Online backup options for several Macs?
August 17, 2014 11:27 AM   Subscribe

It's 2014. I should be backing up my thousands of photos in iPhoto online. Please tell me he best options available for long-term storage. Print options would be nice too.
posted by toastchee to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I use Backblaze. It gives every indication that it works well.
posted by akgerber at 11:49 AM on August 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

My main backup is the hourly backups to Time Machine. Once a week I backup my Pictures folder which has the iPhoto library on it to a NAS on my network. Once a month, I backup the contents of my /Pictures folder to Dropbox. My iPhone photos are also captured in the iCloud photo stream ( (only the last few months which covers things not on my USB drive that has my older photos. This drive is not near my home computers to keep from being stolen at the same time as my computers or NAS). Oh, and a lot of my photos are also on Flickr (I am grandfathered as a Pro user and have "unlimited" storage on that). So for me to lose everything, some serious shit would need to go down simultaneously.

iPhoto (and Aperture) are going away with Yosemite. Apple Photos app (that will have some features of iPhoto and Aperture and there will be a simply migration path for your iPhoto library) iCloud Drive is coming with Yosemite which is a very Dropbox like solution and will probably pretty tightly integrated into the new Photo app. Like the current iCloud only 5GB is free, but the pricing for other sizes will be coming down as well). Apple may touch on some of this with the iPhone 6/IOS 8 launch event next month, but more likely it will be covered in October in a Yosemite launch event. I'm interested in what these will do.
posted by birdherder at 11:54 AM on August 17, 2014

Flickr gives you 2TB for free, which is plenty. And you can get prints through their partner Snapfish. You can of course mark your photos private or public.

Flickr may be sunset'd in the (hopefully far) future; it's not permanent. But no digital backup ever is permanent.
posted by Monochrome at 1:29 PM on August 17, 2014

I use Time Machine to an external hard drive, and also Backblaze. The first upload to Backblaze will take a while -- I have about 8000 photos and it took a month to do that (plus the rest of my files/documents/music), but then the daily or weekly updates don't take long.
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:04 PM on August 17, 2014

I back up locally using Time Machine, and offsite to Amazon S3 via Arq. Arq + S3 is a little nerdier and requires a little more setup than the "packaged" online-backup services like Backblaze and Mozy. The software costs more upfront, but the monthlies are cheap—I'm paying about $3/mo to back up the home directories of two computers.
posted by adamrice at 3:22 PM on August 17, 2014

Crashplan is awesome. I use it to backup my MBP, the GF's iMac, our Linux file server, my sister's MB, my Mom's Lenovo ThinkPad and my Dad's IBM ThinkPad.
posted by Brian Puccio at 3:31 PM on August 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

I use Backblaze as well.
posted by unionsquarepark at 4:34 PM on August 17, 2014

This policy from Backblaze where they delete data if you unplug your drive makes me super nervous, so I use Crashplan.
posted by ridogi at 6:59 PM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

+1 for Arq. Never had any problems with the app, and I like that I can use S3+Glacier (or Google Drive, if that's your thing) directly. It depends a lot on how much you need to backup though - with the amount of data I have, it's less than a $1/month, but if you have a bunch of data then a service with a fixed price and unlimited storage (Crashplan, Backblaze) may be a better option.
posted by revertTS at 10:48 PM on August 17, 2014

I use ZipCloud. It costs some money (I prepaid), but the data is not at risk (such as with Backblaze) and it is not Apple software, which I am not confident in any longer.

Formerly, for many years, I had an Amazon S3 account, which I used with Jungle Disk for upload/download, but the simplicity of the single ZipCloud setup for automatic backup and file accessibility, which my husband and I share, became preferable.
posted by miss tea at 3:19 AM on August 18, 2014

Like you, I have lots of photos, and they are the most important thing for me to back up.

I use Backblaze, and it works seamlessly in the background. I have not had to restore from Backblaze, and hopefully will never have to, but I have no reason to think it should be a problem.

I also do a local backup every month or so (not often enough) via the Mac's Time Machine software.

For any online backup solution, the first backup may take days or weeks to complete, so be prepared.

Backblaze specific info: If there are things you don't want backed up, you add them to a list of exclusions. I added quite a few folders to my exclusion list, and I kept my computer (a laptop) on all the time to allow the backup to take place. I ended up with 175 GB of data, which took about 2 weeks for the initial backup. Now, it runs in the background and backs up only changed files or folders. I don't notice any performance issues when it's running. They also have an iPhone app that allows me to see when the last backup was completed, and to browse folders and even view certain kinds of documents right on the phone.

I don't have Backblaze backing up an external drive, so the 30-day-unplugged potential data loss is not an issue for me. YMMV.
posted by The Deej at 6:21 AM on August 18, 2014

+1 for Arq on 2 macs in the house as well.

In addition to time machine backups to our home NAS + rsync jobs onto an external hard drive that we can take with us when we travel (in case house is destroyed) we use Arq to back up to Amazon "Glacier" which is cheaper than S3 but has higher retrieval costs & times - basically a last resort.

For physically printing 1000s of photos... I'm not sure if there's a digital backup plan with this built in but if I remember correctly, Snapfish's cheapest prints are $0.09 so you could probably get a very large stack of 4x6s for a few hundred dollars. Not sure about the long-term storage of whatever paper they're printing on though... If possible, might be worth curating a list of "keepers" and then have them printed on Fuji Pearl archival paper from Mpix for about $0.50 each.
posted by tkbarbarian at 11:48 AM on August 18, 2014

My favorite affordable place for cheap, but relatively high quality prints is Costco. It's nice to be able to physically pick up your prints and evaluate them on hand, because if you spot any problems they'll either refund you or reprint the picture. They print on Fuji Crystal paper which has a shelf life of 40 years (more if kept in dark storage) which is pretty solid.

The biggest issue with Costco is variability between stores. Not all Costcos have great photo departments, and the best solution is to print a range of photos in 4x6 and see if they're up to snuff before getting too many printed. You can also download profiles to Lightroom (and aperture I think), which should allow for better accuracy, etc.
posted by ghostpony at 12:35 PM on August 18, 2014

The phrasing of your question concerns me.

Backup isn't long-term storage, it isn't the primary copy of your data. It is insurance against loosing your data if something happens to your primary storage. It could go away at any time. The drive could fail, the company could go out of business, you could forget to update your credit card and contact information and your account could get canceled.

What I do is have two different Time Machine backup destinations, a little home server I made (a Time Capsule would do at least as well), and a USB drive at my desk. I have a laptop, and don't always use my desk, so I can't count on having an up-to-date backup on the USB drive. I have the USB drive though, because TimeMachine over WiFi seems to mess up from time to time, and so it is good to have another copy.

THEN, I also use Crashplan Household Unlimited to back up all the computers in the house "to the cloud."

So, I have at least 4 copies of everything I care about. One on whatever machine it lives on day-to-day, another two on the two separate TimeMachine targets, and then one on Crashplan's cloud service. It might be a bit excessive (but not by much), but disk space is cheap, Crashplan is quite affordable, each destination was pretty easy to set up, and requires next to no attention on a day to day and week to week basis.

I considered Backblaze, but didn't like their approach nearly as much as Crashplan (which also makes it easy to back-up to other computers running Crashplan, whether at home, or office, or even backups between friends.
posted by Good Brain at 9:37 PM on August 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

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