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Smart phones today are more powerful than ever before. They have more storage than ever before. The cameras take better photographs than ever before. Yet far too many people forget one simple fact – a mobile phone is about the least secure device you will ever own. They are easy to lose or damage or, regrettably, they can be stolen. Or they can just break and stop working like all devices. If and when that occurs, what happens to all of the data that we have happily been storing on these wonderful devices? Is it lost forever or can we protect ourselves from losing those precious photographs?
Making sure that your information is protected and saved somewhere is an essential element of owning a smartphone. There are many ways to achieve this but they fall into two major categories: backing up and saving your data to a computer or backing up and saving your data to a cloud based service. Frankly, in my view, you should be using both methods and more than one backup is a very good idea.
It doesn’t matter if you are using an iPhone, an Android device, a Windows phone or a Blackberry – there is a backup method for you. Let’s think about backing up to a computer first. Most phone manufacturers provide a software solution for connecting your phone to a computer. Apple for instance has a facility in iTunes for taking a backup of an iPhone and saving it to your local computer. Samsung has a software product called Kies that does something similar. Other manufacturers will have their own software suites. There will also be backup apps in the App and Play stores. A Google search will show up lots of potential software solutions and one of them is bound to suit your requirements and your pocket.
But cloud backups is really where you should be concentrating in my opinion. Once again, individual manufacturers will provide their own solutions. Apple has iCloud, Samsung and HTC have their own products and of course Google and Microsoft provide their own cloud based services in the form of Google Drive and OneDrive. If you have a Google or Microsoft Live account you will automatically get some free online storage space, and buying more is often quite inexpensive. Google for instance charges $2 a month for 100GB on Google Drive and Apples charges 79p per month for 50GB of storage or £2.49 for 200GB. Although everyone likes free stuff, paying a few pounds a year for a decent slug of cloud storage could be the best investment you’ll ever make.
Often, photos are the most valuable files on your phone and probably the most susceptible to being lost. Emails are probably on a server somewhere and your ranking in Angry Birds, while important, isn’t the end of the world. But precious photos? Their loss could be heart-breaking and thus they are the most important things to protect. If you have an iPhone your camera roll should be getting backed up to iCloud. But in my view, whether you are on iOS or Android, Google Photos cannot be beaten for storing photos. If you elect to let Google Photos choose the maximum file size for you (up to 16mp or a 1080p video to be precise) the storage is unlimited and free. If you elect to upload the actual file size as stored on your phone you will either have to stay within the storage limit offered to a free account of 5GB or buy extra storage. As I said earlier, 100GB costs $2 a month and that would give you enough room for many tens of thousands of photos. The app will automatically upload new photos to the cloud if you are connected to Wi Fi. It also has a feature called ‘Assistant’ that will produce little videos and other special effects that can be quite interesting and fun.
There are of course lots of other options for saving photos, and indeed all files, so have a look in the Play or App stores for something that meets your needs.
Android is more flexible in some ways than iOS. For instance, in the Play store there are apps for backing up just text messages or your call log. I have successfully used these and as well as putting a backup on a removable external storage card, if your phone supports that feature, they can also upload the backup to your Google Drive account. This is the belt and braces approach to backups that I like and recommend to anyone who’ll listen to me.
Taking a backup of your laptop or desktop computer is just as important as your phone, and quite likely more important. An external USB hard drive is the best way to achieve instant results and they are now at a price that makes them very affordable. But once again I would recommend a cloud backup service as a secondary method of keeping your storage secure. If you have a Mac you can sync with iCloud. Both Macs and PC’s are very happy syncing data with Google Drive or One Drive. There are also dedicated backup services that can automatically copy your entire ‘user’ folder to a cloud based service. Personally I use a service that backs up documents online virtually as they are created with unlimited storage for £48 a year. This is incredible value and for additional £12 you can add extra computers.
There is a sort of rule in computing circles that would tell you that a backup only exists if it’s saved in at least three places and I would agree with that. Whether it’s a phone or a computer think of the three places as being the original device, an external device like a USB hard drive and a cloud based service. It might cost you a few pounds but you’ll never regret it and may well be forever grateful that you spent the money.
Awesome write up @jeffkinn
On my Samsung Galaxy s8 I back up to...
The Phones Storage.
Current Phone >
Samsung Galaxy s²² Ultra 256gb.
Secondary Phone >
Samsung Z Fold³ 256gb.
I'll be the first one to admit that I'm bad for not always backing up my phone 🙄
It's a daily occurrence that I'm hit with the 'iPhone Backup Failed. You do not have enough space in iCloud to back up this iPhone' notification.
Previously I'd just ignore this notification and the only time I'd properly back up my phone is when I bought a new one and wanted to transfer my phone contents over. I'd then set up the new device by restoring from an iCloud backup.
I'm just very fortunate that until this point I've never lost my device or had it stolen - when I was on holiday last year with a few friends, one of them had his phone stolen and he did lose everything which was on there 😔
The detail you've provided in your post and the consequences you've highlighted made me definitely have another think about getting this sorted and suddenly an extra 50GB for £0.79 per month doesn't seem too bad after all!
Awesome post @jeffkinn 😄
I completely agree, it is something we should all be doing. I'll admit that I'm terrible and never back up my phone.
I’m using the Samsung S8 at the moment and I'm pretty sure that you get 100GB of space completely free on the Samsung OneDrive (don’t quote me on that though) so I have no excuse.
Most of my photos are uploaded to various social media sites – Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter, so that’s almost kind of like saving them, although I know these aren’t completely safe either. Plus, some pictures you might not want out there to the public e.g. if you have children. I wouldn’t be too concerned about losing anything else on my phone and up to this point, I’ve only managed to lose one, touch wood, in the last 18 years I’ve had mobiles.
Does anyone know if Samsung devices prompt you to back up like iPhones do? I must admit I've not seen anything yet, although this is my first Samsung device and I may have just missed it 🤔
This has definitely given me some food for thought @jeffkinn. My laptop is completely busted at the moment, so that’s a no go, but the Cloud service is worth a look.
Great read @jeffkinn and very true!
In the past I've backed up my photos (mainly to get rid of the 'Your Storage Is Full' haha 😅) but i suppose it's better than not backing up at all?
If there's an important picture or document that I'm conscious of losing, I often email them to myself to create a backed up version.
I think that using a USB hard drive is a great idea. This was my method of backing up documents throughout School and University. Although in my opinion this also has its flaws such as, getting lost. This unfortunately has happened to me in the past, but the email technique saved the day!
P.s. On the contrary who says backing up their Angry Birds high score isn't important?! 😎
I recently experienced an SD card failure. All photos lost. Except that they weren't, they were on Dropbox and/or two hard drives.
Someone once said that there are two types of computer user: those who haven't suffered a hard drive failure and those who haven't ... YET. All storage can and will fail and being prepared really isn't difficult.
@jeffkinn - Great post!
It’s horrible hearing of people that have lost so many photo/video memories by not backing up.
I currently us iCloud, although after reading you post it’s certainly made me think. It’s on the ‘to do list’ for this weekend to get everything additionally backed up!
Thanks for all the suggestions! ☺️ 📷
@Gemma iCloud is very good but I would recommend Google Photos as well. Apart from being a great storage facility it also produces some very interesting extras. Today my Google Photos has gone a bit mad and produced 17 videos made of different photos that have been uploaded over the years. It's very clever stuff.
I have an unbelievable amount of photos and I’d be devastated if I lost them all. Contrary to popular belief, they aren’t all just of my dog either 🤣
I’ve chosen in the past to use iCloud and things like my laptop/external hard drives, but know the latter have their flaws. I also don’t do this anywhere near as often as I should.
Thanks for giving us food for thought with your post and a new project for me to work on. Beginning of the year – what better time to start something new 😊
You’ve certainly sold Google Photos to me! Like you said, it’s always worth having everything backed up in multiple places so like @Gemma, it’s going on my ‘to do list’. I’m also loving the sound of the video montages – what a nice way to look back on all of the things you’ve done.
Brilliant post @jeffkinn, thanks for all of the useful tips.
Go for it Colleen. You cannot be too careful especially with photos. My photos, as well as being on Google Photos are iCloud, are also copied to my iMac and that itself syncs with iCloud meaning they get auto synced to my MacBook. Both machines backup to my Apple TimeCapsule at home and my cloud backup facility called LiveDrive. In other words they live in about 9 places and it all happens without user intervention.
@jeffkinn It sounds like you've got a perfect set up, especially as it all just automatically backs up without you even needing to do anything 😄
I'll definitely be taking a leaf out of your book and getting this sorted!
As Jeff said, if you use Google's hi-res option, photo storage is free (doesn't eat into your allowance). What it does is to reduce the dots-per-inch (dpi) to 72. I also use Dropbox, which I thought preserved the original but, in fact, it does the same thing. I've printed from that and it's fine - if you did a wall-size enlargement you might notice, but I don't do that often .
The beauty is that you can have a backup of everything, for ever. It's also quite fun to see how it organises things into subject categories. The accuracy is amazing, as are the occasional anomalies (some cats become dogs, in my case!)
Ooh I quite like the sound of it being organised @hrym!
Sounds kind of similar to the iPhone - I only realised recently that you can search through your photos for certain things on it (such as a beach or my dog), so that definitely sounds like a perk to me as I do like to go through certain pictures from holidays etc
That's good news about the hi-res too! It'd be such a shame to use a high quality camera only for your pictures to lose their quality when you want to keep them safe.
I've got a 1TB hard drive at home that's sadly collecting dust because I don't regularly use it - I think it might be time to dust off the cobwebs and check out Google Photos while I'm at it
The trouble with backup drives is that you don't tend to leave them connected all the time (especially if you're using a laptop). My main storage is a NAS drive that I can access from anything (desktop, laptop, tablet, phone) and the backup drive is plugged into that. I copy important stuff like photos regularly and then a backup program runs on the main pc once a week to sweep up the other files.
All true and that's why cloud based backups are better as they will or should work whenever your computer is connected to the internet.
Having said that, if you are a Mac user with a Time Capsule (a NAS drive + a Wi Fi router) all Macs will automatically backup to the Time Capsule with their Time Machine built in backup software when they are on the same Wi Fi network. I'm sure other NAS drives and software on both Mac and PC platforms can do the same.
My NAS and USB drives come with backup software, but both seem to assume that you're going to have your files on a PC - neither seems to be able to back the NAS up the the USB. They also run on the PC, rather than independently, so the computer has to be on. I'd prefer something that can be set to run independently, but it would have to be a Linux application as that's what the NAS runs on (and probably a cut-down version that just does basic file storage at that).
My main backup program uses a proprietary single-file format, which is better than nothing, but does mean that files aren't stored individually, which is what I'd prefer. So, ideally, yes, I'd use a cloud solution that synchronised files individually - this is roughly what I do manually for the important stuff.
Have a look at www.livedrive.com Henry - £48 a year unlimited storage with a client that sits on the PC and backs up individual files. They also have a smart phone app.