Back up your iPhone photos: Eight affordable (or free) cloud options

Even new handsets can break or go missing. Safeguard your precious photos with easy-to-use cloud services that deliver massive amounts of storage for low or no cost.

Topic: Storage
1 of 9 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Most iOS cloud solutions have free capacity

Many of us have lost memorable photos when our phones were lost, stolen, or simply failed. There is no reason to ever worry about this with iOS thanks to many great alternative free cloud storage solutions.

Nearly all of these solutions offer at least some free capacity, with many also offering massive amounts of storage for rather low prices. You can even sync to multiple services to ensure your photos are available whenever you need them.

After uploading the photos, you can then access them with other mobile devices and computers. I highly recommend you download, install, and setup at least one of these services for photo syncing as soon as you can.

Box is a powerful cloud storage offering, but currently does not have an automatic photo sync solution so it was not included in this image gallery. You can use apps like CameraSync or PhotoSync, available from the App Store, or setup a simple IFTTT routine.

2 of 9 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

iCloud is available natively

The easiest solution — and the one most likely to be used by folks who purchase iPhones with their two-year upgrade subsidy — is iCloud. You get 5GB with an iCloud account and have a few ways to control photo uploads.

  • Costs: Free to $19.99/month
  • Capacity: 5GB (Free) to 1TB
  • Pros: Integrated into the iPhone at the OS level; easy to share with family and friends; offers ability to have multiple people share an event to one location; syncs across Apple devices
  • Cons: iOS only, rather expensive for 1TB
  • Why use this service: Everyone with an iPhone should enable the iCloud photo sync and sharing functionality. It is native to the OS and reliable.
3 of 9 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Yes, Facebook offers a free backup option

Millions use Facebook for social networking and sharing of photos in their Timeline. You can also sync your photos to the Facebook server with some limited storage capacity.

  • Costs: Free
  • Capacity: Limited to just 2GB
  • Pros: Tied in with social network; no cost to use; can upload via WiFi or cellular; uploads are set to private
  • Cons: Reduced image quality, limited storage
  • Why use this service: If you spend a lot of time on Facebook and share your photos, you may want to enable this service. If you care about image quality and uploading lots of photos, then skip Facebook for photo syncing.
4 of 9 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Google+ backup

Google+ is one of my primary backup cloud solutions since I am always working in Google. You can control when photos and videos get backed up and also select full-size backups.

The only limit to full-size photos is your Google Drive capacity. I have a couple hundred gigabytes available so have plenty of room to backup my photos. Google+ has proven to be pretty reliable over the years.

  • Costs: Free, unless you upload full size and need more Google Drive capacity
  • Capacity: Unlimited for standard size photos (defined as photos 2048 pixels or less on longest edge and videos less than 15 minutes with 1080p resolution or lower). Full size images use your Google Drive storage with capacities from 100GB to 30TB, priced from $1.99/month to $299.99/month, respectively.
  • Pros: Unlimited standard size uploads; reasonably priced full size upload option; automatically uploaded to private area
  • Cons: Full size uploads will cost you money; requires a Google+ account
  • Why use this service: Google+ works well across mobile and desktop platforms. Unlimited standard size is handy for social networks.
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OneDrive backup

Office 365 subscribers get a whopping 1TB of OneDrive storage. Take advantage of that space and get OneDrive backing up your photos now.

  • Costs: Free to $100/year for home (includes Microsoft Office)
  • Capacity: 15GB with offer until end of September for a free 30GB account. 1TB for Office 365 subscribers
  • Pros: Vast amount of storage capacity; full image backup; inexpensive
  • Cons: Requires a OneDrive account (it's a con to some Microsoft haters)
  • Why use this service: If you are an Office 365 subscriber, you must set this up on your iPhone. I doubt anyone will ever even get close to reaching the 1TB limit and this service gives you a way to backup full size images and videos.
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Flickr auto sync

I prefer using Flickr for photo sharing because they have unlimited storage and a website optimized for photos. You can upload your full resolution too.

  • Costs: Free
  • Capacity: 1TB (about 600,000 typical photos)
  • Pros: Massive free storage capacity, full size image upload, slick desktop browser interface, easy to share photos.
  • Cons: No video backup support. The iOS app has limited controls, simply a toggle, to limit when uploading takes place. By default can only download one photo at a time, but there are third party solutions available.
  • Why use this service: In addition to iCloud, I highly recommend every iPhone user sign up and use Flickr. It is a service that has been time tested and lets you upload and store full size images for free.
7 of 9 Matthew Miller/ZDNet


Dropbox is a standard for many people and as you can see there are some simple toggles for this cloud service. Free storage is available with low cost options for even more.

  • Costs: Free to $9.99 per month
  • Capacity: 2GB to 1TB
  • Pros: Easy file sharing capability; excellent cross platform support; ability to upload full quality images and video
  • Cons: Limited free capacity
  • Why use this service: Dropbox is the standard that people are familiar with. Their 1TB service is reasonably priced and they are known for reliability.
8 of 9 Matthew Miller/ZDNet


SugarSync is a powerful cloud service, but no longer has a free option. There is a free trial, but the lowest cost capacity option is $7.49 per month for 60GB.

  • Costs: $7.49/month ($74.99/year) to $55/month ($550/year)
  • Capacity: 60GB to 1TB
  • Pros: Full size backup of photos and videos, cross platform access to your photos
  • Cons: No free capacity, expensive compared to other backup solutions
  • Why use this service: SugarSync is useful, but primarily if you use it as your computer backup solution. If you only need an iPhone photo backup solution, look to one of the other free or low cost options.
9 of 9 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Amazon Cloud drive

Amazon offers a service to backup and save your photos on iOS as well. You can upload photos and videos via wi-fi or cellular.

  • Costs: Free to $500/year
  • Capacity: 5GB to 1TB
  • Pros: Full size photo and video backups, well-known provider that will always be there, reasonably priced options for more storage.
  • Cons: Not easy to share photos with others, very focused on backup of files. Also requires an Amazon account.
  • Why use this service: Amazon is not going anywhere so if you want to backup your photos to a service you know you can rely on then at least get the free 5GB account.

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