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Best photo cloud storage in 2021 for GIFs, images and pictures: Free and paid

TechRadar logo TechRadar 12/9/2021 Desire Athow
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Don't risk your images in 2021; whisk them up into the safety of the cloud. Here we test seven leading options to find the best cloud storage for photos. Backing up your photos can be something of an arduous task, and that was especially the case back when that meant spending time burning them to CDs or DVDs.

Fortunately, keeping your photos safe is now much easier thanks to the cloud. Put simply, 'the cloud' is just techno-jargon for online storage. You can choose from numerous service providers offering anywhere between 5GB and 1TB, or indeed unlimited, free remote drive space. Note that Google no longer provides unlimited storage with its Google Photos service. (Backblaze, however, is an alternative option for unlimited needs while iDrive offers 10TB).

Backing up your pics like this doesn't just eliminate the hassle of dealing with discs or hard drives, it also enables you to access your photos from anywhere with an internet connection. The ability to share photos is another bonus, while websites like Flickr let you exhibit your images to the world, with scope for other users to leave feedback.

Of course, if you'd rather keep your pictures, snaps and GIFs private, most cloud storage providers make it easy to set restrictions to make images accessible only to your password-protected account, or to anyone with a private web link.

If you want to showcase your photo archive or image collection, then consider these image hosting providers . We've compared seven of the best photo cloud storage websites; some aimed at photographers and some suited to general picture storage.

We've compiled a list of the more generic providers to store your files online in our best cloud storage buying guide.

The best photo cloud storage services in 2021

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1. IDrive is the best cloud storage provider IDrive, the cloud storage veteran, delivers tons of storage online for an incredibly small outlay. 5TB 10TB for $3.98 for the first year is unmatched till now and so is the support for unlimited devices and the extensive file versioning system available.

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2. Get free unlimited cloud backup is now included with ExpressVPN Backblaze has partnered with ExpressVPN and now when you sign up for an annual VPN subscription, you get unlimited cloud backup as well. Secure, business-grade cloud storage for everyone, no strings attached.

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3. pCloud provides a lifetime cloud storage subscription The Swiss-based company is more expensive than the competition but the one-off payment means that you won't have to worry about renewal fees that can be very horrendously expensive. $350 for 10 years is less than $3 per month.

Since IDrive is one of the best cloud storage services around, it’s naturally a great option for storing photos too. A free plan gives you 5GB, which might be enough if you don’t have that many photos. Users who need more space can upgrade to a 10TB plan priced at $59.62 per year. That said, you can get a staggering 10TB of online cloud storage space for a mere $3.98 for the first year, a new offer introduced exclusively for our readers in December 2021.

Photographers who use multiple devices will be glad to hear that they can back up their photos on unlimited devices to a single account. With the “Auto Camera” option, users can automatically upload photos (and videos) from their device to the IDrive account, while retaining image quality (if they choose to). Additionally, users can benefit from a facial recognition feature that can be used to automatically organize photos, as well as sync them across all linked devices. Also, IDrive has a separate app for iOS and Android, called IDrive Photos, which costs $9.95 a year for unlimited storage.

Backblaze has been around since 2007, and offers a very convenient solution for backing up photos. We should make it clear upfront that the downside here is that you can’t share your photos, or benefit from any additional features whatsoever in fact – all Backblaze does is back up and store your images (and other important files), and that’s it.

Backblaze has several major strengths, and one of those is its slick operation, with no input required from the user – everything is backed up continuously, and that all happens in the background automatically. Not only this, but you get unlimited storage capacity with the sole (personal) subscription plan, so there’s definitely no need to worry about having tons of pics (or videos, or anything else) to back up.

The caveat is that while storage isn’t limited, you’re tied to just one computer with one account – if you want more, then you’ll need another subscription for additional devices (one for each, and mobiles aren’t covered, just PCs). However, at $70 for a year of unlimited storage (and bandwidth, with no file size limits), the price is certainly tempting if this solution fits your requirements.

pCloud is not your average cloud storage provider; it is one of the very few that provides a lifetime storage subscription, which means that you only have to pay once to get, well, 2TB of storage. To prevent abuse, you are also limited to 2TB of download link traffic per month.

Photographers will love the fact that you can see thumbnails and previews of most RAW files with the web and mobile versions of pCloud, as well as in pCloud Drive for macOS. Also nifty is the browser extension that allows you to save videos and images directly to your pCloud account, which you can use as a scrapbook. Remember as well that you will be able to keep file revisions for up to 30 days and that you can create an entire static HTML website with its own URL.

Adobe Creative Cloud offers a number of different cloud-based storage solutions specifically for photographers, and provides photography-orientated storage with attractive image galleries.

Group Libraries enable colleagues to add photos to one shared folder, and you're free to make any photo private. There's integration with Lightroom and Elements, and you can make quick edits when needed. There's also integration with Gmail. Uploading is easy, with apps for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. There's also support for RAW file formats.

The cheapest tier is expensive, though, at $119.88 per year for 1TB of storage. That's twice what Microsoft OneDrive provides but you do get Lightroom CC (although to be fair, Microsoft gives you Office 365). Opt for a lower storage capacity (20GB) and you can get Photoshop and Lightroom Classic thrown in for free.

Encrypted cloud storage and collaboration for the enterprise Tresorit is the ultra-secure cloud for businesses with full GDPR and HIPAA compliance, a privacy-first philosophy to enable secure cloud collaboration. Store, sync and share files with your team with complete data migration support. Get secure cloud storage and collaboration for your teams for as little as $14.50 per month per user.

Dropbox is great for storing pretty much any file you care to think of. Organizing files is a cinch thanks to the intuitive folder system, plus you can access files on the go with apps for iOS and Android. All this and 2GB of storage is free with a Dropbox Basic account (you can get an extra 500MB of space for referring a friend, all the way up to 16GB). A Dropbox Plus account offers 2TB for $11.99 a month or $119 a year, and you can get 1GB per referral (up to 32GB).

You do get remote desktop wipe, 30-day version history, priority email upload and the option to restore folders or your entire account to a specific point in time, in case of accidental file deletion, crashes, or similar disasters.

For its versatility and simplicity, Dropbox is superb, especially if you just need to store RAW files. Also, Dropbox is integrated with Facebook, allowing you to easily transfer photos or videos from the social network. Furthermore, Adobe Creative Cloud integration is there as well.

Ed: Google Photos, the search giant's popular online image storage and editing platform,  no longer provides free, unlimited cloud storage for ‘high quality’ photos and videos. Since June 1, 2021, newly uploaded images count towards the free 15GB of cloud storage that comes with every Google Account.

Google Drive isn't just another cloud storage solution, it's also part of a suite (G Suite) that offers several free business-grade office apps (heck, we even use it in the office here). Like Dropbox, Drive is geared towards file sharing, with multiple users able to modify shared files. You can store photos on Drive, but it doesn't offer the same stylish setting as more photography-focused online storage.

15GB of free storage comes with Drive, although this is shared by other Google apps like Gmail. Google uses AI and machine learning to automatically label people within pictures, and uses metadata (the recorded date and place) to make searching easier. If you have a Canon device, you can back up your photos to Google Photos by just using Wi-Fi.

As part of Google One, you can increase the allocated space to 100GB for $19.99 per year, 200GB for $29.99 per year, and 2TB costs $99.99 per year.

Microsoft's cloud storage locker offers a very similar setup to its arch-rival, Google Drive. Anyone familiar with the Microsoft Office suite will feel right at home with OneDrive's integrated office apps. OneDrive adopts the same look and feel as Windows 10, so it's easy to navigate. However, it isn't designed solely for photographers, so don't expect the same viewing experience as you get from Flickr. That said, some features have been added for photo users, like cropping, rotating, light/color adjustments, and similar. 

Pricing is close to Google's, with 5GB for free and an extra 100GB costing $1.99 per month. However, Microsoft's 1TB option is better value at $6.99 per month (or $69.99 paid yearly), and includes the Office 365 package. Add another $3 per month and you get six licenses to use, more storage, and bonus features like one hour of Skype for free. Also, subscribers can install Office (both plans) on an unlimited number of devices.

Where most cloud storage providers make you cough up for more than a few gigabytes of storage, Flickr - now owned by SmugMug, Inc. - offers the storage of 1,000 photos and videos for free, with unobtrusive adverts covering the cost. If you'd rather go ad-free and with unlimited storage, you can do so for a $7.99 monthly fee (or $71.88 annual fee) for Flickr Pro+.

What makes Flickr stand out is its ability to display your photos in an attractive photostream. Other users can follow your activity and comment on your shots, making it a real social network for amateur and professional photographers alike (or if you prefer, you can make images private).

Flickr is designed for presenting your shots rather than just storing them, so it'll only display JPEG, GIF and PNG images. Dropbox is better if you need to upload RAW files, but you won't get stats on your photo views or 15% savings off Adobe's Creative Cloud (with the annual plan, you also get discounts for Blurb, SmugMug, and Prime).

5 things to look for in cloud storage for photos

Freemium: Most storage providers give you some free space, with extra capacity available for a monthly or annual fee. Prices vary considerably, though, so make sure you get a good deal.

File formats: If you just want to back up or share JPEGs, then pretty much any provider will fit the bill. However, you'll need to choose more carefully if you'll be storing TIFFs or RAW files.

Internet speed: Don't fork out on a premium cloud storage subscription if your internet connection runs at a snail's pace. Consider spending the same cash on a fast external hard drive instead.

Show off: Not all online storage websites will display your photos in attractive galleries for the world to see them at their best.

Keep moving: Cloud storage is great for keeping your photos accessible on the go, so make sure your preferred provider has apps to help view and upload images from your mobile devices.

Stay more secure online and check out our choice of the best VPN.

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