The rise of iPhone photography has resulted in a need for more storage, a gap that many have tried to fill with hard-drives, thumb drives and cloud services. Macworld investigates which is the best for backing up your images.
How to back up your Apple photo library with iCloud
Apple's iCloud comes baked in with iOS and, by and large, it doesn't disappoint; you get 5GB of free storage, and photos are automatically backed up and synced across all your Apple devices - including your Mac, iPad and iPhone.
iCloud is easy for manage and iCloud Photo Library can be enabled to easily share and collaborate on photo albums. You can also manually sync photos to the cloud, although this can be cumbersome.
It is not faultless, though; iCloud is ring-fenced in the Apple ecosystem, its security was famously exposed in October 2014 and some of the prices, including £6.99 a month for 1TB, are not that cheap (although prices start at £0.79 a month for 50GB, which we think is a great deal). 5GB is also not much considering this is per each Apple ID, which not ideal if you have an iPhone and iPad.
It is, however, a worthy contender in this list.
Remember: Should you want to disable iCloud's auto-backup feature, you must go to Settings > iCloud > Photos and uncheck My Photo Stream.
iCloud Photo Library stores every photo and video you take, making them accessible from your iPhone, iPad and iPod touch and even to your Mac!
Once set up all the photos and videos you take will be stored in iCloud, so you will be able to access your library from any device, anytime you want.
Unlike with Photos in the Cloud, you aren't limited to how many photos you can access, where the cut for Photo Stream is still 1000, and that's all you will get if you don't update to iCloud Photo Library.
Another benefit is that if you edit a photo on one device those changes will show up on the other devices.
iCloud Photo Library is limited by how much iCloud storage you have. If your photo library is huge and you don't fancy opting for the 1TB iCloud storage option, just remember to open your Mac and regularly sync the images from the cloud.
How to back up your Apple photo library with Dropbox
Dropbox is arguably the poster boy of cloud storage, and it’s easy to see why.
The service is available cross-platform, it is exceptionally easy to share links to albums and to use the desktop software to drag-and-drop files into. In addition, hi-res images are supported and there are no file size restrictions on Dropbox Business. It’s also very quick to enable the auto-uploading of photos (including over WiFi or cellular when using a mobile app).
And while the amount of free storage (2GB) isn’t much, you can top this up by referring Dropbox to friends (500MB for each friend, up to 16GB in total) or completing the Getting Started tutorial (250MB). Uploading photos automatically nets another 3GB.
The Carousel application is a neat dashboard for viewing, sorting and sharing images, while content is encrypted in transit and at rest.
Dropbox isn’t perfect, especially given the limited free data, and the inability to control how files are presented, but there are few cloud services this versatile.
How to back up your Apple photo library with Box
Box offers more free storage than Dropbox with 10GB on joining, while the 100GB which arguably betters Dropbox’s offering. The web UI is simple and easy to organise, and it offers desktop sync software and strong security. Files are AES-256 encrypted in transit and at rest.
However, Box is badly let down by having no option to sync by default – instead, you must log in and specify which folders you want to upload.
Read next: Photos for Mac review.
How to back up your Apple photo library with OneDrive
Microsoft's OneDrive might be a mainstay of Windows devices but it is a strong cross-platform service with numerous benefits.
For example, Office365 subscribers get 1TB of OneDrive storage, new users receive 5GB free. The service also promises full image back-up, and supports Two-Factor-Authentication (2FA), which is an extra security layer.
You must have a OneDrive account, while security-conscious will be aware of the on-going court cases with the US government on data sovereignty.
How to back up your Apple photo library with Google Drive/Google+
There are numerous advantages of using Google Drive for backing up photos; the prices are reasonable, there is unlimited storage for ‘standard’ image sizes, and a generous 30GB of free data, while you can tweak the quality of uploads using ‘Auto Awesome’ mobile apps. It also supports 2FA.
The disadvantages are that the 30GB is spread across Gmail, Drive and Google+ Photos, full-size images cost money, and you’ll need a Google+ account (which you’ll already have if you use Gmail).
Crucially, there’s no way to automatically upload photos from phone to Drive. You should instead use Auto Backup feature in G+ apps, which will send photos to your rarely-used G+ profile.
How to back up your Apple photo library with iTunes
Backing up your photo gallery to iTunes is a viable alternative to iCloud, especially if you have a large number of files.
The process involves plugging your iOS device into your Mac/PC, selecting iTunes. However, these USB back-ups only happen when you sync your device, which some people rarely do.
It’s worth clicking the “Encrypt local backup” option under the iTunes Backup option as this saves all account passwords from your iOS devices, removing the chance someone else will intercept them and restore your data – and account details – on their own device.
How to back up your Apple photo library with a hard drive
You can't go wrong with an external hard drive, as it remains one of the most cost effective, secure and convenient way of backing up photos and other data.
You can pick-up a 1TB HDD for as low as £40, a 2TB version for £60 and 3TB for around £80. The larger you go the more likely the HDD will drag power from the mains and not USB 2.0 or 3.0.
HDDs are extremely cost effective, reliable and simple to use. But they could equally be lost, stolen or corrupted.
Read next: How to keep your photos safe on your iPhone.
How to back up your Apple photo library through other methods
There are various other services and products that will help you store photos, but you might not have thought – or come across – all of them.
Facebook, for example, offers 2GB of free data with uploads set to private. Its limited storage, and the image quality, or privacy terms, are not ideal, but it remains an option.
Instagram is a more obvious choice as it lets you upload an unlimited number of photos and short videos for free, while Flickr offers a tempting 1TB and a slick interface for free (don’t expect to back-up videos). Amazon Cloud Drive is attractive for Amazon Prime customers, while Mega gives you 50GB for free and above-average security.
SugarSync and Space Monkey are less obvious choices; the former has apps on every platform but is expensive, while Space Monkey neatly combines cloud and HDD in a 2TB HDD that is free for the first year.
And of course are also inexpensive optical discs (CD-ROM, DVD and Blu-ray), Flash memory sticks and thumb drives.
How to back up your Apple photo library: Summary
There are clearly a number of options to consider when backing up your iOS photos, but our choice would have to be either iCloud or Dropbox due to their abilities of offering automatic cloud sync. We would also recommend having a physical hard disk drive backup in case anything should go wrong.