iCloud: Apple’s Free and Easy Wireless Service

Apple’s iCloud service is more than just a wireless hard drive in the sky. Rather, iCloud is a complete wireless storage and data synchronization solution. In a nutshell, iCloud stores and manages your digital stuff — your music, photos, contacts, events, and more — keeping everything updated on all your computers and i-devices automatically with no physical (wired) connection or action on your part.

Like so many things Apple makes, iCloud just works.

iCloud “pushes” information such as e-mail, calendars, contacts, reminders, and bookmarks to and from your computer — and to and from your iPad and other i-devices sporting iOS 5 or later — and then keeps those items updated on all devices wirelessly, without human intervention. It also includes non-synchronizing options, such as Photo Stream, e-mail, Find My iPad, Find My Friends, and 5GB of online storage.

Your free iCloud account includes 5GB of free storage, which is all many (if not most) users will need. If you find yourself needing more storage, 10-, 20-, and 50-gigabyte upgrades are available for $20, $40, and $100 a year, respectively.

A nice touch is that music, apps, books, periodicals, movies, and TV shows purchased from the iTunes Store, as well as photos in your Photo Stream, don’t count against your 5GB of free storage. And if you subscribe to iTunes Match, even tracks you’ve ripped yourself or acquired from other sources don’t count against your 5GB of free storage.

You’ll find that the things that do count against your storage space — such as mail, documents, photos taken with your iPad camera, account information, settings, and other app data — don’t use much space. So that free 5GB is all many users require.

If you want to have your e-mail, calendars, contacts, and bookmarks synchronized automatically and wirelessly, here’s how to enable iCloud syncing on your iPad:

  1. Tap Settings on your Home screen.

  2. Tap iCloud in the list of settings on the left.

  3. Provide your Apple ID and password.

  4. Sign in.

Now you can tap any of the individual On/Off switches to enable or disable iCloud sync for the following:

  • Mail

  • Contacts

  • Calendars

  • Reminders

  • Bookmarks

  • Notes

  • Passbook

  • Photos

  • Documents & Data

  • Find My iPad

Note that even though iCloud lets you stream or download movies, TV shows, songs, podcasts, or other media files from the iTunes Store, if you don’t have a speedy Internet connection, you may not be able to enjoy them because they will stutter or stall.

Tap Storage & Backup near the bottom of the screen to manage your iCloud storage, enable or disable iCloud backups, upgrade your storage plan, or initiate a backup to iCloud right now.