Avoiding the iCloud storage gotcha

Avoiding the iCloud storage gotcha

Summary: Storing your App data to Apple's iCloud is very convenient. A little too convenient maybe. Find out how to manage your iCloud backup data before you spend money on storage you don't need.


I excitedly upgraded to iOS 5.0 the day it was first available and have been 90% satisfied with my decision to do so. There are a few issues with it, however. One is that you'll find that some of your previously purchased Apps don't work. Another is that a few of your settings weren't kept or were replaced by newer versions that have been moved or renamed. But, the biggest 'gotcha' of all is,...wait for it,...iCloud.

Please don't misunderstand me. I wanted iOS 5. I wanted iCloud. I couldn't wait, in fact. And, this coming from the guy who takes a very conservative approach to support and personal computing. I'm never the first to jump onto a new version, new gadget or new service pack.

This time I did. And, I'm not sorry that I did, but I'd say proceed with caution if you haven't made the trip yet.

During the iOS5 setup phase, you're asked whether you want to use iCloud for backup, which also untethers you from iTunes for updates and backups. Of course, if you want to backup and restore from iTunes, you can choose not to use iCloud at any time.

I chose to use iCloud for my iPhone 4 and for my iPad. My reason was a simple one and one I would use again should the wizard reappear on another device: I don't want to be tethered to iTunes or any particular computer. I don't really like iTunes. I think that there are better delivery models available.

Cloud-based delivery models.

And, yes, I know that "Cloud" is a dirty word to many of you but to you I have to say, "Sorry" and "Get with the program."

I digress. Back to my iCloud gotcha.

I had only used iCloud twice. Once for my iPhone 4 and once more for my iPad during the iOS 5 setup. But, a few days after the upgrade, I received a system message that my iCloud was almost full and that I need to purchase some space or I won't be able to perform additional backups.

Wait, what?

But, I have only used iCloud once for each device.

Due to my suspicious nature, I smelled an Apple-scented scam afoot and so I investigated further.

Let me put your mind at ease before I go any further to say that there was no scam and there was no fault on Apple's side nor mine. However, you should be aware of how your iCloud space is used. Apple's iCloud storage App did exactly what it was supposed to do. The problem was that I just didn't know how well it performed its assigned task: Backing up my wife's videos to iCloud.

You see, my wife subscribes to some religious-oriented videocasts by Beth Moore. She's purchased six or seven of the videocasts and each one consumes just over a half gig (GB) of space on the iPad. That's no big deal for my 32GB model.

The problem was that I didn't know that her video backup was causing my free 5.0 GB of iCloud space to be virtually useless to me.

Here's how I solved the problem and how you can setup what does and does not get backed up to your iCloud account.

On your iDevice, open Settings, iCloud and then to Storage & Backup (scroll all the way down to see Storage & Backup). Check out your Total Storage (5.0 GB) and the amount available to you. Mine currently is 3.2 GB as you can see in Figure 1.


Figure 1: iCloud Storage Summary

Tap Manage Storage to see how much space each of your iDevices uses. See Figure 2.



Figure 2: iCloud Storage Used per Device

To see details about what is backed up on each iDevice, tap the device. Figure 3 shows some details of my iPhone's backups.


Figure 3: Device-specific App Storage

You can see how much space each App uses and choose which App data to backup using this interface. To see all Apps, tap the Show All Apps selection at the bottom of the list (not shown). If you want to exclude a particular App's data from future backups, slide its selector to the Off position. That App's data will no longer be backed up to your iCloud account.

You also have the option of deleting your backup (option not shown in Figure 3). To do so, scroll down until you see the option Delete Backup and delete your backup from iCloud for this device.

Make your changes and allow your iCloud backup to proceed normally.

If you find that, at some future date, that you need more storage, you can purchase it "in App" as shown in Figures 1 and 2 above. Pricing for iCloud's additional storage isn't cheap. As you can see in Figure 4, it's quite pricey but still less than Dropbox by comparison.

Additional iCloud Storage Pricing

Figure 4: Additional iCloud Storage Pricing

Hopefully, in the future, someone will develop an App that allows you to select your Cloud provider of choice for your iDevice backups.

Until then, you'll have to manage this iCloud 'gotcha' on your own.

Do you use iCloud for your iPhone, iPad, iPod or other Apple devices? Why or why not?

Talk back and let me know.

Topics: Hardware, Apple, Cloud, Data Management, Mobile OS, Mobility, Storage


Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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  • Not sure why Apple does not want your wife to keep videos off-iCloud count

    ... the same way as it happens with iTunes' music or applications.

    If the religious videos are bought from iTunes, then there is no expense for Apple to exclude their size the same way they exclude music and applications.

    Maybe in some iCloud update in the future Apple will resolve this annoyance. Then your wife would be able to store as many gigabytes of iTunes videos as possible without it being accounted as part of 5 GB iCloud space.
    • Think Apple doesn't want to get sued by movie studios...

      @DeRSSS for which it still doesn't have licences to do what you describe... Jobs said in the iCloud presentation that they are working on it...
      • RE: Avoiding the iCloud storage gotcha

        @doctorSpoc I just check, and Beth Moore has no videos on iTunes. As I thought, she did not purchase them through iTunes. Had she, she could download them/view them anytime without it taking from your cloud storage. Since apps get all the content in their documents backed up, that is what its getting backed up. Thanks for the tip - I intend to turn off video for all my video players - that content was loaded from my home machine anyway.
  • RE: Avoiding the iCloud storage gotcha

    ???Get with the program.???....

    To this I say

    "All your Information are belong to us" -sincerely the US Govt.
    • !!!Bodazapha From your keyboard to Gods workgroup!!!

      @Bodazapha <- Damned skippy! I have 6TB on my own local networks dedicated backup, with timed transfer to headless drones packing another 10TB, and each box on my wire has 2 TB for whatever the user wants, autosaving saving biz B/U, personal loading to mass storage is optional We all have different tastes in pron.
      "Get with the program?"
      How much coke you doing a day Ken?
      "It's Clouds Illussions you Install, there really are no clouds, at all" .
      Uh...ok archaic kewl term...Word up G.
      Otis Driftwood
      • RE: Avoiding the iCloud storage gotcha

        @Otis Driftwood --umn, what?!?
  • Managing my iCloud settings is almost a full time job

    Going through every single application to configure their cloud storage options is quite the pain. I haven't even restored all my apps from the epic fail that was my iOS 5 upgrade.

    Still, I'm glad to have the option but you highlight a very important gotcha: iCloud doesn't "Just Work". It needs a lot of babysitting.
    • RE: Avoiding the iCloud storage gotcha

      @toddybottom Either I did something wrong or something right - I have had no issues at all with the upgrade itself - no lost apps, no moved settings, no babysitting the iCloud. I notice the device itself runs a bit slower but that is the only difference thus far that I can see.
    • RE: Avoiding the iCloud storage gotcha

      @toddybottom - Although I can't speak of user installation issues with iOS5 since I didn't have any with either my iPhone4 or iPad1 (have not activated iCloud on either device), it seems to me that it did "just work". All my reading indicates the "epic failures" appear to be mis-information by Apple haters.

      If you want everything backed-up without thinking about it, just buy more storage and let 'er rip. If you want to pick and choose (babysit?), then pick and choose like any other backup app. Simple.
    • RE: Avoiding the iCloud storage gotcha

      @toddybottom I had no issues upgrading 2 iPhone 4s, 1 3GS, 1 iPod Touch and 2 iPad 1s apart from the server load on day one when I did one of the iPhone 4s. There is also no gotcha on iCloud backup, it doesn't exactly what they said it did and the videos that caused his issue did not come from iTunes so no gotcha. So far from my experience it does Just Work.
  • RE: Avoiding the iCloud storage gotcha

    ???Get with the program.???

    Exactly. Why would you store anything on any local device? Get it all into the cloud, dude. Then you won't need iCloud or any other backup.
    • Because we live on planet earth

      Why not keep everything in the cloud? Because here on earth we have something called bandwidth caps! So, if I want to watch the last season of burn notice, I need them cached locally and downloaded via wifi or direct connection. The cloud is a great addition, but it is no replacement yet.
  • RE: Avoiding the iCloud storage gotcha

    [b]There are a few issues with it, however. One is that you???ll find that some of your previously purchased Apps don???t work. Another is that a few of your settings weren???t kept or were replaced by newer versions that have been moved or renamed.[/b]

    I upgraded the OS on my iPhone 4 to iOS 5 and started using iCloud and have not had any issues nor did I notice anything unusual or changed as far as settings... do you have a specific list of apps or settings?
    • RE: Avoiding the iCloud storage gotcha

      @Pete "athynz" Athens

      No, I don't have a specific list. Still working through them. Some people have reported issues with iSSH. Our problem was with the LifeWay App Breaking Free. I had to uninstall and reinstall. That usually fixes the iOS 5 upgrade problem.
    • Not so much don't work

      @Pete "athynz" Athens
      But have some hey restrict your save options.
      Example: iWorks
      Saves are limited to iCloud and WebDav.
      I can load from Dropbox, but no longer save there (iPad2)
  • Maybe I'm just not with the program

    Call me a grumpy old man but why should I pay $100 a year to store something sized 50GB when I have a Terabyte hard disk that I paid $149 for? Am I missing something? Is it impossible to store tunes, videos and religious things on my hard drive? Is that only if I buy an iPhone?

    And I suppose my clinching grumpy old man question is why should I expose the religious video choices I've made to someone I don't know?
    • RE: Avoiding the iCloud storage gotcha

      @RayAhern Sure you can store them on a local drive that you only have access to when you are local to it. That is not what iCloud is. You can have your own cloud setup as well, it's call choices. If somebody chooses to pay for that 50GB or storage rather than a local drive, that is their choice.
  • Is Data Counted More Than Once

    If I have a file that is common across more than one device, is it counted only once or for every device it's on?
    • RE: Avoiding the iCloud storage gotcha

      Is it just available to view/download or already downloaded?
  • Why avoid iTunes?

    At least for now, be carful with the switch to icloud because it is more than just storage change, it is also a licensing change!

    iTunes/Fairplay licensing gives you 5 computers on which you can play your content and "AN UNLIMITED" number of iOS devices that sync with those computers. So in my family that means:
    My wife's computer and: 1 iPod Classic, 2 iPod Touches, 3 iPhones, 1 iPad, 1 appleTV. (9 devices)
    My Laptop and: 1 iPhone (2 devices)
    My fathers computer and: 1 iPad, 1 iPod Touch, 1 Apple TV. (4 devices)
    My Brothers computer and: 3 iPhones, 1 iPad, 1 iPod Touch and 2 Apple TV's. (8 devices)
    My Mother in law computer and: 1 iPad, 1 iPhone and 1 Apple TV. (4 devices)

    So a movie purchased on that account can play back on 27 devices. And I believe this doesn't change with iTunes Wireless sync.

    Now, with the direct connection of iCloud, I can have up to 10 devices and only 5 can be computers. The advantage is that these devices sync anywhere in the world. I have not tested to see if you can walk the line and have some devices do both or if iCloud trumps fairplay.