Inexpensive cloud storage for photographers using odrive and Amazon Drive
Cloud storage has been part of my workflow for years now in the form of Dropbox, Google Drive, and other services that help me deliver photos to clients. These services are excellent for client delivery and other uses, but I have continually struggled to find a solution for cloud storage of my RAW images and high-resolution JPGs.
Popular services like Dropbox are efficient and convenient, working across many platforms with ease, and storing low to medium resolution photos at a reasonable price point. However if you want to store a larger collection of files on these services, the cost quickly becomes unrealistic.
Cloud storage offerings are always changing, but at the moment most services simply are not optimized for the needs of photographers. A flexible service that allows massive or unlimited photo storage, basic file and folder structures, and the ability to quickly access them would make an ideal photo backup service. In the post I outline the things I wanted in a backup service, and the excellent solution I found using Amazon Drive and odrive.
You can try this method without spending a dime and see if you like it. What you need:
My criteria for a photography cloud backup system
It needs to be able to handle multiple terabytes of photos
- Ability to sync locally to my computer for offline access
- Ability to access my archives anywhere I have an internet connection
Of the good solutions out there that might fit most of this criteria, they can get expensive very fast. I can list through all of the services I've tried that haven't worked for me because of one reason or another, but instead I'll skip to the part where I give you the solution!
My solution: Amazon Drive + odrive
Amazon Drive offers two services; Prime Photos and Unlimited Storage. If you're an Amazon Prime subscriber, you already have access to Prime Photos, which offers unlimited photo storage. You'll be able to store your raw files, jpgs, tifs, and more under this option.
In Prime Photos, your other files are limited to 5gb total; this includes things like your Lightroom Catalogs and videos. If you run out of space with those types of files, you can opt for Unlimited Storage at $60/year.
Amazon Drive: What works and what doesn't
Unlike other services, Amazon Drive will not resize or impose limits on the size of your photos. Prime Photos has some cool photo library features like facial recognition, which are neat but not crucial to many photographers.
There are downsides, though. Both the native and application interfaces are clunky and rough around the edges. I want to streamline Amazon Drive so I'm purely working with my folders and files, and the Amazon interface isn't designed that way. Thankfully, there's something to help with that.
odrive: Making Amazon Drive worth it
odrive takes Amazon Drive to another level. You basically take advantage of the unlimited free photo storage, and odrive takes care of the rest... oh, and it's free. It's a small application that gathers all of your cloud storage services you wish to link, and functions similarly to Dropbox's local syncing.
You have a local file directory where you're able to sync up and down folders in the background straight to, or from your Amazon Drive. I'll explain more down below.
Configuring odrive and Amazon Drive
Both services are very simple to set up.
- Sign up for Amazon Prime - here's a 30-day free trial so you can access Amazon Drive
- Download odrive Sync on your preferred platform, and install it
- Link your Amazon Drive via the odrive instructions
That's it. Now keep reading and I'll show you how your new setup works.
The System in Practice
odrive's desktop client works incredibly well for managing your archives. In the image below, you can see how my folder structure is set up. I'm able to access .cloudf preview folders and files that take up zero space on my hard drive. Fantastic.
How do you upload files? Literally copy and paste or drag them where you want them in your odrive file structure, and they will automatically upload. Yeah, seriously.
Thanks to odrive, it literally feels like you have unlimited storage right on your internal hard drive.
Right-clicking on folders or files shows you the amazing features of this setup.
- "Sync" - you can background-download a folder and all of its files right onto your system.
- "Unsync" - when you're done working on a file or folder, just unsync it to turn it back into placeholders taking up zero space on your hard drive.
- "Share link" - you can create a sharable link to your folder or file, and you even get options to make it password-protected, or expire after a certain amount of time. You can also quick-create an easy share link with "Copy Share Link To Clipboard"
- "Open Web Preview" - one feature I'd love to see odrive implement in the future is local low-res previews... but that's a greedy photographer thing and this system isn't built just for us.
odrive also offers additional features via a pretty inexpensive premium subscription, that would definitely be worth it if you're accessing your archives and backups a lot. By signing up for odrive in the first place you get a premium trial so you can check it out. You can set an "auto unsync" to unsync your downloaded folders after a certain amount of time, sync external storage, encryption, and a plethora of other great features.
Looking into the future
The way odrive harnesses Amazon Drive in this setup for photographers almost seems too good to be true. As of right now, I can't think of a less expensive backup system with even close to this number of features.
It's important to remember that just because your data is in the cloud doesn't mean it's guaranteed to be safe. We know Amazon isn't going out of business anytime soon, but it's not impossible to think they could discontinue the Amazon Drive program at some point in the future, or remove it from Prime's offerings, or simply install storage limits for photos. Make sure you have other backups of your data and don't rely on this method alone.
A word of warning... Amazon Drive's Terms of Service limit your use of the service to personal, non-commercial use. How do we interpret that? I'm not certain. The way the ToS is phrased may be to prevent people from using Amazon Drive as a client delivery system or for creating online services geared towards the public... make your own interpretation at your own risk.
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