Whether to include specific apps in iCloud backups
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Q: I’m trying to find out why I would like to back up certain apps to iCloud? For example, Google Maps that is taking almost 1MB of space? Any suggestions?
A: The short answer is that the only reason you need to include an app in your iCloud backups is to preserve that application’s data and configuration settings.
Apps can be excluded from your iCloud backups by going to your iOS Settings app, selecting iCloud, Storage & Backup, Manage Storage and choosing the backup for the current device—normally the first backup listed. Switching off an app from this screen will remove its data from your iCloud backup as well as excluding it from any future backups until it is toggled back on.
Excluding an app from your iCloud backups means that if you ever need to restore that device, you will need to set that app up from scratch—as if you had freshly installed it. Note that this will not prevent the actual app from being reinstalled as part of your iCloud restore, but it does mean that app will come down in a fresh state without any data or configuration settings.
Whether an app needs to be backed up to iCloud or not depends entirely on the type of data it stores, and whether that data is stored only on your device. For example, many games store game progress and high scores only locally, and failing to back up these games would result in you having to start over following a restore of your device.
On the other hand, if an app stores its data online, either directly in iCloud or via its own online service, it’s far less necessary to include it in your iCloud backups. Examples of this would include apps like Evernote, Dropbox, and Google Drive, to name just a few. The iCloud backups would still contain your application preferences, making setup easier following a restore, but all of the data is stored in each company’s own respective cloud service.
Many apps, like Google Maps, also store minimal data directly on the device, so you would probably lose little by not backing them up, however the amount of data stored is so small that there’s also not much point in excluding them. 1MB is around 1/5000th of the free 5GB of storage space including with every iCloud account.
Note that many apps do cache data locally but these are usually not included in iCloud backups. This would again include apps like Evernote, which allow notes to be stored locally for offline access, but still keep the main copies on Evernote’s own servers.
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