Photo storage sites in the cloud have benefits and risks. Here’s everything you need to know to make the best decision for your family photos and memories.
In recent years, photo storage sites in the cloud have become increasingly important for both individuals and businesses. With the rise of cloud technology, many family photo keepers have turned to cloud storage to preserve their digital memories and keep them safe. However, like any technology, there are both benefits and risks associated with cloud storage.
Some people prefer to keep their Digital Photo Hubs on their computer or an external hard drive. Others prefer cloud storage for ease of sharing. But recent closures of popular photo storage sites have left many wondering if cloud storage is the way to go.
It’s important to understand both the advantages and potential risks of storing family memories in the cloud and how to ensure their safety. In this article, I’ll discuss cloud storage for family memories and how to protect your digital assets.
Is Cloud Storage Safe?
When it comes to the security of cloud storage, not all sites are equal. Some sites have more robust security protocols and take extra steps to protect user data than others. What it comes to is that you get what you pay for. I don’t recommend using any free cloud storage websites as your Digital Photo Hub.
This is also why it’s important to do your homework before choosing a photo storage website for your family photos and memories. You should read the site’s Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policies before using it. You can find links to these legally required documents in the footer of the website you are considering.
Some Questions to Consider When Choosing Cloud Storage
As you look over a photo storage company’s legal documents, see if you can find the answers to the following questions. If you don’t find the answers to all of them there, Google the question with the company name.
- What kind of encryption do they use to protect your photos and memories (data)?
- Is your data stored on multiple servers in different locations to ensure redundancy?
- Do they have a history of security breaches, and if so, how did they respond to them?
- Will they share your data with third parties, and if so, under what circumstances?
- Is their primary business photo storage, or is this an adjunct to their main business model?
- How do they preserve your family photo legacy after your death or incapacitation (because, you know, all of us will die).
- What will happen to your data if the company ceases operation?
- What will happen to your data if, for some reason, you can no longer pay for your storage?
- What kind of Customer Support do they offer?
If you ask these questions, you’ll understand what security measures a cloud storage site offers to protect your memories. It’s also important to keep in mind that no storage solution is completely foolproof. It’s wise to always have a backup file. I teach the 3-2-1 backup method.
Ultimately, the best and safest cloud storage site for your family photos and memories will depend on your specific needs and preferences. By doing your due diligence and asking the right questions, you can make an informed decision that will give you peace of mind.
The Benefits of Cloud Photo Storage Sites
Cloud storage has become popular in recent years due to its many benefits. One of the biggest advantages of cloud storage is its accessibility from anywhere, on any device. This means that you can access your photos and memories from your computer, tablet, or smartphone, as long as you have an internet connection.
This is useful for those who travel or have family members living in different locations. With cloud storage, you don’t have to worry about carrying physical storage devices around or sending files via email.
Another benefit of cloud storage is that it’s safe from physical damage. The cloud isn’t vulnerable to drops, spills, or other physical accidents, unlike physical storage devices like hard drives or USB drives. If a disaster occurs, such as flooding or fire, your photos and memories are protected (assuming the company has multiple servers in different locations).
Cloud storage makes it easy to share and collaborate with others. You can share individual files or folders/albums with family members, friends, or colleagues. You can set permissions to restrict the viewing, editing, or deleting of files. This is useful for families who want to share and collaborate on photo albums or other memories.
Finally, cloud storage can be appealing to your grown children who would likely prefer a digital collection over boxes or albums. Many in the younger generations have grown up with digital technology and may not have the same attachment to the physical photos. Cloud storage provides a convenient and accessible way to store and access memories and to pass them to future generations.
Overall, cloud storage offers many benefits over traditional physical storage options. It’s a popular choice for families looking to conserve and protect memories. It offers accessibility, safety, ease of sharing and collaborating, and appeal to younger generations.
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The Risks of Cloud Photo Storage Sites
While there are many benefits to cloud storage, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks and downsides. Below are some of the key risks of keeping your photos and memories online:
Loss of Resolution
Not all photo storage sites will keep your photos at full resolution. This is especially true of free storage sites, and very definitely true of Facebook. If you aren’t paying them, they don’t want to spend money on the space required for your full-resolution photos.
To get an idea of what this means, imagine putting a 4×6 or 8×10 printed photo in a box. When you retrieve it later, it has shrunk to the size of the old wallet-size photos from school pictures. If someone wants to print it out or put it in a photo book, it won’t look good. It’s likely to be blurry or grainy.
Loss of Metadata
Metadata is the equivalent of the writing on the back of the printed photo. It is information that provides important details about the content of a digital file. Metadata may describe where, and when a digital file was created, its image resolution, and other technical details. Metadata can also provide detail about the story behind the file, including its “who,” “what,” “where,” and “when.”
In terms of cloud storage, there is original metadata and updated metadata. The original metadata comes from your photo-taking device, although you can add more on your local device. When you upload that file to a cloud storage site, all of that is original metadata and will show up. But any metadata you add in the storage site is updated metadata.
Many photo storage sites, including some well-known ones, don’t make the updated metadata “sticky.” You can name people, places, and events or tell the story on their platform, but nothing comes with the image when downloaded.
Preservation of metadata is critical if you want future generations to enjoy your family photos. A picture without a story can be meaningless.
Security and Privacy Issues
Although most cloud storage providers have robust security measures that protect user data, data breaches and hackers are always possible. Users may also be concerned about privacy if their data is being held on third-party servers instead of company-owned servers.
Some cloud storage providers may use your files for data mining or other purposes, which can raise privacy concerns. This is often true for free cloud storage providers that may need to monetize user data in order to stay in business.
What is Data Mining?
Before I go into data mining, I want you to try a little experiment.
On your phone or tablet, go to your Gallery or Photos app. Click the Search icon and type in a search for this word: shoes.
Did your search find a bunch of images with shoes in them? But you didn’t add the keyword or tag “shoes” to those photos, right? Today’s software can LOOK at your photos to see what’s in them.
Here’s another search to try: password.
That one’s a little scarier, right? This photo is a presentation slide at a Photo Managers Conference I attended. I took the picture to have the information to use at home. Not only can software LOOK at our photos, it can READ our photos!
Here’s Why You Should Care About Data Mining
When you look at the questions I asked you to consider for choosing online photo storage, data mining encompasses questions 4 and 5.
If the software on a cloud storage site can see and read my photos, I don’t want them sharing that data with third parties. In all likelihood, the purpose wouldn’t be nefarious, but more likely so they can market and sell to me. But it’s done without my knowledge, which bothers me. When you use such a site, you may give permission just by using it, whether you know it or not. And I don’t like that. It’s a matter of principle.
Some popular photo site companies make their money by selling things, such as advertising, or even everything under the sun. If such a site got hold of my photo collection I might be seeing items for sale for cats every time I went online. I have an awful lot of cat pictures in my collection, LOL!
Going Out of Business
The company you’re using could go out of business or cease providing photo storage, potentially leaving your data inaccessible or lost. When you read the terms of service for most photo storage sites, they pretty much say “too bad, so sad” about that possibility. Of course, having an up-to-date backup would mitigate that situation (always have a backup!)
Payment Arrangements Matter
Most paid photo storage sites operate on a subscription basis. You pay either by the month or the year.
But what happens if you stop paying? You might end up in the hospital, get dementia, or die. You may lose access to your data or have it deleted, and no one else would be able to access it. This is why it’s important to read the terms and conditions and understand the provider’s policy on data retention. I haven’t found most of them to be sympathetic about it.
I believe the majority of photo storage sites are risky and have huge potential downsides for your photo memory collection. Yet there’s one that’s better than all the rest. Let me tell you why.
The Best Online Photo Storage Site
Forever is an online digital storage service that specializes in organizing and preserving photos (and other file types you may have in your collection). The other products they sell are designed to help you celebrate and share your memories.
Here are some reasons Forever stands out from the crowd and is, in my opinion, the best cloud storage website out there.
With FOREVER, you own your storage, not rent it. You pay a certain price for a certain amount of storage either in a single payment or in 24 installments. You can start small and add more as needed, or buy a big bunch at once – the choice is yours.
Because you own your storage, your account is an inheritable asset. Forever encourages you to assign one or more Account Managers who can help you with it now, and/or take over when you are gone.
In their Terms of Service they state:
“FOREVER enables you to determine how your Forever Account and Content is preserved and managed after your death.
“At present or in the future as our functionality expands, you may specify through your Preservation settings any changes to your Forever Account and Content that will become effective upon your death, and/or at specified date(s) in the future (such as 25 years after your death).”
Forever guarantees that your photos and other digital content will be stored and available for your lifetime plus 100 years.
“When you buy FOREVER® Storage, a large portion of your payment is deposited into the FOREVER® Guarantee Fund. The money is invested so that it increases in value and pays for the recurring maintenance and preservation costs of your FOREVER® Storage, as well as the migration of your content to new digital formats, over time.
“The money in the FOREVER® Guarantee Fund is fully restricted, meaning that we can only withdraw a very small amount from the Fund each year and the money withdrawn must be used to preserve and protect your precious digital content.
“Life insurance companies use carefully managed reserve funds to make sure they can always pay claims. Universities use carefully managed endowments to pay for their operations over hundreds of years. In the same way, FOREVER® will use the FOREVER® Guarantee Fund to save, protect, and make your information available for generations into the future.”
From the Terms of Service:
“You can buy FOREVER Storage on a payment plan. Your FOREVER Account will only be permanent when fully paid for.
“If you pass away before you’ve made all your payments, Forever will consider your FOREVER Account as fully paid if you made a minimum of 3 payments and at least 3 months passed between the time you opened your account and your death.”
“In the case that you stop making monthly payment plan payments, we will suspend your Account 90 days after you stop payment, but then save all of your data for a 12-month period, so your relatives may notify us of your passing, or we may determine that you have passed away.”
Security and Privacy
“We take strong measures to protect your data and personal information to prevent loss, misuse, unauthorized access, disclosure, alteration and destruction. When you upload or enter information to your FOREVER Account using FOREVER Services, we encrypt the transmission of all information that is provided using secure socket layer (SSL) technology. We also work to strengthen our security measures over time. Please be aware, however, that despite our best efforts, no security measures are perfect or impenetrable and no method of data transmission or storage can prevent all interception or other types of misuse.”
Which is why you should have a backup, no matter where you store your photos.
Forever’s headquarters is in the USA, but uses servers and network infrastructure located in many countries around the world. Their service is designed to preserve your data through natural disasters, wars, terrorism, economic depressions, and other events that cause major disruptions in society. They secure your data at multiple datacenters across the globe. They also have backup and recovery plans to restore access as soon as reasonably possible.
Resolution and Metadata
Forever takes great care to preserve the original resolution and metadata of uploaded files. When you download a file from Forever, you can be assured of the original quality and intact metadata, both original and updated.
In Case of Insolvency
Forever has a strong financial foundation and has been in business for over a decade. Despite that, your digital files are legally bound to last up to 100 years, even if FOREVER goes out of business.
From their Terms of Service:
“In the case that FOREVER becomes insolvent, ceases operations, or is otherwise unable to provide services to preserve your Forever Account, then the assets in the Forever Guarantee Fund will be used to pay for the costs of maintaining each Account Owner’s access to their Forever Accounts for at least a period of two years and then moving the memories within those Accounts to an alternative sharable storage provider (if available) and paying for that alternative sharable storage for as long as possible. If no alternative sharable storage provider is available, then the remaining assets in the Forever Guarantee Fund (the “FGF”) would be used to maintain access to the Forever Accounts for as many years as possible.”
Forever has a dedicated customer support team that is available to help you with any questions or issues via phone or email. I’ve been a client since 2015, and in my personal experience, their customer support is OUTSTANDING. I’ve gotten emails from them at 10 pm on a Saturday night when I didn’t expect to hear back until Monday. They always bend over backwards to make sure the customer is happy.
Forever takes a proactive approach to protecting user data and offers several unique features to mitigate potential risks associated with cloud storage. This is why I believe they are the best and safest cloud storage provider for your family photos and memories. They are also the only one I trust with my precious photos memories.
Cloud storage is a powerful tool that offers many benefits for preserving and sharing family photos and memories. However, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks associated with it. Read the terms and conditions and any other relevant legal documentation available. You want to choose a provider that prioritizes the safety and security of your data.
Forever is a trusted and reputable provider that is uniquely situated to protect and preserve your digital files. Try out all the features FOREVER offers today and see how easy it can be to preserve your precious memories in the cloud. Sign up for free, and they will give you a 2 GB storage account with complete editing and organizing capabilities. The $20 Gift Code they’ll give you when you verify your email address can be applied to almost anything they offer, including paid storage.
If you liked this article, you’ll love my emails! Join the Family Photo Keeper Community and I’ll also send you my free Getting Started Checklist. I never share your information and you can unsubscribe any time.
You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter. I never share your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.