iOS 6 was the first full iOS update offered over-the-air (OTA) using Apple's bit-differential, update-in-place iCloud system. That should make for faster, more convenient updates for current devices, and easier migrations to new devices. But the thing is, when pushing around billions of bits, things can and will go wrong. Storage has errors, power and connectivity fails at the worst times possible, and files get corrupted.
We've gotten reports from a few readers who are having trouble with backups at the moment, so it's worth going over the key strategy again -- local, online, and redundant.
The more important your data -- photos of your children, documents for work, art and science you've willed into being -- the better you need to back it up. And that means at least one or two local copies as well as copies in the cloud.
Sure, convenience is king, and that's why iCloud is so important -- it does everything for you with absolutely no time or effort on your part. But you get out what you put in, so once in a while plug into iTunes and hit the backup button as well. Heck, if your iPhone or iPad is your life, plug into something like PhoneView and do a second backup as well. Keep the iTunes copy in the default folder, put the PhoneView archive in Dropbox. The more important your data, the better you need to take care of it. Apple absolutely has to make sure the technology works, but making the best use possible of that technology it is our responsibility.
If you're logged into iCloud and have given it permission, iCloud will automatically back up your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad whenever you plug it into a power source and it is connected to a Wi-Fi network. iCloud backup requires power so it doesn't run the battery down while backing up, and it requires Wi-Fi because of the potentially large amount of data it will transfer.
If you're not sure if you've properly set up iCloud or not, here's how to check:
- Everything you need to know about setting up, backing up, restoring, and updating your iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad with iCloud
If you need to replace or restore your phone, or you know you’ll be traveling for a while and want to make sure the backup is done before you go, you can initiate a manual backup.
- Launch the Settings app
- Tap on iCloud
- Tap on Storage & Backup near the bottom
- Tap on Back Up Now at the bottom.
Depending on the speed of your Wi-Fi connection and how much you have to backup, it could take a while to complete. When it's done iCloud backup will be up to date.
How to backup your iPhone, iPod, or iPad with iTunes
- Plug your current iPhone into your computer
- Launch iTunes if it doesn't launch automatically
- If you're using iCloud, de-select any sync settings or options iTunes might offer you so you don't over-write what's on your device.
- Right click your device name in the navigation bar and choose Back Up as well.
How to manually backup data using PhoneView
- If you have a passcode on your device, enter it and unlock your iPhone so you're at the Home screen before plugging it in.
- Plug your device into your Mac and open the PhoneView app.
- Click Archive
You can also backup specific files and apps at a granular level.
The bottom line
Your data is valuable. You data might well be invaluable. At the very least, let iCloud do its thing every night and once and a while plug into iTunes and do a manual backup just in case. At most, come up with a robust backup strategy that you know you'll be able to stick to. That way, if something bad happens, you won't be panicking. You'll know just how to recover as much as possible.
Ally Kazmucha contributed large sections of this article