iCloud Explained

iCloud is Apple's cloud service. All the big tech companies have cloud services and it's become a major service industry. Why? Because it's convenient for customers and offers revenue for businesses.

iCloud is Apple's cloud service. All the big tech companies have cloud services and it's become a major service industry. Why? Because it's convenient for customers and offers revenue for businesses.

Overall cloud services are simply data storage connected to the internet. First of all, cloud services offer automatic backup service for your data. Apple's iCloud does that, but one of its' main functions is to synchronizes your data between your devices. So if you add or delete a photo or an email address on your Mac it will synchronize with your iPhone and iPad if you have iCloud turned on for those devices. Otherwise, when removing an old email address, you would have to remove it from each device separately.

That was easy wasn't it? However, there are quite a few options for what you can choose to synchronize. Each option in the iCloud preferences can be turned on or off for each device. As of the Monterey operating system there are 16 primary options and 23 separate options for iCloud Drive. Now I know that just threw you off and you're holding your head from exploding. But just hang in there a minute.

iCloud versus iCloud Drive. iCloud Drive is one option that simply offers a cloud folder for you to use for anything. It works like any folder on your Mac but its' contents are stored in iCloud. I use it and it's very handy. Everything you put in the iCloud Drive folder can be accessed on your other devices. However, they did add a lot of options to iCloud Drive settings that you can turn off, and actually you should turn off unless you have a very small storage drive on your computer. The big items with iCloud Drive is that it puts your Desktop items and your Documents folder into the cloud, which, as I mentioned, is good if you have a small storage drive on your computer, or if you just want to be able to share all that data with your other devices.

The iCloud options do have to be set on each device to your preference. For example, if you want your contacts to synchronize between your iPhone and your Mac computer but not your iPad, then you turn the iCloud Contacts option on for those two devices and not in the iPad settings.

Another option is for photos. The iCloud option for photos has been moved to the Photos app itself starting with the Monterey operating system. You can turn on iCloud Photos Library to synchronize (and basically backup) all your photos or you can choose "My Photo Stream" option. The Photo Stream option will send photos you import or take via your iPhone, to your iCloud Photos but only for the last thirty days. If this is turned on for more than one device though, they will go to that device and be saved without filling up your iCloud account. Be aware that your photos will not all be backed up with this choice unless you select iCloud Photo Library and My Photo Stream. By the way, you also have an option to turn on "Shared Albums." It's for creating albums that you can invite others to view selected photos. ( Others have to have an Apple account to participate, but, of course, there is an option for a public album.)

Photos take up the most amount of space for most people, so the 5GB of free iCloud space you get fills up and then you are warned that you need to purchase more cloud space. It's not expensive though, $1 a month for 50GB. You should know also that the "My Photo Stream" option doesn't count toward your 5Gb iCloud space. It's complimentary.

So I hope your head has not exploded yet. Let's recap.

    1    Each device has iCloud settings to check.

    2    Apples iCloud is used to synchronize data between devices as well as backup data, though it is not designed to backup everything.

    3    iCloud Drive is an iCloud option that gives you a cloud based folder that you can use for anything to share with your other devices. It shows in the left side of your Finder window on your Mac and shows as an icon named "Files" on your iPhone and iPad.

You get 5Gb free space, 50Gb for $0.99 a month and 200GB is $2.99, 2TB for $9.99. Most iCloud data is on your Mac and in the cloud if you have enough storage space. If you do not have internet service you may not be able to view some of the data. And be aware that data may not upload immediately, particularly photos. When you first turn on iCloud for photos it may take days to upload your entire library.

If you use other cloud storage, be aware that each account uses your internet to sync data and with more than one connection may cause slow downs. Other cloud storage and service businesses include Microsoft (MS One Drive), Adobe Creative Cloud, Carbonite, and many others. Some people who use Microsoft Office may be using their cloud service without realizing it. Same with Adobe apps.

Any cloud storage service add the risk of data becoming compromised. However, all data in Apple iCloud is encrypted with the same standard that banks use. Some data is also encrypted in transit. So you'll have to decide whether the convenience is worth the minimal risk and be selective what you choose to upload.

If you decide to turn off iCloud for some options it will delete your data from the cloud and should ask you if you want it preserved on your device. Also, revisit your iCloud settings after major operating system updates. Apple has a way of turning things on without asking. Remember that you can still use those apps that you turn off for iCloud, it just won't store the data in the cloud for them.

You can breathe normally now. Come back to this article when you're ready to check all your settings.