iCloud Drive myths debunked
Discover what uses your iCloud space and whether backups are still necessary. (Spoiler: they are.)
Two areas where there are often misconceptions regarding iCloud relate to storage space and the safety of data (in the sense of iCloud being treated like a back-up system). If you plan to use iCloud Drive a lot, you need to be aware that doing so almost certainly won’t be free.
Apple provides just 5GB of storage per iCloud account, and in some cases that’s not enough for a single iOS device backup. Right now, Apple offers four paid tiers: 50GB for 79p; 200GB for £2.49; 1TB for £6.99; 2TB for £13.99. These charges are billed monthly.
So, how do you know how much space you’ll need? Well, if you run out, you’ll be alerted and iCloud Drive will stop syncing until you either cough up more money to upgrade to a more expensive tier, or you free up space by deleting content stored in iCloud. Things are a bit more complicated than that, though, because not everything you store in iCloud counts against your storage plan.
In short, the following eat into your iCloud storage plan space: iOS device backups; iCloud Photo Library; email and attachments in an iCloud email account; data within apps that use iCloud; anything synced using iCloud Drive (including Desktop and Documents folders). Photo Stream, however, does not count against your iCloud storage plan, nor does Apple Music – including matched and uploaded files (since you’re paying for that separately). Purchased content from iTunes (apps, games, movies and so on) also doesn’t count against your storage, unless you download files to a synced folder. Don’t do that, though, since you can always access such files through iTunes on Mac, or by using relevant apps (App Store; iTunes; Music) on iOS. If money’s no object, go for a tier that will give you room to breathe beyond all the data you currently need to store online. If you’re prudent, spend a little time managing what gets put there. You could, for example, just put current work in Desktop and Documents and archive old and completed projects to a local folder on your Mac. It’s also worth periodically clearing out and archiving files saved within iCloud apps, which can sometimes be weighty, especially with highquality audio files and multi-layered images made in photo editors like Pixelmator. As noted earlier, the other subject that can cause confusion about cloud storage is the notion that it always safeguards data, protecting files and folders in case of a local
storage disaster. There is some truth in
this. Should your MacBook suffer a sudden drinks spillage or take a tumble, you can access your iCloud Drive from another device, and sync them to a replacement Mac. But that doesn’t mean iCloud Drive shouldn’t be treated with a little caution.
First, it’s worth remembering that Sierra is new, and so it will have kinks that need ironing out. If one such kink were to blaze through your files like a forest fire, you may have a problem. Similarly, iCloud in general occasionally loses the odd thing. When that’s a Calendar entry, it can be frustrating. If it were to happen to a report you’ve been working on for months, it could be careerending. Then there’s the issue that iCloud Drive only enables you to restore or get at files that still exist. Accidentally wipe a file and it vanishes from all of your devices.
Fortunately, there are ways to protect against disaster. If you delete something by mistake, sign in to iCloud.com, click Settings, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click Restore Files (under Advanced). You’ll see a list of items you can restore to their previous location on iCloud Drive. It’s worth noting that anything deleted over 30 days ago is a goner, though. On that basis, it’s worth investigating a back-up system such as SuperDuper! (shirt-pocket.com) to regularly back up your Mac and keep older files safe.
Selective, scheduled backups
Regular readers may recall we usually recommend SuperDuper for making bootable clones of Macs, but that’s not what we want here. Instead, we want to safeguard only whatever new files you store on iCloud Drive by saving them to your desktop or in the Documents folder, in case they disappear.
What you need to do is schedule a daily backup that uses SuperDuper’s ‘Copy newer’ or ‘Copy different’ settings; click Options and look under the General tab. Respectively, they overwrite files only when newer or different ones are found. Otherwise, nothing is touched. The resulting backup can get quite cluttered and messy, but it’ll be an ongoing archive of everything that’s on – and was once on – your Mac from when you started using SuperDuper.
It’s worth remembering that macOS Sierra is new, and regardless of its beta period there’ll be kinks to iron out
As you commit more data to iCloud and outgrow the 5GB of space Apple gives you for free, you can get more for a monthly fee.
iCloud Photo Library counts against your quota; you could delete photos, but consider making a second, offline library on your Mac and manually import less important photos into it.
The contents of your iCloud Music Library aren’t counted against your iCloud storage; your Apple Music or iTunes Match subscription imposes a 100,000-song limit instead.
SuperDuper’s paid-for version (£25) enables you to schedule backups for selected folders. You can use it to keep a long-term archive of things you save to Desktop or Documents.