Q: After hearing about the reporter who had his entire laptop wiped by hackers, I’m wondering about the best way to backup all my photos to the Internet. What Internet photo storing sites do you recommend? - Greg
A: For those that haven’t heard the gut wrenching details of tech journalist Mat Honan’s epic hacking incident ( http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/08/apple-amazon-mat-honan-hacking ), it’s a cautionary tale well worth reading about so you can avoid the basic missteps that he made.
One of the many actions taken by the hacker was to use the remote wipe feature of the ‘Find my MacBook’ utility, which resulted in Mat losing all of the precious photographic memories of his new daughter and family members.
As is common in these cases, Mat hadn’t got around to backing up what was on his laptop, which is causing lots of folks to think about all the precious images they have accumulated that only exist in one place.
Photo storage/sharing sites abound on the Internet, but since they all differ in one way or another, it’s important that you research those differences before you commit to any of them. Making a change to another site after you have uploaded a year’s worth of photos is something you want to avoid!
Most of us have a Facebook account and upload pictures to our profiles, but that is far from a comprehensive backup of your photos. Facebook also compresses your uploaded images to save space, so you can’t ever download them in their original resolution should you need to.
Straight forward backup sites such as Carbonite ( http://www.carbonite.com ) and Mozy ( http://mozy.com ) are a great way to automatically push exact copies up to the cloud, but if you want to share or make use of your photos via the storage site, you may want to consider additional options (remember, there is no such thing as too many backups).
For most casual photographers, Google’s Picasa software ( http://picasa.google.com )combined with their Picasa Web Album online service is a great solution for cataloging, editing and backing up your photos.
When you install Picasa, it automatically starts to scan and catalogue (by date) all the photos it can find in common picture locations (you can manually tell it to search other folders if you have them stored elsewhere).
Once they have been catalogued, you can use the built-in backup utility to burn DVDs or to back up to an external hard drive or upload them to your Picasa Web Album or Google+ accounts.
You have the option to upload them in ‘Best for sharing’, which compresses the photos or original size which will take longer to upload but creates a true backup of the original photo.
You get 1 GB of free Picasa storage or for $2.49 per month, you can increase it to 25 GB or $4.99 per month for 100 GB of storage.
Android smartphone users can also configure the Google+ app to automatically upload images taken by the phone to the Picasa Web Albums.
If you are a hardcore photographer with a lot of images, you should consider getting setup with a Flickr Pro account ( $24.95 per year). Not only can you store images in their original size, you get unlimited storage space and support for more file formats.
If you choose to share your photos, you can choose to only allow them to be seen in lower resolution and deter casual downloaders by disabling the right-click option for downloading.
Another option that my wife loves is Shutterfly ( https://www.shutterfly.com ) because of its free unlimited storage, easy sharing of albums (publicly or privately) and ability to design photobooks and send personalized postcards using any of our pictures.
Although you can upload images in full resolution, sharing or downloading them in the original resolution can’t be done, unless you are willing to pay to have them transferred back to a DVD by Shutterfly.
In fairness, you can download images at 1600x1200 which is sufficient to print a decent image up to 8x10, but if you want total control of your images at full resolution, you should avoid Shutterfly.
Remember, moving your life’s work in photography from one site to another isn’t easy, so don’t take this decision lightly.