Backup Your iPhone/iPad Photo Library to the Cloud

Backup Your iPhone/iPad Photo Library

Backup Your iPhone/iPad Photo Library

Some of the most irreplaceable information on your iPhone/iPad are your photographs. The device itself can be easily (if not without cost) replaced. Lose your data and it may be gone forever. Having a good systematic backup scheme is important, easy, and pretty cheap.

Apple iCloud Service

With iOS 5, Apple provides us the tools that allows us to cut the cord to our desktop. Part of that package of services is Photo Stream and iCloud Backup. More a data sharing service, Photo Stream provides your last 1,000 or 30 days worth of your latest images to all your machines (iPad, iPhone, and PC/Mac). This isn't a backup service since obviously older photos drop off, but this can be a savior in an emergency. These images aren't saved at their original resolution (high, but not as good). To save everything we want iCloud Backup.

iCloud Settings

iCloud Settings

Enabling iCloud Backup is simple. Go to Setting > iCloud > Storage & Backup. Under Backup enable iCloud Backup.

Apple gives everyone 5GB of storage for their use of iCloud. This don't include Photo Stream, your purchases from iTunes, and iTunes Match. 5GB of storage is enough for most people, however the smallest iPhone holds 8GB of data. Music and video copied from your desktop aren't backed up (your desktop is backed up, right?). Under Storage & Backup you can purchase more storage. When your iPhone/iPad is charging and connected to wifi, it will automatically backup itself to Apple's servers.

The free 5GB is enough for many hundreds of images, but the images add up. Additional storage is 10GB for $20/yr, 20GB for $40/yr, and 50GB for $100/yr. If all you want is more space for your Photo backups goto the next section.

Backup with iCloud is easy and automatic, however other services also have compelling features. Photos saved to iCloud Backup can't be shared or restored individually. It's not off-device storage; it's an insurance policy for the loss of your hardware.

Backup to the Cloud with CameraSync

With other internet storage services, photos can be viewed, shared, and restored individually. Of them all I like Dropbox and Box. Dropbox gives users 2GB of free storage while Flickr offers 1TB (1000GB), which make Flickr the obvious choice for backing up photos. Download the app(s) and sign up for the free account(s). Now we want a simple way to periodically save our images (and videos) to the internet.

CameraSync Main Screen

CameraSync Main Screen

I recommend the CameraSync app from Homegrown Software Ltd. ($1.99). Download and launch CameraSync. Then add your Box account. Normally you start CameraSync, it copies anything new to Box then when it is done you leave. It can work over 3G, but images can be allot of data so wifi is recommended. The app is also suppose to disable sleep, but I found that disabling Auto-Lock under Settings > General helped on the initial big backup. So if after adding Box the app starts transferring images, tap the stop icon. Tap the info icon. Now configure the app.

CameraSync Settings

CameraSync Settings

I turn ON transferring imported images and videos. I also rename the backup folder, and set the app to copy only new content (under Account). Tap Done. Tap refresh to start backing up.

You can have a couple gigabytes of data to backup initially, so plug it in and run it overnight. Afterward your images will be on the Box cloud storage service. You can access the images from the website and share them out. Photographers will be glad to hear that RAW images are transferred.

Box app screen

Box app screen

Above you can see a RAW file from a Sony DSLR camera in the Box app. The app and website doesn't support viewing the files (JPEGs are viewable).

The downside to using Box is downloading your data. The website will allow you to get your photos one-by-one but selecting multiple files needs a upgraded account. Also Dropbox provides a desktop sync application for free while Box's also requires an upgraded account. OK... sound like a trap. My data goes in and I have to pay to get access to it. A bit, but here is the work around, the Box app api have no such restriction so access files in your Box account with a file manager app, like AirSharing. You can select them all and move them as you please. If you ever need to download multiple images to your desktop, access Box as a webDAV server (Server:www.box.net, User Name: Your Box login email, Path: /dav, Password: Your Box password). From here you can save everything to your desktop. Now the free personal account should be good enough to backup everyone.

If your backup needs rise above 50GB, you will have to pay. Dropbox is 2GB (up to 16GB with refers) for free, 50GB for $99/yr, and 100GB for $199/yr. An upgraded (business) Box account is $180/yr for 1000GB (1TB). A naked 1TB hard drive will cost you about a $100. I use Box to backup my images, iCloud to backup the rest, and Dropbox to move data around.