How to Back Up Your iCloud Contacts and Calendar Data

Keep Your Contacts and Calendar Data Available, Even During iCloud Outages

iCloud Web Site
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

iCloud is a popular cloud-based service that can keep multiple Macs and iOS devices synced with the Calendar, Contacts, and Mail apps; it can also sync your Safari bookmarks and other documents.

The iCloud service stores copies of all of the various data types in the cloud, so you may feel safe about the data being automatically backed up by the various Apple servers. But that feeling of safety is a bit of a false impression.

I'm not saying that your iCloud data is going to be lost because of an Apple server error or outage. Barring a huge catastrophic failure involving natural disasters, your data is safe on Apple's iCloud service. But being safe and being available are two different things.

Like any cloud-based service, iCloud is susceptible not only to local server-based problems that can cause brief outage issues, but also to wide area interconnect problems that can cause iCloud to be unavailable when you need it the most. These types of problems can be beyond Apple's control. They can involve your local ISP, network gateways and routers, Internet connections, peering points, and half a dozen other points of failure that can occur between you and the Apple cloud servers.

That's why it's a good idea to always keep a current local backup of the documents and data you're storing in iCloud.

Backing Up iCloud

iCloud stores data in an application-centric system.

That is, instead of a pool of storage space you have direct access to, storage space is assigned to each app that uses iCloud; only that app has access to its storage space.

This means that we'll need to use various apps to do the backing up for us.

Backing Up Calendars From Your Mac

  1. Launch Calendar. If the Calendar sidebar, which shows all of the individual calendars, isn't displayed, click the Calendars button in the toolbar.
  1. From the Calendar sidebar, select the calendar you wish to back up.
  2. From the menus, select File, Export, Export.
  3. Use the Save dialog box to browse to a location on your Mac to store the backup, and then click the Export button. The selected calendar will be saved in iCal (.ics) format. Repeat for any other calendars you wish to back up.

Backing Up Calendars From iCloud

  1. Launch Safari and go to the iCloud website (www.icloud.com).
  2. Log in to iCloud.
  3. On the iCloud web page, click the Calendar icon.
  4. To force iCloud to download a calendar, you'll need to temporarily publicly share the specific calendar you wish to back up. This will cause iCloud to reveal the actual URL for the calendar.
  5. Select the calendar you wish to back up.
  6. To the right of the calendar name that appears in the sidebar, you'll see the calendar sharing icon. It looks similar to the AirPort wireless signal strength icon in the Mac's menu bar. Click the icon to reveal the sharing options for the selected calendar.
  7. Place a check mark in the Public Calendar box.
  8. The calendar's URL will be displayed. The URL will start with webcal://. Copy the entire URL, including the webcal:// portion.
  9. Paste the copied URL into the Safari web browser's address bar, but do not click the return button.
  1. Change the portion of the URL that says webcal:// to http://.
  2. Press return.
  3. The calendar will be downloaded to your designated downloads folder in the .ics format. Please note: the calendar's file name may be a long string of seemingly random characters. This is normal. You can use the Finder to rename the file if you wish; just be sure to maintain the.ics suffix.
  4. If the calendar was originally a private calendar, you may wish to remove the check mark from the Public Calendar box.
  5. Repeat the above process for any other calendars you want to backup from iCloud to your Mac.

Backing Up Contacts

  1. Launch Contacts (Address Book).
  1. If the Groups sidebar isn't displayed, select View, Show Groups (OS X Mavericks) or View, Groups from the menu.
  2. Click on the contact group you wish to back up. I recommend clicking on the All Contacts group to ensure that everything is backed up.
  3. Select File, Export, Export vCard from the menu.
  4. Use the Save dialog box to select a location on your Mac to store the backup.
  5. Click Save.

Backing Up Contacts From iCloud

  1. Launch Safari and go to the iCloud website (www.icloud.com).
  2. Log in to iCloud.
  3. On the iCloud web page, click the Contacts icon.
  4. In the Contacts sidebar, select the contact group you wish to back up. I recommend clicking on the All Contacts group to ensure that everything is backed up.
  5. Click the gear icon in the bottom left corner of the sidebar.
  6. From the pop-up, select Export vCard.
  7. The contacts will be exported to a .vcf file in your Downloads folder. Your Mac's Contacts app may automatically launch and ask if you wish to import the .vcf file. You can quit the Contacts app on your Mac without importing the file.

Backup Schedule

You should consider backing up your iCloud files as part of a good backup strategy and include it in your routine backup practice. How often you need to perform this backup depends on how often your Contacts and Calendar data changes.

I include this backup as part of my routine Mac maintenance. If I ever need the backed up data, I can use the import function in Calendar and Contacts to restore the backed up data.