My photos are taking too much space on my computer hard disk space. The plan is for me to offload my photos onto a reliable photo storage site, so that I can clear up the free space on my hard disk. I had a hard time deciding between Smugmug and Picasa, but I think Smugmug seems to be the better choice for me until Picasa can resolve my problems. Let me share my evaluation and thought process with you.

My Problems:

  • Huge volume of photos on my computers and other devices that made it difficult for me to appreciate the photos I have previously taken.
  • I do not find external USB drives reliable for long term storage and tend to keep multiple copies of the same set of photos on at least 2 different drives (on top of what I already have on my PC).
  • I am looking to free up 20-30GB of photo storage on my PC to work on other stuff.

Drivers for finding online photo storage:

  • I find myself getting out of touch with the online tools over the past 3 years while concentrating on my work.
  • Facebook disabling my account without evidence of me violating their terms of services made me lose all my photos tagged of me overnight. This made me re-think about whether photos
  • I was looking for a way to synchronize media from multiple devices (mobile devices, PCs from different sources, web pictures) onto the same storage platform,

Considerations:

  • Credibility of long term backup storage, ie do I think the company’s business model is feasible for it to survive?
  • Ability to mass download/export the photos on my local drive when needed.
  • Security and Privacy with fine-grained gallery/photo based access control
  • Decent navigation and good user interface capabilities.

Smugmug
I actually wanted to get a SmugMug account back in 2008, but I just graduated and did not want to commit to a monthly expense that can take potentially up to infinity. I’m also not a professional photographer, and I’m not sure how much I will be using Smugmug.

Smugmug Pros:

  • -Fine-grained access control that allows users to password protect their galleries and specific photos. People who are invited to view your photos need not register an account with Smugmug.
  • Beautiful organization of photos with different themes for the display of photos.
  • Single application provider which provides iOS applications themselves, and their willingness to open up their APIs provides for a lot of third party tools to be created.
  • It does not compress your photos upon upload, but retains the full resolution of the photo.

Smugmug Cons:

  • It’s relatively expensive compared to Picasa (difference of US$20-US$35 a year for basic users with less than 20GB photo storage).
  • Their iPad application seems to be a little unstable. I can’t pin-point it exactly, but it seems to keep crashing on me when I use it.

Picasa 3.8  (as of Sep 2011)

Picasa Pros

  • It’s cheap, and operates on a pay-as-you go basis. This means that light users will not be penalized for what other users are using.
  • It helps that photos up to 2048 x 2048 pixels and videos up to 15 minutes will not count towards your free storage.
  • It is functional and the photos are relatively well-organized with minimal frills.
  • It has some good third party iPad applications.

Picasa Cons:

  • Lack of fine grained access control for individual albums and users.
  • Privileged users has to register a Google account just to view photos (not everyone has a Google account)
  • It is not optimized for a single source of backup despite what it mentions.
  • The web sync is a uni-directional sync. Users who are not careful might end up losing their photos for good if they delete the photos on their local drives, thinking that their web copy will stay intact. It’s not very nice to know that Google is unlikely to restore photos that you have removed from Picasa Web Album.
  • I am not convinced about Google’s roadmap and direction for Picasa web albums since they are too highly diversified. It didn’t help that the roadmap I see so far is only on the Picasa web client.

My decision:

While I’m really attracted to the pricing of Google Picasa, and finds that Picasa has its technical merits – it does not help that I’m not confident in data privacy when it comes to storing my data with them.

Because of Picasa’s lack of fine-grained access control for photo viewing/sharing, and that I do not think it functions well as a single online photo backup solution – I have decided to go ahead with SmugMug. I’m uploading my photos to test out their trial account now, and will probably purchase the application once the 14 days trial is over.