iCloud can give Google Drive a run for it’s money when it comes to prevalence of use in the market. While a Google Drive account is associated with a Gmail account, any time someone creates an Apple ID an iCloud account is born. When your iCloud account is created you are given 5GB of free storage to keep your photos, videos, documents, movies, and more. Once stored in iCloud your files can be reached from any device at any time internet is available. This particular service has hundreds of millions of users because of the prevalence of iOS devices in the market and every iOS device requires an Apple ID (and therefore an iCloud account).
iCloud is a cloud storage and computing service that launched in 2011. As of two years ago, the service reportedly had 320 million users. Previously branded as iTools, .Mac, and MobileMe, iCloud has existed in one form or another for well over a decade. In 2012, MobileMe was officially discontinued and iCloud took the reigns of cloud storage for Apple.
iCloud was designed by Apple so it’s bound to be a little different than the other cloud storage solutions we’ve discussed so far. This particular cloud system allows users to store music, photos, applications, documents, bookmarks, reminders, backups, notes, iBooks, and contacts. We italicized backups because it’s important to know that iCloud allows you to wirelessly back up the settings and data on any of your iOS devices running anything after iOS 5. These backups take place daily when your device is locked and connected to Wi-Fi and a power source.
Find my iPhone allows users to track the location of their iOS device or Mac. Through this feature you can display a message, play a sound if you’ve misplaced it at home, change the password on the device, and even remotely erase content.
iCloud Keychain was introduced in 2013 and serves as a secure database that allows information like website login passwords, Wi-Fi network passwords, credit card data and other information to be stored securely. This information can be quickly reached and auto-filled on webpages when the user needs instant access. The data is always stored using 256-bit AES encryption and only available on users’ trusted devices.
iWork for iCloud was also introduced in 2013 and includes Apple’s office suite of Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. With this iCloud introduction, the applications were made available on a web interface and available to access via the iCloud website after logging into your account. This allows users to edit and create documents on the web, share them with others to collaborate on the documents, print them directly from the web, or download a copy to a local machine.
iCloud Photo Library also known simply as Photos was introduced early in 2015 as a way to store all of a users photos, maintaining the original resolution. Users can access this library on support devices via the Photos app when available, which helps limit the amount of local storage each device needs to user in order to store photographs by storing lower-resolution versions on the device, with the user having the option to keep some files at higher resolutions.
iCloud Drive is a file hosting service for devices running iOS 8, OS X Yosemite or later. This feature allows users to save photos, videos, documents (any type), music, and other app data on iCloud. Users can start work on one device and continue on another, much like you can do using many cloud services.
How We Use It
To be totally transparent, we don’t use iCloud for business purposes and we recommend you don’t either. iCloud gets better and better each year as Apple works hard on developing all of their products. However, iCloud is much better served for personal use than business. It’s obvious from the start that iCloud is designed with end consumers in mind and not businesses.
The shortcomings of iCloud are that in a business setting there is no way to control or oversee employee data because accounts are owned by individuals, not companies. Most businesses need to share stuff and iCloud's sharing features often leave much to be desired. If you work for yourself or are a one-man shop then iCloud might be perfect for you, but if are running a company with multiple employees, then you'll definitely want to look into either Dropbox or Google Drive where administrators are able to control a bit more of their employees data.
We hope Apple can one day deliver a business cloud storage solution, but for now iCloud won’t cut it. Honestly, if you’re running a business you would be better served using Dropbox or Google Drive as the prices are lower, the service is less convoluted, and they get the job done.
iCloud data is always kept encrypted on Apple servers, but Apple keeps a master key that can be used to decrypt data when required to do so by government agencies. Apple now allows two-step verification to protect all data stored in Cloud and we highly recommend that you enable two-step whenever possible. Apple also prides itself in stating, “unlike our competitors, we never scan any of your iCloud data for advertising," (cough, Google, cough). If third party vendors are ever used to store iCloud data, it is encrypted and those third-parties are never given the encryption keys.
Since the introduction of iCloud, each account has been allotted 5 GB of free storage for owners of either an iOS device or Mac. As you might expect, additional storage is available on a tiered pricing scale.
5GB - Free
20GB - $0.99/month
200GB - $3.99/month
500GB - $9.99/month
1TB - $19.99/month
1TB is a ton of cloud storage. These prices a little higher than Google Drive, but for some people it might be worth sticking with native Apple products. When you diversify outside of the Apple family, you’re much more likely to run into compatibility issues which are never fun.
iCloud is amazing at simplifying the lives of people who use OS X and iOS on a daily basis. Being able to take a photo, have it immediately upload to iCloud and free up space on our mobile devices is almost invaluable (especially for those with 16GB phones and iPads). It's a powerful experience to know that all of your incredible family photos are safe (as well as your phone’s data) should disaster strike and you fall into a pool with your phone still in your pocket or something along those lines. The phone may be dead, but your data is safe and sound in the cloud waiting for you when you get your new device thanks to iCloud. Being able to upload any kind of file to iCloud makes file sharing (relatively) easy and working from any device becomes a breeze when you can access all of your files anywhere you have an internet connection.
Where iCloud falls short in delivering a business solution, it totally makes up for it in usefulness for individual consumers. We hope Apple will one day develop a cloud storage solution for businesses, but until then we’re okay with using a mix of Dropbox & Google Drive for work, and relying on the dependable iCloud for everyday use at home.
What are you thoughts on iCloud? Do you have a personal preference when it comes to digital cloud storage? Do you use the same services for work that you do for personal items? Tell us in the comments below!