The other day at work, a coworker and I were discussing backups and how we handled local storage for our data. As I previously wrote, I have a 2TB Western Digital MyBook Studio LX drive that I setup with Time Machine to backup my computer. It wasn’t until I mentioned having a 750GB HDD in my MacBook Pro, of which just over 100GB was used, that I realized how much data I actually have stored in the cloud compared to what I store locally.
iCloud – iTunes Match
My iTunes music library is just over 12GB, which definitely isn’t a lot when compared to others out there. Every album Jess and I own has been converted from CD to digital, and songs I’ve acquired over the years are in there also. With the release of iCloud in the fall of 2011, Apple also released a paid service called iTunes Match.
iTunes determines which songs in your collection are available in the iTunes Store. Any music with a match is automatically added to iCloud for you to listen to anytime, on any device. Since there are more than 26 million songs in the iTunes Store, chances are your music is already in iCloud.* And for the few songs that aren’t, iTunes uploads what it can’t match (which is faster than uploading your entire music library). Even better, all the music iTunes matches plays back from iCloud at 256-Kbps AAC DRM-free quality — even if your original copy was of lower quality.
Once your music is in iCloud, you can stream it to any of your devices. Just browse the complete list of all your music stored in the cloud. To listen to a song, tap the iCloud icon next to it and your song starts playing. You can store up to 25,000 songs in iCloud (more if songs are purchased from the iTunes Store), but only what you want to play is stored on your device. So you have immediate access to a huge music library without taking up storage space.
With 2 iPhones and an iPad in the house, along with my MacBook Pro, iTunes Match makes it easier to share music than having to connect each device to the computer, select the songs, then sync the devices.
iCloud – Movies and TV Shows
With the release of the Apple TV 3 earlier this year, I decided it was time to go digital with our entertainment as well. With close to 50 movie titles on Blu-ray, I compared what was on iTunes to what I had physically. About 97% were already in iTunes (and iCloud), so I sold the physical copies and then turned around and purchased the same titles through iTunes. Plus with having kids in the house, I don’t have to worry about them getting into the discs and risk scratching them, even though Blu-ray discs are a lot harder to scratch than DVDs.
I don’t really buy seasons of TV shows, and a lot of the ones I watch eventually make it to Netflix. However, that’s not to say I don’t buy any episodes through iTunes. Ever since it came back on the air in 2010, I’ve pre-ordered every season of Futurama when available.
One thing to note here: The Apple TV will stream the movies and TV shows, but other iOS devices require the media to be downloaded before playing.
Don’t get me wrong, I do have my iTunes library stored on my external drive because of how much space it takes up due to the movies, TV shows, and music. I do this for 2 reasons:
- In case I lose internet access and I want to watch something (assuming I have power)
- It’s easier to sync a movie to our iPhones or iPad than waiting for the file to download beforehand.
While that may seem contradicting compared to what I’ve written already about how I use iCloud for my media, consider this: I have access to the internet 99.9% of the time no matter where I am, so connectivity isn’t much of an issue for me. When it comes down to it, I don’t always go where I can plug devices into an outlet, so taking my external hard drive is not an option.
iCloud – Documents and Settings
I’ll admit, I don’t really use iCloud for backups except on my iPhone. A lot of apps will use iCloud to store settings, making it easier to pick up where I left off if I had to do a restore or get a new phone. As more and more apps take advantage of storing documents on iCloud, I will probably start relying on it more.
As it stands now, however, it’s just easier for me to continue using my current document strategy with Dropbox.
Dropbox – Documents
Dropbox is a great service that allows anyone to store documents online with the ability to access them from virtually any computer or mobile device with the Dropbox app.
I’ve completely replaced my documents folder with Dropbox, in the sense that any files I create or download, such as Word documents and PDFs, are stored in there for accessibility. What makes Dropbox even better is the ability to share files with other users without much effort. Now, instead of uploading attachments in my email, I can just send a link to the file in Dropbox. No more worrying about running into errors with large files in email.
If you don’t have Dropbox, sign up for a free account. If you use my affiliate link, we both get rewarded with an extra 500MB of free storage.
Backblaze – Backup
For just $5/month, I’m able to backup my entire computer to the Backblaze servers without worry. Depending on how fast your connection is and how much data you choose to backup, this can take quite awhile. However, once you customize your settings, the backup takes place in the background and gets out of your way.
I just have the user accounts set to be backed up, for a few reasons. For one, a total of 70GB has been backed up to the servers, and that’s just the user accounts. If I wanted to backup the apps and system files, that’s another 30GB. Considering the fact that 90% of the apps are purchased through the Mac App Store, I can just re-download them at my leisure. As for the system files, chances are that if I need to reinstall for whatever reason, I probably want to start fresh with them to avoid any possible conflicts.
Curious about Backblaze? Sign up for a free 2-week trial and see for yourself.
After realizing how much of my stuff is stored elsewhere instead of locally, I can’t help but appreciate what Steve Jobs described as his cloud setup back in 1997 and how it would change the way we use computers. It’s amazing to see how envisioned cloud computing “for the rest of us” just 15 years ago.