What you need to know as Apple shutters one iCloud service

Apple has finally completely replaced iCloud Documents and Data service with iCloud Drive.

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It took eight years, but Apple has finally completed the transition to replace iCloud Documents and Data service with iCloud Drive. What is happening, why did Apple do this, what might it mean to your business and what should you do now?

What you should do now

Most iCloud users will find that Apple has already transitioned their content to iCloud Drive. It is easy to use and delivers a much more elegant user experience.

There are some users, principally those who had iCloud accounts before iCloud Drive was introduced in 2014, who may not yet have enabled the newer online storage service. This could be a particular problem for users who wanted to maintain pre-iOS 8 devices and Macs running older operating systems, as those did not support iCloud Drive.

This should not represent a large number of users, so eight years since the release of the former and nine since the last non-compatible Mac OS shipped, Apple clearly thinks the time is right to disable such access — as it last year warned it would.

If you use iCloud Documents and Data on a system that supports the newer online storage system, you will need to enable iCloud Drive to see your files in iCloud.

See below for relevant instructions.

What exactly is happening to iCloud Documents & Data?

Apple’s iCloud Documents and Data aimed to sync data from different apps to make it available across all your devices. Apple this month discontinued Documents and Data, transitioning all data stored in it to iCloud Drive.  The company announced its plan to do this in May 2021.

Why did Apple make this iCloud change?

The great advantage of the move is that users get a far more unified experience with iCloud Drive across all devices, using Files on iOS/iPadOS and Finder integration for iCloud Drive on Macs.

The previous implementation wasn’t always immediately obvious. The file location and management experience on Files is much better, because it's both obvious and understandable.

In conjunction with other recent changes in iCloud as reflected by new iterations of OneDrive, Dropbox, and Box, all of which required different APIs, these moves may hint at foundational changes as the company seeks to evolve its service.

What Apple said

In a statement last year, Apple explained its plans:

“In May 2022, the iCloud Documents and Data service, our former document synchronization service, will be interrupted and completely replaced by iCloud Drive. Therefore, if you use iCloud Documents and Data, your account will be migrated to iCloud Drive after that date.

“If you use the iCloud Documents and Data service, you must activate iCloud Drive by following the steps below to view your files. Upgrading to iCloud Drive does not change the storage space used by your files saved in iCloud.”

Apple now tells users:

“If you used the iCloud Documents and Data service, you need to turn on iCloud Drive to see your files. When you switch to iCloud Drive, the amount of storage space your saved files use in iCloud doesn't change.”

Why it (may) matter to your business

With (a paltry) 5GB free storage made available to every user, additional iCloud storage is available on a subscription basis, and also in both Apple One and Apple Business Essentials. That means it is very likely you or your employees already use the service if you deploy or support Apple devices and hardware.

If you use Apple Business Manager and an MDM solution of some kind, you may already have some form of data separation in place to differentiate personal from enterprise data, with your employees holding access to both business and personal iCloud storage accounts.

In the latter case, and certainly for anyone using a Mac, iPhone, or iPad from around 2018 or later, most people will already be using iCloud Drive rather than Apple’s legacy service. However, it is possible some of your users may have stuck with the legacy service, which means you should now help ensure data is secure as the latest transition takes place.

Of course, the move to harmonize Apple’s iCloud service makes sense as the company clearly plans big improvements as it layers up additional services to support the iCloud+ service.

Why you should always backup iCloud

As useful as iCloud Drive is, one essential component of data management will be to ensure important documents aren’t just kept in iCloud Drive but are also backed up locally using your choice of enterprise backup service.

It’s also good practice to encourage employees to check those backups intermittently to ensure all the relevant data is stored there. Apple has an excellent online article to help build an archiving system.

What’s the difference between the two?

Other than acting far more like Dropbox, Box, or OneDrive with real file and folder systems, document collaboration and so on, the biggest difference between iCloud Drive and iCloud Documents and Data was the limitation of the latter.

While Documents and Data kept data synced across systems, it only allowed access to the data from the relevant application. Data held in iCloud Drive can be accessed from any compatible app. iCloud Drive also lets you access your data from Files on Apple mobile devices, iCloud Drive in Finder on a Mac, via iCloud.com, or even on a Windows or other device equipped with iCloud Drive support.

How to enable iCloud Drive

To enable iCloud Drive on an iPhone or iPad running iOS 8 or later:

  • Open Settings>User Name.
  • Choose iCloud and toggle Enable Cloud Drive to on.
  • You’ll now find your data in the Files app.

To enable iCloud Drive on a Mac running Catalina or later:

  • Open System Preferences>Apple ID
  • Choose iCloud and toggle Enable Cloud Drive to on.
  • You’ll find your files in the iCloud section of your Finder.

Learn more about iCloud

We have plenty of iCloud resources to help you get more use out of the system.

Are you interested in learning more about iCloud? Please let us know and we’ll explore the topic.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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