By Paul Niemeyer
November 22, 2013
iCloud is the cloud storage solution from the tech giant Apple. This cloud service from Apple offers free data-syncing on all Apple devices as well as Windows machines. Mac users can now access their contacts, photos, iTunes music, calendar and any other files from a Windows PC too. Let’s check out the basic features of Apple iCloud as a cloud back-up service for your Apple device.
What you need to sign up for iCloud
To use iCloud, you will need an Apple ID and any of the devices listed below:
- An iPhone running iOS version 5 or above
- Mac computer with OS X Lion 10.72
- Windows PC running Windows Vista SP2 or above
Signing up for iCloud automatically provides you 5GB free data storage. This iCloud storage can be used for iCloud backup, application data and iCloud documents and iCloud mail. If you’re interested to go for upgrades, iCloud offers 10GB additional storage for $20/year, 20GB for $40 per year and $50 GB for $100 per year. If you need, you can also reduce your iCloud storage volume using the iCloud storage management overview.
Backing Up Your iPhone and iPad on iCloud
If you’re an Apple user, you must take advantage of iCloud’s automatic backup. From the iCloud page of the settings panel, check the bottom of your screen for the option “Storage and Backup”. Switch on the iCloud Backup. Move to the Manage Storage section where you can selectively choose the apps that need to be backed up and the ones which don’t. Turn off the apps which are not important, as this will help you to save a lot of space.
If you’re willing to pay for more storage, then space shouldn’t be a problem. Usually the intitial 5GB free storage is good enough for most casual users. You don’t have to worry about spending out all data from your data plan as iOS devices will back up on iCloud only over Wi-Fi. Read The Brighter Side of Cloud – iCloud on Cloud Tweaks.
iCloud cannot be used to sync any sort of file you want. Apple is pushing its customers towards an apps-centric platform and focuses more on app data syncing than that of syncing files. The application level of iCloud states “I’ll sync all your iWork files”.
Usually the other cloud services offer a folder where you can put anything you want and share them as required. In case of iClouds, the iWorks documents are going to a background folder which Apple doesn’t want you to see and drives your mind to focus particularly on the device apps. This specific structure of the iCloud is actually very much suitable when it comes to backing up data from apps including Contacts, Calender, Photos etc.
Turning on the iCloud syncing for calendar will sync all the events created in your Apple calender with the cloud. This will be synced over all devices which use your Apple ID. Using www.icloud.com, you can sign in to your Apple Calender from any device even if it’s not synced with your Apple ID.
Just like the syncing data on the calendar, the contacts app on your device becomes a universal address book when it’s synced with iCloud. You can add anyone’s contact information or edit one on your iPhone, iPad or Mac computer and the changes will be synced over all your devices.
The Photo Stream app is more advanced than the previous two. It also works on Windows PCs where you have installed the iCloud software. When photo syncing is enabled on your iPhone or iPad, a new album called Photo Stream will appear on your device where all your photos will be uploaded to the cloud.
The Windows version of the Photo Stream is more comfortable than using it on the Mac. A clearly labeled folder pops up and any app can be used for opening the photos, whereas you’ll need to use iPhoto or Aperture when on a Mac.
The email app on iCloud is beautifully designed and has a very attractive interface. It has a three panel window with the Inbox, Drafts, Set, Archive, Trash and Junk on the left sidebar. The message headers and the previews are at the center panel. The messages are on the right panel and shows the message on a large area. When you’re using Apple email, they will be synced over all your devices via iCloud.
This is not the best part of the iCloud service and won’t be of any use if you don’t have Keynote, Pages or Numbers installed on the device from where you want to access the iWork files. However, they can be downloaded in their native format from the iCloud web page. It does not provide you a folder, rather simply syncs your iWork files.
You can enjoy two types of services associated with iCloud on iTunes. The first is the storage space which you have got for free or bought from iCloud. The other includes whatever music you have purchased through iTunes. They are stored on the Apple server and can be accessed from up to 10 iOS devices.
iCloud – The Pros
- Compatible with Mac, Windows PC, iOS devices
- Automatic data backup on Apple devices
- iTunes Match featuring excellent music backup
- Automatic photo syncing on Apple devices
iCloud – The Cons
- It’s an app-centric cloud service
- File types are restricted
- Folder syncing is not allowed
- Might be a little confusing to learn
- Web interface not available for photos or music.
Apple iCloud can be a great cloud storage service if you’re a big fan of Apple. If you’re interested to look out for some other cloud storage solutions, check out our Top 10 Cloud Storage Providers.