What is iCloud?
The simple answer to “what is iCloud?” is that it is Apple’s version of a cloud-based storage and computing service. That answer often isn’t thorough enough, however, because most people don’t know what a cloud is, aside from the white fluffy types that float around in the sky. Technologically speaking, a cloud is services that are stored via the internet versus stored on your computer itself. Different clouds can store different services. For example, the Yahoo Mail cloud stores your emails. Dropbox is a cloud service that can store files. Netflix is a cloud that stores movies and television shows. With clouds, you can access information without needing to store everything on your hard drive, maxing out your computer’s memory.
This brings us to iCloud. Apple introduced iCloud in 2011. It now boasts more than 782 million users. iCloud gives users a way to store photos, videos, documents, calendars, apps, music, and other files remotely, so they are not taking up precious storage space on your iMac, MacBook, iPhone, or iPad. Additionally, iCloud allows you to access these files from across devices. In other words, if you take a photo with your iPhone, you can also view the photo from your iPad or Apple computer.
iCloud works with macOS 10.7 Lion or later, Microsoft Windows 7 or later, and iOS 5 or later. Prior to the introduction of iCloud, Apple had a more rudimentary system called MobileMe. MobileMe offered web-based Mail, Contacts, and Calendar, but it, unfortunately, had too many technological glitches for Apple to decide to continue with it. Hence, the decision to scrap it and come up with something better: iCloud.
How Does iCloud Work?
iCloud works with Apple devices that are connected to the internet. To set up iCloud, you first need an Apple ID. You likely already have one, but if not, got to the iTunes store. From your Mac or PC, you then click Account → Sign In → Create New Apple ID. If you’re accessing the iTunes store from your iPhone or iPad, you’ll want to scroll to the bottom, click Sign In, and then click Create New Apple ID. Follow the instructions on the screen for creating your new Apple ID.
Next, you’ll set up iCloud. On your computer, go to the Apple menu and then click System Preferences, followed by iCloud. Enter your Apple ID and password, and turn on the features that you want to use. If you are using an iOS device, go to Settings, select your name, and then either choose Settings again followed by iCloud, or simply iCloud. Then, enter your Apple ID and password, and turn on the features you want.
Once you’ve set up iCloud on your Apple device, you then also can choose to set it up on your Windows computer. You’ll need to download iCloud for Windows and then restart your computer. iCloud should then launch automatically. You’ll enter your Apple ID and password at this point and choose which features you want to apply.
What Can You Do With iCloud?
iCloud allows you to access your files across Apple devices and even on your Windows computer. It syncs files such as your photos, videos, documents, calendars, presentations, contacts, and Mail. In addition to being able to always access the most up-to-date files regardless of whichever device is currently in your hand, you can also easily share this information with others. Create Shared Albums to show off your latest photos to friends and family. Working on a group project? Send a private link so other members of your group can contribute to the document!
iCloud offers lots of features to love! First of all, everyone starts out with a free 5GB of iCloud storage. You can decide whether or not you want to add more at a later time. In the meantime, however, the 5GB gives you a chance to try out iCloud prior to making an investment.
- iCloud Photos allows you to automatically sync and access all of your photos and videos across your devices. You can also create Shared Albums so you can easily give your friends and family a peek! You can decide whether or not you want them to be able to add their own photos and comments to your album. These photos are full resolution and are downloadable whenever you want. Store a lifetime of photos without ever needing to worry about space constraints!
- iCloud Drive offers storage for all of your files. Organize and color-code your files, which are then synced across your devices. The access your files from the Files app on iOS, Finder on your Mac, or even the File Explorer on your Windows PC! If you’re collaborating on a project, send a private link to people that you want to share your files with.
- iCloud also syncs your apps across your devices, including Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Reminders, and more! You’ll also get your latest iMessages across each device. No matter what, you’ll be up to date.
- iCloud backup gives you a sense of security. Even if your iPhone, computer, or iPad was lost, stolen, or fell in a pool of water, you’ll know that your data and documents are securely backed up on the cloud. This is also a great option if you’ve just decided to upgrade your device since you won’t have a time-consuming process of transferring your files from one phone or computer to the next.
- Two-factor authentication keeps your iCloud files secure.
- Find My iPhone allows you to use the iCloud not just to find your misplaced phone, but also your Apple Watch, iPad, Air Pods, and Mac.
- iCloud Music Library gives you access to your downloaded music on whichever device you’re using. There is no need to pay to re-download music!
- The iCloud Keychain makes life so much easier. With this keychain, you’ll no longer have to remember all of your passwords. For example, if you save a password on Safari on your phone, it will automatically be remembered on Safari on your Mac as well.
- Family Sharing gives parents and guardians additional peace of mind. With it, you can set up “Ask to Buy” so that kids have to receive permission before making any purchases. If your child is never without their iPhone or iPad, you can also use the “Find my iPhone” feature to locate your child’s likely whereabouts (based on where their tech is currently).
As mentioned, your first 5GB of iCloud storage is free. After that, iCloud has several subscription pricing tiers available.
- 50GB is the most popular iCloud subscription plan. At only $0.99 per month, it’s also very affordable. This should be enough for most people to store their photos, documents, videos, and other files, as well as backup your devices.
- 200GB is a good choice for the person who is always shooting photos and videos. This plan is available for $2.99 per month.
- Finally, the 2TB plan is billed as the family plan. It is shareable between you and up to five family members. You’ll be able to store a lifetime of photos, files, and documents with this plan. The price is $9.99 per month.