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Keep Track of Your iCloud from Your MacBook

Today’s Apple iOS devices, including your MacBook, can all display or play the same media: photos, music, books, TV shows and such. Heck, some iOS devices can even share applications that you install, such as your iPhone and iPod touch. Therefore, it makes sense to effortlessly share all your digital media across these devices, and that’s what iCloud is all about. Apple calls this synchronization pushing.

Take a look at how the pushing process works. Imagine that you’ve just completed a Pages document on your MacBook, but you’re currently traveling on the road, and you need to get the document to your family so that they can edit and print it using your son’s iPad.

Before iCloud, you’d have to attach the document to an e-mail message, or upload it to some type of online storage, and then a family member would have to download and save the document to the iPad before working with it. With iCloud, you simply save the document, and your MacBook automatically pushes the document to the iPad!

Your document appears on the iPad, ready to be opened, edited, and printed. (And on any other iOS devices as well.)

iCloud isn’t limited to just digital media, though. Your MacBook can also automatically synchronize your e-mail, iCal calendars, and Address Book contacts with other iOS5 devices across the Internet, making it much easier to stay in touch (no matter which device you happen to be using at the moment).

Apple also throws in 5GB of free online storage that you can use for all sorts of things: not only digital media files but also documents and anything else that you’d like to place online for safekeeping. In fact, anything you buy through the iTunes Store — music, video and applications — do not count against your 5GB limit.

Need more elbow room than 5GB? Apple is happy to provide 10, 20, or even 50GB of additional storage for an annual subscription fee of $20, $40, or $100 a year, respectively. Click the Manage button on the iCloud pane in System Preferences and then click Buy More Storage.

To join the iCloud revolution, you’ll need an Apple ID, or you can upgrade your existing MobileMe account. It’s important to note, however, that upgrading your MobileMe account to an iCloud account is a one-way street! After you’ve switched to iCloud, you won’t be able to access MobileMe features such as your iDisk or Galleries in the future.

You control all the settings for iCloud from the new iCloud pane in System Preferences. Click the System Preferences icon in the Dock and click the iCloud icon. If you’re not an iCloud member already, you’ll enter your Apple ID or MobileMe account and your password, and System Preferences will guide you through basic iCloud configuration with a number of questions.

Most of the check boxes on the iCloud Preferences pane control whether a particular type of data is pushed between all your iOS devices. However, you can also enable two other features from this pane:

  • Back to My Mac: If you enable Back to My Mac, you’ll be able to remotely control your MacBook from another Mac computer (or vice versa) using Lion’s Screen Sharing feature. You can also transfer files between the two computers. Back to My Mac works over both a broadband Internet connection and a local network.

    Available Mac computers show up in the Shared section of the Finder window sidebar. Note that you must manually turn on Screen Sharing within the System Preferences Sharing pane before you can remotely control another Mac.

  • Find My Mac: Talk about Buck Rogers. . . Imagine locating a lost or stolen MacBook from your iPhone or iPad. Now think about this: With Find My Mac, you can even lock or completely wipe your MacBook’s hard drive remotely, preventing unauthorized use and erasing your private data!

    After you access your MacBook from another iOS device, you can play a sound, send a message to be displayed onscreen, remotely lock the machine, or remotely wipe the drive. Note that after you have locked or wiped the drive, you can’t locate your MacBook again.

To monitor your iCloud storage, click the Manage button at the bottom-right corner of the iCloud Preferences pane. From the sheet that appears, you can see how much space you’re using for document and data storage.

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