Friday, June 18, 2021

Why Doesn’t iCloud Warn Before Deleting Backups?

Erin Sparling:

Every drawing that I’ve ever done on my iPad is now lost, because I chose to use the iCloud backup service as a backup service.


But even though everything worked as expected, my decade of work is unrecoverable, because @Apple does not proactively notify their customers of pending backup deletions. I would have gladly bought an iPad last fall had I known the choice was “keep using this or we erase it all”

Or I could have done a local backup before erasing my device, had I known that iCloud Backup should have an asterisk next to the name.

Or I could’ve exported all of the files. Or printed them. Or uploaded them to Dropbox or Backblaze… or even Flickr!

He had erased “the iPad and give it to a family member so that they can teach during a pandemic” and planned to restore from iCloud Backup later, unaware that iCloud deletes backups after 6 months, without telling you that it’s going to do this, and even if your account isn’t full.


17 Comments RSS · Twitter

That is unforgivable. I can't even imagine why it would be a policy to ever delete any data from a user's iCloud drive without their consent. Especially during a pandemic, where lots of people are making huge changes to their computing devices, how and where their data is stored, etc. Tim Cook should personally call and apologize, then offer her a top end iMac as compensation for this idiotic policy.

This is exactly why I have two RAID systems and a few 1TB/2TB External SSD drives to keep local and offsite backups of everything. I don't trust the cloud services for long term backup of anything. There is simply too much that is outside of your control.

It's funny: I pay Apple for a fixed amount of space on iCloud, and yet Apple doesn't use all that space. It's pretty much a scam. If Apple were interested in behaving ethically, your backups would take up all available space, and then begin paring themselves down, with the oldest backups being deleted first. This is how it's supposed to be done.

Developers need to learn what IT has learned long ago: Apple is not your friend. If there is a choice between you losing, and Apple losing, Apple will usually ensure that you lose. Every GB that you pay for, but are prevented by Apple from using, makes Apple money.

iCloud Backup is not a backup, it's a synchronization engine, at best. And it is not an archive, as this customer unfortunately discovered.

And never, ever have just one copy of your data.

This auto-delete behavior of iCloud is terrible, but still (repeat after me), the cloud is not a backup solution. It may be *part* of a backup solution. The classic backup strategy has long been "3-2-1". This looks like ... "1-1-1"? I'm not surprised it ended in disaster.

Or as Navy Seals say: "2 is 1 and 1 is none". You had exactly one backup, and you went and intentionally deleted the original? You walked right into that one.

iOS TimeCapsule. Or even bundling iCloud as part of it. So you have your own TimeCapsule Backup as well as iCloud. i.e Your TimeCapsule require iCloud Subscription to work.

But then again increasingly I am looking at John Sculley+ Era. Where Apple had their stock price up nearly 10x post Steve Jobs departure before they they hit a low.

@ Sam: blaming the user is never a great strategy, and it's not like iOS has particularly great alternative backup paths.

I agree with @Sam that this user made some fatal errors, but do think the fact that iCloud backups will be deleted is not obvious and that much blame should be placed on Apple in this case.

If these iPad drawings were important they should have been backed up elsewhere, especially if the local copy (the iPad itself) was being erased and given away.

Other well respected cloud backup services, such as Backblaze, delete files after 30 days if the original copy is no longer available, unless you pay extra for longer retention time. Backblaze definitely discloses this 30 day retention policy clearly, but nonetheless there are many posts on the internet of people complaining that they permanently lost their data due to using Backblaze more like an archive service, much like the person did with iCloud backup in this case.

I have a lot of sympathy for this person, but think it should be taken as a precautionary tale for other people that sync is not the same as backup, which is also not the same as archive (usually).

Does ANYONE at Apple know what controls what, when, and who or how.
They have made a mess of the entire iCloud, iTunes, AppStore, and the Apps that have full control, or not over the iCloud.
It screams untrustworthy.
Hope someone can fix it, so us old time laggard SAVE AS... crowd can understand what is going on.

This can’t be entirely accurate. I just checked, and I still have a backup of my previous iPhone in iCloud (last backup: Nov. 26).

Maybe it’s deleted after 6 month of inactivity of the Apple ID?

@Peter Apple says “iCloud backups are available for 180 days after you disable or stop using iCloud Backup.” My experience is that backups of old devices do get deleted even if I keep making new backups of new devices on the same Apple ID.

Kevin Schumacher

I have a backup of my prior iPhone dated 11/19/20. I think, but am not positive, that I had backups of even older devices (I upgrade on a yearly basis, so around September or October of each year would be the last backup) before I went and manually pruned them sometime earlier this year.

So at best, the automatic pruning is inconsistent, even if I’m wrong about having had backups of devices before my last one.

Yes, the backup strategy here was reckless, but this is a severe case of bad service policy.

1) No data should ever be deleted without notice. Start sending emails one month in advance!
2) There is absolutely no reason to ever delete backups as long as the service is paid and enough storage is available.

Old Unix Geek

Honestly, this policy is bullshit.

Apple's entire shtick is about how easy it is for users, how the App store is safe for them, etc.

That's why people give iPads to their elderly relatives. Elderly relatives read the word "backup" and don't think "terms and conditions apply, I should buy a NAS".

So no, I disagree totally with your point Sam. If Apple claims to consumers it's a backup, then it bloody well better be a backup. Deleting stuff "just because" is not good enough. Apple has been paid for storage so it should provide it.

I even disagree with the "it's good enough to warn users before deleting stuff". Emails go to spam. People catch Covid and end up in hospitals.

If Apple tells you to rely on them, then they should demonstrate their reliability. If I were them, I'd transfer it to tape. Then it can be gotten back later, if necessary, even a couple of days later would be better than losing it all. Modern tapes can store hundreds of terabytes. Backups can also be compressed. There are robots to feed tape machines with the relevant tape so no human needs to be involved.

"If Apple claims to consumers it's a backup, then it bloody well better be a backup"

This. You can't call something a backup, then delete it, then blame users for not understanding that "the cloud is not a backup solution."

@Old Unix Geek and @Plume Yes, this reminds me of that Steve Jobs quote about privacy. Apple is supposed to be the company of plain English, not fine print.

Agree with the others that this "should just work" - and working doesn't include unexpected deletions of backups. Especially if you are paying extra for storage.

This is why I am careful to check at least once a month that the Mac Pro in my basement logged into my iCloud with Photos and Files set to download everything is indeed downloading everything so I can then back it up with both time machine as well as BackBlaze.

Yes, it's a PITA but data loss is an even bigger PITA. I also make routine copies of all my bookmarks and export my contacts. I really need to automate that. Hmm, maybe something for the new shortcuts to test it out....

People should always have at least two copies of their data. Yeah, yeah, yeah, the whole 3, 2, 1 rule, but at least two copies is much better than a single copy. It's in fact not a backup if there's no original; instead, you have your unique data stored in the cloud.

However, labeling something a backup, as mentioned by pretty much everyone, should actually be a backup. Auto-deleting files when your data allocation isn't full is certainly repugnant. Apple should be ashamed of themselves.

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