Ways to Back Up Photos Automatically

You never know what could happen to your photos. You might lose your phone, get an account hacked, or lose your hard drives in a house fire. Obviously, we hope none of those things happen, but they still could! And you need to be ready for when they do. That’s why it’s important to back up photos that you care about. Of course, you’re busy right? That’s why we’re focusing on automated systems for backups so that you don’t even have to think about it.

1. Automatic Cloud Backups

Cloud options are fantastic for storing your photos. Ask anyone that works in IT, and they will tell you that the first rule of data storage is to have local files, local backups, and off-site backups, for maximum confidence that your files will be safe. Cloud storage options will protect you in case your home falls victim to fire, flood, or robbery. It’s always nice to have the assurance that your photos are safe in a different physical location.

Google Photos or iCloud Photos

Whether you’re on Apple or Android, both platforms ship with a great photos app that supports automatic backups. iCloud Photos and Google Photos, will both automatically back up any photos taken on your mobile device. Things like screenshots and downloaded photos will also get backed up, although you may need to configure this specifically. Both options have limited data storage, but if you’re sufficiently invested in the platform and in keeping your photos safe, it’s a reasonable price to pay. We covered cloud storage options in another article and found both iCloud and Google to have reasonable plans.

These are great options because you’re not necessarily limited by your platform. Google Photos can be downloaded on your iPhone and you can choose to back up all of your photos to Google instead of iCloud. And of course, you can use the desktop versions of both applications to add photos you took with your DSLR, if you want to store those in the cloud as well.

Amazon Photos

Amazon offers unlimited photo storage to Prime members, so if you’re already paying for Prime you should take advantage of this feature. You can automatically back up photos from your mobile device, but you will have to manually upload photos from your computer. The other downside is that it only applies to photos, so you’re out of luck if you want to store videos.

Amazon isn’t the only unconventional option though. For non-photographers, manually uploading photos to social media apps like Facebook can also be useful as long-term storage. They’ll just be hard to re-download en masse.

external drive to back up photos

2. Back Up Photos to External Drives

While the cloud is great, some people like myself are a bit old-fashioned and like to have local copies on their own computer. You’ll likely import photos from your DSLR directly onto your Mac or Windows computer, and you can also download copies of your mobile phone’s photos from iCloud or Google Photos. In the case of iCloud, you can use iCloud Drive to easily access your photos from your regular folder navigation on your computer. But just because the files are local doesn’t mean they’re safe. Sure, you don’t have to worry about losing access to an account, but you do need to worry about a hard drive failing or your laptop being stolen.

This is where an external backup drive comes into play. When at home, you can connect a backup drive to your computer and set it to back up photos (and your other files) on a schedule. You don’t need to worry about manually doing anything as long as you set up a schedule and determine which folders you need to protect.

3. NAS Backup Options

If you have your own NAS (network-attached storage) server in your home, this is a great way to protect your photos. Since they’re still in your home, they’re not protected from natural disasters, but they will be protected from drive failure or viruses on your primary computer. The exact solution for your NAS will depend on what software you’re using.

My personal photo backup solution ends with my NAS. I manually import photos and videos from my DSLR to a “Photos” folder on my desktop. I back up photos from my phone automatically on Google Photos, then manually download them every so often to store locally in the previously mentioned “Photos” folder on my desktop. Then I have an automated service check that folder and save a mirror on my NAS. This mirror means that anything I add or take away from the “Photos” folder will reflect itself in the NAS folder as well.

hard drives cut up

Synology NAS

Synology, a popular pre-built NAS vendor, offers Photo Station. Photo Station is a full photo package that supports metadata and other features, but it can also back up photos, even from your mobile devices. They also offer Moments, which is more akin to the kind of interface Google Photos has. Other brands will have other similar applications.

General NAS Options

A more generic option is to use software to mirror a folder on your computer to your NAS. One such free software is RealTimeSync. You can set up software like this to check a specific folder on your computer for changes, then sync with a mirrored folder on the NAS. This is a good workflow for DSLR photographers who will be importing their photos onto a desktop or laptop.

Remember Rule #1

No matter how you choose to back up your photos, remember the first rule of data storage: When possible, store data locally, in a local backup, and in an offsite backup. Not everyone can afford to do this for their files. But it’s hard to put a price on your personal photos and other files. If there are things you truly care about, try to invest in a way to keep things safe in case of an emergency.

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