iCloud Drive myths de­bunked

Dis­cover what uses your iCloud space and whether back­ups are still nec­es­sary. (Spoiler: they are.)

Mac Format - - FEATURE -

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.

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