iCloud is Apple's online services platform consisting of multiple products all of which are detailed on this page.
Backup and Restore
iCloud provides 5GB of storage per account allowing you to back up your iOS devices and restore your backups if required. It's enabled in the device settings and once enabled will automatically backup for you when the device is plugged into power and connected to Wi-Fi. It is important that you ensure that you have enough iCloud storage available to backup your data. For most people, 5GB is not enough. You should strongly consider upgrading plans, details of pricing can be found HERE.
Back to My Mac
Back to My Mac lets you set up a Mac network that you can access remotely. With Back to My Mac you can:
- File Share: Find files and folders on the remote Mac and drag them to your local Mac.
- Screen Share: Use a remote Mac as though you were sitting right in front of it.
Details on how to set up Back to My Mac can be seen HERE.
Email, Contacts, Calendar and Reminders
iCloud acts as a synchronisation and viewing platform for your e-mail, contacts, calendar and reminders. Any change to any of this data on your Mac or iOS devices will automatically be synchronised to iCloud and then to any other physical Apple devices connected to iCloud. The data can also be viewed through your web browser at iCloud.com.
Apple Notes has a section to itself as it was expanded recently in iOS 9 and Mac OS X El Capitan. Like e-mail, contacts, calendar and reminders the Notes are synchronised across the various Apple platforms via your iCloud account.
You can now add photos, maps, web links and even annotate and sketch with your finger in a Note. You can use Notes to do various things like create lists, add web clippings when you are on your Mac at home, then bring it up on your iPhone when you are out and about.
You can find an overview on Notes HERE.
Find My Friends
Find My Friends is a service that allows you to share your location with a contact and they can share back allowing you to see each others location in real time. You can set notifications to alert you when they arrive or leave a certain location. Its a great service for family safety or simply to know when your spouse has left work so you can start dinner. More information can be found HERE.
Find My iPhone, iPad and Mac
A longstanding iCloud feature are the 'Find My' services. They can be accessed via iCloud.com or via the Find My iPhone app. The service now includes 'Lost Mode' which means you don't just see where your device currently is but also where it has been. This is handy, it might identify the dwelling of the individual that currently has the device or of the person that has potentially sold your device on. You can lock the device and send a message with a contact number, which will allow honest people to reunite you with your device. They can even call you from the lock screen without accessing the rest of the information on the device
More recent advancements in the service include Activation Lock and Remote Erase. Remote Erase is self explanatory, but the Activation Lock feature is interesting. It is activated the moment you trigger Find My iPhone. The device will then require your Apple ID and password before Find My iPhone can be turned off, the device erased or reactivated.
More information can be found HERE.
The iCloud Keychain synchronises your keychain across your devices, remembering your account names, passwords and credit card numbers. This means there is no excuse for not having a unique password for each and every online service that you use.
Whilst iCloud Keychain brings good password practice to the masses, Apple Resource recommends 1Password from Agile Bits.
iCloud Photo Library
The Photos App on your devices automatically uploads every photo and video you take via the iCloud Photo Library service. This makes them available on all of your devices including your Apple TV, Mac, PC and iCloud.com. You can play with the storage settings on your device so that your device does not store the actual file but only a thumbnail of the file. The actual file resides on iCloud and when clicked on, the file will then download to be viewed. This is useful to free up space on mobile devices like your iPhone or iPad.
iCloud also have Photo Sharing which makes it really easy to share photos and videos with your friends and family.
iCloud Drive is a storage area for all of your files. They can then be accessed from any of your Apple devices and also PCs. With the recent release of macOS Sierra you can now store and synchronise your desktop and your Documents folder. Storage can be expanded, the pricing can be seen HERE.