm not 100% sure it keeps the original file timestamps on restore.

    For $60 a year I'm really happy with it.
  16. Droogie

    Droogie Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 23, 2013
    Washington State
    I too use Amazon Drive
  17. gpburdell

    gpburdell Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jul 16, 2014
    I'm stating my experience with TM over the past seven years. Take it or leave it as you wish. It should be clear from my description above that I believe one needs to keep a multi-layered backup methodology anyway, so the question is moot whether your TM is stable or not.

    The reference to capable of supporting your work was because it was unclear if you were discussing work-related images or comingling work and personal stuff on the same computer.

    I keep a strict separation of work and personal files because I've experienced the fun of suddenly having no further access to my work computer. If you've yet to experience that bit of fun, congratulations. That the practice of comingling work and personal files on a work computer is common where you are doesn't make it a wise decision IMHO. The only instance I'd do it would be in a BYOPC shop where I was guaranteed to retain the computer.

    Anyway, you asked for opinions and you've received them.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  18. coffeecat

    coffeecat Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Aug 4, 2012
    SW England
    I (like a few others) have a layered approach. I use Syncbackpro to auto backup locally to a Synology NAS, which happens fairly frequently.
    I am a 100% raw shooter, but I periodically export all new pics from LR as jpegs to a local folder, where they are auto-backed up by/to Google Photos (partly because it has such brilliant filtering and search capabilities). Finally, (and this bit is manual) I back up all raw files to Amazon AWS Glacier. This is admittedly a manual operation. I must point out that this is a last-ditch "house has burned down" backup. Glacier is really cheap for archival storage (at least for the amount of data I have - circa 350GB, costs GBP1.15 per month). BUT if you wanted to restore it all back quickly, it can be VERY expensive.

    At the risk of going back off topic, I'd LOVE to use my work PC for photo editing (2 x 8 core Xeons, 64GB RAM, fast RAID array). But I'd be sacked very quickly. So I don't do it, and anyway we mere users don't have the admin authority to install non-work software (also a very fast route to loss of job). :dash2:
    • Sad Sad x 1
  19. gpburdell

    gpburdell Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jul 16, 2014
    *cough* bootable USB3 or esata SSD with your own software image on it *cough* :D
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2017
    • Funny Funny x 2
    • Agree Agree x 1
  20. astrostl

    astrostl Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Oct 4, 2014
    St. Louis, MO
    Justin Honold