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Understanding the functions of iCloud, Apple’s cloud storage and sync service

THE iCloud, Apple’s cloud storage and sync service, is still not 100% reliable – the company still needs to evolve a lot when it comes to online service. Even so, it has very interesting features that, if used correctly, make life easier for OS X and iOS users.

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Today I will explain how storage works and what you can do if you reach the space limit for your account. But first, a brief explanation of the functions that make up iCloud.


  • iTunes in the Cloud (iTunes in the Cloud): buy a movie / music on the iPhone, for example, and the content is automatically downloaded to your Mac / PC or your iPad.
  • Share Photos (Photo Stream): Take photos with your iPhone and they are automatically shared among yours (iPad, iPod touch, Mac / PC and Apple TV).
  • Cloud Documents (Documents in the Cloud): Create documents and presentations on Mac, iPhone, iPod touch and iPad and iPod touch and keep them updated and automatically synced across all devices.
  • Safari: with iCloud, your bookmarks, sites you bookmark to read later (Reading List) and even pages open in the browser are synchronized / available on all Apple devices you have.
  • Calendar, Contacts and Mail: there is no mystery here. With an iCloud account, your calendar, contacts and emails are automatically synchronized across all iProducts.
  • Apps: Just like iTunes in the Cloud, apps purchased from the App Store on one device are automatically downloaded to others, if you wanted. Inside the store there is also a space where you can find all the apps you’ve already purchased, making it easy to download that old game you’ve bought and even forgot that it exists.
  • iBooks: same thing as apps, but with the difference of remembering where you stopped reading a certain book. So, you can start reading on the iPhone and finish on the iPad. There are also functions to mark some part of the text, make notes, etc. – all of this synchronized between your iGadgets.
  • Backup and recovery: if you don’t usually plug your iGadget on your computer and sync it to iTunes, this feature is for you. ICloud backs up your iOS devices daily, over Wi-Fi, whenever you load a device – or request the backup manually. Your data, in addition to purchased music, movies, apps and books, will be stored and can be easily recovered in case of loss or theft of the current device.
  • Search iPhone (Find My iPhone): this is Apple’s official tool for finding lost or stolen iPhones, iPods and iPads, as long as the devices are still connected to the internet. Through an application or through the iCloud.com website, we can locate the devices, display a message on the screen, set a lock password or even remotely erase the entire content of each device.
  • Search My Friends (Find My Friends): tool to share your location with friends and vice versa. The cool thing is that you can set up location-based notifications to, for example, be alerted when your child has left school.
  • Back to My Mac (Back to My Mac): launched on Mac OS X Leopard and, among other things, allows sharing files and computer screens.

Configuring iCloud

Setting up the service is very simple: if your device is new, reset, just follow the instructions on the home screen, as soon as the iPhone / iPod touch, iPad or Mac is turned on for the first time. If you have not done so, there is no mystery either.

iCloud on iOS

In iGadgets, just go to Settings (Settings) »ICloud and subscribe to the service, activating all the functions (those mentioned above) that you want to use. If you already have your own email (a Gmail for life) and don’t want to create another one, no problem. You can easily subscribe to the service and take advantage of data storage and synchronization using this existing email. If you want, you can create a new email (@ icloud.com).

If you already have an iTunes / App Store account with an existing email, I suggest creating an iCloud account with that same address, to simplify, focus things.

iCloud on iOS

It is worth remembering that, if you wanted to use the automatic download feature of songs, applications and books, you need to go to Settings »iTunes Store and App Store and activate automatic transfers.

iCloud on OS X

On Mac, to activate iCloud, just go to System Preferences (System Preferences) »ICloud, login and choose the functions you want to keep activated. If you still have questions, Apple explains exactly how to set up iCloud on all possible devices on this page.


IOS does not have a file management system. This means that, unlike OS X and Windows, there is no Finder or Windows Explorer to control where we want each document to be kept. On iOS, the document is stored within the application. For example: if you are going to write in Apple’s Pages text editor, the created file is stored in Pages itself. As it is natively integrated with iCloud, your document is stored in the cloud (Documents in the Cloud). So, if you create and start editing a file on the iPad, you can finish it later on OS X Pages, if you want.

iCloud on OS X

This is not restricted to Apple apps. Pixelmator (famous image editor for Mac) is compatible with iCloud. Here on my Mac I keep all documents in iCloud, as we can see in the image above (detail in the upper left corner, showing that the files are stored in iCloud and not locally). For those who have more than one machine (one at work and one at home, for example), this is great, as it facilitates access and keeps the file updated regardless of the machine used.

But back to iCloud… Initially, an iCloud account has 5GB of space – I have 25GB (image) – more on that below. But it is important to mention that music, apps, books and Share Photos are not part of this account. These 5GB are used only for emails, documents and backup.

iCloud on iOS

To see how your storage is doing on iOS, just go to Settings »iCloud» Storage and Backup. There you will find the total storage, the available one, an option to manage that storage, as well as another to change your plan and, of course, the option to activate the backup.

Managing storage

Here is the place to see exactly what is consuming space in our account. In my case, as I spend my entire day using my Mac to work, I prefer to backup via iTunes, so I have a lot of space left over on iCloud – the backup feature is the most space consuming.

iCloud on iOS

iCloud on iOS

If iCloud is warning you that it is close to the storage limit, you can delete these documents / data / backups directly from the device. Just touch the desired section (in this case, Pixelmator), choose the option “Edit” and delete document by document or all at once.

Changing the storage plan

iCloud on iOS

Another possibility is to acquire more space for iCloud. To do this, go to Settings »iCloud» Storage and Backup »Change Storage Plan and choose the desired option: 10GB – US $ 20; 20GB – $ 40; and 50GB – $ 100. Always remembering that you already have 5GB of free, which will be added to the purchased space. I, for example, have 25GB.

iCloud on OS X

All of this can also be managed by the Mac, in System Preferences »iCloud» Manage…. In this space you have control of everything, being able to delete documents and data individually or all at once, besides being able to change your storage plan.


The backup of iCloud was one of the best things that Apple did for those who usually use the device and does not connect it to the Mac / PC (iTunes). By enabling iCloud backup, you can be “carefree”. Daily, whenever you are connected to a Wi-Fi network and put the device to recharge, iCloud will back it up. So, if you lose your iPhone or if it is stolen, it will be very easy to recover the content.

iCloud on iOS

To force a backup, go to Settings »iCloud» Storage and Backup »Backup Now. If you’re leaving home to buy a new iPhone, for example, this is a good time to force a backup. ?

When buying a new one, just follow the recovery instructions on the device’s home screen. In a few (good) minutes, your brand new iPhone will be configured (emails, photos, documents, apps, etc.) like the old one.

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It is common for some iCloud functions to be unavailable for a few minutes / hours – that’s why he said the service is still not 100% reliable.

New Apple page with online services status

If you happen to notice something wrong with your account (emails that do not arrive / leave, documents that are not updated, problems with synchronizing contacts, etc.), it costs to visit the iCloud support page to see if any of these functions is down. Recently Apple gave it a makeover, making it much more complete.