iCloud's 5GB of free storage doesn't stretch far, so what's your next step?
As I explained a few months ago, my son is in Grade 5 this year and needs to bring an iPad to school every day. Personally I'm not convinced that kids need a tablet in primary school, but the decision has been made so we just need to make the best of it. As our household's IT services manager, it's my job to make sure everything runs smoothly.
As regular readers know, I'm a big believer in making back-ups – not just of family photos but also important files such as business reports and school assignments. I enabled iCloud back-ups on the iPad and thought that would take care of it, but I didn't stop to think how trigger-happy my son would be when it comes to shooting photos and video.
A few weeks ago my son started to see an iCloud pop-up notification, warning him that his iPad wasn't fully backed up because he's exceeded his 5GB allowance. Dipping into the iCloud configuration menu, it's clear that his Camera Roll is the main offender.
iOS doesn't prioritise iWork data over photos and videos – it just stops backing up completely when the next back-up will exceeded the available online storage. He's only used 4.2 GB of his available storage, but the iPad hasn't run a back-up for two weeks because the next back-up will be more than 5GB. I wouldn't exactly call that intelligent back-up management.
It's possible to remove the Camera Roll from iCloud back-up, but some of those photos and videos are actually important because they're for school assignments. One option is to force my son to aggressively cull his Camera Roll – which doesn't seem fair when he's trying to make the most of his iPad. Another option is to regularly archive photos and videos off to a computer, but his iPad is never connected to a computer – I want it to be a standalone device.
So I guess that leaves me little choice but to pay for extra online back-up storage. Apple wants $21 per year for 10GB of iCloud storage, which isn't going to go far. After that it's $42 for 20GB, which still might not be enough for a 32GB iPad, or else $105 for 50GB – which is starting to get a bit expensive. Of course there are other options for automatically uploading an iGadget's Camera Roll to the cloud, so I decided to shop around.
Having recently compared Google Drive, Dropbox and Microsoft OneDrive storage, I decided Google was a good place to start. The Google+ app will automatically upload the Camera Roll to the cloud and you're only paying US$24 per year for 100GB. Unfortunately Google+ only uploads photos behind the scenes if you've left the app running in the background – a limitation of iOS rather than the app. You're given the impression that every new photo you take is automatically uploaded, but this won't happen if you've killed the app. If you don't realise that it isn't running you could be in for a rude shock when you need to call upon your back-ups.
There are several other options to try, including Flickr which offers an impressive 1TB of free storage but unfortunately doesn't seem to auto-upload videos. In the end I settled on Amazon Cloud Drive, which offers 5GB for free but after that only wants $10 per year for 20GB (going as high as $500 for 1TB). Like Google+ it doesn't always run in the background, but what won me over is that the Amazon Cloud Drive app icon displays the number of photos and videos which haven't been uploaded. This means my son can easily tell if the iPad isn't fully backed up and can open the app to deal with it.
Now that the iPad's entire Camera Roll is backed up to Amazon Cloud Drive I can turn off Camera Roll backup in iCloud and save that storage space for more important data such as iWorks files. I can even add other devices to that Amazon Cloud Drive and only pay for the storage I use, rather than paying per device.
Are you the household IT services manager? What's your back-up strategy for mobile devices?