• 6 minutes • 2020-01-12
    Moving away from Google Photos [Series]

    Google Photos offers one of the best - if not the best - photo managing and sharing service on the Internet. Finding a suitable replacement proved to be a big challenge.

    This is part of a series of blog posts, outlining my efforts to no longer use Google products

    Google Photos

    Google Photos was 100 times better, when it was tightly integrated with Picasa. When Picasa was still alive, I could have my whole library of photos, all organized neatly in year folders and subfolders under that, and they would be automatically synched with Google Photos. It was not called Google Photos at the time I think but the sync was there.

    We entered then a stage where one could still have Picasa (locally) to manipulate their photos as well as sync with the cloud and also have the mobile app which would ensure that memories would be kept once they were captured on a mobile device.

    Picasa sadly was killed (as many Google products, even though they are awesome - remember Wave?). So we were left with no viable option to manage our photos locally and keep the cloud as a backup.

    Google Photos offers a nice interface where one could have albums and even share them with other users that have Google accounts. The permission system is very good and photos are scanned and people are recognized and grouped. This should raise some warnings with everyone. The fact that Google can figure out that a framed picture on a table appearing in one of my photos, was actually a picture of my brother in law, and Google Photos figured it out is really alarming. This should not come as a surprise. We are to blame for it. With the use of Google’s free services, we openly and freely offer our data to them, who in turn use it to train their algorithms and facial recognition systems. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the like do the same thing. So if you want some privacy, Google Photos is not the way.

    There were a few annoying things with Google Photos, such as the ordering of photos - one could not choose a good ordering system, the ability to change en mass information about the photos (especially those that were scanned and had a creation date completely different than the one the picture was taken) as well as the ability to order albums in folders (such as year folders as I mentioned earlier). The fact also that I had to click on each album to delete it was a pain. I guess it makes sense. Google does not want you to delete all your data in one go.

    Amazon Photos

    Amazon Photos was another alternative. I am sure that they are in line with what Google is doing with regards to analysis and facial recognition, but the user interface is good and so are the features. It also comes free (for photos) for those who have Amazon Prime. All you need is the mobile application and your data will be automatically synched. Still, privacy concerns exist.

    SmugMug

    I investigated SmugMug and it looks really good. I even signed up for one year and from what I can say, it is rock solid. However the lack of a local sync is something that really makes me not want to use the site anymore. There is a good Android app but it is not enough.

    The huge disadvantage of SmugMug is that you cannot download all your content in one go. You have to go to each album and download one at a time. I have been trying to download all the photos I have up there for months now. Support pointed me to some third party apps that could do the trick - most based on Adobe Air (which I really do not want to install on my computer just to perform one relatively simple task). This should be a feature offered to all customers but then again… I guess they want to keep you using their service by making it hard for you to leave. I am redoubling my efforts though and am downloading 20 albums every day. I will be done in a month or two but at least I will have all my pictures.

    To those that are questioning: don’t you have a backup? I actually do, several of them. However I want to be thorough end ensure that I have not missed any memories from the past because of a glitch or something I forgot. Therefore I am downloading everything and then running a diff between my folders and the downloaded ones. Any extra pictures/albums that will appear I keep, otherwise I delete the duplicates.

    Crypt.ee

    Crypt.ee is a new find that is very promising in terms of security. Full encryption, use of blockchain, you own your data and there is no scanning etc.

    However it is a very young platform and a lot of the features that I am looking for are not there. For instance I want to ensure that photos are sharable and accessible by other people - mostly my family. I could potentially give them my login but that could end up being catastrophic.

    I have not investigated whether there is an automatic upload of photos to Crypt.ee but their Android app is good and well thought of. The fact that I cannot create year folders and also sync contents with my home network are things that are missing.

    Still, I have really high hopes for this platform and monitoring its development closely.

    pCloud

    pCloud is the replacement I chose for our photos (but also for our documents). They are a Swiss based company, offering full encryption for your data. Their pricing plans are very affordable and there are options for lifetime plans (the one that I have) where you pay only once and that is it. There is also a desktop client that offers direct access to your drive or store if you like.

    The Android app is good and will automatically upload your photos to pCloud, offering an extra backup in case something happens to your device. There is a lack of the gallery look and feel for photos but then again it is a data store, just like Dropbox, Box or others like it.

    Still it works for me for now and I can sync all my contents from pCloud to my NAS. I can live without having an online gallery like app.

    As far as sharing is concerned, I can share folders using a unique link that is generated with those that I want to share the contents with. There is also a family plan, where pCloud will link more than one user with the account, allowing two or more people to sync/upload content to the drive.

    Tresorit

    I also checked Tresorit as a cloud store. It checks all the checkmarks for privacy and security. The prices were a bit more than what I was willing to pay for now, and I already have the pCloud account (lifetime) so I did not pursue it. Still worth a look if you are investigating a secure cloud store.

    Conclusion

    Yet again, moving away from Google is a pain. Finding something that would be equal or better to what they offer is sometimes impossible.

    For me, pCloud works as an alternative. Maybe in the future more vendors will enter the marketplace, utilizing potentially the blockchain and offering dApps that would be equal or better to current offerings. We will just have to wait.