Is iCloud Worth $239.88 Per Year?

September 1st, 2016

With the arrival of macOS Sierra, you’ll be able to share your clipboard, a Universal Clipboard, with your other devices, including iPhones and iPads. The Optimized Storage feature will allow you to clean out your drive of duplicates and unused data. It will be a boon for those who bought Macs with tiny SSDs. Do you remember when the MacBook Air came with a 64GB drive?

At least those who write about Macs could stretch their brain cells to devise clever ways to tell their readers how to save storage space. Obviously having an external drive helped, but not when you wanted to travel and didn’t want to take extra stuff with you. Apple’s iCloud Drive is another, mostly seamless way for you to manage your extra stuff.

Well, it does appear that you might need an iCloud Drive more than ever with the new macOS. That’s because of a third feature that uses iCloud, where the contents of your Desktop and Documents folders are shared. For me, that’s 250GB, which may be on the low side for those engaged in audio and video work.

So that means many of you are forced to upgrade your iCloud storage. Unfortunately, Apple gives you just 5GB free, but there are several packages with more storage, a lot more storage after a recent change. But when you begin to budget your needs, you’ll also want to see what the competition is offering.

I’ve opted not to share my work folders for now. It would cost me $9.99 a month for 1TB. Instead, I’ve opted for the 99 cents a month package, 50GB, sufficient for my music and photo libraries. I already have two external backup drives for all my stuff, plus an account with CrashPlan for online backups.

Well, ahead of the arrival of macOS Sierra, presumably in late September or some time in October, Apple has updated its iCloud Drive plans. No, you do not get more free storage, and the rates are otherwise unchanged, but there’s a new 2GB tier for $19.99 a month or, as the title states, $239.88 per year.

Now that might seem a tad costly, but it’s not, at least it’s not if you consider one of Apple’s main rivals in the cloud storage business, and that’s Google.

But the offerings for Google Drive are more expansive, and they do offer you 15GB free, which is far more sensible. The next tier is 100GB, for $1.99 a month. The 1TB tier matches Apple’s price at $9.99, but if you require more storage, you need to move up to the next level, 10TB, at $99.99 per month. Higher capacities scale up at the same rate, so it’s $299.99 a month for a maximum of 30TB. If you have that amount of available storage to back up, you can probably afford $299.99 a month to keep it going.

There is a cheaper option, sort of, and that’s Microsoft One Drive. You can get an Office 365 Personal account, with 1TB storage, for $6.99 per month, and that also includes an Office license for Mac, PC or mobile. For $9.99, you can order the Office 365 Home plan that includes five user licenses for Office and 1TB storage for each user. If it’s just cloud storage you want, having Office is the icing on the cake.

On the other hand, the Microsoft One Drive system doesn’t integrate directly with your Apple stuff, though you can manually move files there. You can’t specify a different cloud storage scheme to sync your stuff, since Apple is offering an integrated system. You might also have concerns about the reliability of iCloud given occasional outages and sync problems.

With the arrival of macOS Sierra, your storage needs are destined to grow considerably. That means that reliability will be uppermost, particularly when you are depending on reliable handling of hundreds of gigabytes of your data — perhaps more.

I would like to see Apple increase the free storage level to match Google’s 15GB. As it is, you are forced into the 99 cents a month package unless you are real stingy, or choose not to sync your music and photo libraries. Otherwise, the prices are clearly competitive. Indeed, Apple’s 2TB plan makes more sense than buying 10TB from Google, unless you really need tons of extra space. I suspect Apple is serving the needs of well over 99% of its customers this way.

I will assume that iCloud is getting better, since it has been a while since I read about any outage, and I’ve had no recent problems at all. The real potential pitfall is your ISP’s bandwidth cap. If you have a typical 250GB or 500GB, you can quickly hit the limits if you opt to share your Desktop and Documents folders. It’s best to consult with your broadband provider.

Now some ISPs do it more sensibly. CenturyLink doesn’t count your uploads in its 250GB limit. So you could use an online storage system for terabytes of data and not worry about it — unless you have to restore a lot of data, such as a crashed drive.

As you know, I recently moved to a housing complex with free broadband. It’s limited to 15 megabits down and 3 megabits up. But the effective speed is higher than a normal broadband package with similar speeds. That’s because you get that top speed consistently 24/7, and there’s low latency, which means sites appear to come up faster. But the best part of it is that, according to the ISP, accessmedia3, there is no bandwidth cap. “None at all?” I asked when I contacted their tech support. “There are no limits whatever.” That’s the way it should be with a traditional wire-based broadband service, but too often it’s not.

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