I'm thinking of using S3 to backup my photos. Anyone have any experience with this? I'm wondering specifically:

  1. Cost: I know I can estimate the costs, but what are you paying?
  2. Methods: FTP, scripts, plugins - how do you get the files to S3?
  3. General opinions on the service
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to photo.SE, Chad! \$\endgroup\$
    – Reid
    Nov 3, 2010 at 0:40
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This article might be of interest: dropbox.com uses Amazon S3 storage, and has photo galleries built in. The article and comments also give an idea of how much S3 is costing: halesy.wordpress.com/2010/08/01/amazon-s3-v-dropbox \$\endgroup\$
    – Andrew
    Nov 23, 2011 at 14:44

3 Answers 3


S3 (Amazon's Simple Storage Service) itself is more of a service backend for SaS and 3rd party developers. As a developer who's worked on S3 before, it isn't the ideal platform for an end-user back solution. If you are a developer S3 is great, considering the substantial cost savings you get over services that are built ontop of S3 (like Mozy).

Plus, you can ship them harddrives and they will upload it to S3, rather than spending time and bandwidth uploading the files directly--though almost all online backups don't charge for bandwidth, just storage.

There are 3rd party tools and utilities that make backing up to S3 more manageable, but if you're looking for a robust solution rather than a "roll your own" then I recommend going with a service that is built ontop of S3, rather than going to S3 directly.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ do you know of any that integrate with Lightroom (etc)? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 2, 2010 at 18:40
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ That all does make sense, but, being a developer myself, I like to be more in control of the process. I really don't want a 3rd party between me and the storage. From what I've read it's pretty easy to use some of the APIs and the 3rd party tools abound as well. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 2, 2010 at 18:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes there are many third party tools, see the sample code and library page aws.amazon.com/code \$\endgroup\$
    – labnut
    Nov 2, 2010 at 20:19

As far as I know, SmugMug uses S3 to store photos. Probably, they are not alone.

Unfortunately, S3 is not a file system, so you need some special software solution to organize such a hosting. I can think of two simple end-user solutions, both doable on a Linux system.

Using s3fs

s3fs is a user-space (FUSE) file system backed by Amazon S3. You can "mount" buckets to view and write them as if they were directories on your local system. s3fs should work on Linux, and probably also on Mac.

There is also a commercially supported version: SubCloud.

Using s3sync

s3sync utility transfers directories between a local directory and an S3 bucket. s3sync should work even on Windows.

Probably there are other tools.

Then you only need to find a suitable generator of the static photo galleries.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Actually, with a SmugMug account you can opt to use it as a 'FrontEnd' for S3 storage as well. For any 'normal' photo on SmugMug you can also upload any number of 'vault' photos that get stored on S3 (under your S3 account) and are tied to that photo, kinda like a master/version setup. RAW files, 500MB tiffs, PSDs etc. That is of course, in addition to what your link notes, that SM uses AWS to host its photos. (Note: I work for SmugMug) \$\endgroup\$
    – Shizam
    Nov 3, 2010 at 0:50

Jungle Disk is one product I know of that can use S3 hosting. One other benefit it has is security, as it fully encrypts all data before it is sent to the host, which means that regardless of the security on the host side, no one can view your images without your password.

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ That does also work as a hidden tie in, as you rely on the host company to be able to decrypt it on the way back out... \$\endgroup\$ Nov 2, 2010 at 19:02

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