June 1, 2021 is the day that Google Photos free unlimited compressed photo backup and cloud storage ends. As of now, you’ll have to pay for cloud storage for your photos. So you’re probably looking for alternatives to Google Photos, but none of the others recommended in all of these articles really compare to what Google Photos used to be, and none of them are free for unlimited storage.
Personally, I have never used Google Photos as the only backup, it has only ever been a 3rd level backup as the free version doesn’t save full quality images. However, it was pretty good to search my photo library as the image recognition worked pretty well. It wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely better than nothing … and it was great to be able to see my full photo gallery from any phone. I still have all of my full resolution photos sorted by year and day on my server, but having 13 terabytes of photos in the cloud was pretty nice too. Paying for that much space on Google Photos would be $ 100 per month!
I could just use Plex
Why don’t I just use Plex? I already have Plex for streaming videos and music around the house and remotely, but I never turned on the photos aspect of the Plex server. It seems that this would be a great way to access my photos remotely over the phone.
Plex has some cool viewing options for your photo library. You can view it in a “timeline” mode that just shows everything one by one, or you can view it in the normal folder tree view, or there is a “recommended” view that shows some automatically selected samples from different decades or “to do”. shows day “from a previous year.
Although the search function does not recognize images like Google Photos, it does search for file names and folder names. So when I think of adding the correct names to my folders, it’s pretty good.
Synchronize with the server
The Plex apps also have an automatic camera roll upload! That could be practically perfect … Oh wait, Plex is also removing the automatic camera roll backup feature in June 2021. Even so, I already have Plex so let’s give it a try. There are some auto-sync recommendations on the Plex forums. The FolderSync app for Android sounds pretty good for automatically copying camera roll photos to the server, but I think I want more control over my photo library now, so I’ll be regularly copying photos to the server manually using “Material Files”. This open source file manager has great support for SMB file sharing, so I created a shortcut to my 2021 photo folder where I can move all of my photos anytime. It also has a built-in FTP server so I can turn that on and access the phone’s photo storage from a desktop (or other FTP client) if I want to transfer files the other way. However, FTP is not a secure file transfer protocol, so I’ll only be using it on the local network. The manual option means I don’t have any unexpected network usage or battery loss because I choose when the images sync. I also shoot everything in RAW, so I certainly don’t want to automatically transfer these huge file sizes. I also have a VPN server on my home network so I can remotely and securely copy files to the server from anywhere. With a cheap Raspberry Pi computer and PiVPN.io scripts, it’s easy to create a home VPN server.
Meanwhile, I’ve set up a number of rules on RoboBasket on the server that automatically create folders for each day within a year and move the image files to the correct folders so everything is well organized.
Plex Server offers a free option that does all of the personal media streaming. If you want to use the Android or iOS mobile apps instead of a web browser, each of these one-time costs is $ 5 (unless you have a Plex Pass, in which case they are free). Apps for other systems like Xbox, PlayStation, and a huge list of other devices are often free. Plex also has a premium Plex Pass option that costs either $ 120 one time forever or $ 5 / month or $ 40 / year. The Plex Pass doesn’t add anything to your photo library functions, but it does add some other nice things to your video and television functions. It adds the option to use a TV tuner to record shows from cable or HD over-the-air shows, and it adds the option to download content to client devices for offline viewing. It also allows for 4K playback and a discount on a Tidal subscription if you want unlimited music streaming.
The end of Google’s free photo cloud storage service is certainly sad, but this is just another reminder that getting too dependent on cloud services that you cannot control … and various alternatives is probably a bad idea having is a good idea. Sure, Plex might not last forever either, but it does give me a little more control over my media library streaming capabilities, as well as my photo library backups. Even so, it’s certainly less feature-rich and more complicated to sync / manage, but maybe that’s the price of freedom.
Adam Z. Lein
Adam has been interested in the combination of technology and art since he first used a koala pad on an Apple computer. He currently works as a graphic designer, photographer, system administrator and web developer for a small design firm in Westchester, NY. His love of technology also extends to software development companies, who have often implemented his ideas for usability and feature enhancements. Mobile computing has become a necessity for Adam since his first Uniden UniPro PC100 in 1998. He has been reviewing and writing about smartphones for Pocketnow.com since they launched in 2002. Read more about Adam Lein!