Apple announced a plan to give teachers and students 200GB of iCloud storage. Combined with upgrades to Pages, Numbers, and Keynote– with drawing and annotation ability– plus the lowered iPad price tag, makes iCloud more attractive.
My first thought was, “That’s good.” My second thought was, “Hey, what about me?” I know. Selfish, right? I pay $2.99 a month for $200GB of iCloud storage. $36 a year. It adds up so a little relief for devoted customers from the world’s most profitable and prosperous company would be nice. Then I thought, “How dangerous is iCloud storage?”
Here, There, Everywhere
Thanks to a rather convoluted, multi-tiered backup system I cannot recall the last time I lost a file. I’m sure I have, but it was so long ago that I don’t remember when or what file or the circumstances.
Convoluted? Well, yes. My backup system is a non-Apple-like, inelegant system, but, like Apple, it just works. First, I clone my main Mac to a couple of external disk drives using SuperDuper! and Carbon Copy Cloner. Specific Mac files are then synchronized between multiple Macs with ChronoSync. Seems convoluted, no? But once it’s set up it just works and I get email telling me the status of each backup.
Yes, I use yet another external disk drive for Time Machine. What’s the count so far? Three external disk drives for each Mac. Overkill? Perhaps. But no files lost so far. The problem with all those external disk drives is that each one is here at home, totally subject to fire, theft, tornado, flood damage, The Big One, or whatever else can ruin a good backup plan.
That’s where iCloud and other off premise backup solutions come in handy.
Last year I updated my iCloud account to 200GB for $2.99 a month and went all in on Photos. Every photo in Photos is stored in iCloud. So are my Documents files. Other valuable files– movies, music, etc., are stored locally on multiple devices (see above) but also on iCloud, Dropbox, Amazon S3 thanks to Arq, and scattered hither and yon to Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and even Box– thanks to those free tiers.
Anybody see a danger there? Me, too.
First up, the whole process is crazy convoluted. Sure, it’s mostly automated so it’s not like I need to point and click a dozen times a day just to save files. Things happen. Things go wrong. And the more complex a backup system is, the more difficult it is to restore.
Second, what happens if something happens to me? I’m the only person on planet earth who knows where everything is, which files go where, and what to do to keep it all running without problems. There’s no backup for the backup system.
Third, online storage has improved dramatically in recent years. I kinda sorta mostly trust iCloud with Photos. But I keep the originals on a Mac which also backs up photos to other devices.
No doubt Apple will have millions of students and teachers on their education iCloud program soon and that presents the most obvious cloud storage problem. All those files generated by the millions will be in two places. On the device. On iCloud.
Color me a relic from the last century when the command line interface was en vogue and floppy disks were backups, but that would scare the bejesus out of me. Yes, Apple’s iCloud and Dropbox and Google Drive and the like have backups, too, but I see no easy way to manage all those disparate cloud storage services that is not convoluted.
The danger is not just in having files off premise or stored on some magical server somewhere in the cloud where a click on the wrong button could wipe out data owned by a few million humans, but I fear the convolutions to backup the backups are equally onerous.
No, I don’t have an easy solution to quell the fears and ensure 100-percent safe iCloud or cloud backups. I want one.