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Do I Really Need iCloud?

written by: •edited by: Michael Dougherty•updated: 8/30/2011

Apple's new iOS cloud synchronization service iCloud is available for owners of iPhones and iPads, but do you really need it? More to the point, is there any way that you can opt-out?

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    Do I really need iCloud? One of the top new features in Mac OS X is the iCloud, a new cloud storage system introduced by Apple that replaces the old MobileMe service (which is no longer accepting new subscribers). A more unified collection of services, iCloud allows users to store data in the cloud from devices such as an Apple Mac, an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch and acts as a unified syncing system for emails, contacts and browser favorites, among others.

    With this transfer of data to the cloud comes a risk, however, that of privacy and security. There is every chance that you don’t want your data stored online, and if you did you would probably manage this yourself with a service such as Dropbox. So why would you use iCloud, and what options are available for opting out if you prefer to keep a firm grip on your personal data?

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    What iCloud Offers

    Apple’s iCloud service basically offers data synchronization, but to an extent that is currently unparalleled. Available with the iOS 5 update for iPad and iPhone in mid-2011, iCloud brings synchronization for all connected devices, whether a Mac, an iPad or an iPhone (or even a Windows 7 PC connected to an Apple server).

    If we consider all of the services Apple offers its users – email, contact management, a calendar, music and e-books – then you can see just how useful it will be to be able to access the same data from a single source rather than having to do what we do now, which is synchronize each single device separately.

    The beauty of this is that if you purchase a track through iTunes, the same track will be available on your iPhone and your Mac; if you make an update to a calendar entry, this will be reflected on all iCloud-compatible devices that you own.

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    Why Does Apple Want Me to Use the Cloud?

    Basically, iCloud improves the Apple experience considerably. This is why they want you to use it, because it is just so convenient.

    For instance, you might take a photo on your iPhone. Rather than wait until you get home to synchronize the image you will find that it is automatically synched with iCloud, so when next check your Mac you will find that all new photos are available via iCloud.

    This service offers more than just media syncing, however. ICloud will also synchronize documents that you have been working on, a feature that will allow you to view and edit your work wherever you are!

    Not only is this all impressive, iCloud is also free, and offers 5 GB of storage in addition to the space used for any purchased content (music, books, etc.) and you your photo stream. It’s a generous amount – just like having an invisible 5 GB hard disk drive!

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    Opting Out of iCloud

    Of course, iCloud isn’t for everybody.

    A growing number of services can be found that offer an element of cloud computing, and iCloud is simply the latest of these. While the idea of having data stored remotely might satisfy any disaster recovery concerns, there are also security implications that some users might feel uncomfortable with. There is an element of control about all of this, and keeping your own copies of purchased data might be preferable to syncing via the cloud.

    As a result, you might choose to opt out of using iCloud. So how might you do this?

    It’s actually quite simple. There are two ways that you can avoid using iCloud at this stage; the first is to avoid upgrading to iOS 5. This approach has a downside, however. Updating an iPhone or iPad is a popular past time, something that is looked upon with fevered anticipation for all of the new features that are delivered. You might find that there is some other aspect of iOS 5 that you want to try out, so not updating could be counter-productive.

    Alternatively, you could simply update and not use iCloud. As things stand you can still use the old-fashioned syncing via iTunes on your PC or Mac, so there is no compulsion to start using iCloud’s wireless sync.

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    Advantages and Disadvantages of Opting Out

    If you are trying to decide whether it is worth using iCloud, note that there are some interesting advantages and disadvantages to the service.

    To begin with, it is extremely convenient and offers the ability to instantly copy your data to a factory reset or new iOS device. Most importantly, it means that you need only purchase data once, returning some of the control of your downloaded media to you. Don’t forget also that 5 GB of free storage is a great bonus!

    On the other hand, there is the issue of wireless connectivity for iOS devices and the impact that iCloud might have on your existing data usage plan. While this might also be an issue for desktop computers it is more likely to affect iPhone and iPad owners who connect to the Internet via 3G.

    So as you can see, iCloud is a great service that offers so much, and you don't even have to use it if you don't want to!

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