How to en­sure your im­por­tant files and fold­ers are al­ways re­cover able when us­ing iC loud


How it’s meant to work

Leave your iOS de­vice plugged in, on a Wi-Fi net­work, and with a locked screen. It’ll then be backed up to iCloud on a daily ba­sis (typ­i­cally overnight), thereby keep­ing your data safe should some­thing hor­ri­ble hap­pen to your iPhone or iPad.

How to make it work

Back­ups can be a mine­field. Some as­sume they’re run­ning any­way from day one – as if by magic. And that is what’s sup­posed to hap­pen on iOS. Only it’s not that sim­ple. Your de­vice must be pow­ered, able to ac­cess a net­work (ideally one that’s rea­son­ably fast), and locked, for back­ups to oc­cur. Ad­di­tion­ally, there must be enough stor­age space on your iCloud ac­count for the backup.

Back­ups can rapidly in­crease in size, though, and will just stop if you lack space. Warn­ings do ap­pear, but they’re easy to dis­miss – which you’ll re­gret do­ing should you need to re­store from a backup that turns out to be weeks old.

If space is a prob­lem, you can man­u­ally man­age backup con­tent – as out­lined else­where on th­ese pages. How­ever, if you’re a long-time iOS user, also ex­am­ine this area of Set­tings for re­dun­dant back­ups of older de­vices. Th­ese can of­ten be safely deleted – af­ter you’ve backed up the rel­e­vant de­vices to iTunes first, of course.

Fail­ure on re­store

An­other snag with iCloud back­ups is fail­ure on re­store, which can be night­mar­ish when try­ing to get iCloud data on to a re­place­ment de­vice when you no longer have the old one. At that point, a lot of data and set­tings might be gone for good. How­ever, you’ll be safe if you pe­ri­od­i­cally back up de­vices to iTunes, giv­ing you a back-up plan for your back­ups, so to speak.

But what of the Mac? Well, un­for­tu­nately, it’s a lit­tle com­pli­cated. Desk­top and Doc­u­ments fold­ers synced to iCloud can be synced to other Macs, but that’s not re­ally a backup in the truest sense. You can’t use that data to re­store an en­tire Mac, and it doesn’t ac­count for glitches in the sys­tem, such as doc­u­ments van­ish­ing. So set up a ro­bust back-up sys­tem as well. Use Time Ma­chine for on­go­ing back­ups you can delve into to grab pre­vi­ous ver­sions of files, Back­blaze ($5 per month, back­blaze.com) for on­go­ing on­line back-up/re­store, and Su­perDu­per (£24, shirt-pocket.com) for safe­guard­ing Mac files saved and synced to iCloud. Have Su­perDu­per sched­ule a daily back-up that uses ‘Copy newer’ set­tings (in Op­tions un­der the Gen­eral tab). While this is more ‘archive’ than backup, it will at least en­sure every­thing that’s on – or was once on – your Mac re­mains re­triev­able.

iCloud isn’t a magic wand for back­ups. Use other sys­tems, too, to al­ways keep your data safe.

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