MacAge: iPhoto Hates the Cloud


I’m now well into my latest Mac era, and things are generally going well.  I adore my iMac.  I like iMovie.  And I love iPhoto.  With one exception.  iPhoto does not play well with the Cloud.

Once I took my Windows computers and my Windows Home Server offline, I decided on a two-part, redundant back-up plan.  First, I replaced my wireless access points with two Airport Extremes and a Time Capsule.  This did four important things for me.  One, it allowed me to attach some external hard drives to that equipment to replace the network storage (not backup; just regular storage for raw video production files, music production files, etc.) I had on the Windows Home Server.  Two, it allowed me to create a roaming wireless network, since all of the gear is Apple.  With a roaming network, you connect at one location, and then your connection automatically switches to other access points as you move around the house.  Three, it allowed me to install a mobile Airport Express that I can use to stream my music to other places in and around the house.  And four, it allowed the Time Capsule to back up the various computers.  Time Capsules make backing up your Mac about as easy as possible.

So as far as the local network goes, I’m all set.

Then, the cloud.

I have a ton of SugarSync space (get additional free space by signing up via that link), and have used it happily for many years as my primary cloud backup service.  As I’ve noted before, it’s a pain to switch computers in SugarSync, because you have to re-upload all the stuff you’ve already uploaded.  If you have hundreds of Gigabytes, that can take a while.  So I decided to put all of my previously uploaded photos in a SugarSync storage folder, and only back up my iPhoto Library, where all of my current and future photos will reside.  In other words, all of my existing photos will stay right where they are, and only the new ones will get uploaded from my iMac.

Great plan, right?

Nope.  Because SugarSync cannot sync or adequately backup the iPhoto Library.

iPhoto imports your photos into a file bundle, which shows up as “iPhoto Library” on your computer.

Photos 2

That’s fine and dandy, but it makes it impossible to sync your photos via SugarSync or another cloud-based service.  Even worse, it makes it very hard to back up your photos in the cloud.  In fact, to prevent users from corrupting their libraries by trying to sync their iPhoto Libraries, the iPhoto Library doesn’t even show up in the SugarSync file manager.

Add Folders to SugarSync 1

This is what those of us in the know call a BFP.

There is a work-around that will let you back up the original photos, which iPhoto stores in a “Masters” folder within the iPhoto file bundle.  But that’s not what I want.  I want to backup my entire iPhoto Library, so I can download it and restore everything in the event of a catastrophic data loss.

Some will claim that the forthcoming iCloud will be the answer.  Maybe, but if 50 Gigabytes of space costs $100 a year and your iPhoto Library is triple Gigabytes, it looks like you’re out of luck.

There’s a newish service called Dolly Drive, that let’s you back up data to the cloud using Time Machine.  That sounds like a perfect solution, but I don’t want to pay for yet another cloud, and am not willing to trust my data to just anyone.


I dig my Mac.  But I am frustrated by the inability to set up an automated, incremental, cloud based backup for my photos.

Mars Edit Update: I’m trying.  Really.  But after using Live Writer for so long, Mars Edit feels like writing in quicksand.  Or concrete. Need a small example, of many?  There is no way to set link targets, so links open in a separate page.  Really.

6 thoughts on “MacAge: iPhoto Hates the Cloud

  1. Aperture will let you store images external to its own library, and will also let you create backup copies of the library (“vaults”) for redundancy. 

  2. Thanks, Glen.  I’ll take a look at Aperture.  Does it share a library with iPhoto?  In other words, can you use them both or is it a one or the other thing?

  3. You can import from iPhoto to Aperture, and you can also import (one at a time) photos from Aperture to iPhoto. The key with Aperture is that you can store your photos in the file system (and also store a backup photo) and use any sort of sync method you like. 

  4. I’ve been using for automatic online backup.  It will back up your entire home directory (or the entire hard drive if you wish, though this seems unnecessary to me), and even supports external drives.  It comes out to about $4.50 per month.  What I like about it is that it just works… it really doesn’t require you to think about it too much, and sends you a weekly report via email to gently remind you “hey I’m here, don’t worry your stuff is backed up”. 

    I originally used it because it was the only thing that worked with Linux, but I’ve since become a total Apple Fanboy :-).

  5. That being said, what I really want is to be able to move files entirely to the cloud as the main storage location to free up space on my HD.  The main culprits are of course iTunes and iPhoto.  Perhaps iCloud will be the answer, though I am guessing it will come with restrictions.

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