Google Photos and Amazon Cloud Drive Photos for Raw Backjup

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by marc_rochkind, May 29, 2015.

  1. Google Photos was just released yesterday, and Amazon Cloud Drive Photos a little while ago, so I've been looking at both for raw backup. (There are many other alternatives, but this post is just about these two.)
    Both have severe limitations. Google Photos is limited to 16MB per file, but it's a rare raw file that's smaller than that. So, it's not at all useful to me.
    Amazon doesn't seem to have that limit, and appears to have backed up an ARW file of about 20MB, but the file can't be viewed as a photo. I don't know for sure whether Amazon considers it as a photo. That's important, because their inexpensive plan (free for Prime users) allows unlimited photos, but a limited amount of non-photo-files.
    I could use the services as backups-of-last-resort, for things like irreplaceable family photos, but I don't have any JPEGs lying around. I'd have to explicitly export them from Lightroom, which is too much work for my 50K+ photos. I have probably exported them all at one time over the last several years, but they're not all in one place from which I can easily upload them.
    So, for backup, it seems like these two services are really useful only for photographers who shoot JPEGs and don't post-process them in Lightroom or any app that does parameterized edits (non-destructive edits). That includes everyone who uses a phone as his or her camera, which I think is what these services are really targeted at.
    They're still useful for preparing albums to share, as is Flickr, SmugMug, and lots of other services. (Apple's cloud service, too, I guess, but I know very little about it.)
    REQUEST: Please don't post on this thread about what other service you use for raw backup. Everyone knows there are many ways to use the cloud for backup, and there are lots of posts here on that subject. This thread will be most useful if it's about Google's and Amazon's services.
  2. Marc, I believe (from the review on this site) that the problem with Amazon is really just the limitation in supported raw-files. Obviously, as a Sony user, that doesn't help you at all.
    Google's service apparently uses a compression algoritm on larger files (if I've understood well, it is not so much limited to a specific filesize, but will use compression for larger files, and it accepts up to 16 megapixels which is a weird limit too) - to me, that would rule it out completely. A secondary concern might be Google's terms and conditions - justified or not, there are privacy concerns. Amazon has a bit less concerns there as your data is not their main product.
    Both services don't have terms and conditions that you can really classify it as backup services; they just offer storage space (which is a subtly different thing). Sure, useful, but not the same reliability as you should expect from a real dedicated backup service. Now, whether that level of extra reliability is worth it for personal use, is a personal decision, but it seems only fair to me to warn about that. The Amazon and Google offerings are consumer products; if they loose your files, bad luck. For business use, I would look elsewhere.
    Why this thread needs to be limited to only Google and Amazon? How is it useful to ignore other options which may be as good, cheaper and/or bring other advantages? There are pink elephants in the room. I'm not using any cloud service for full backup services yet, and once I get serious about it, I'll probably go for a dedicated backup provider rather than these cloud storage solutions anyway. But for sharing files, ample storage and the ability to store pretty much any type of file I like, I'd get MS Office 365 with 1TB of OneDrive storage. No artificial limits for photo-related files, enough space, works fine, and the latest version of Office (for any platform) thrown in as well. But not Amazon or Google indeed.
  3. I've used both extensively this year. I'll post
    some observations later after I'm back on the PC.
  4. Wouter: I only requested the discussion be focused because it seemed to me that every thread on this subject becomes a catalog of different approaches (Amazon S3, CrashPlan, etc., etc.), and, since those threads are still here, there's no need to produce yet another one with all of the same points being made.
    I didn't mention privacy concerns, as they're of no concern to me, other than the feature of keeping the photos non-public.
    I thought that Google only compressed JPEGs, but not raws. If they compress raws, it obviously has to be lossless, so who cares.
    Looking forward to info from Lex, but not sure how he could have been using Google Photos extensively, unless perhaps as a beta tester, as it was just made available yesterday. Maybe whatever one knows about Picasa and Google+ photos is applicable. Lex?
  5. Okey dokey, back on the PC with a proper keyboard...
    I'll itemize my observations about the unlimited free photo storage for Amazon Prime subscribers and the freebie Google Drive and Google Photos storage (these are two different things in the current Googleverse, subject to change according to a recent tech news article). Bear with me on the length of this reply, but this is based on several months of experimenting.
    First, the reason I'm using Amazon Prime's free storage and Google's free unlimited Photos storage is because my budget is extremely tight. By necessity I'm using the cheapest cloud storage I can find. And I began to use cloud storage this year for a few reasons:
    • I have few options for local storage of hard media away from my own apartment. I've left backups and some film based photos with family and those were either lost or destroyed in floods.
    • In 2010 both of my hard drives failed, taking all of my photos and data.
    • Fortunately I'd backed up everything to CD/DVD.
    • Unfortunately many of those CDs/DVDs failed as well, some in as little as 3 years. And doing write verification immediately after burning didn't improve anything.

      Those failures cost the permanent loss of some maximum resolution versions of live theater photos from around 2002; only some web sized JPEGs remained on other discs.

      It also cost me the original raw files from a cousin's wedding. Fortunately it affected only the second string photos and culls, not the best raw files for which I'd made multiple copies on CD/DVD. But I was shocked to discover that CDs/DVDs I'd burned in 2005-2006 were all defective - didn't matter which type of disc (CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, DVD+RW, DVD-RW), which brand, or which burner or which burning software I used. The failure rate was about the same for all. And while I also gave multiple copies to various family members, chances are those discs have also gone bad.

      Based on that experience, I've concluded home burned CDs/DVDs are a crap medium, hardly worth the time and effort it takes no matter how cheap the discs are. After I use my existing batch of CDs/DVDs I won't bother with 'em again. They've gone the way of floppy discs and Zip discs. The only way I'd consider using CDs/DVDs again is if I inherited a commercial disc press. Most of my music CDs and movie DVDs more than a decade old are still good.

      From now on I'll use M-Disc, USB flash drives and media cards for long term storage. They can't possibly be worse than home burned standard CDs/DVDs. And even camera media cards are so inexpensive now it's feasible to dedicate some 4-8 GB cards to important sessions and projects and buy new cards rather than reuse them. It may be appropriate to rewrite/refresh/reiterate data to USB flash drives and media cards every few years, but it's still better than CDs/DVDs.
    Cloud storage is the most viable alternative for me. I'm not particularly concerned about privacy because most of my photos are intended for public display anyway. Theft is always a risk no matter what we do. And as long as the cloud server doesn't abuse the contract I'm not worried about the usual agreement to allow some usage of images for promotional purposes. Seems like a fair exchange for free storage. They have to monetize their plans somehow.

    First, regarding Amazon Prime's unlimited free cloud storage:
    • Yes, it will accommodate raw files. I've successfully uploaded Nikon NEFs from my D2H and V1; DNGs from my Ricoh digicams; and Fuji RAFs. No problems. But no previews or thumbnails.
    • Yes, it will accommodate photo files larger than 16 MB. The Fuji RAFs from my 16 mp X-A1 are 24-25 MB.
    • Yes, it will accommodate TIFFs. No previews or thumbnails.


    • It's a pain in the neck. When Amazon extended free unlimited storage to Prime subscribers, it also discontinued syncing. And it asked external companies like Goodsync to discontinue support for sync to Amazon Prime free cloud storage. This irritated the hell out of a lot of Amazon customers - you can find extensive threads on Amazon forums complaining about this. There are also workarounds to re-enable syncing, but I haven't tried them.
    • In actual practice, using Amazon Prime's free unlimited cloud storage is equivalent to drag-and-drop copying on local drives, minus the semi-smart reminders regarding merging folders, whether to duplicate files, etc. So I already have many duplicate uploads on Amazon.
    • Mostly I use Amazon Prime's free unlimited cloud storage only for my most important projects. I'll drag and drop an entire folder and let it run overnight. Usually it finishes by the time I wake up.
    Mostly Amazon Prime's free unlimited cloud storage is an appetizer for their paid S3/Glacier services. I'll probably go for their lower priced Glacier service for long term storage of important projects for which I won't need immediate access.
    Regarding Google's freebies - as of this writing because, again, Google is about to revamp its cloud program:
    • Google Drive and Google Photos are two different things - as of this writing, subject to change at whim.
    • Sync for Google Drive and Photos works really well. I assigned low priority and allowed my entire photo archive to upload - nearly 500 GB of data. I didn't check to see how long it took, and the gradual process didn't interfere with our low end DSL service so we could still stream movies.
    • I chose to keep all my photos private. As far as I can tell Google has respected this and hasn't pulled any tricks to publish my photos without authorization. So, effectively, I'm getting free storage and they're getting nothing from it. I'm not sure how that sort of monetization scheme works, unless they're hoping to tempt users to become customers by paying for their upgraded service.
    • Each Google account gets free 16 GB of Google Drive storage. This can accommodate JPEGs, TIFFs and raw files.
    • If you have multiple Google accounts, each gets 16 GB free Google Drive. I haven't used my multiple accounts for this purpose and don't know whether Google might identify multiple account holders by IP and penalize them.
    • Google Drive uses embedded JPEGs for previews of raw files. No previews of TIFFs, although it may be possible to embed JPEG previews with TIFFs, although I'm not clever enough to figure that out. I may start using DNG rather than TIFFs since DNG easily accommodates small JPEGs for previews without inflating the file size.
    • It's fairly easy to swap photos between Google Drive and Google Photos.
    Disadvantages to Google Drive:
    • As far as I can tell it's necessary to duplicate files and folders on our local hard drive in order to use Google Drive. We can't arbitrarily select certain folders, either via the computer's native hierarchy or Lightroom, etc. So to use Google Drive I have to drag and drop duplicate copies from my usual folder organization into the Google Drive folder.
    • It appears to be full mirrored sync only. So if we delete a photo or folder from our local Google Drive folder, it's deleted from the cloud Google Drive, and vice versa.

      I really don't like this. I'd prefer something like the Microsoft SyncToy options, which allow three ways to sync: full mirrored; write to secondary/remote device with mirrored rename but no delete; one-way only, write from original with no possibility of the secondary/remote making any changes to the original source.

      So, for now, if you use Google Drive be very careful about what you delete, either from your local drive or from the cloud based Google Drive.
    Google Photos:
    • Like Google Drive, syncing is easy and reliable. It works best via Picasa.
    • It's JPEG only. Good for snapshots, also good for finished prints that we prep for online printing services like mpix that handle JPEGs only.
    • Unlimited free Google Photos requires resizing photos to a maximum of 2048 pixels on the longest side. While this seems like an imposition, it's still good enough for prints up to 8x10. So I won't list that as a minus.
    • Google Photos does some fun stuff automatically, such as identifying sequences of photos and creating animated GIFs. Personally, I like this feature and occasionally share the more amusing animated GIFs on Facebook (which requires conversion to video, via Giphy or other method). But some Google users hate this feature, even though it doesn't affect the originals and isn't published without user consent.
    • Google Photos also does automatic enhancement, which can be undone. I don't consider this a plus or minus. For the target user, who isn't an experienced photographer, it's probably a plus. Again, some users hate it. I don't care one way or another since it can be undone.
    • Mostly I like Google Photos because it keeps at least a moderate resolution copy of every photo from my hard drive (based on folders I've authorized Picasa/Google Photos to sync - I don't sync all folders). If all else fails, at least I have those JPEGs.
    On the down side for Google Photos:
    • The organization is a hot mess. It's not navigable via a mobile device.
    • Even via a computer browser the organization is a mess. It doesn't follow even the familiar Picasa hierarchy, navigation or tools standards. Finding a particular photo or folder is frustrating. It depends on metadata to organize photos more or less by date.
    • Google arbitrarily changes the organization and access, making it almost impossible to find some interesting stuff. For example, among the automatic enhancements are features they call "Stories" and "Auto Awesome". These automatically create animated GIFs, videos and auto-run slideshows, based on image recognition of sequences and according to date. Personally, I like this. It doesn't affect the originals. I can ignore it if I choose.

      What I don't like, however, is the poor organization of these Stories and Auto Awesome creations. For example, recently Google automatically created a slideshow from one of my medical documentary projects, combining sequences of still photos and short videos. I really liked the result - it was very close to what I had in mind for the project, and was remarkably well done considering it was completely automated.

      And I could never find it again. Incredibly aggravating. Google changed the organization of these automatically created projects, and didn't clearly differentiate between "Stories", "Auto Awesome", etc. Even the moderators on the help forum couldn't figure out what happened. They escalated the issue to Google, which did restore some of the original organization. But I still wasn't able to find that particular automatically created slideshow.
    Anyway, overall, Amazon Prime free unlimited cloud storage and Google Photo's free unlimited storage (with downsized JPEGs) are excellent values for folks on extremely tight budgets. Just be aware of the limitations in terms of syncing, organization, etc. I consider these last ditch, emergency services, in case all else fails. For that, they're very useful free services.
    And I'm definitely impressed with Google's reliability and low resource demand in syncing to Drive. I might consider paying for Google Drive, but only if syncing works better:
    • I get to designate which folders are synced, as with Picasa, rather than dragging everything to a Google Drive folder on my hard drive.
    • Sync offers multiple options, similar to SyncToy.
    I'd also like to see Western Digital offer their excellent SmartWare backup tool for use with cloud services other than Dropbox. SmartWare is very much a niche utility - it's true backup only. SmartWare backs up the hard drive to an external drive, but there is no possibility of accidentally or deliberately deleting files/folders from the SmartWare backup drive. You can read files/folders from the SmartWare backup. But if you need to free up space on the SmartWare drive, it's necessary to wipe the drive and start over. I'd like to have that safety option for a continuous or occasional backup to the cloud, but not to Dropbox. I'd rather use it in conjunction with Amazon Prime, but that's not possible right now.
  6. Incidentally, I'm also a fan of Western Digital Passport Ultra USB drives, but that's info for another thread. And I've been testing a WD MyCloud 3 TB external NAS drive, which is a mixed bag and needs its own thread. Neither relevant to this discussion about freebie cloud storage. I only mention it because I'm not relying solely on cloud storage.
  7. Oops, I keep thinking of other conditions and complications regarding Amazon Prime unlimited free cloud storage, and Google's equivalent.
    One advantage to Amazon Prime is that it's very easy to share photos to social media or email. I can share photos to Facebook without having to make those Amazon Prime photo folders public.
    However, I don't like a change Amazon made to Prime accounts about a year ago. Now every device on a single family Prime account shares the same media. Every book, video, music, app, and photo is equally accessible to everyone who shares the same Prime account. That means my mom, with whom I share an Amazon Prime account, could inadvertently delete a photo, folder or entire set of photos from my Amazon Prime photo storage, with just a few careless swipes on her Kindle Fire HD.
    I specifically opted for the Kindle Fire HD and Amazon Prime for my mom in 2012 because she was beginning to experience vascular dementia. The symptoms are usually subtle, the sort of thing people used to callously dismiss as "senility" or "absent-mindedness". But there's an organic cause for the condition, often treatable, and I refuse to accept the notion that it's an inevitable and "natural" part of aging. The symptoms come and go with mini-strokes (TIA's or transient ischemic accidents). Even with those occasional disabilities and shaky hands my mom usually finds the Kindle Fire HD easy to operate. And Amazon's customer service is superb. Several times mom has accidentally purchased a book or movie (due to the one-click purchase nature of the Kindle), and every time customer service has refunded the charge, as long as nobody began reading the book or watching the movie.
    Unfortunately, by merging all Amazon Prime account media into every device on the account, it makes it impossible to secure any media or data. So anyone with access to the account can delete your photos, books, movies, music, etc.
    So if you can afford it, have a separate Amazon Prime account for yourself if you plan to depend on their free unlimited photo storage.
  8. Thanks, Lex... really useful info in your posts.
    It seems there are differences between what Google released yesterday as Photos and what you were using. In particular, they do accept raw files, but with that unreasonable 16MB size limitation. Also, there is a desktop syncing app (also released yesterday, I think) that allows you to choose an arbitrary folder to sync from, and even several such folders.
    Maybe you could take a look and report back?
    Thanks again!
  9. Yup, I'm planning to try out the revised Google Photos ASAP. Only read about it yesterday myself, but have been too busy to test it yet.
    I need to hardwire my desktop back to the modem to do justice to my cloud backup strategy. I've been using a D-Link USB 2 wifi adapter on my desktop, supplied by AT&T Uverse, and the desktop and modem are separated by a couple of walls. I'm surprised it managed to dribble nearly 500 GB of data across the ether over the past few months without bogging anything down. I'm guessing Google sync must detect usage and adjust priority as needed. It seems to dribble faster overnight while I'm snoozing, and barely moves data at all during the day.
    In contrast, Amazon Prime uploads seem to demand high priority and consume a lot of bandwidth, because it's difficult to get anything else done during those bulk uploads.
  10. Started using the new Google sync. Some files failed to upload, which is
    reported, but with no explanation. Also, list of failures is deleted as soon as
    you look at it. Not usable in my opinion.
  11. Ah, too bad. Hopefully a temporary glitch. I don't recall any failures. However it doesn't provide any user accessible reports to confirm uploads, error checking, etc., so it might not suit some users. If I was paying for a service I'd want more info. But for free services I can't complain.
  12. Just a small thing that possibly (?) explains the upload glitches: apparently the max size is not 16 MB but 16MP, according to this:
    We maintain the original resolution up to 16MP for photos, and 1080p high-definition for videos, and store compressed versions of the photos and videos in beautiful, print-quality resolution.​
    Source: .
    I can't directly find any info what happens if you try higher resolution images (whether they get resized automatically, or refused, or ...?), but maybe that's what you're running into?
  13. I took a quick peek at the revised Google Photos last night. Just the existing photos in my account, I didn't have time to upload any new stuff.
    It's a little better but not ready to be a contender for serious cloud backup purposes. It still seems very much aimed at snapshooters and amateurs who mostly use social media to share photos. Lots of shiny bells and whistles.
    But it's still not intuitive. I couldn't see any user accessible options via the browser view. And the auto-generated features I did like - the "Stories" and "Auto Awesome" animated GIFs - are still difficult to find.
    I'll have more time next week to try it a little more. I'm also hoping to retro-load the old Amazon Prime free cloud sync utility, but I'll need to review a very long thread on the Amazon forums to grok the necessary steps.
    Meanwhile I suppose a paid Google Drive account, or paid Amazon S3 or Glacier account, would be the better alternatives, although I don't know enough about their syncing methods, error checking, etc.
  14. Lex. I am thoroughly confused and somewhat ignorant. I have Amazon Prime that I have not yet used for storage and I
    have been using Google + through Mosaic, which just got bought by on one and is now called photovia. Photovia
    automaically moves files to Google + if I wish and it is working. Those files, at least, have some organization on
    Google + but are by no means comprehensive. I have three hard drives with one at least I would like to store
    somewhere on line. A few years ago I lost about 200 valuable to me raw files with Carbonite and have not stored off
    line since as local Carbonite storage and on-line versions of them could not be recovered despite a months worth of
    trying, My files are bad enough without getting them further confused. So I have images on Google + and some
    images on Google Drive (how they got there, I don't know), and lots of them on hard drives which could fail any day and now there is Google Photos that I don't yet know how to access or how Photos works with plus and drive. Any suggestions or am I so hopeless disorganized that I am beyond help. .I would pay some for storage if I had to.
  15. Google is confusing, between Drive and Photos. And as of the end of May 2015, Google appears to be differentiating between Google Photos and Google+ Photos. I have no idea what they're doing. Hopefully it will sort itself out soon. It's free so I'm not worrying.
    Two advantages to the new version of Google Photos (no idea whether it's Google+ Photos or just Google Photos). As of the end of May, you can upload raw files and full resolution JPEGs. That's good. And it appears that those uploaded photos will remain, even if we delete them from our hard drive - but I need to triple check on this. There's always some lag time between uploads and images appearing in our Photos folders, so I'm not certain.
    Google Drive lets you move photos between Google Photos and Drive. It appears the photos are duplicated, copied rather than moved. And Drive has accepted raw files and full resolution JPEGs for awhile now. The downside is that deleting photos from our Google folder on our local, physical hard drive will also delete those photos from the cloud, and vice versa. So it's very tricky. Be sure whatever you upload to Drive is the final version, and that you have local or cloud backup somewhere besides the Google Folder.
    Regarding Amazon Prime's free cloud storage, it's just a huge bin. No syncing, no automation of any kind. It will use the same folder names we have on our local drives, whether descriptive names or dates. I'm glad it's available since we're already Prime subscribers. But I do wish it still offered syncing.
    My best guess is that when Amazon decided to offer unlimited free storage, it wanted to discourage "professional" use by eliminating the convenience and organization of syncing. They're hoping to avoid undercutting their paid S3 and Glacier services. They probably anticipate the main market for free Prime storage will be mobile devices with cameras. It may even be a precursor to a new Fire Phone that might fix some of the problems early adopters complained about.
  16. Lex. Thank you. I am going to re-read your post a couple of times as it has a lot of good info. Thanks, Dick.
  17. I just loaded google photos into my android smart phone. I just went to my Google + account and Google Photos is in
    the plus photo file. Now I have to figure out what to do with it

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