Back to Basics
With new users switching from Android devices into Apple devices every day, we thought we should provide a back to basics primer around iCloud. iCloud is generally easy to operate. What makes it complex and daunting to most people at times relates to the number of different settings that are available to perform the iCloud operations. The second aspect pertains to the sense of control. Somehow one feels that since the iCloud is not inside your device, your control options are sort of handicapped when things go wrong. It is not the case. Apple has come a long way to make iCloud an essential part of their offering and as we move forward more and more services are going to be integrated in to iCloud.
So, Relax and get your iDevices out for a test ride. Before you start your journey around customizing your iCloud, it is important that you have an Apple ID set up and ensure that you are able to sign in to your iCloud. If you are experiencing any account related problems with your iCloud, please feel free to pause here and check out the basic iCloud account troubleshooting article.
Now that you are equipped with your account and authentication, let us walk you through the basics of customizing your iCloud in a few easy steps. Although there are many options, you can choose to use what you like and ignore the rest and that’s where this basic customization comes handy.
Step -> 1 From your ipad or iphone’s Home screen, Please select the Settings option by tapping on it and scroll down till you find iCloud and tap on it.
Step -> 2 The next screen provides you with a multitude of options. This is the holy grail of iCloud so we will focus on this and walk you through the various options and discuss the key aspects.
Section- 1 (Must Haves)
The first section of the iCloud setting consisting of Mail, Contacts, Calendars and Reminders are essentially the most important and most used settings. These settings help you with storing the information related to all of the above four apps in the iCloud. In the event that you want to look up your contacts or your mail on another apple device, storing the information in the iCloud proves very handy. Think of iCloud as your personal chest drawer by your bedside, which is made available to you on any device where you can access your iCloud. If you ever happen to loose a few contacts or reminders on your iphone or ipad, you do not have to worry since they have been stored in your personal drawer in the iCloud. Once you set the setting to “ON”, by moving the slider to the ON position, all new items generated by these apps will be stored automatically in iCloud during “Sync” (We will get to the Sync in a moment).
Tip : As you start keeping your emails on iCloud it is a good idea to regularly go through your old emails and delete items that you no longer want in order to avail yourself of more storage. You can can free up iCloud storage space by permanently erasing messages in iCloud Mail. Select the messages, then click the Move to Trash button in the toolbar
If you have a lot of contacts information stored in your Google account, you may want to read this article below when you have time later, but for now lets keep going. At this point, you may also decide that you don’t want to use any other settings in iCloud and use your iTunes on your PC/Mac to do the storage and that is absolutely fine. There are a lot of people who do that.
Section – 2 (Nice to Have)
Now that you are using an iPhone or an iPad, we are sure you are beginning to enjoy your web browser “Safari”. As we read content online and spend time on reading websites we often tend to collect bookmarks. Over a period of time, these bookmarks become precious and you tend to forget the website addresses. One tap on the bookmark and bingo you are on the website of your choice.
What happens when you do not have access to your personal device or something went wrong and you lost all the bookmarks that you had collected over the years. That would be pretty frustrating. This is where iCloud steps in as a handy resource. By switching on the Safari Setting on this screen, you now have your personal electronic chester drawer called iCloud store all your bookmarks automatically.
The same is true with “Notes.” If you use this App on your iphone or ipad for taking notes, please go ahead and enable the setting to ON. This app is also getting a lot more bells and whistles starting in iOS 9.3. It may be worth your while especially if you use a Mac with Notes.
If your device has been upgraded to latest iOS9.2, you will also find the “News” setting in your iCloud Settings. By switching this on, Apple remembers your News preferences and makes them available to you on your other iphones or ipads that are connected to your iCloud account. The News app is a new feature. We will be covering more about this app in the future articles. One new feature in news in the iOS9.3 version is that you can flag a news article with Dislike and your preferences will adjust based on the settings.
Section – 3 (The Geek in you)
Now that you have come so far and have dealt with the basics, lets take a little time to explore the other settings. The first of this is “KeyChain”. We like this feature as it allows you to store your log-in and password information on the iCloud so that you don’t have to remember it all the time. When you go to a website in Safari, it readily makes your id and password available to you. You also have the option of storing your credit card information here as well. Setting up the KeyChain functionality is quite easy. Please refer to our primer on KeyChain below.
We have covered 9 out of the 12 settings so far. You are almost there! So hold tight for a little longer.
If you are running the latest iOS you will also find the iCloud Drive option. This is the first of the settings. This is a nice little feature from Apple that offers you 5GB of free storage so that you can store your files on this hard drive on the cloud. Think of it as Google Drive or DropBox if you have used those services in the past. This is also relatively a new feature from Apple and will not be seen on your device if you are on an older iOS version. If you are new to iCloud, this can wait for another time.
If you happen to be running the older iOS, you will notice the setting for “Documents and Data”. This is sort of the predecessor for the iCloud Drive in our opinion. Essentially, switching this on will make sure that all documents and data generated on your device by you or the myriad apps running on your device will now be stored in iCloud.
Tip – Be careful with this setting as this tends to quickly fill up your available iCloud Storage. Furthermore, this will also impact your data usage plan that you have with your cell phone provider. This is very useful if you have an unlimited data plan but for now we suggest that this can wait for another time.
Section – 4 (House Keeping)
You are right. We have not discussed your favorite setting yet. We have not forgotten “Photos”, the most used setting with the iCloud. We will cover it at the end and dedicate quite some time and effort to walk you through it because it is important and can really be a deciding factor in how effectively you manage your iCloud Storage and the precious photos that you have accumulated.
House Keeping, although may sound boring is essential to keep things running and organized so that you have less hassles in the future. The most important setting in this section is your “Backup” Setting. On older iOS, you will see this option as “Storage and Backup”. On iOS 9.2, you will only see this setting as “Backup”.
At its most fundamental level, Apple offer you two choices around where you want to store the backup data of your device. You can choose to store all the backup data in A) iTunes on your own Computer (PC/Mac) or B) On the iCloud. If you have a lot of space available on your computer, you can choose to store it on your computer. Storing it in iCloud will allow you to perform Backups of your device via wi-fi. If you choose to use the iTunes backup, you will need to connect your iphone or ipad with a cord to your computer when you want to do the backup. When you back-up on the cloud, this will take some space from your available 5GB Free storage.
What should I choose for my Backup?
We suggest that you take advantage of both the choices. Use iCloud Backup’s ease and reliability features, while also performing a more comprehensive iTunes Backup at least once a month. You’ll have the peace of mind of knowing your iOS data will be there when you need it. Backups are really important when you need to restore your device in the case there are some problems. That will make sure that you do not loose your data.
Tip – Use your calendar/reminder on your ipad and make it a note to yourself to do an iTunes back-up every month.
One question that is often asked by our readers is how safe and secure the iCloud drive is when it comes to backups. When you backup using iCloud, it automatically encrypts your data and stores it which assures protection. It is important to remember that when you backup on iTunes, by default the encryption is switched off. You must turn it on if you decide to encrypt your data on your computer.
We are often asked about the difference between Backup and Sync as these two terms are often used interchangeably and can be confusing when you are looking at Apple support forums to find answers.
Backup activities are also sometimes prone to problems. If you experience any problems while performing your backup, we suggest that you refer to the following guides to help you with the issues. Over the years, we have collected answers and tips from our readers and these guides will definitely be helpful.
Tip – This is where you leverage the “Bookmark” Functionality in Safari. Click on the Share button and use “Add Bookmark” so that you can come back to this page when you experience any issues with sync or backup.
The next setting that we want to discuss in this section is “Find My iPad”/ “Find My iPhone”. We strongly recommend that you switch on this setting as it will be very useful if you ever loose your device or if it is stolen. You can also enable the Send Last Location feature, which saves the device’s last known location before its battery runs out. This may help with tracking your device down if it powers down after being lost. Apple does a great job in explaining this setting and how it works with your ipad or iphone.
The last setting for your iCloud on your device is “Set up Family Sharing”. This is really a cool feature that we encourage you to review when you have some time. Per Apple, Family Sharing makes it easy for up to six people in your family to share each other’s iTunes, iBooks, and App Store purchases without sharing accounts. Pay for family purchases with the same credit card and approve kids’ spending right from a parent’s device. Share photos, a family calendar, and more to help keep everyone connected. We created a simple tutorial to help you with the basics of setting up Family Sharing. We suggest that you take a look at it when you have some time.
..little threads that hold life’s patches of meaning together –Mark Twain from Morals and Memory Speech
Photos is one of the most used apps on an iphone or ipad. With the advent of excellent camera choices and features on your iphone and ipad, people rarely use a camera to collect day to day photos. The Selfie revolution that transpired in the recent years also contributed to this. Apple has dramatically increased innovation in this area over the past few years. You now have the choice of clicking “Live photos” and also taking 4K quality videos on your iphone with iPhone 6 models. So where and how can we effectively manage our incessant appetite for these little threads of memories.
Photos automatically syncs your photo library to iCloud, so every photo that you shoot is readily available on all your idevices. This is also one of the setting that influences how much storage you use. If you have a lot of photos in thousands, you may want to read up more on how to use iCloud’s photo storage most effectively.
Tip: When you start seeing the message “Storage full” on your iphone and ipad, one of the main culprits is your photos on your iOS device. You can save and optimize storage for your device by keeping “Optimized versions” on your iOS device. You can do that in this setting when you swith on the iCloud > Photos.
When you choose to optimize your photos, please note that the full quality original photos are available on iCloud. When you edit your photos on your phone or ipad, Photos tracks your changes. The cool thing is that your changes are synced to the iCloud and is available to you on any of your devices.
There are basically three options available to you from Apple to manage your photos. You can also choose Dropbox or other cloud services to manage your photos if you choose.
- iCloud Photo Library. This is the most comprehensive offering. It essentially syncs all your photos to icloud. If you have multiple devices with the same Apple ID , they all sync to the sane online library. Any photos that you have taken on any of the devices will be readily available to you. This consumes quite a bit of your iCloud storage quota. You can buy extra storage if you have a lot of photos and want a comprehensive coverage.
- The second option that Apple offers to you is known as “My Photo Stream”. This is a limited service that only uploads photos taken in the last 30 days, upto a limit of 1000 photos. It doesn’t count against your storage quota.
- The third and last option available to you is called iCloud Photo Sharing. This doesn’t count against your storage and offers you the choice of storing 5,000 photos per shared album. By using this option you can store photos in a separate area in the iCloud if you want to share these photos with other people.
As you can see there is lot here to digest when it comes to Photos. We suggest that you switch on the Photos cloud setting for now and then look at your options later on to find the best method that works for you and your family.
There are multitude ways to manage your iCloud Storage once you are up and running. Apple provides a good read in this article on the various choices that you can draw upon to manage your iCloud storage. We suggest that you review Apple’s guiding principles when you have some time, especially after you have started using the iCloud for a while.
In Summary, we hope that you like this basic primer on iCloud and our coverage on the various settings that are available to you for customizing your iCloud experience. As newer versions of iOS are introduced, iCloud is definitely going to be a big part of the updates. We definitely suggest that you take time to get familiar with this feature. As you acquire new Apple devices in your home such as Apple TV or Apple Watch, iCloud will become paramount in having a desired experience from these devices.
Lastly, we wanted to provide you with an index of 12 most read icloud tips and troubleshooting related articles in order to help you when you have any issues or are trying to solve that nagging problem.
Index of Top 12 commonly read articles on iCloud
- How to login to iCloud.com on iPhone
- Can I delete an iCloud account?
- iCloud: No backups available; fix
- Backups: iTunes vs iCloud, How to choose?
- iCloud not working. How to troubleshoot iCloud problems
- iOS9 Cloud back-up not working, Fix
- How to create group contacts using icloud
- iCloud Duplicate contacts issue, How to fix
- How to reset Photo Stream in your icloud account
- iCloud is greyed out in settings, how to fix
- iCloud keeps asking for Passwords repeatedly, How to Fix
- Ten questions on iCloud and the new iCloud Drive
Obsessed with tech since the early arrival of A/UX on Apple, Sudz (SK) is responsible for the editorial direction of AppleToolBox. He is based out of Los Angeles, CA.
Sudz specializes in covering all things macOS, having reviewed dozens of OS X and macOS developments over the years.
In a former life, Sudz worked helping Fortune 100 companies with their technology and business transformation aspirations.