I get that Apple tech support can be a mixed bag, and a huge time-suck at worst.
The reason I asked about this is because your problem sounds to me like some sort of database corruption. I’ve had it happen to one of my clients. The only fix is to contact Apple to get them to press the magic button that either erases the corrupted cache or sets everything back to zero so you can repopulate that part of iCloud again.
The trick is getting to a person who can press the magic button. For my client, this was not an engineering problem because it wasn’t a weird bug. It was just messed up data, and apparently there was a fix that was accessible to a more senior level of tech support. I was on the phone with Apple for my client, and perhaps because I spoke knowledgeably about the problem (and convinced them that we had a good backup of all the data), they were willing to erase everything and set it back to zero.
(Of course, this was a few years ago, and things may have changed.)
The “Magic Button” that was offered to me was an “iCloud reset”. Thereafter followed a back-and-forth exchange between me and Engineering (via SA, of course) to understand exactly what an iCloud reset is.
Short answer — even Engineering don’t know. Let alone how to back up what they do know about. For instance, Apple Maps uses iCloud. Any idea how to backup your content (Guides, favourites etc, I guess, but they could not tell me exactly what!) from Apple Maps?
Did you know Messages uses iCloud Drive? It stores attachments in there. How does one back up those? What about Home, Game Center, Siri, Keychain, Find My, Fitness, or Watch? All of these and more (can, and by default do) use iCloud.
I have used Dropbox for years, twice tried to change to iCloud Drive without success, initial upload of files stalled and took days and continual waiting for sync to finish when I finally managed to get things uploaded, and I quickly gave up
On the basis of this thread (perversely) I decided to give it another go. I have now copied all Dropbox files to iCloud which this time happened very quickly and with no stalling. This time I copied the files in groups.
I really only use Dropbox as a backup now, I now work almost exclusively on my MacBook Air M2 docked to a 34" monitor, I do not use Apple Notes and the third party apps seem to sync perfectly (Drafts, Noteplan etc) so as long as iCloud sync works (even with delay) it would seem to be good and I can drop a 19.99 a month Dropbox family sub for a 2.99 iCloud one.
I plan to run the two in tandem for 3 weeks and then hopefully convert Dropbox to a free tier.
IMO the problem isn’t backing up iCloud data. AFAIK most/all of it is in our Library folders. The problem is restoring it.
I know there is a folder named Messages that contains an Attachments folder. I’ve copied images from it in the past. And I know where Keychains and Apple Notes reside. But I have no clue where the majority of iCloud data resides. Without a “how to” from Apple I would have no chance of knowing which files and databases, etc. to restore from backup.
Restoring my entire user account to a time before the problem occurred and losing all changes since that date isn’t an acceptable solution so I use iCloud as little as possible and never for critical data.
I’m using iCloud with my Macbooks and iPhones since it was introduced. I like it and besides some hickups it works flawlessly. I’m not using it with a ton of apps, I try to use almost only native Apple apps. Besides some minimal stuff like Soulver sheets I only use it for Photo sharing with my wife.
I also used iCloud on Windows and THIS was whole another story. It never worked as intended and caused problems on both my iPhone and my Macbook.
I guess if you are using iCloud with simple data you won’t have a lot of problems but anything out of the box or too big will cause issues.
The thing is: Besides Dropbox I couldn’t find any good cloud without flaws: Onedrive is much worse in my experience and Google Drive isn’t intended for this stuff. It is slow and doesn’t sync automatically all the time causing version problems and all.
Nextcloud should be great but I haven’t tried it yet.
Not really. Are you sure that iCloud hasn’t "optimized’ your disk space when you perform a backup? I don’t have the “optimize disk usage” settings and I can see some of the files disappear -but available from iCloud- because, who knows.
Pretty sure, but only because I have a decades long habit of checking logs and testing backups. When it comes to iCloud it’s definitely YMMV. If someone tells me iCloud works perfectly, I’ll believe them. And if you were to tell me it renames all your files on the third Thursday of each month, I’d believe you too. It’s a black box, none of us knows exactly how it works.
When a user’s files reside only in iCloud they don’t get backed up by Backblaze, etc. So Apple is not doing anyone any favors by surreptitiously turning on “Store in iCloud” from time to time with their updates. I first noticed this in 2016 or so when my executive reported some of her files were missing. They did it to me again with the macOS 13.4 update.
There is an argument that not being able to restore from a backup means you don’t have a backup.
And, publicly at least, you’ve given me more information than Apple Engineering know about! Some of the responses contained phrases like “we hadn’t thought of that” or “that’s a good question”. I’d have thought if this iCloud reset was a thing they were offering quite quickly in the process, then it would be a known quantity. Apparently not.