How to Use Virtual Photo Storage

Top-Cloud-Options

by Ben RobisonPhotographs play an important role in preserving family stories. Where are you keeping yours?So many cloud-based photo storage options are available today that picking one can be a daunting task. Determining the best one depends on individual needs, but a few offer more features than just storage and thus stand out from the competition. Notable standouts, including FamilySearch Memories, Google Photos, and Amazon Prime Photos, offer robust curation and sharing capabilities, so we’ll look at those options. But first, what is cloud storage?

“Put It in the Cloud”

You may have heard the phrase “put it in the cloud” before, but what does it mean? The cloud is the internet, so when you put a file “in the cloud,” you’re uploading the file to an internet server. The primary benefits of using cloud storage (for any type of file, not just photos) include:

  1. Security and backup. Those servers are in buildings that are protected against fire, power outages, natural disasters, and even armed assault. They also have hardware protection built in, so if a server (or part of it) fails, your files aren’t lost.
  2. Access. As long as you have an internet connection, you can access your photos on any device.
  3. Sharing. For most of these cloud-based services, it’s not necessary to attach multiple large files to an email when you want to share photos. You can grant access to those photos online and allow others to view and comment.

FamilySearch Memories

FamilySearch Memories Cloud Storage

Memories is a great way to share on FamilySearch.org. Not only does the app capture photos (with its own built-in scanner), it can record audio, scan documents, and add written stories as well. All these memories are then added to your tree in FamilySearch. The sharing abilities are identical to anything in FamilySearch.org. Everything can be seen by people who can see a person in their tree. Memories is a free app for both Android and iOS, and it is also available on the FamilySearch.org site.

Google Photos

Google Photos Cloud Storage

Google Photos may well be the gold standard for photo organization. For starters, it’s free, with unlimited storage if you keep images below 16 megapixels (MP) each. Most high-end phones (such as iPhone7, Galaxy S7) have 12MP cameras—and they take great photos. If you opt for original size photos (rather than the reduced file size option), you get 15 Gigabytes (GB) of free space, with the option to buy more storage space if you need it. Where Photos really shines is in the curation. By default, Photos shows pictures in the order they were taken, but you can easily sort the photos by place, event type, person, or even objects in the photos. While it is not perfect, Google’s facial recognition does an amazing job of tracking people even as they age, making it very easy to keep people organized.This automatic curation reduces the work involved in keeping photos organized and accessible. You can create your own albums, and Photos also creates albums for you based on where you are and what you’re photographing.You have full control over who can see, comment, and add to your photo albums. This control is a great feature, because you can add many people to one album, and they can then share their memories and photos too. If you have photos on your home computer, you can install the uploader, which scans photo folders and uploads them into Google Photos.One thing to keep in mind with Photos is that if you download a photo to your computer, it will not take any comments with it. Also, if you describe yourself as a photographer, the 16MP limitation may be an issue.

Amazon Prime Photos

Amazon Prime Photo Cloud Storage

This service is part of Amazon’s Prime membership, which is $99 per year. It offers almost all the same features as Google Photos, but its automatic curation abilities are not as robust. You can share, but only with five other people. If you already pay for Prime, this option may be worth considering. One unique feature of Prime Photos is the ability to print photos or create scrapbooks.

Honorable Mentions: iCloud Photos and Flickr

Flickr Photo Storage
iCloud photo storage

If you and those you share photos with all use Apple devices (both phones and computers), iCloud is one option. If you and yours use a mix of different devices, Flickr is another option.Both let you manually curate all your photos and share via email. Flickr will let you create printed photo albums.

Storage-only options

If you already have your own system for keeping photos organized, a storage-only platform may be an option. These options provide the security and backup you need while also making it easier to share photos with others.

Cloud storage platformsPriceStorage (space,number of photos)*PlatformsSharingNotes
OneDriveFree–$6.99/mo15GB–1TB, 3,800–250,000iOS, Android, Windows, MacLink, email, or social media
DropboxFree–$9.99/mo2GB–1TB,512–250,000iOS, Android, Windows, MacLink or email
BackBlaze$5/mo or $50/yrunlimitediOS, Android, Windows, Mac**NoPrice is per computer.
Google DriveFree–$9.99/mo15GB–1TB,3,800–250,000iOS, Android, Windows, MacLink, email, or social mediaStorage space is shared across all Google products.
BoxFree–$1010–100GB,2,500–25,000iOS, Android, Windows, MacLink or emailMonthly upload limits of 250MB to 5GB, depending on plan.

*The quantity of photos is an estimate, assuming an average file size of 4MB.** This option does not back up files on a phone or tablet, but those files can be accessed from a mobile device.

Conclusion

With the availability of high-speed internet almost everywhere, it makes sense to use a cloud platform for storing family photos and videos. All these products are from well-established companies that offer access, security, and reliability.For everyday use, Google Photos is tough to beat. It’s a great way to capture and tell personal and family stories. It is also easy to add those photos to FamilySearch Memories, so using both together is a great approach. Google Photos and Memories complement each other and let you do genealogy and family storytelling at the same time.

Photo management platformsPriceUpload or SyncPlatformsSharingNotes
FamilySearch MemoriesFreeFrom web or mobile appiOS, Android, Windows, MacShared by all who are in that family line
Google PhotosFreeFrom mobile app or desktop applicationiOS, Android, Windows, MacShare via link to anyone
Amazon Prime PhotosIncluded with PrimeFrom mobile appiOS, Android, Windows, MacUp to five peopleRequires $99 Prime membership
iCloud Photos(honorable mention)FreeyesiOS and Mac onlyShare with other Apple accounts
Flickr(honorable mention)FreeFrom mobile app or desktop applicationiOS, Android, Windows, MacShare via email

Ben Robison is a co-founder of Legacy Tale and is an ardent supporter of using the power of storytelling and technology to strengthen families across generations.

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