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What Is iCloud?

One of the most common questions we get asked is “What is iCloud, and how do I use it?” Let’s run through it.



So iCloud is not the same as “the cloud.” 

“The cloud” is a general term which just means a place out there on the internet where your digital information (anything from photos to documents to backups) is stored. 

You know how some people have a storage space (like Manhattan Mini Storage), where they put ski clothes or furniture or tax documents? Well “the cloud” is like that, but for digital files. It’s somewhere not in your home or office where you can put digital stuff. Your email is in “the cloud.” So is Dropbox, so is most of Google, so are CrashPlan and Mozy and Carbonite and BackBlaze backups.

iCloud is what Apple has named its service for using its cloud. Anyone can get an iCloud account for free, but you need an Apple computer or mobile device to create the account. 



Mostly iCloud is used for silently synchronizing your files, so you have the same stuff on all your computers and phones and devices. Here is what it can synchronize:

  • mail (if you are using a @mac.com, @me.com, or @icloud.com email address)
  • contacts
  • calendars
  • reminders (tasks)
  • notes
  • photos
  • videos
  • Safari bookmarks
  • saved passwords
  • desktop and documents folders on your Mac

You may not be set up to sync all these things, but iCloud can do it if you want. You can configure what iCloud synchronizes on a Mac under System Preferences -> iCloud, and on an iPhone or iPad under Settings -> Your account -> iCloud.



ICloud can also back up iPhones and iPads. Note that it DOES NOT back up your Mac! 



  • Help you locate or remotely lock a lost computer or device
  • Share purchases among a family
  • Re-download purchases among your own devices
  • Access your iTunes library from any of your devices



Apple provides 5 GB of iCloud storage for free, which is adequate if all you ever want to sync is calendar, contacts, Safari bookmarks, passwords, and other low-key stuff. 

But if you want automatic backup of your iPhone or iPad without needing to attach it to your computer, or you want a synchronized photo library across computers, then you’ll almost certainly need to pony up $0.99 per month for an additional 50 GB, and possibly more if you have multiple devices involved or you have a lot of photos and videos.


If you have any questions about iCloud, let us know and we’ll be glad to answer!

(May 2017)

(212) 353-3310