updated 07:54 pm EDT, Tue August 5, 2014
Forthcoming feature will see 'more downtime' than in previous betas, but files should be retained
Apple has sent out an email to registered participants in the AppleSeed beta-testing program, most of whom are currently working with the forthcoming OS X 10.10 Yosemite, that those who opted to engage the iCloud Drive feature may see "more downtime" than has been previously seen. Still in development, Apple's iCloud Drive is expected to be included in the formal release of Yosemite and iOS 8, and allows users to store any kind of document or image/video file, as well as enable other features.
The new email distinguishes, however, between the ongoing maintenance of iCloud Drive and the previous periodic wiping of all data stored for iCloud Drive, iCloud Photo Library and Mail Drop, collectively known as the CloudKit database. Under the new arrangement, outages will be more common, but it should not affect the files already stored in iCloud. Apple last wiped the CloudKit database on July 22.
The iCloud Drive and iCloud Photo Library features, which will be part of both OS X Yosemite and iOS 8, will optionally let users store as much data as they want on iCloud, with modest costs for additional storage beyond the 5GB provided free for all iCloud users. Under the announced plan, users can access 20GB of storage for photos, videos (even RAW images or HD videos) and documents for $1 per month. The next tier beyond that -- at least as far as what been announced -- is a 200GB tier for $4 per month.
Mail Drop is another forthcoming feature that relies on iCloud storage as well. It allows users to email files as large as 5GB to others, who automatically receive a URL where they can download the large attachment rather than the attachment itself. This prevents users from sending files that are too large for the recipients' mailbox or ISP limitations, and the attachment is encrypted from end-to-end for better user privacy.
However, the features are a big change from the way iCloud has been working up to this point, where it has been primarily responsible for backing up iOS devices, iTunes purchases and iWork documents along with users' email (using .mac, .me and .icloud domains). Because the retooling of iCloud storage is still in development for Yosemite and iOS 8 testers, the service should be considered unreliable at this point and not used to store anything that can't be lost.