Cloud computing is that latest buzz word that has been circulating the technology industry for the last few years. Services such as Dropbox, and Google Docs (now Google Drive) have led the way for anyone needing to collaborate with others on various projects.

iCloud offers a slightly different and more personal cloud computing, storage, and syncing solution. It is designed to allow you to have your content with you, wherever you are, regardless of device. All you need is an Internet connection and iCloud account.

Apple offers a free 5GB account to users who sign up to the service. Depending on your usage, this allocation may be sufficient.

Alternatively, you can purchase additional storage at rates of $20 per year for 10GB, $40 per year for 20GB, and $100 per year for 50GB.

This additional storage allows you to store and sync all your content to iCloud. It is also important to note that not all content is metered against your storage allocation. Photo Stream and the ability to download past purchases are just two examples of services that will not use your allocated storage.

The storage will be consumed mainly with backing up content from your iOS devices and services such as Documents in the Cloud and your free iCloud email address.

At anytime, you can manage the storage and associated content that is saved to iCloud. You can also start with a small amount of storage and progressively upgrade over time. Therefore, there is no need to immediately subscribe to a larger account than is needed. Apple also offers the ability to downgrade the plan at anytime of your choosing.

iCloud also doesn’t discriminate with regards to your computing platform of choice. Whilst many options won’t be available, Microsoft Windows users can also enjoy the benefits of iCloud. Photo Stream and the use of www.icloud.com to access Mail, Calendars, and Find My iPhone are just a few of the available options.

iTunes In The Cloud

Have you ever purchase a song or album in iTunes and forgot to sync your iPhone or iPod touch before leaving home? Perhaps it was a television show, movie, or book? Either way, iCloud has you covered.

At anytime, provided you have an Internet connection, you can download your previously purchased content to any device you own. It is amazing to think that I can easily re-download content that I purchase in 2007, at anytime I like, to any device connected to my account. I can even stream that content to the AppleTV.

Some content such as Music, Apps, and Books can even be automatically downloaded on your iOS device by going to Settings > iTunes & App Stores and turning the associated service on. This means that after you purchase content on any device, it will automatically download in the background on all other devices connected to your account.

iCloud iOS

A similar preference is also available in iTunes on the Mac under the Store tab, in the application preferences.

iCloud

If you accidentally delete content you have purchased, or simply need a little more space and need to purposely delete the content, it is good to know that you can re-download the content as many times as you like on up to 10 authorized devices.

To locate the past purchases, and subsequently download them, you will need to go to the iTunes Store on your Mac. You will notice the Quick Links Menu Bar has Purchased as a clickable option.

iCloud purchased

Simply click here and navigate through the content you have purchased in the variety of areas.

When you have found the content you wish to re-download, simply click on the cloud download button next to the content.

Almost identical functionality can be found on iOS. Simply go to either the iTunes, iBooks, or App Stores, and proceed to the purchased area. You will then be presented with the list of your purchased content.

When you select a title you would like to download, and subsequently play on your iOS device.

The content in question will then download into its relevant app and can be viewed, depending on the speed of your Internet connection, immediately.

iTunes Match

Do you have a large collection of CD’s? Would you like that content to be easily available on all your devices. With iCloud and an iTunes Match subscription that is possible.

After signing up for the $24.99 iTunes Match yearly subscription, the music you have imported from your CD collection, or purchased via other online digital delivery services, will then match to Apple’s music database. When a match occurs, you will instantly be able to listen to, download, and stream that music to all devices and computers connected to your iTunes Match account.

When you listen back to matched content, you are listening to the same high quality 256kbps track that is available should you purchase the album directly on iTunes.  If you choose after a year to not resubscribe, to the iTunes Match service, you will be able to keep any music that you have downloaded from the service. This means you will retain the higher quality matched track and the associated artwork.

It is important to note that the subscription for iTunes Match is completely independent to your iCloud subscription.

Despite Apple’s extensive database, some music simply will not be matched. If this is the case, the unmatched music will be uploaded to iCloud and will also be available across all your connected devices.

To get started with iTunes match, simply follow the directions below:

iCloud 5iCloud 6Photo Stream

The iPhone is arguably the world’s most popular digital camera. With Photo Steam you can capture a photograph and have it automatically sync to all of your devices over your home or office Wi-Fi connection.

Photo Stream will present the last 1000 photographs that were captured in the last 30 days. After this limit has been met, you will simply be unable to view the photographs on all your devices. Your photographs will not be deleted from the Camera Roll. It is important to note that Photo Stream is not a backup service for your photographs. If you want to back up your photographs to iCloud, that is possible and we will discuss that option when we look at iCloud backup options later in this article.

Photographs within your Photo Stream can be immediately imported into iPhoto or Aperture, and can be played back and used as a screen saver on your HDTV with the AppleTV.

Sharing Photographs From Photo Stream

Photo Stream also offers the ability for users to share their photographs with others. On your iPhone or iPad you simply need to go to the Photos app, tap on Photo Stream then tap on the plus icon in the top left hand corner.

Add the people you wish to share the photographs with, give a subject name, and then decide if you want it available to the public or not.

iCloud Photostream

Once your shared Photo Stream is created you can add photographs for the intended recipients and they will be notified when new photographs are available. The recipient can also add comments to the photographs and you are able to reply to those comments. This is a perfect way to share photographs with family and friends.

There is no need to worry about the equipment the recipients have to view your shared photographs. The shared Photo Stream content can be viewed directly via any web browser.

Documents In The Cloud

Documents in the Cloud is one of the most amazing features available for iCloud users. Imagine being able to work on a document, on your Mac, and then seamlessly continue working with the document on your iPad or iPhone, from anywhere. No cable connections, no manual uploading or syncing. It just works.

It never ceases to amaze me how I can leave the office, and continue to work on my commute home via either the iPad or iPhone. It is the perfect productivity assistant.

As you make additions and changes to your documents, they are automatically saved to iCloud and are immediately available on all devices.

You will need to have a copy of both the Mac and iOS versions of either Pages, Numbers, or Keynote. Thankfully, these applications are very affordable when directly compared to their competitors. The iOS version is also universal which allows for a single purchase, but multiple installations.

Documents in the Cloud has always performed without issue for me. That said, you may experience some minor issues with the compatibility between the desktop version of the iWork suite and the associated iOS apps. Specifically with specialized fonts.

At MacSolutions Plus we believe the functionality far outweighs any minor compatibility issues. Our aim is to assist you to become more productive. Documents in the Cloud will certainly allow you to continue working anywhere, at anytime, from any device connected to your account.

The Documents in the Cloud functionality also extends to other applications such as Preview and Text Edit on the Mac. GarageBand for iOS also utilizes this process to ensure your project is always up to date. You will also find third party apps that support Documents in the Cloud.

Safari

Have you ever left the office on a Friday afternoon, only to realize you needed access to a website contained within Safari?

iCloud can help you with this problem thanks to the feature known as iCloud tabs. Any website you are viewing, on any supported device, will be synchronized with iCloud so you can continue viewing the site in question on another device such as an iPad or iPhone.

This is also a perfect solution for those times when you need to interact with a Flash based website, but can’t do so on your iOS device. Simply keep the website open in a tab, and when you get back to your Mac, you will be able to click the cloud icon in the tool bar and load the site directly on your Mac.

This functionality is so advanced that it will even remember exactly where you were up to on a website. This is a perfect solution for reading and referencing long form articles.

iCloud will also keep the Bookmarks and the Reading List in Safari up to date on all your devices.

Calendar, Contacts, and Mail

When is that meeting? Who am I meeting again? Maybe the details are in my email?

If you ask these questions of yourself on a regular basis, you will be pleased to know there is a solution specifically designed for you that just works.

Imagine all your devices and your Mac having the exact same information. Make a change on one device, and it will immediately change on all your connected devices.

iCloud will automatically push new emails to your devices, and if you have read, replied, or archived the emails this will also be updated and reflected on all your devices. You can even look at the email you just sent from another device.

Scheduling and communicating will never be the same once you make the switch to iCloud.

iBooks

If you read a lot, you will love the synchronization features that iCloud offers for iBooks. When you purchase a new book, it will immediately by synced to all your connected devices. Whilst, that is useful, the most valuable features are available when you start reading the book.

As you read and take notes, highlight text, or bookmark pages, iCloud will automatically synchronize this information so that it is available on all your connected devices.

Reading has never been so easy. From your iPad to your iPad mini, or iPhone, you will be able to pick up from where you left off, with the device that you have with you.

Backup and Restore

Last week we took a look at Time Machine and how to back up your irreplaceable content. iCloud offers another, albeit different style of backup that is specifically designed for your iOS devices.

iCloud Backup

If you use the iCloud backup service, it is important to note that a backup will not be done to your Mac or PC automatically when you next connect and synchronize your device. You can still back up your device in iTunes, but you will need to select the device, then right click to present the drop down menu, and manually select to Back Up.

iTunes backup

 

After activating the iCloud backup, your device will automatically back the selected content up to the iCloud servers, over a Wi-Fi network, when you have the device plugged in and charging. All of this is done automatically, but you can manually change the information that is being backed up along with forcing the device to back up to the cloud at a time of your choosing.

As mentioned earlier, you can elect for the Camera Roll to be backed up via iCloud. It is recommended you back up the Camera Roll by the process, as well as importing your photographs to iPhoto and Aperture.

The most important aspect of backing up is the ability to restore data. Whenever you get a new device, or replace one, you can immediately connect to your iCloud account during the setup phase and restore the new device to a previous backup that has been made.

This way, you can get back to using your device, rather than worrying about the apps, data, and associated settings. It is just another way iCloud can assist you in maintaining productivity.

Find My iPhone

If you have ever misplaced or lost a phone you will understand the anxiety associated with the event.

With smart phones, your life is on these portable computing devices. Not only can you not live without the device, but you don’t want other people to be able to access the content that is contained within.

Find My iPhone is the perfect solution that can deal with these problems. Not only can it find all your devices, including your Macs and iOS devices, but it can remotely wipe the content and send audible and visual notifications to your device in the hope that an honest person will see it and return the device accordingly. It will also pinpoint the location of your device on the map, so you will know exactly where it is.

If your device is offline, or out of power when using the Find My iPhone service, you can request that the service send you an email as soon as your device is connected to a Wi-Fi or cellular network.

If your device has been stolen, please provide as much information, including the map location, to the authorities. It is not advised to take the law into your own hands to recover your property.

iCloud.com

The functionality of iCloud is simply amazing. But what happens if you don’t have an iOS device or your Mac to use? That is where iCloud.com comes in. Whilst all functionality is not available via the website interface, aspects such as Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Notes, Reminders, Find My iPhone, and iWork Documents can be accessed and updated from any Mac or PC.

iCloud.com will automatically log out after five minutes of inactivity. That said, to maintain the highest level of security you should always manually log out of your account when using a computer that is not your own.

iCloud Security

Your data is important to you, and for the most part it is confidential. With iCloud you need not have any concerns. Simply make sure you have a very strong password and iCloud will do the rest. Apple has implemented security protocols that match the world’s leading financial institutions.

To read more about how Apple is securing your data, during transit and at the iCloud server farms, please read knowledge base article: HT4865.