Cloud storage is an essential part of your 3-2-1 backup strategy to keep your photos safe. Depending on your needs, there are a range of options to consider when choosing affordable cloud storage.

Your first step is to decide whether you need two-way sync, or one-way sync, for your cloud storage.

Essentially, two-way sync keeps files on multiple devices in sync (i.e. keeps the files the same by duplicating changes on all devices). One-way sync is purely backup, copying your files into the cloud, without keeping those files updated elsewhere on another device.

Choosing affordable cloud storage with two-way sync

If you need your photo files to be accessible from multiple computers or devices, then two-way sync is the right choice. OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive and iCloud are all well-established, secure options.

However, you need to be aware that you will get less storage space for the money than you will with a one-way sync backup service. Once you need more than about 2TB of space, these services shift into corporate pricing, which quickly becomes expensive. If you have a relatively small photo collection, and need them everywhere, it may be suitable.

Chances are you already have an account with one or more of these services, so to get your photos completely backed up is just a matter of making sure you have enough space in your account for your files.

Choosing affordable cloud storage with one-way sync

Cloud storage with one-way sync saves your files in the cloud, and that’s it. Instead of keeping things all the same everywhere, its purpose is backup in the case of data loss. If you lose your files, you download the backup and you are ready to go again.

Because there’s less moving parts, the storage space you get is a lot cheaper than for two-way sync services. For example, 5TB on iDrive (the cloud backup I use) is half the price of 2TB on Google Drive.

Choosing an affordable photos-only cloud backup service

Lightroom is an example of two-way sync cloud storage specifically for photos. If you’re a Creative Cloud subscriber then you have at least 20GB of cloud storage sitting ready to use. Using Lightroom as cloud backup for whole photo collection has it’s pros and cons.

First off, it keeps your photos and their edits in sync everywhere, which is a massive plus. However, your first 20GB of space will quickly fill up if you are shooting RAW (for reference, I fit about 700-800 files in my 20GB before it’s full). Keep in mind your space is shared across all your Adobe cloud files, so you may not have access to the full 20GB just for your Lightroom catalog. The price jumps up significantly to get more than 20GB.

Save your Lightroom catalog for editing on the go rather than using it as a backup for all your photo files. Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash.

It can also get very convoluted to clear out your Lightroom storage if you do hit the roof of your space. For me, it’s been more efficient to use my Lightroom cloud as an editing-on-the-go tool, not a backup tool.

There are other services that are designed to take just photos, such as iCloud Photos, Google Photos and Flickr Pro. In my experience these are effective options for backing up mobile phone photos, but less efficient and cost-effective for DLSR photos.

Another very affordable option is Amazon Photos. Subscribers to Amazon Prime in the US get unlimited (yes, unlimited!) full resolution photo storage (and 5GB of video storage, which can be upgraded to more space). Amazon Photos comes with desktop and mobile apps to get your photo collection into the cloud, so if you are already using Prime for shopping and entertainment, then taking advantage of the included unlimited photo storage is a no-brainer.

The most affordable way to back up a huge photo collection

If you’re like me and have a massive quantity of photos, then a one-way sync option like iDrive is likely to be the most affordable option and the easiest to use with automatic scheduled backups. Try out a few options and see what you like best: Ease of use is going to make a big difference to maintaining a consistent backup schedule and keeping your photos safe long-term.