The Problems with iCloud

As a born PC user I rarely interact with iCloud on my main computer. Even on my iOS devices I rarely use iCloud, where, given the choice, I will choose Dropbox or some other method to sync documents and settings across devices. The most recent episode of Back to Work, Lotta Little Knives, brought the issue to a head in my mind, and Ben Brooks’s less recent article Archived Data, in the Cloud, in which he proposed an interesting solution to the topic at hand, prompted me to write this piece.

“How does a great cloud storage system work using the Fusion Drive model? Just swap ‘SSD’ with ‘your local device’ and ‘HDD’ with ‘cloud'. The OS intelligently decides which files it should keep locally — everything else gets off-loaded to the cloud.”

The solution, however, fails to solve the main problems with iCloud: that it tries to be everything to everyone, and that, even by Apple’s we’ll-make-it-work-don’t-worry-how standards, iCloud is an exceptionally closed system. Combined, these two aspects have led to inconsistent syncing and, most importantly, a profound feeling of doubt. In a tweet from 2011, Merlin Mann described Dropbox’s syncing experience, saying, “When I hit a button and ‘Send to Dropbox,' I for damn sure know where it is…it’s EVERYWHERE—it’s never NOT everywhere.” Conversely, when I make a change to an application relying on iCloud as a back end, I don’t know where it is — whether that “it” is a file or a setting. That’s the problem with iCloud: it’s sometimes in some places. And that’s an inconsistency I, and many other people, cannot afford.