With the use of cloud-based media skyrocketing, it was only a matter of time before Apple claimed its spot among the small but growing market of cloud services. iCloud is Apple’s commendable attempt to unify its wildly popular product lines with a seamless, integrated cloud solution. The service nabs our TopTenREVIEWS Gold Award for its intuitive ease of use, file support and syncing functionality, which wirelessly pushes your stored files to all of your devices automatically. iCloud may not make much sense to use if you aren’t already on Apple’s system, but for those who are, this cloud service is a winner.
Similar to all the other cloud service providers we reviewed, iCloud functions as your personal hard drive in the cloud, storing your documents, music, photos and more. Any file you create, upload or change on one computer or device is automatically synced to the rest of your devices. This is in stark contrast to other cloud services that simply allow you to access your files through the cloud. With iCloud, you’ll be able to access any of your files whether you are connected to the internet or not. The service also provides an integrated email client, address book and calendar, which you can likewise keep synced across all your iCloud-compatible devices.
While iCloud can store and sync nearly any type of file, this versatility isn’t without a caveat. To truly store documents and data files in iCloud, you must purchase Apple’s iWork apps: Keynote, Pages and Numbers. These apps allow you to create spreadsheets, word docs and presentations, while iCloud keeps these files up-to-date on your devices and the web. The only workaround to this is to store files in your email account; you attach a document to an email and either send it to yourself or save it as a draft. However, this attachment technique isn’t very convenient and keeping track of multiple documents this way is far from simple. If iCloud is your service of choice, the best option is to simply purchase the iWork apps. The cost of the apps won’t break the bank, but the fact that you have to spend extra to make iCloud fully functional may rankle a few users.
Where iCloud excels is media. Apple has largely cornered the digital media market with iTunes, so it comes as no surprise that iCloud was designed to seamlessly integrate with the media player. With the cloud service, any new music, movies or TV shows you purchase through iTunes are automatically and wirelessly pushed to all your devices. This is especially notable because it eradicates Apple’s cumbersome cord-reliant process of uploading media to each of your devices. However, you’ll still have to store the songs on your devices in order to play them. In fact, the majority of the files you store through iCloud are stored on your devices and simply transmitted through the cloud.
While you can view, edit and stream files using iCloud, file sharing is a different story. The cloud service is tailored more for sharing with oneself rather than others. Subsequently, iCloud isn’t a good option if collaboration or file sharing is a priority.
Naturally, access to iCloud primarily falls within the realms of the Apple ecosystem; the cloud service is compatible with the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, and will be with any future iOS device. You can also sync a Mac with iCloud, and in a most surprising compromise, a Windows-based PC as well. Additionally, you can access the web interface of your iCloud account from any web browser.
Still, iCloud remains at the bottom of the pack with its limited mobile access. You can’t log in via a mobile browser and the service is not compatible with competing mobile devices, such as Android and Blackberry.
When it comes to ease of use, iCloud easily outpaces the competition. It’s not so much that the other cloud services we reviewed are difficult to use (they aren’t), it’s merely that iCloud has done it the simplest. All of your files are in one place and it doesn’t require any hands-on management; you simply download or save a file once and it is instantly available on all of your devices. The service is intuitive and easy to navigate, and even those timid about using cloud services will find this one accessible and remarkably uncomplicated. Furthermore, iCloud, like all of Apple’s products, is sleek, stylish and sophisticated.
As one of the most well-known technology companies in the world, Apple continually scores high marks in customer satisfaction, providing comprehensive tech support for all of its products and services. iCloud is no exception, supplemented with useful online resources and direct technical support. If you want to learn more about the service, peruse the iCloud support center, where you’ll find answers to your questions about using iCloud. For troubleshooting assistance, you can contact Apple directly via toll-free telephone or email, or participate on threads in the iCloud customer communities.
As expected, the cloud service works beautifully and seamlessly within the Apple ecosystem. It’s sleek, robust and extremely user-friendly. iCloud is a must if you are a consumer or small business already using Apple products; you’ll be able to access all your digital files and media anytime and from any one of your Apple devices without having to manually sync them.
iCloud automatically and wirelessly syncs your data to all your devices whenever you add, create or change a file.
Access to the service is limited to web browsers and Apple products.
iCloud is hands-down the best cloud service if you’re already a part of Apple’s tight ecosystem.