And let’s say that, on your shiny new Mac, you want to move these files from iCloud Drive to your local hard drive, or to another synced drive like Google Drive or Dropbox. Well, you can just drag their folders do the other destination, right? You sure can. Apple kindly warns you that your dragging action is moving that folder, and that the files will be moved to your Mac, and won’t exist on iCloud Drive anymore. Fine. That’s what dragging a file from one place to another generally does!
But what happens if there are files inside this folder that haven’t yet synced to your local machine? Well, the move operation will be slower, because your Mac has to first download them from iCloud Drive. But once they download, they’ll be in their new location. Right?
Nope. Those files are now gone. Forever.
In their place, is a file named FILENAME.original-extension.icloud. This file, only a couple kilobytes in size, is the placeholder that OS X uses to pretend that the file existed on your system. Your original file is gone. It’s gone from iCloud Drive, and it exists nowhere on your hard drive.
Cloud syncing is not a backup, and iCloud (still) doesn’t have good failure modes.
If you need to access a file that you recently deleted, you might be able to recover it from iCloud.com. Sign in to iCloud.com, click Settings > Data & Security, then browse the list of files in the Recover Documents tab. Files will be removed from Recover Documents in 30 days.
This is non-obvious and seems to not preserve the folder hierarchy, which could be a serious problem, but it’s better than nothing. In my case, it showed a bunch of unsaved documents that I had discarded.
Apple doesn’t have the right organizational structure to support cloud services across apps to a level of consistency and quality that Google and Amazon does. Nathan Taylor explains this quite well.
Speaking as a former resident deep in Cue’s org, I believe this is common knowledge internally, but there isn’t alignment on how to address it. Even at the IC level, most people I spoke with are aware of Apple’s shortcomings in services. Services are not the favored child at Apple. iOS and hardware are, because of revenue. Services ICs know that, and it hits morale directly; I saw (and felt) this. There are attempts to fix it, too, but those manifest as reorganizations. I was subjected to four in a year and a half.
You hear pains from teams like Maps, who were moved from iOS to services during my tenure, and who immediately ran into serious organizational problems, dried up budgets, and so on. The gettin’ is good in iOSville, and once you leave iOS, it’s a whole ’nother Apple. There’s a common story about the origin of Maps at Apple where Maps was basically given a blank check, and they’re still mopping up some of that excess to this day. That doesn’t happen in services.
Meanwhile, organizationally, Siri is kind of outside the typical services structure for various legacy reasons and they’re off iterating like all getout and having a blast without the encumberance of the services organization. Every time I met with Siri I always came away with questions like, in this organizational climate, how on earth are they getting so much done?
Apple needs a serious Microsoftism on services. If you would have told me five years ago that Microsoft under Nadella would completely reverse course and embrace the living hell out of services while Apple meandered in the “let’s buy companies to implement our services strategy” grasslands, I’d have said the opposite is more likely, yet here we are.
Update (2015-07-16): Dan Moren:
[…] back in the iDisk era I encountered a similar data loss loophole.
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