iCloud is a great take on making the Cloud more accessible. Not only does it allow you 5GB of cloud storage to back up your app data (think saved games), Camera Roll, and device settings, but it makes back-ups almost effortless after you tick the “iCloud Backup” switch in the new settings page (Settings -> […]
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Watch Out For Invisible Bandwidth Drain During iCloud Backups

iCloud is a great take on making the Cloud more accessible. Not only does it allow you 5GB of cloud storage to back up your app data (think saved games), Camera Roll, and device settings, but it makes back-ups almost effortless after you tick the “iCloud Backup” switch in the new settings page (Settings -> iCloud -> Storage & Backup). It’s also a pretty intelligent backup, since it will only send the data that differs between different backups, and not re-upload everything on your device every time.

Once iCloud Backup is on, your device will attempt to back up once a day while it is on Wi-Fi and attached to a charger.

 

Invisible Backup!

Here’s the kicker, though: iCloud doesn’t tell you when it’s backing up. Unlike with the awesome new Wi-Fi Sync in iOS 5, there is no status bar indicator to notify you that a helluvalot of data is being passed through your iPhone or iPad at the moment. This doesn’t seem like it should matter, but I’ve noticed over the past few weeks that it can drain your bandwidth to almost nothing during the backup process. I have a 12 Mbps Down and 512 Kbps Up cable connection from Rogers and whenever one of my devices starts to back up over iCloud, my surfing and downloading speed slows to < 1 Mbps, which just feels dog slow. At first, I thought this was due to Rogers being unreliable, but then I connected the dots and remembered that I had plugged my iOS device in shortly before the Internet slowed to a crawl. Thankfully, you can interrupt iCloud backups right from your device settings.

The drain on bandwidth will last only as long as your iCloud backup takes, which is not terribly long (10–20 minutes) if your backups are in the hundreds of Megabytes, but it’s something that Apple could have done a better job informing us of. A simple status bar indicator would have sufficed.

 

Manage Storage

If you have a lot more on your device, you might consider managing storage in the settings (Settings -> iCloud -> Storage & Backup -> Manage Storage -> [Device Name]). This will allow you to tell iCloud which app data to back up to the cloud, and if you’re selective about this, the resulting iCloud backups should be a lot smaller. I tend to turn off backups for apps like ComicZeal and MangaRock, since the content there can always be re-downloaded later.

 

Manual iCloud Backup

If you’re uncomfortable with having to watch out for when iCloud backups may or may not start (ideally, they’d try to back up overnight…), you can force the issue by initiating a backup manually, which can even work over 3G. The button for this is in the Storage & Backup – just make sure to scroll all the way down to the bottom.

 

Or Back Up to iTunes Instead

If all of this just sounds like a hassle, keep in mind that your regular ol’ iTunes Backup is still an option. In fact, with the new Wi-Fi Sync in iOS 5, it’s even easier than ever to keep all of your data backed up and in sync (good grief, I sound like an Apple ad). Just keep in mind that you’ll need to sync via USB once before you can set up Wi-Fi Sync with your machine. [Update: It also seems that iTunes Backup may only work over USB – see Matt’s comment below.]

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