Given the beating Apple’s cloud services often take, I am sure you will be surprised at what I am about to say. I like iCloud. I rely on it quite a bit. What’s more, I trust iCloud. My expectations for iCloud have always centered on synchronization. This has always been the killer cloud value proposition in my mind. Even during the days when many in the industry stated with confidence that the killer app of the cloud would be backup, I was confident it would be synchronization.
I was convinced of this from the first time I used Microsoft ActiveSync for email. Whenever I would get a new PC, or PDA (remember those personal digital assistants), all I had to do was input my email credentials and magically all my email would appear and stay in sync across all my devices. This was when I knew what cloud synchronization would do for documents, media, and all forms of digital data. Since 2004, I told any major player in the industry who would listen that we needed a consumer version of ActiveSync. Today, the closest thing I use is iCloud.
The thing that is interesting about the cloud and synchronization, is that it is only truly valuable when you have multiple devices you want to keep in sync. When all one owns is a single device, there is no need to keep things in sync. All the content you own and produce resides on the device and the services that device connects with. As you start acquiring more personal computing devices you begin to spread time and data across them all. Keeping things in sync is an essential part of the multi-device experience.
Most of the ways I use iCloud regularly is to keep my documents in sync. This may be one of best aspects of the service to date. Having the ability to work on a new presentation, and have it auto save to iCloud, then pick up right where I left off on any other iOS or OS X device of my choosing is refreshingly convenient. However, the other day I realized just how much I trust iCloud and this realization raised an important question.
Trust, Questions, and Possibilities
I gather and generate a significant amount of original data on the tech industry. I also present this data in the form of presentations to dozens of companies on a monthly basis. Without realizing it, I have been slowly transitioning all our data to iCloud. I use Numbers and Keynote for our spreadsheets and our presentations. As I have been creating data in both programs, I have been storing them all to iCloud. It was simply the most convenient process since I rely on that data on any number of devices. I probably have well over 100 documents of original and proprietary data, presentations, and models, that are stored in iCloud. When it hit me that I was storing all this valuable data in iCloud, I asked myself whether or not I should back all this data up. This data is extremely valuable to me and more importantly recreating it would not be impossible but would be a gigantic undertaking.
Given this data is so important to me, can I trust it to iCloud? I have had no issue yet but what if an issue comes up? Are these files recoverable if something goes wrong? What if I accidentally delete a file on iCloud? Can I get it back? These were things I started thinking about. Apple does give instructions and recommend that you make copies and archive things stored in iCloud, however, this is a relatively tedious process and could be much more seamless. Suffice it to say, I did this just to be safe.
iCloud is certainly not perfect. I’d still love to see walls get broken down between iCloud accounts so families could have a more powerful synchronization engine. I wrote about this recently and called it a “framily cloud.” I’d love to be able to start making a movie on my iPhone and pick up where I left off on my iPad or Mac. I’d love a better way to keep photo libraries in sync across my devices and my families. The same with music.
Without question, iCloud still has a long way to go. However, I still believe it is one of the more encompassing multi-device synchronization engines I have used in some time.