iCloud: everything you need to know

20 September 2013

If you've ever lost your phone, or experienced an unexpected smartphone meltdown, you may relate to the horror of realizing all your contacts, notes, text messages, and multimedia files have disappeared for eternity.

We've seen enough Facebook pleas from grieving phone owners seeking to replace lost numbers to know that it's a common phenomenon - and to know that not enough people are taking advantage of the backup and storage options their phone provides.

You may be familiar with backing up via iTunes, but did you know you can also backup to and store data in Apple's iCloud service? You've probably heard of it even if you don't use it, and if you're not using it yet, you definitely should consider it.

What is iCloud?

iCloud is Apple’s cloud storage and cloud computing service it offers to all owners of eligible Apple devices. Basically, it allows users to store data, such as photos, music, and their iOS applications, on remote computer servers that can be accessed by any Apple device running iOS 5 or later

Servers that store personal data remotely are known as ‘the cloud’, and Apple's iCloud can be accessed wirelessly through either Wifi or your device’s 3G/4G internet, from anywhere at anytime.

The service gives Apple users an easy way of backing up their devices and keeping their data safe without having to manually connect their device to iTunes and do it themselves.

It's also designed to make managing your Apple devices easier, and if you have more than one, or plan to upgrade, it’s an awesome way of accessing your files between iPhones, iPods, iPads or through your Mac.

By using your Apple ID to activate iCloud on all your Apple devices, you can easily share content between them. iCloud includes push email, calendaring and contact services - which means email and calendar updates made from one device will immediately be available on your other devices.

You can access your iCloud mail, contacts, calendar, notes, reminders, and Find my iPhone in the Clouds via the web, from any computer, if you don’t have your device handy. Go to http://www.icloud.com and sign in using your Apple ID.

If it all sounds too complicated, don’t worry – iCloud is easy to switch on if you’re activating a new iPhone, or you’re installing a new version of iOS. And it's free to use.

What does iCloud store ?

  • Contacts
  • Calendars
  • Bookmarks
  • Mail
  • Notes
  • Shared photo streams
  • Documents you save on iCloud

What does iCloud backup from your iPhone?

  • Purchased content, including applications, music, movies, TV shows and books – purchased content isn’t stored in the Cloud, but it will automatically download from the iTunes or App Store when you restore from a backup.
  • Photos and videos from your Camera Roll
  • iMessage and SMS messages
  • Ringtones
  • Your device settings
  • Application data
  • Home screen and app organisation
  • Visual Voicemail

How to set it up on a new device or if you’ve updated your software

Most people think setting up their new iDevice involves plugging it in to a Mac or PC – and the same goes for backing up or upgrading the software.

However, if you have Wifi access, you can do all the above easily and without needing to connect your new phone to a laptop or notebook. Your device will automatically back itself up when you’re charging it and connected to Wifi, so no more scheduling regular manual backups to save your device’s data.

Setting up iCloud itself is simple, especially on a new device. If you’ve updated iOS or are switching on your new device for the first time, you’ll be greeted by on-screen prompts in the form of iPhone’s setup assistant, which will help you activate your device and set up the iCloud service. The prompts will cover everything outlined below.

How to switch it on otherwise

If you already have an iPhone that’s running iOS 5 or later, you may have already switched the feature on without knowing it.

To setup iCloud on an older/already updated iPhone, select Settings, then scroll down and tap iCloud. Select Use iCloud and sign in with your Apple ID.

Don’t have an Apple ID yet? Your device will prompt you to create a free one. Select Create a Free Apple ID and follow the prompts. You can use any existing email address you like as your ID, or you can opt to create an @me.com email address.

Once your ID is ready to go, you'll need to agree to Apple’s iCloud Terms of Service. You’ll then want to make sure you select Use iCloud and Use iCloud Backup, meaning that your media files, contacts, calendar, apps, etc. will automatically be backed up to iCloud whenever your phone is plugged in and connected to Wifi.

You can also nominate to use Find My iPhone. It’s a service that makes it easier for you to track down your phone using its GPS connection if it’s ever lost or stolen, and will also enable you to send your contact information to the phone via SMS or wipe your device remotely. All of this can be done online from any Mac or PC if you have the feature switched on.

Apple may ask you if you want to send diagnostic information to its team. It’s anonymous, but if you’d rather keep your privacy, feel free to select Don’t Send.

Once you’ve gone through all the prompts, you’re done!

How to manually backup your phone to iCloud

Your phone will automatically backup to the cloud if it’s connected to Wifi, locked and charging. But you can also initiate a manual backup for your device at any time over a Wifi connection.

Launch Settings, and tap iCloud. Select the Storage and Backup option at the bottom of the screen. Tap Back Up Now, and the backup process will begin.

Choosing what to back up

You can control what gets backed up automatically. For example, you may prefer not to back up your Camera Roll, since a lot of that data is captured and stored by Photo Stream.

Launch Settings, then iCloud, Storage and Backup then select Manage Storage. Tap the name of your device and it will bring up a list of the apps currently being backed up through iCloud. Tap Show All to get the full list. If there’s any apps you don’t want backed up, simply toggle the on/off switch to off.

How to restore from an iCloud backup

If you want to restore from an old iCloud backup on your new device during setup, you can choose Restore from iCloud Backup when using the setup assistant.

Later on, if you want to restore from a backup, you’ll need to erase and reset your device. Go to Settings, then select General, and tap Reset. Choose Erase All Content and Settings.

You’ll be asked if you wish to set up your phone as new, or restore from a previous backup – select Restore from iCloud Backup. Then enter your Apple ID and password as prompted.

Choose which backup you want (usually the latest one listed, if there’s more than one choice) and wait for it to download. Once it’s finished, your device will reset itself.

After your phone restarts, your settings will be restored and your iPhone will download all the content saved on your iCloud backup. It may take a few minutes and suck some of your battery life, so we recommend connecting your phone to a charger during this time.

Deleting a backup

You can delete older backups if you’d like to save storage space. Launch Settings, tap iCloud, tap Storage and Backup, select Manage Storage, and you’ll see a list of your current backups stored on iCloud. Select the backup you want to delete, and tap Delete Backup and then Turn Off and Delete.

How to set up Photo Stream

Photo Stream is Apple’s photo storage and sharing service. It enables any photos you take with your iPhone to appear automatically on any other iOS device you have that’s connected to Photo Stream.

Shared Photo Stream can be turned on or off, and allows you to create shared photo albums and subscribe to other people’s shared photo streams.

To switch either option on or off, go to Settings and then tap iCloud. Select Photo Stream, and toggle My Photo Stream and Shared Photo Streams to whichever settings you’d prefer.

How to upgrade your storage

iCloud users automatically receive 5GB of storage free of charge for Backups, Documents and Mail. Awesomely, your Photo Stream and purchased content is separate from your free storage, and doesn’t count against it. However, you can upgrade your storage size to a larger amount at any time for a yearly fee.

Go to Settings, then select iCloud and Storage and Backup. Tap Change Storage Plan, then select the amount of storage you’ll need and tap the Buy icon.

You can also downgrade if you’re on a paid storage plan. Go through the same options to get to Change Storage Plan, and then select Downgrade Options. Your storage will be downgraded to the plan you select when your next annual payment is due.



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