What is iCloud?

What is iCloud?


Since iCloud became available on October 12, 2011 on the Mac with Mac OS X "Lion" (10.7) and iOS 5 on the iPhone, iPad and iPad Touch, many people are using it. Working with my clients on a day-to-day basis, I've come to realize that iCloud is often used but little understood. People assume that iCloud not only synchronizes their contacts and calendar entries across their Mac and iOS devices but they assume that it's also backing up both their iOS devices and their Macs.

Currently, iCloud is primarily a service that synchronizes your contacts and calendars between Macs, iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches. When you first sign up for your iCloud account, Apple allots you 5 GBs of space for free (additional storage space can be purchased) across all of your iOS devices that are using the same iCloud account. The "iCloud Backup" feature, though, is only for iOS devices. When you enable this option on your iOS devices, the following items are backed up:

  • Photos and videos in the Camera Roll
  • Device settings (for example: Phone Favorites, Wallpaper, and Mail, Contacts, Calendar accounts)
  • App data
  • Home screen and app organization
  • Messages (iMessage, SMS, and MMS)
  • Ringtones
  • Visual Voicemails

A common misconception is, though, that iCloud will back up your Macintosh.
It will not. The "Documents and Data" option in the iCloud settings refers to synchronizing data created by Apple's own apps (e.g. Pages, Numbers, Keynote) across your Macs and iOS devices. In other words, it will not backup any other type of document (i.e. Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PDFs, etc.) - just files created with Apple’s apps.

Additionally, the following iOS items are
not backed up to iCloud but you can synchronize them with a computer and iTunes:

  • Music, movies and TV shows not purchased from the iTunes Store
  • Podcasts and audio books
  • Photos that were originally synced from your computer
  • Your Macintosh's hard drive

If you have multiple iOS devices that use the same iCloud account, it is very likely that you will use up that 5 GBs of storage space quickly. This is a common issue and, arguably, by design. It's based on what is known as the "Freemium" business model. In other words, they give you "X" amount of storage for free but charge a premium for additional storage space. Many companies have a similar business model (Google's GMail and Dropbox to name two others). You may need to either prune things from your iOS device or pay for additional storage space.

Should you have any questions about how iCloud works, please don't hesitate to contact me.

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