DigitalCameraReview.com
FPT: Hard Drives and Flash Drives and Clouds, Oh My!
by Laura Hicks -  8/2/2013

Keeping your images safe from deletion is a huge concern for all types of photographers. Shutterbugs don't want to lose their family pictures. Enthusiasts want to be able to share their images easily. And professional photographers don't want to waste valuable time looking for a client's images. So what is the best way to store images? We've put together a list of options so you can make the best decision for your needs.

Is anyone still saving their images solely on a hard drive or flash drive? I hope not. There are just too many things that can go wrong with these devices. Hard drives are a great place to drop your images if you want to edit them, but I would never recommend making this the only place you store your images. SSDs make editing and accessing images on your computer faster, but hard drives can get viruses, are subject to slow write times and have the most untimely crashes.

Flash drives can be a good way to transport your images to another person or another computer if they are not tech savvy, but only storing them on a flash drive is risky. These drives, also called "thumb drives" are small enough to fit in your pocket or on your key ring. You can get ones that hold up to one terabyte, but those are rare. Common consumer flash drives are available in a multitude of storage sizes including 8, 16, 32 and 64GB. Because flash drives are so small, they are easy to lose or misplace. That means all of your awesome vacation pictures are gone forever.

External hard drives are better for storing a lot of images. They continue to get smaller and easier to transport, but they are still subject to getting lost. Also, like flash drives you have to physically have the device in order to access your images.

So what about cloud services? If you are not familiar with cloud storage for your files and images, you will be soon. Cloud storage is an internet hosting service that allows you to store your images online so they can be accessed from practically anywhere. New cloud storage sites are popping up almost every day. The most popular ones include sites like Dropbox, SkyDrive, Google Drive and Amazon Cloud Drive. These services generally offer a few gigs of free storage, but if you need more than that, you'll have to pay a yearly fee (and, most likely, you will need more than that). They do allow you to upload files of almost any size, but they offer little in the way of real photo sharing, editing and ordering.

That's why sites like Flickr, Picasa, Snapfish and Shutterfly have become so popular. These storage sites do much more than just store your images. They also offer ways to edit and order your images as prints. Some of these sites have storage limits, however, others just require you purchase at least one print per year in order for your account to stay active. These sites are geared toward the average consumer that is not generally picky about the modern feel of the site or from where the prints must be ordered.

If you are an avid or professional photographer though, the sites listed above are still not going to be great options.

If more advanced storage is what you need, then SmugMug and Zenfolio are great options. These premium sites allow much more control over your images and give users a great visual experience. Designed for the most discerning of image creators, these sites offer privacy, branding and marketing of your photos. Priced competitively, both sites offer photography websites templates and storage with various levels of monthly or yearly investments ranging from $30-$300.

No matter what storage option you choose, make sure that you have a backup. With over 10 years of professional photography experience I do not like to put all of my eggs in one basket. I would much rather have my images double stored instead of experiencing the fear that encompasses you when your computer crashes and you have no image backup. Have a great weekend and go grab that shot! Oh, and don't forget to backup your photos.