Clouds and the Jura in the Late Afternoon

Retiring Google One and iCloud for Photo Cloud Storage

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Since I am planning to downgrade my Google One plan from two terabytes to 200 gigabytes as Kdrive offers me a better deal I took the time to check when, and how easy it would be to downgrade the plan. It’s actually very easy and I have a few months to back things up before downgrading.

In the process I was reminded that Google One originally had one terabyte of storage. They automatically upgraded all those with a one terabyte plan to two terabytes back in 2018 or so. We were getting twice what we paid for.

Of course we’re not getting twice what we’re paid for. We’re paying for storage we’re not using. For most of the time I have had Google One storage I have used less than 500 gigabytes of storage, out of two terabytes so a plan that offered 500 gigabytes of storage would have been closer to what I might have wanted.

The problem with cloud storage is that the more you have, the more you use, and the more you use, the more trapped you are. You’re trapped because either you need a two terabyte drive, and several days to download everything or you’re trapped paying 100 CHF per year until you invest the time it takes to download everything.

What I Do

I have the three franc apple plan and Google One. I usually backup my photos to iCloud, until I run out of space. I also simultaneously back them up to Google Cloud. When I need to make space for an OS update on an iOs device I delete apps and photos from the iPhone as they’re backed up to Google One where I have plenty of storage.

It Backfired

Rationally I would expect Google Photos and Google Drive to be stored in the same place. You use Google Photos when you want to look at photos specifically and you use Google Drive for media asset management. Unfortunatley Google doesn’t think that way, so Google Photos is completely seperate and a pain in the abs (intentional spelling) to deal with.

iPhoto and Google Photos make it very easy to backup up photos to the cloud, but not retrieve them. Whilst this is fantastic for keeping us trapped it has the opposite effect. I never upgraded iCloud to the two terabyte plan because I saw how difficult it was to retrieve photos.

With Google Photos they make it very easy to backup your photos to the cloud, and offload photos from the phone, but in so doing it’s easy to exceed the storage capacity of a laptop drive, or mobile phone drive. According to the Google Photos app on Android I have half a terabyte of photos.

What I Require

For me to see iCloud and Google Photos as viable primary photo backup solutions I want it to be as easy to download and store cloud photos locally as it is to send them to the cloud. If it’s easy to send them to the cloud but time consuming to get them back then this is not a solution because it is very easy to lose images, if we swap from one provider to another. We need backing up locally to be as fast as backing up to the cloud. We need it to be invisible and simple.

The Android Advantage

Android has a huge advantage over iOS in that we can by a 500 gigabyte micro sd card, or even a one terabyte SD card, and when we change phone we can swap the card from the old device to the new one and all our images are in the same place. With iOS devices we have to buy dedicated hardware to do the same thing, and we need to get a large external drive for the laptop to back up our images. In theory we wouldn’t need cloud storage to be more than a backup if apple allowed SD cards in iOS devices.

Using Nextcloud as a Home Alternative

That’s where Nextcloud shines. I spent a few days trying to sync all my photos from an iOS device to a Raspberry Pi running Nextcloud and it failed, mainly because I played around instead of letting it sync. The quicker, rational solution is for me to download all the photographs from Google Photos locally, and then to send them from a windows or macOS device to the Raspberry PI, make sure it’s up to date, and then sync new photos as they’re being taken.

The Saving

Without photographs I could use the 50 gigabyte option with iCloud and the 100 gigabyte option with Google One. I would save one franc per month with Apple but 80 CHF per year with Google, from 100 CHF per month, to just 20 CHF per month.

And Finally

Although it’s fantastic that we can store photos to several clouds whilst we’re on our daily walks, bike rides and more it comes at a cost, both in terms of storage and financial. By using a solution like a home based storage solution like Nextcloud we can automatically backup our photos locally before deleting them from iCloud, Google Photos or both. In so doing we go from needing an expensive cloud storage plan to a cheap one. We also make it easier to flit from the previous cheapest storage solution to the next, without worrying about data loss.

I enjoy the idea of storing photos online but I hate the idea that they’re hard to retrieve, and for this reason I want to have a locally based, automatic cloud download solution, such as Nextcloud running on a home based machine. I won’t do away with the cloud storage solution but by having the primary backup locally the cloud storage can be swapped within minutes rather than days.