A look at the ibi Photo Manager, which helps you back up your pictures and videos no matter where they're currently stored - on phones, in the cloud or on old hard drives.
Managing a digital picture collection isn't easy. If you're like most people, you have your photos scattered across a bunch of different places: your phone, the cloud, social media services like Facebook, and even old hard drives laying around the house.
Now, a device called ibi wants to help you consolidate all of your photos into one place. The device is basically a networked hard drive along with some super smart software that finds and backs up photos, no matter where they are. Don't let the name fool you - the device is made by SanDisk, which is owned by Western Digital, a leader in storage.
Setting up the device is super simple. You just plug it in, download the app to your phone, create an account and connect ibi to your home WiFi.
Then, you begin the import process. The device is smart enough to find all of the photos that are stored on your phone and back those up to its internal hard drive, which is 2 terabytes. It can hold about 500,000 photos or 200 hours of HD videos. And yes, you can link several of them together if you need more storage.
And before I get the comments about how this is an expensive way to back up your photos or the cloud is easier or a networked drive like Synology is more robust - you need to understand that this is a plug and play solution for everyone. If you're a techie, you're probably better served with a network attached storage drive, or NAS on your home network. This is for folks who aren't familiar with the concept of drive shares and user accounts and read-write privileges.
ibi can import photos from a wide variety of sources: your phone, cloud services including Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, Facebook, Instagram and even old flash and hard drives you have laying around your house. Just pop them into the USB port on the back of ibi and it will automatically find the photos on the physical drive and import them into your collection too.
Now, about the collection ibi is building. It's a one-way sync. At first, I wasn't a huge fan of this since it can complicate and duplicate your efforts to build a single photo collection in something like Google Photos, but the more I thought about it, the more I understand why ibi did it this way. This device is meant to be a safe place where all of your photos are stored. If it was constantly deleting photos that you've deleted in other places, you might run into some issues in the future.
The best about ibi is that it can intelligently retrieve all of the photos you have stored in iCloud, something that isn't very easy to do. When your iPhone is plugged in and on WiFi, the app will request all of your iCloud photos one by one until it get a full resolution copy of each one.
One downside to the device - it doesn't have any de-duplication smarts. It can't tell if a photo has already been uploaded to the drive, so you will probably end up with duplicates as you import your collections. This is not a deal breaker, but if you're super particular about building a perfect collection, it can get annoying to see photos in triplicate as you scroll down your timeline on the app.
The app is another crucial aspect to ibi. You can use it to view all of your photos, which are organized in several ways. The main view shows you all of your pictures, no matter the source, organized by timeline. You can also see photos organized by import type - for instance, the hard drive or cloud service they were copied from. Additionally, ibi scans your photos for objects and lets you search for items in your photos, similar to most other photo services today.
The object recognition isn't perfect, and ibi tells me that they concentrated on items families might have in their pictures, like beach, cake, balloons, flowers, etc. At this time, the device does not do facial recognition, which would be a nice addition in the future.
On that topic, one thing ibi is good at is privacy. Your photos are only stored on the device and never leave it - even if you share them out to friends. More on that in a moment. Additionally, all of the object recognition is done on the device. None of your data is sent to ibi servers. When you share photos, the device is actually creating a link to the media on the device itself. So, if you were to pull the plug on the device or disconnect it from WiFi, it would render the sharing link useless.
Overall, ibi is a great addition to a proper backup plan. You wouldn't believe how many people I meet out there that have no idea if their photos are backed up, or have photos on a bunch of old phones because they can't figure out how to consolidate them into one place.
My advice: continue using the cloud backup service you're using, but add a device like ibi to the mix. This way, you have an effortless physical backup of all of your photos, no matter where they were originally stored.