I’m now using the iCloud service, trying to get better synergy between my desktop and notebook PCs running Windows (8 or 8.1) and my iPhone and iPad (now both running iOS 7). By and large things are going reasonably well, but I noticed some glitches in the past few days after upgrading my production desktop to Windows 8.1 GA (from the September version of the 8.1 called RTM). I wasn’t expecting too much to change between RTM and GA, and mostly that’s been a sustainable supposition, but a few things have changed in surprising ways. And alas, some of those changes have not been for the better…
Case in point: I recently installed the iCloud Control Panel applet on my production desktop, when that system was running Windows 8.1 RTM. To my immense suprise, when I next went to visit My Contacts in Outlook 2013, the contents of the local My Contacts folder was empty. But because I could access the same information online through the iCloud folder instead, I thought to myself at the time “Good thing I’ve got a backup” and also “I can’t believe they decided to remove local data altogether instead of synching local and remote copies.”
That’s why I wasn’t completely bollixed when, in the wake of the 8.1 RTM-to-GA update, iCloud stopped working in Outlook 2013. Instead of accessing the cloud version of my contact data, when I click on iCloud in the Contacts view in Outlook, I get an error message window that reads: “This set of folders cannot be opened. The information store could not be opened.”
So what did I do? I went to my backup PST file and used the Import command to grab the Contacts folder from that file and bring it back into the local copy inside the resident PST file on my production desktop. I got my contacts back without too much fuss and bother, but I still can’t help wondering, yet again: Why did Apple decide to take the only copy of the data and put it in the cloud, so that if you lose access to the Internet (or in this case to the necessary “information store” on the Internet) you can’t access your contact data, either. Not at all.
I have trouble understanding how a software designer could cobble together a system that could so easily deprive a person of his or her contacts. For those of us who, like me and countless others, depend on that information for their livelihoods, that kind of catastrophic loss of access is simply not acceptable. In my case, I knew exactly how to work around it. But I know many others who would be crushed by this loss, and who might not have a backup PST file from which to pull the information. It’s still accessible, by the way, through a login to iCloud.com on my account there — it’s just no longer programmatically accessible to Outlook, for whatever arcane reason broke the Outlook to iCloud connection.
Sure hope Apple or MIcrosoft, or the two of them in tandem, get this fixed sometime soon! I’d also suggest that they give users the option of creating a local backup during the iCloud install process, with some instructions on how to restore that backup should it become necessary. It wouldn’t take much extra effort, though it could confer considerable increased peace of mind.