Best way to sync and backup your photos

Hi i’m going to show you the ways i backup my photos and tell you why I chose that way and the advantages and disadvantages of that and other systems. I think about this kind of thing often and design systems within my company for how we store data, how we share data and how we back it up to keep it secure.


First of all i create a flow chart of the data. As with all information flow, you can map it out to give yourself a more real understanding of what is happening and where it is going. Humans have superior spacial memory as we live in a 3-dimensional environment (well its actually 11-dimentional but that s a topic for a different blog post). Of course your map will be 2-D but can be expressed in 3-d just as easily. I use this technique for planning out websites in and customer/viewer flow on interactive technologies.

See my diagram below. I made a 2 second simple one and a few minute sketch. Once each is done you can improve them each time and make it easier to understand, for yourself and others.

So as you can see, have 3 main computers I use (Laptop,Home and Work) . I take photos with 3 devices (my iPad and iPhone) and a camera, but I only sync my camera at home. I want them to synchronize so i have all photos available and I want one backup of my own choosing (with my photos and other important data) in this situation.

So i have 3 places to import 3 data sources, making 9 variations of data input, of which ill use 7 as i wont sync my camera using my laptop or at work. To get those seven options aligned, I need them to access a central online location, or “cloud” area to store them, so i don’t get duplicates.

—At this point i must say that i devices can auto backup through the “Photo Stream” which automatically syncs them. this is fine for apple users, but not so handy for others, as i don’t want to be locked into that as i may use various other devices, like a regular camera for example.


So in this example i added the sync component. The most important feature for me about how i store and share these photographs (and videos if you like) is that they are in a regular folder on each computers desktop, so if they internet goes down i can still access them up until the most recent sync. i showed them as folders with a smiley face to show they are identical.

What I wanted to illustrate was the fact that’s its all in an actual folder on the desktop of each 3 computers, so is available even if you are offline if necessary.

Here is the same map sketched in 3d, sometimes this techniques works better for some people.


well syncing the images means i now have 3 locations plus one cloud location with these pics. So now if i delete from one place it will delete from all locations. This is so every folder is still the same. PERFECT!


[button link=”” target=”blank” size=”small”]Get Dropbox[/button]

At the moment Dropbox is by far the easiest in my opinion. It will automatically sync the photos of any device you attach to your computer, no popup screens , just a little notification in the corner about how many pics it is going to sync, or tells you if its all in sync already. It only syncs to the computer, so your device is left untouched. If you allow your camera,iphone or ipad to sync, they automatically give you an extra 3GB of storage. That is pretty handy.

So here’s the fancy bit. You don’t need all your photos all the time, in fact you mainly just need the current ones, so every now and then on one computer move the old ones from your sync folder to another folder. (that’s the unhappy one, or the “long term storage” shed I drew) – and then you cloud backup both of them( see below). lets not get confused. The sync is not your backup system. Although it hassimilar function theoretically its not a dedicated backup. You can consider it a “short term backup” if you like. If you accidentally deleted a picture from your computer, you would have to disconnect the other computer from the internet and then retrieve the lost image before it sync-deleted that same photo.


Also when you invite people to Dropbox you can expand your disk size. This only works if they sign up and also install the software. Don’t try sending it to yourself. It doesn’t work ( i tried a couple of times, but only works on a different computer, with a different I.P. and a different account)

Anyway if you plan to use it, please join through this link and i can get a little extra on my account. woot!
That being said I recommend Dropbox for all online cloud activities not because of this but because its the easiest and most compatible I have used.


[button link=”” target=”blank” size=”small”]Get Crashplan[/button]

From one computer and only one, you need to make a backup. You can do this on the computer, and eternal hard drive or another cloud backup system. I use CRASH PLAN ( as its unlimited for one computer for $50 a year. I don’t believe in local backup as much (although I do i for very important items) as if there was a fire or other disaster you would lose the backup just as easily as the original. Crashplan can simultaneously backup locally and online if you like. Local backups are free, even if you don’t pay for the online service. This allows you a “try before you buy” to see if you like the software style and they even offer one free month online storage to test that too.

For most effective use of your photo sync folder, you should move older pictures out of the Sync folder. Any time you want to add them back to the sync folder you can. That way you can have access to all your latest photos without going over your storage limits in Dropbox. Every year this improves space wise, so you can keep more and more images there. You can of course always pay for more space too, but you needn’t have to.

In Crashplan you choose those two folders (your sync folder and your long term backup folder) to be synced to the cloud and then you have all of your well loved photos saved into one place, no matter which computer you downloaded them onto.

You don’t have to use Crashplan of course, please choose the backup systems tat works for you. I use Crashplan and recommend it to people I work with as its reliable and affordable.


You now have all computers synced and a way to backup all of your photos.

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