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Is an online photo storage solution right for you?

For most people that haven't mastered the art of minimalism, our homes are cluttered with all kinds of stuff. And it's not just the tangible stuff that we have to work to declutter — we also face a mountain of digital clutter.

photo storage solution

You're not alone if you've got a jumbled mess of digital photos stored in random folders and old external hard drives. Despite being a slow transition from film to digital cameras, it seems like most people never put in place the right kind of workflow to manage their photo library. The major tech companies have noticed, and many have released free or inexpensive solutions to help you get organized. These companies provide cloud-based software solutions, which allow you to store photos on the company's server, not on your device or hard drive.

So it begs the question: Is now the time to move to a digital photo storage service?

Digital Photo Storage Options

Doing a search for "online photo storage" will yield a variety of offerings from different companies. Among the biggest players in the photo storage space are Google Photos, Amazon Photos, and Apple Photos. There are dozens of quality options available (both cloud-based and local at your home), but for the sake of simplicity, we'll just focus on three of the biggest players.

Each offers a similar value proposition: you can upload photos from your computer or directly from your phone and they're accessible to view on almost any device. This includes computers, cell phones, digital photo frames, and even new televisions. Many of these services are either free, with a limit on how much storage you can use, or are discounted with other services you already pay for like Amazon Prime or Apple iCloud.

photo storage solution

Comparing Platforms

As you review the many software platforms available to you, think about the following as you compare their offerings

  • How much does the software cost and how often are you billed?
  • How much storage do they offer?
  • What is their privacy policy?
  • Is the software from a trusted company?
  • Do they allow you to share your photos with other people?
  • Does it work on Mac/PC or Android/iOS?
  • Does the platform work on the devices you already own?

While you would hope that each company would offer a similar solution, they actually have nuanced differences in how they store your data and the kinds of information they can collect. A recent development for a lot of these platforms has been what's commonly referred to as "auto backup." This function can be turned on for mobile devices like cell phones and tablets and allows the platform to automatically upload your recent photos to the cloud.

The value of auto backups is that you don't need to manually take action to upload and backup your photos; it all happens automatically in the background. In addition to saving memory on your device, this feature has the added benefit of also securing your photos offsite in the event your phone is lost or destroyed. For many people, this feature alone is what gets them to start using a photo backup solution.

Once backed up, most platforms provide a simple interface to organize your photos into folders or albums. Additionally, you typically have easy-to-use tools to help do light photo editing and sharing. Instead of sending a text message with low-resolution images; these cloud-based services allow you to share a link to a digital album with all of your selected photos at full resolution.

These platforms also leverage artificial intelligence and neural networks to help "see" and categorize your photos. For instance, if you search for "dogs" in your photo library, the software will scan your photos and surface any it thinks are dogs. This even works for pictures of specific people. No more needing to tag and organize individual photos!

photo storage solution

Weighing the Pros & Cons

Now you may be asking yourself "is this really worth all the time to move my photos to a cloud-based platform?"

Indeed you'll need to invest time and energy into getting your new photo library configured and learning how to navigate it. Here are a few considerations as you make your decision.


  • Most platforms are free to start using
  • Easy way to share images with friends and family
  • Images are backed up in case you lose your mobile device or computer
  • Images can be easily searched and indexed automatically
  • Easy to learn & extensive FAQs and tutorials
  • Integrated photo editing software


  • You may run out of storage and pay a monthly subscription
  • Images are stored in the "cloud" and not locally on your device
  • 3rd party advertisers may be able to show you ads related to the images you upload
  • Migrating from one service to another can be cumbersome
  • Some platforms are not compatible with both Android and iOS
photo storage solution

What about privacy?

Feeling a little unsure about handing over your personal memories to one of the big tech giants? Well, many people share the same concern. While policies vary from platform to platform, almost all make it clear that your data is stored securely and that only people you authorize will be able to view certain photos. If you decide not to share any of your images then they will only be visible to you.

Having said that, most of these services are offered at no cost to the user so it should be assumed that your data is being anonymously monetized (in most cases it's used to show you more relevant advertisements). In the event that you want to change services or remove your data from their servers, all of these platforms offer ways to delete or transfer your data.

There has honestly never been a better time to take the plunge and get your photos organized. The online tools available have come a long way in the last few years and continue to offer inexpensive and robust solutions for both amateur and professional photographers alike. Make sure to take the time to learn about the latest offerings before committing to a specific solution.

Want more advice about all things home — including homebuying or selling advice? Nestiny is a great place for homebuyer education and to help you gauge how ready you are to buy a home. Journey Homeward allows you to enter all your wants and needs while the True Affordability Tool will break down your budget, showing what you can comfortably afford. You will also receive a Ready Report that will give you a vital head start in the home buying journey, saving you valuable time and money.

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