Are You Subscribed to iCloud?

I regretted my decision.

Adobe Stock

For years, people I’ve met have been singing iCloud’s praises.

It’s so convenient!
It’s cheap!
It backs up everything on your phone and computer.
It helps save space on your devices.
You don’t have to worry about deleting pictures to make storage on your phone.
It backs up your computer’s system and when you buy a new computer, you can download the system from the cloud.

For years, I refused to give in to the hype. I just wasn’t willing to pay for it.

Until, a few weeks ago.

When my husband’s iPhone was damaged last year, he lost all his photos except the older ones that were saved in the free 5GB iCloud storage. Since then, he decided to subscribe to iCloud.

As for me, I was tired of clearing space on my iPhone and my MacBook every few months. I had to sort out my documents, transfer them into my respective external hard drives, and then delete them off my phone or laptop.

So, I decided to give iCloud a try using the Family Sharing system.

My phone and laptop took some time to upload everything onto the cloud. I also enabled the “documents and desktop” option. It’s what I needed most for clearing space on my laptop.

Whew! This was easy! I’m in love with it.

Until I started deleting things off my desktop.

And so the chaos begins…

I was confused as to why there was a download sign next to some of my folders.

Image credit: Apple Support

What I had understood from Apple about iCloud was that it’ll convert the bigger files into smaller files that will live locally on my desktop. So I assumed documents with the download sign were to download the actual raw uncompressed file.

I wasn’t wrong about that.

But what I had misunderstood was that iCloud was a backup storage. At least that’s how it was promoted not just on my phone with the countless prompts to get more iCloud storage for backup, but also by the people around me.

It is not.

My local Documents and Desktop folders were gone. They appeared under “iCloud”. Ignorant ol’ me thought the folders shifted because I turned on iCloud. So I dragged the folders back onto my local drive, thinking I was duplicating the folders from iCloud to the local drive.

Presuming everything is now safe on the cloud, I’m free to clear space on my computer. I deleted unnecessary documents that I was too lazy to transfer out. When I deleted those items, they appeared on my desktop again after several minutes. I thought there was something wrong with the system so I deleted them again, including emptying the trash bin.

Check the iCloud. A voice in my head whispered.

I opened the iCloud browser. To my dismay, the documents and pictures I deleted from my desktop were also gone from iCloud. My heart started to race. I could feel myself escalate into panic mode.

What was going on? Why is this happening? What did I do?

It was then did I realize I had gotten iCloud all wrong. I didn’t fully understand what it was used for and how it truly functions.

The Realization

After enabling iCloud for “Documents and Desktop”, I was no longer operating locally on my computer but on the cloud. That’s why whatever I deleted from my computer was also deleted from iCloud.

This wasn’t what I signed up for.

Call me traditional but I still prefer to have control over my stuff. I thought new and old documents would automatically upload to iCloud without affecting what I do with the same documents on my local desktop. I had also assumed iCloud was storage space in the cloud that wouldn’t take up space on my MacBook drive.

What I had wanted was storage space to store all my nonsense. Not a cloud space to work from. I wanted to be able to upload stuff to iCloud but still have them locally on my desktop. I wanted to be able to delete stuff without affecting the documents in the cloud. I mean what’s the point of a backup system only to have your stuff deleted from your backup as well.

If the internet is down, I wouldn’t be able to access documents in the iCloud drive with the download icon next to it. Without the internet, iCloud is pretty much useless. Which is why I prefer to have my stuff locally on my computer as well as external hard drives.

Yes, I’m kiasu. I’m a ‘just-in-case’ person.

I also turned on iCloud photos and all of a sudden, the number of photos I had on my phone increased by thousands. Past photos from more than five years ago suddenly appeared. Again, as convenient as it is to not have to delete photos and videos from my phone constantly, it doesn’t align with my needs.

Convenient but not for me

With all that said, I had iCloud on for about two weeks. I was too scared to do anything more with it, fearing I would mess up my system more than using iCloud already has.

iCloud is indeed convenient. The space on my computer has increased largely. I didn’t have to worry about files filling up my storage. New files that I’ve downloaded would automatically upload to the cloud. But iCloud drive also took a good chunk of the newly freed up space.

Nevertheless, this is not the system I needed. It’s not how I operate.

So I stopped using iCloud.

While subscribing to iCloud is relatively cheap, there are cheaper options out there.

Google Drive is more than enough for me and my intentions of using the cloud. Sure, it may be a little troublesome having to transfer files manually but at least I don’t have to worry about deleting files that I need. I want a cloud storage space so that I can delete my local files. Time Machine is great but I’m running out of external hard drives to backup with.

Lesson Learnt — Do Proper Research

This experience had me banging my head against the wall. I wasted a lot of time fretting on how to put my computer back to pre-iCloud days. I spent more time doing research that should’ve been done at the start.

My initial research was hearsay from people around me. My research was researching iCloud on Apple. It’s not enough. Encountering these issues made me realize my research was only superficial.

The research was filled with “How to’s”. I didn’t need that.

What I needed were people’s honest and upfront experiences, the inconveniences they had to go through, and the results. Did they decide to continue using iCloud or not? If they didn’t, why? And I only found out about all these similar experiences after my own experience when I finally knew what to type — iCloud is more complicated than I thought.

So if you’re thinking of subscribing to products like that, do proper research. Go further than the how-tos. Find out about the consequences of using said product. Don’t assume just because everyone’s doing it or raving about it.

At the end of the day, it really depends on what you’re seeking in these cloud services.

iCloud is not for me, but it could be for you.

*kiasu (Singlish) — To be kiasu is to do anything excessively for the fear of losing out.

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