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Screenshot showing Google Photos Albums

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It is with some dissapointment that I write this article. For a number of years now I have been extolling the virtues of Google Photos to many of my clients. If you don't know yet what Google Photos is, I'll give just a brief explanation before moving on.

Google Photos is a product from Google's stable that allows you to backup your photos online to your Google account. If you have the app installed on your phone, tablet or laptop for that matter, it will, in the background upload copies to your Google account. The main advantage to this is that should you lose your phone, or have it stolen you don't lose all your memories. There are also lots of other useful features within the Google Photos app.

Now that you're clear on what Google Photos is (sorry if you already knew), the point of this article is to now reveal that Google are no longer offering unlimited storage as they once were - this was perhaps one of the most compelling reasons to use this in favour of say Apple's equivalent iPhoto. Apple for example give you 5Gb of storage free for all your files including photos, and there are probably many Apple users out there paying for additional storage when cheaper options are available. 


Even though Google now plan to charge for additional storage, this won't happen until June 1st 2021. Considering the trillions of photos already online according to Google, with some 28 billion new photos weekly, I suppose that besides being unsustainable it was also inevitable.

Google free account holders (which is most of us that use Gmail or an Android mobile phone) already enjoy 15Gb of free online storage. Your Google photos did not used to count towards this limit but will do so from next year with the exception of any photos backed up prior to that date, so at least that's some good news.

There will be new features to help manage your online storage with Google, including for photos, a way to help you identify photos you have already uploaded but perhaps don't need, such as blurred or poor quality photos. The storage service used by all of Google's existing services (including Gmail, Docs and many more) will be known as Google One. According to articles in some of the US press, additional storage will start at $1.99 per month for 100Gb.

Should I pay for storage if I go over 15Gb?

Well, that's the $2 question (or $24 each year) for up to 100Gb. You could look for an alternative service, though I doubt there are any free ones. If you do decide to go somewhere else, then you have the task of moving your photos from Google to your new provider (I can help you with that if that's the direction you decide to go).

You could abandon using an online service altogether, but you also then lose the really useful facilities in Google Photos for sharing photos in online al;bums (which is my favourite feature - create an album of photos of that wedding you've just been to, share it with other guests and allow them to add their own photos is a wonderful way this can be used, and without having to send multiple (large) images by email (never the best idea). There's also a great search facility which can for example show you all pictures including 'dogs' - Google's artificial intelligence is good enough to be able to do that without you having to tag or categorise your photos.

If you do decide to backup your photos yourself, you'll need to start with an external hard drive - these can be had for cheap prices these days. Be aware, they are mechanical devices (unless you opt for an SSD) which can fail, and easily be stolen, dropped or otherwise damaged. If you do backup your photos, then just use the drive for that purpose, adding to the drive rather than constantly adding and removing other files. SSDs work out more expensive particularly for larger capacities. The onus is then on you to regularly transfer photos from your phone, camera, tablet and laptop to backup. I know which option sounds easier to me!!

I just spotted one circumstance where you can still get the unlimited storage for free - this is if you have/purchase a Google Pixel device/phone - I don't know if this applies to newer models, or even existing ones - if anyone knows, I'd love to hear so I can update this article.

Do you still recommend Google Photos?

Yes, I do. Google state that most users should have enough capacity with 15Gb for up to 3 years worth of storage. This is providing that you remember that your Gmail, including e-mail messages with file attachments (including photos) count against your storage so you will need to adopt good housekeeping practices with regards to your storage. If you are a 2 person, or more household, then it probably makes sense for each individual to have their own account, to double your storage or more for free. Or even, use a different Google account for each phone/tablet you have - the disadvantage here is you will need to access photos from several different accounts (though I suspect if you create an album and share it with your other accounts, you'll get round this to a certain extent.


And finally a word of warning - if you have access to perhaps a deceased loved one's Google account, if you don't login once in a while (2 years) and use the related service, any content including photos will be deleted.

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