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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tech Tip of the Day: Getting started with iCloud: Part 1

Description: iCloud is a great feature that allows wireless syncing between all your devices. Have a picture on your iPad that you want to see on your iPhone? No problem. Have contacts from your iPhone you want on your iPod touch? No problem. This guide will explain the basics of iCloud, and how to set it up.

Section 1: What is iCloud?

iCloud is Apple's proprietary cloud storage solution. It allows for wireless sync to the cloud, or Apple's servers, that allow for access across multiple devices. It's built for iOS devices (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch), but it is also available on both Windows and Mac machines as well. This not only saves space on each device, but it also eliminates the risk for data loss. No matter what state the device is in, just sign in, and all personal information, as well as documents, settings, calendars, etc., will be automatically synced back to the device. This is quickly becoming the standard in storage options due to its failsafe methods.

There are alternatives as well: Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft Skydrive to name a few. These all have their benefits, though none are as tightly integrated into the OS as iCloud. Apple has created an ecosystem with iOS, and iCloud has been neatly tucked deep inside of it to make it incredibly easy to sync, back up and restore any personal information.

Section 2: Why do I want it?

It is common knowledge that backing up data frequently is a good idea. Until now, the only method of doing this is with an external storage device of some kind; more specifically, an external hard drive or flash drive. While there are generally no problems with external media, it comes with the risk of hardware errors, thus possibly causing data loss. Also, it's limited to one machine at a time, meaning, to get all the data back across multiple devices, it would require restarting the process for each device by itself.

With iCloud, it's all automatic. It requires little to no input from the user. Whatever is stored on one device is almost immediately accessible from another. Everything from music, movies and TV shows, to calendars, reminders and contacts. It's all there. No syncing. No cords. No hassle.

Section 3: Okay. What's the catch?

iCloud, like most consumer products, is not completely free unfortunately. At the start, it grants 5GB of free storage. On average, this is enough for most items, but the more content that is backed up (namely large files such as movies and TV shows), the quicker that space will disappear. This is when it becomes time to purchase additional space.

Apple offers three different yearly subscription options for additional storage. On top of the standard 5GB given for free, the options they offer are: $20 a year for 10GB of additional space, $40 a year for 20GB of additional space and $100 a year for 50GB of additional space.

Section 4: What are the requirements?

Not all iOS devices are compatible with iCloud. In order to run it, a device must be running iOS 5 or later. Devices that ship with iOS 5+ have iCloud built in. Older iOS devices such as the iPhone, iPhone 3G or iPod touch 1st and 2nd generation are not supported.

On Mac, it must be running OSX 10.7 (Lion) to work, and for Windows, it must be Windows Vista or Windows 7. XP is not supported unfortunately.

If you meet these requirements, watch for part two of this series later this week to learn how to configure iCloud on all your devices!

For more assistance contact Technical Support here.

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