Saturday, October 28, 2017

Moving the family to 2TB of iCloud shared storage

We have five family members with 7 devices using iCloud storage. Four of us are paying $1/month for 50GB of storage, one is fine on the free 5GB. Mostly this suffices, but my daughter’s photos have been near the edge for a while [1]. Instead of updating her quota I decided to update the family to 2TB ($120 a year) and not have to worry about this for a while. First, of course, I confirmed that there was a way to unwind this decision.

I wondered how it would go since we all use a single iTunes account for purchasing DRMd material (video, movies, etc). We’ve done this long before family sharing was a feature and switching from to the new approach is a bit worrisome. (Family Sharing of DRMd material does have one advantage — whoever buys things gets to keep them when they separate from the family. As the kids tastes have diverged sharing is less useful.).

The iTunes account turned out not to matter. Family iCloud sharing runs off the family owner iCloud account, not the family owner’s iTunes account (Of course for most people these are, at least superficially, the same thing. I suspect they aren’t all that integrated in Apple’s famously messed up back end servers.)

I followed Apple’s support guide to update myself to 2TB. The guides aren’t that well done, they don’t make it obvious how the process works. I couldn’t enable the family sharing of my iCloud quota in Sierra (probably needs High Sierra), but it was easy to do on my iPad. Once that was enabled an iMessage went to family members for them to transition.

The experience for family members was a bit glitchy. For two members I could just tap on the iMessage, enter iCloud credentials and accept the switch. Users get a notice their current plan will end and they’ll receive a prorated reimbursement. The family member who was on the free quota didn’t need to opt in, he just go the expanded quota (an interesting security-convenience tradeoff). For the fifth family member I ran into several failed attempts on an iOS 10 device. I got as far as entering his credentials to access the upgrade but then the process failed. On his iOS 11 device I was able to make the switch from this iCloud manage storage settings. His iOS 10 device then also showed the correct settings.

Two TB is overkill. I might drop back to 200GB in a month or two — especially since I’m using less iCloud storage now. (I’ve gone back to Aperture-iTunes and a lightning cable for getting photos to my devices).

Update: After doing this I realized our family total is now just 67GB. So I downgraded to 200GB. Interestingly this didn’t take effect immediately — I wonder if it will take until the end of the current month. I’m not that concerned about the delay but it is a bit annoying. Note that we currently pay $4 for 200GB for each of four users, but will pay $3 for 200GB shared between 5 users. The 25% cost reduction is nice (I’m cheap) but the real deal is that a shared 200GB is far more efficient. My daughter will end up using 150GB and the rest of us will be fine with the residual 50GB. I’ll move the family to 2TB if/when we need to. Perhaps by summer 2020 Apple will have enhanced Photos.app and iCloud Photo Library enough for me to switch off Aperture. I’ll need the 2TB for that.

Update 11/8/2017: I checked with Apple Support via Twitter. We prepay for storage. When you go up it’s an immediate change and you are billed in a prorated fashion. When you go down the change applies to next billing cycle.

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[1] On the one hand the 50GB cap does motivate her to edit things. That’s good, but really she has enough stuff to deal with.  She doesn’t need one more painful discipline. Sometimes I gotta walk my Dad mistakes back …

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