Now we can’t imagine life without computers in our bags and smartphones in our pockets. Humans have now become ‘obsessed’ with connectivity. But how do we keep our gadgets and devices organized? How do we manage both our business and personal data across devices?
This is when today’s ‘hottest’ service in technology comes in. Cloud computing is a service whereby shared resources, data, and software are provided to computers and other devices over a network, usually via the internet. Apple’s version is the iCloud, which upon its introduction has replaced Apple’s MobileMe. Apple iCloud was introduced by Steve Jobs during Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June of 2011–an event that announced the OS X Lion and the iOS 5 for the iPod, iPhone and the iPad.
iCloud in a Nutshell
iCloud, simply put, is a hard drive in the sky. It allows you to quickly access your data from your devices: Macbook, PC, iPhone, iPod and iPad. This data can be anything and everything you can think of: your music, applications, contacts and photos across all your devices. As long as you are connected, you can access your important images and documents when you’re on the go.
Cloud storage is not a new concept. It has been around for a while, but since iCloud’s introduction it has become a growing tech trend. Through cloud computing, cloud storage provides password-protected access to your online storage space. Cloud storage can be used as additional space and a back up copy of your hard drive. Moreover, it is an effective way to make the files available to your other gadgets and devices.
iCloud is not the first online storage service by Apple. MobileMe preceded iCloud, and offered synchronization services at an annual fee. MobileMe was created to ensure synchronization of data between all devices–including e-mails, calendars, contacts, photos, and iWeb and iDisk services. Apple then revamped MobileMe, merging its features with their newly offered Apple iCloud service. Since then iCloud has replaced MobileMe, with more features and more flexibility.
Like MobileMe, the biggest advantage of iCloud is its Apple software integration. This makes the iCloud the most practical cloud storage choice, especially if you own mostly Apple products: Macbook, iPod, iPad, iTouch, the like. It ensures that all data is continuously synchronized while connected to the internet. The iCloud can even include Apple devices owned by your family members and household, too.
The iCloud is now available to all Mac devices in the iOS 5 operating system, and Macs with the OS X Lion operating system. iCloud is free and comes with all the new devices. After getting an account for iCloud, you get 5 gigabytes worth of storage, for free. iCloud backups happen when you’re not using the device.
But, is iCloud Ready for Us?
iCloud does not offer the option to stream your music and videos from the cloud (as of writing). It would’ve been great if users could have the option to play the media content directly instead of the need to download it first. Partial backups are made while you are sleeping, and changes include personal device settings, text messages, ring tones, app data, e-books, videos and apps you bought from iTunes. In addition, backups are done automatically in case you upgrade your OS or new hardware.
iCloud still isn’t perfect, though. One example: iCloud users are limited to the software designed to access that particular cloud. iCloud service is available as long as you have internet access, but still requires an application to manage and synchronize the connection to your data.
The Photo Stream still has many flaws. iCloud only syncs and spreads photos taken during the past 30 days. Which is annoying especially if you want to look at pictures from more than the past 30 days–maybe you want to show off your daughter’s graduation months ago or remember last year’s family reunion. It can be an inconvenience that Photo Stream doesn’t have this option. Aside from that, you can’t delete anything off the Photo Stream–just hope you do not sync any embarrassing or scandalous photos accidentally.
The first 5 GB is free, but if the free storage space is no longer sufficient, you can get iCloud storage plans at $20 a year (15 GB), $40 a year (25 GB) and $100 a year (55 GB).
There are still some flaws and gaps here and there. it’s limited in features, but still quite convenient to use. It’s useful, fantastic as a free back up service but not yet worth the money for a storage plan. The big ‘boom’ moment for Apple didn’t come with the iCloud yet.
Other iCloud Alternatives
One of its most promising features is its recent availability to the iOS; making it a good contender as Apple’s main competitor. While iCloud boasts in keeping your apps, photos, music and videos in place, it is certainly flawed in sharing documents with others. Box on the other hand, is a champ and it even comes with the Google Docs integration.Upon downloading and signing up, you get a whooping 50 GB of free storage space–now compare that to iCloud’s meager 5 GB. Moreover, Box allows you to stream photos and music from the cloud to the AppleTv via Airplay. It cannot accept bigger uploads more than 100 mb– but at a staggering 50 GB of free storage, we’re not complaining at all.
The Amazon Cloud Driver is similar to the iCloud in terms of services and purchasing content. However, the former is more indiscriminate in a particular OS, so it does well on both Mac and PC but it doesn’t have the deep OS integration iCloud offers on the Mac and iOS systems. After sign up you get 5 GB of free storage. If you need more space, Amazon offers storage plans at 20 GB to 1000 GB. Now, you don’t have to worry about losing your files if your hard drive crashes, or gets lost or stolen.
Dropbox does not offer iCloud’s deep Mac OS integration, but is compatible with the Mac, Windows, Linux and all major devices the iPhone, iPad, Blackberry and Android phones. Dropbox offers 2 GB free storage space upon signing up. It offers storage plans up to 100 GB for subscriptions. Unlike the iCloud, all types of stored files will be counted against your total storage space limit.
This is Microsoft’s version of the iCloud, but designed more to sharing documents, photos and videos between multiple users.SkyDrive offers free storage for up to 25 GB. SkyDrive offers integration with Microsoft products, just as iCloud is with Apple.