What You Need To Know About iCloud

One of the largest products of iOS 5 is iCloud. The service was first revealed when several Apple users reported seeing a “Purchased” tab on their iOS devices. From there, you can click on an app or song and re-download it from the “cloud”. Now, we are presented with a fully released service that has kicked MobileMe out of the ballpark. iCloud is Apple’s push for a more mobile lifestyle. Users are finding iPads as great laptop alternatives, connecting to iTunes are beginning to seem literally feel like being tied by the cord, and users don’t want their digital items to stricken their devices to near over capacity. Keeping our online life “in the clouds” seem like a push toward a future in how we save our online world.

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One reason some have called iCloud a separate entity from iOS 5 is because it’s not just one service or feature. iCloud is the name for Apple’s group of wireless features. iCloud isn’t just about storage, the main focus of this article, it also allows you to wirelessly sync and update your iOS device. Along with wireless sync, you can have your multimedia and documents backed up as well as all of your iTunes purchases (apps and songs alike). May I also mention, Find my Friends is a part of iCloud too. So iCloud also deals with location as well. If you own an iOS device, you will be affected in some way by iCloud.

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New users can sign up on their iOS device. MobileMe users will have to transfer to iCloud manually from the website. During sign up, you’ll be asked to enter your Apple ID. It’s important to make sure you use your own ID, this will be the login that will hold the key to your digital life. If you want to do away with your MobileMe account all together, you can sign up this way as well. You’ll be given a @me.com email as well. If you don’t have an iOS device just yet, no worries, just go to iCloud.com (a website I came to by accident a couple of days before launch) and sign up from there. Make sure you see the Apple Inc security certificate of authenticity in the address bar. This is a security precaution just in case others create a similar website to try to get your info. But don’t worry, Apple has reserved several domains to prevent this, so if you mistype a letter, you’ll be safe and redirected to iCloud.com.

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iCloud can backup your mail, contacts, and calendar data. The reminders app, iPhone notes, and Safari bookmarks also are stored in iCloud. When you configure for iCloud to hold this data or not, it will automatically push the new data to iCloud each time you make a change. Photos are shared automatically with iCloud with Photostream. The feature allows you to retrieve either the first 1000 or the recent 30 days of photos, which for many users, it’s not a lot. Documents are also held in iCloud, but sadly it only works with the iWork suite. Microsoft Office for Mac users, like myself, is out of luck… for now at least.

If you previously used MobileMe, then the change is sort of bittersweet. iCloud is a free service, but you are using three features that some users may find useful. iWeb, iDisk, and Gallery will be replaced once your MobileMe account expires or until 30th June, 2012. If you have a family account, forget about that notion from now on. The free, untied service means that you don’t have to worry about having your family in one account. If you want to leave the whole MobileMe confusion behind you, just create an iCloud account as if you were a new user. This is also the solution to many complicating situations, including those never exposed to an Apple ID.

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The push for a free storage service comes with its costs. If 5GB is not enough for you, you can add 10GB of storage for $20/year, an extra 20GB for $40/year, and spend $100/year for 50 extra gigabytes of storage. All you have to do is go to Storage and Backup in the iCloud settings of your iOS device, and “Buy more Storage”. It’s as simple as purchasing more data on an iPad, just need your login credentials.

Is it a service you’d feel the need to check out? 5GB is a great start for getting your feet in the water of a more digital life. In addition, being able to have your data available anywhere seems to be liberating in a sense. We’ll have to see if users take hold of iCloud as the storage of the future, some individuals feel security issues might deter them. While others find Apple to put safety first and will never compromise the privacy of its users. We won’t know until we try it.