As the iPhone represents an ever increasing part of my photography I am interested in alternative ways to backup images while on the road. Carrying a laptop for image backup is cumbersome. I have a connector which allows wired (fast) backup to the iPad and I use it but I'm always a bit nervous and as I manipulate some of the images on the iPad keeping them straight becomes a chore.
I was initially excited about the Photo Stream feature of Apple's new iCloud service. Built into iOS 5 (and the 4S iPhone) this service automatically uploads images to "The Cloud." This works as a behind the scenes automatic image backup, which is giant. The "Devil in the Details" is that it works perfectly for 1,000 images in each 30 day period, after that it's full 'till the 30 day timer expires and then we get another 1,000 image capability. It's really quite easy to fill this buffer on any decent shoot. So now I'm once again looking for a practical backup workflow for images when I'm on the road. If Apple allows us access to our image section of iCloud this will be true best solution I think.
It appears that there are presently some solutions. I've found 4 - 2 are hardware based and 2 are cloud based. Each have advantages and disadvantages.
Although there are a handful of hard drives presently available which are iOS compliant most of these are designed to download TO the iPhone or iPad but not upload FROM the iDevice. The advertising is catchy and exciting but reading carefully shows that they spend a lot of ink mentioning all of the types of information that can be transferred to the iPhone (movies, music, games), but are silent on uploads from the iDevice. I have e-mailed or called each manufacturer I found and all but 2 confirm that their product will not meet my needs.
Hitachi G-Connect hard drive. 500 GB, $200, needs to be plugged in for power. I have been assured 3 times by a Hitachi rep that this product is a good solution but I find myself waiting 'till a company with an iron clad no questions asked return policy decides to sell it (like Amazon or Costco). The connection is wireless and it can serve up to 5 devices. It's a smallish box with a power cord. This evidently also works as a wireless router or hot spot for up to 5 devices.
HyperDrive-iFlash Drive. This is a solid state device (flash drive) with a USB plug on one end and the iPhone plug on the other, quite small. I am assured by the manufacturer that the iPhone will read from this device and write to it. It appears to be an excellent solution but in my opinion is still quite expensive. 3 sizes, 8, 16 and 32 GB. Prices are from $100 to $200. ($10 off sale now for "cyber" whatever day it is).
The disadvantage here for me is that I can be assured I will lose it. For the past year or so I have lost just about everything small that I own. I am completely unable to find these items no matter how hard I look right up to the day I replace it and then it's right on my desk or some such place. So for me the price doubles.
There are App based cloud solutions in addition to iCloud's Photo Stream. DROPBOX is one many of us are familiar with and with a WARNING perhaps the best solution so far. The warning is that although the upload is easy to set up, if WiFi is lost it will continue the transfer over the Cellular network. This could lead to a very nasty surprise when the Cell Bill arrives.
The images uploaded to dropbox are right on my desktop Dropbox Folder waiting for me when I get home and Aperture reads from this folder quite easily. It renames files with the date and time of transfer. I haven't yet checked to see I can change that or if it strips image information during transfer but as a backup it works.
I had initially rejected Dropbox because it dramatically reduces file size for transfers to iDevices and the developers have no particular desire to change this. BUT...transfers from the iPhone to the cloud are full resolution...cool.
There is another free cloud based service, www.Box.com. Box offers a range of services and it appears they also give 50GB storage for free. I am testing this service now but so far I am unable to upload multiple images at once. If this is a one at a time transfer it's unworkable. Their reps also tell me that this will search for a cellular connection if WiFi is interrupted so the same warning applies.
There are some other cloud based offerings, such as iDrive Photo Backup but I have had problems using them so I think they're not quite ready...yet.