Mac iCloud Drive

I have been using iCloud Drive for a while, then macOS Catalina revamped the Mac file system but moving most of the files into iCloud Drive.

My old 15″ MacBook Pro upgraded to Catalina and gave me a taste of what it is like. When I got the new 16″ MacBook Pro, I decided to do a clean install and move my files in. I had half of the work done for me. After I set up iCloud Drive on the new MacBook, the iCloud files on the old MacBook was synced on the new MacBook via iCloud Drive. It is pretty amazing how the files are synced so quickly over iCloud Drive.

File sharing

Sharing files and folders has been a problem. Dropbox was a good solution, but it felt slower and it was a clunky third party add-on. I had to stop using it because it doesn’t work in China, even with VPN.

So I started using Google Drive and OneDrive for file sharing to varying degrees of success and (dis)satisfaction. File sharing is important for my work because my teams needs to sync documents that different people work on. These could be huge Photoshop or XD documents, where speed would affect how fast we can pass the documents to the next person.

One workaround is to use Figma for collaborative graphic design, but the interface is still not as responsive compared to a native Mac app such as Sketch or XD.

Google Drive only works with VPN, and some times doesn’t work even with VPN. OneDrive syncs pretty well and doesn’t need VPN. However, it is a third party app like Dropbox and there were still occasional issues with the app and sync.

We waited for the highly-anticipated iCloud Drive file sharing ever since it was announced. And it has been a delight. File sync is fast and it works regardless of my internet environment.

Cloud backup

Roughly 95% of my files are all on iCloud Drive. On Catalina, everything is on iCloud Drive, aside from the applications folder and system files, which are on a separate partition. This means all that your files are synced on iCloud unless you place them in a folder outside iCloud Drive.

An interesting feature for users with smaller disk space is iCloud’s unloading feature. It will move less used files and folders to iCloud, off your local storage to free up space. When you need the files, it will download them. This helps you to maximise the free space while clearing out less used items, bringing them back only when you need them.

I haven’t had much experience with that since my files are mostly on local storage, but the few times I had to download files that were synced from the old MacBook Pro, the files downloaded fast enough that I have no complaints.

Cloud is the future

As you can tell, my experience thus far has been incredible. It is beyond my expectations and I’m a very happy user. This has helped me reduce my reliance on backing up to an external hard drive. Instead of constantly worrying about backing up my data, it just works.

Of course, I’ve had BackBlaze for many years. BackBlaze is a subscription backup service and it has saved me several times over the years. It is worth every penny spent. However, it doesn’t back up system files, which I believe iCloud does.

Even with BackBlaze, I would still have to do regular TimeMachine back ups to an external drive. And I would also use Carbon Copy Cloner to clone my Mac hard drive and also my TimeMachine drive, just to be safe.

Cloud backups has allowed me to do less frequent backups. While I do worry that iCloud Drive might fail me at some point, I can at least know that it will back me up most of the time, pun intended.