A quick take on some of the many issues backing up large, complicated iOS configurations to iCloud backup.

Apple needs to make some hefty changes to iCloud. It needs to allow you to backup and take advantage of the full size of your iPad (128GB max) inexpensively. In my case, since most of my data is strung between four cloud services (OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, and iCloud), I didn’t need to back it all up. However, for a while I used iBooks to store my side-loaded ePubs and PDFs. In this case, I had to stop backing it up to iCloud because of space concerns. Loosing all of those in the case of a system failure led me to put my PDFs back on Dropbox and use Goodreader to access them. Being able to keep them all in iCloud (about 50g of data) would be very nice.

That the default iCloud backup space (5G per account, not per device) is insufficient has been pretty well trumpeted for years now. But many of the other issues here, especially the logistics of restoring a lot of apps at once, don’t get mentioned as often.

Backing up to iCloud seems like it should be perfect, but if restore is so difficult, slow, and unpredictable, then it’s really not viable. It seems that the “proper order” of file restoration isn’t guaranteed, and some apps (1Password, in this example) may break until the restore is complete. It almost feels like you have to start the restore, and then not use the device at all for a day or two until it finishes (and you’ll have to kick it every now and then to keep the process moving).

I’ve avoided going to iCloud backups, partially because of the space problem, but largely because I don’t understand it. What’s really backed up? How? How easy is it to restore, and can I restore just parts of it? What happens if the backup breaks?

For a while I was doing some crazy script-fu to backup my iCloud calendar to a bunch of .ics files on the desktop. I may need to revisit that, and extend it for all the other data types stored in iCloud.

As for full-device backups, I’m still holding out hope that I can get iTunes sync over Wi-Fi to work at home. But after multiple upgrades (Lion to Mountain Lion to Mavericks) and attendant iTunes upgrades, it’s still only working maybe 60% of the time, and that for only one of the many devices we have at home. I’m at the point where I may just use an AppleScript to kill and restart iTunes each night, and to explicitly initiate a backup of a different device each day.

It really shouldn’t be that difficult.