As the resident tech expert among my family and friends, I often find myself making house calls when someone’s computer won’t cooperate. During a recent project, I found myself tasked with swapping out a hard drive, and I asked the person if he needed me to back up his photos and other data first. He said, “No, I backed up that computer to an external drive a few months ago, so I should have everything.”
“What about all the photos you’ve taken since then?” I asked nervously, already knowing the answer.
“They’re on my phone,” he answered matter-of-factly, as if they’d be anywhere else.
I have no problem fixing other people’s computers. In fact, I rather enjoy it, and I rarely charge money for my efforts. But that work comes with a price: They have to sit and listen to me lecture them on the importance of regular, consistent backups. And you can bet I gave him an earful. The answer is always the same: “I know, I know, I just need to find the time to set it up.”
I’m here to tell you it takes only about 5 minutes, and you should do it right now.
You Can Never Get Your Photos Back
Photos are unique in that they capture a specific moment in time. Your psych paper can be rewritten (however hastily), music can be downloaded again, and your tax forms can be filled out from scratch. It isn’t fun, but these documents are usually replaceable—the photos of your trip to Croatia and the videos of your daughter’s first steps can never be re-created.
And yet, tons of people keep their most precious data—their photos—on the smallest, most fragile device they own, which they carry around with them everywhere, constantly at risk of loss, theft, and breakage. We don’t usually think of phones as requiring backups—most of my backup sermons are specific to computers—but you absolutely need to get your photos off your phone, regularly, and onto another platform for long-term storage.
And getting them onto your computer is only part of the equation. Your computer is only slightly less fragile than your phone—hard drives fail all the time, and I have personally experienced both my phone and computer breaking at the same time.
So for the love of all that is holy, back up those photos to the cloud. You have two options for doing so: You can regularly offload your photos to your computer, then back up your computer with a tried-and-true cloud service like Backblaze, or take the easier route and back your photos up directly from your phone.
How to Automatically Back Up Your Photos
There are plenty of apps dedicated to uploading, storing, and editing your photos, and you may have to explore each to figure out which is best for your use case. But here are some of the most popular, and how you can turn on their automatic backup features.
Google Photos: Google Photos is my preferred photo service, thanks to its reasonable prices, easy-to-use interface, and wealth of features (like facial recognition, automatic collages and slideshows, and built-in editing). All users get 15 GB of free storage, though it’s shared across all your Google services, so you’ll likely have a bit less than that for your photos. You can back up an unlimited number of photos compressed to a certain quality, but uploading them in their original quality counts against your storage space, and will probably require a subscription to Google One starting at $1.99/month for 100 GB. I recommend uploading in original quality, since lower-quality images may not look as good when printed for framing or photo books.