One of the topics I am passionate about, perhaps to the point of hectoring (my apologies), is backing up. Your irreplaceable content, especially digital photos, can be – WHOOSH! – gone, in the blink of an a hard drive or smart phone crash. There is absolutely no reason your should lose a single photo considering the multitude of methods with which you can backup your data.
Okay, maybe the varying backup methods I've suggested in the past (including "How To Easily – and Cheaply – Backup Your PC" and "How To Get Your Photos Off Your Smart Phone") seem too technical or complicated, cost too much (or anything) or seem like too much work. I don't believe any of that when measured against the consequences of inaction, but I'll work with you.
So here's about as pain-free a way as I've discovered to digitally and safely stow your photos and other valuable files in the cloud, and be able to access them easily on your iPhone, iPad or the Web – a new FREE app from Microsoft (yes, an iPhone app from Microsoft) called SkyDrive.
(Photos taken with a Windows Phone will automatically get sent to the SkyDrive account that comes with the phone, if you so desire, similar to Apple's iCloud photo service. Reportedly, an Android version of SkyDrive is in the works. The two SkyDrive apps you'll see in the Android Market are NOT Microsoft's SkyDrive app – make sure the app is attributed to "Microsoft" before you download it.)
Not only is the SkyDrive app free, but Microsoft is gifting you 25 GB of free online storage space. That's enough to securely tuck away at least 5,000 high-resolution digital photos, more if your photos were shot at lower resolutions (and you really don't need to shoot photos at any more than 5-6 MP).
Need more space? Create another account with a different email address and password – voila, another 25 GB of digital closet space. You'll just have to remember which files are stored under which account.
How SkyDrive works
Go to iTunes. Download the app and install it on your iPhone or iPad. (Unfortunately, the iPad app is not optimized for the iPad; it's the same as the iPhone app.)
Then, on your PC or Mac, go to the SkyDrive Web site. You can sign in with your current Hotmail or Windows Live account, if you got, or create an account using any email address. Once you're in, you'll get to SkyDrive's primary file screen.
SkyDrive offers a few interesting options, but for back-up purposes, you want "New Folder." You'll get to name the folder – "2011 Vacation Photos" or "Our First Grandchild" or whatever you want.
Once it's name, click on the folder name. You will be prompted to Add Files, so above the window, click "Add Files."
From the resulting file window, find the folder where your photos are stored. Pick one, pick all, click "Choose." Or, open up Windows Explorer ("My Computer") and drag-and-drop files into the SkyDrive file window in your Web browser.
Be aware SkyDrive can't upload sub-folders – folders within folders. You have to physically create the folders in SkyDrive into which you want to add files. Having to create new folders for each passel of pictures makes the process a bit more time-consuming, but what do you want for nothing? SkyDrive also doesn't like question marks or extra periods in the file name, which means you'll have to re-name offending files, and won't upload videos of larger than 100 MB.
For photos, you'll see a click-box option to save photos at 2,048 pixels. This is, roughly, the size of a 5 MP photo, which is plenty big. Even if you've shot your originals at a higher resolution, this shrinkage will allow you to store more like 8,000 photos for free (I'm sure someone with better math skills than I can figure out how many 700 KB files – around the size of a 2048-pixel photo – can fit into 25 GB).
Your photos will now start to upload to SkyDrive.
Now, go to your iPhone or iPad, and make sure you have an Internet connection (Wi-Fi or 3G). Open the SkyDrive app. Sign in – and there are your folders with your photos inside. Tap a photo to view it.
How simple is that?
I encourage any of you who have not backed up your digital photos to do so, via SkyDrive or via one (or more) of the methods I outlined in previous pleading perorations, just as long as copies of your photos are safely stored somewhere other than, and/or in addition to, your vulnerable PC hard drive or smart phone.