Looking for a remote backup service for your music? If you use Apple products, you might be considering iTunes Match. But here’s the problem. iTunes Match isn’t a cloud file storage service. And many of its users simply don’t realize that it’s not a true iTunes backup solution.
We all know that cloud backups make sense, and we all want to make sure our most important data is replicated in at least one other location. The cloud offers vast quantities of affordable storage space, ideal for this exact purpose.
Why Backup Your Music?
Over time, most of us have amassed enormous music collections on our laptops, smartphones, music players and tablets. If you’ve spent hours converting CDs to MP3s, or even recording precious vinyl records into your computer, you’ll want to ensure these files are duplicated in the cloud in case your music player is misplaced or your hard drive crashes.
But music backup is a curious oddity. It has limitations that can make it a very poor choice. Bizarrely, Apple’s own cloud service, iTunes Match, simply isn’t suitable for true remote backup of your music files. It’s critical that you understand its limitations. Once you’ve signed up for iTunes Match, you can’t get a refund. And if you don’t understand it fully, you may wind up losing your music for good.
iTunes Match: What It Is
Apple introduced iTunes match as a way to sync music across multiple devices in the cloud. It analyses the files on each device and makes them available on all the others, using online file storage in the cloud as a central repository.
Its biggest selling point is its automatic upgrade of 128kbps files to 256kbps quality. Also, iTunes Match allows you access any file in your iTunes library from anywhere, providing you have a connection to the cloud and an iOS device registered to your account.
iTunes Match: What It Is Not
Here’s the important part: iTunes Match may offer a type of online file storage, it is not a remote cloud backup service for music. iTunes Match doesn’t make a like-for-like copy of your files in the cloud. It decides how to process your library without your intervention.
When music is synced to and from the cloud, iTunes Match blends its own library copies of files with your own ripped or imported files, sometimes creating an awkward mix. You may lose tracks with the same title or metadata as Apple’s version. For example, a live recording may be incorrectly matched with an album version in the cloud. When you try to download it, your original is gone.
Songs with explicit lyrics are occasionally replaced with censored versions when downloaded from the cloud.
If you delete music from your devices, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to retrieve that music from the cloud in the future, either. If Apple switches off iTunes Match, or disables your account for some reason, your music will be gone for good. Sounds unlikely, right? But one Amazon Kindle user lost all of her purchased content when her account was disabled. These things unfortunately happen.
Alternatives to iTunes Match
Once we understand the limitations of iTunes Match, it’s easy to see that it’s not really a music backup service. It takes a few short cuts, and you may not be comfortable with the compromises it makes for convenience’s sake.
So what are the alternatives? There are really two choices here. A cloud file storage solution like Dropbox that offers remote backup and file sync. And Backblaze, which offers. a one-way backup to the cloud.
Both are regular file backup solutions. And at first glance, you may not consider them to be suitable for the job. But in reality, they offer you a lot more than iTunes Match. CrashPlan Pro is more traditional, more affordable but arguably less versatile. However, it can backup files from external hard drives to the cloud, making it a very good solution for large iTunes libraries.
Services like Dropbox offer a number of additional advantages that bring you closer to the iTunes Match experience with a few augmentations: you retain more control over the backup process. For example, you can eliminate files you don’t want to share with anybody, such as your own personal recordings.
You’re not tied to Google or Apple’s ecosystem. If you don’t like to use iTunes, this is a big plus point in itself.There are no device limits: you can install the apps on any device, and any platform. There are no file size limits, assuming you buy enough cloud storage space to accommodate your music.
You can stream music from Dropbox using a third-party service like Tunebox (iOS) or MusicDropNPlayLite (Android). The trade-off is cost, of course. While iTunes Match costs $24.99 annually for 25,000 songs, Dropbox provides on provides enough for 480 songs on its free 2GB plan. Unless you pay $0.99 for 200GB (which roughly holds around 20,000 high quality songs)
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The advantages of a service like Dropbox or Backblaze are clear, and the extra cash may well be worth spending for true cloud music backup. Want to know more about backing up your iTunes library? Consult our handy guide.