iCloud is a free data service from Apple that offers a variety of features for iPhone and iPad users. Here we’ll take a look at how to set up an iCloud account and take advantage of a useful feature that can help you track down a lost iPad or iPhone.
What is iCloud?
The cloud-computing concept refers to storing your data and files on remote computers and servers, and includes the ability to access this data 24/7 over an internet connection. The main benefit here is that all your PCs, Macs and iOS devices can access the same data, and automatically backup and sync settings, preferences, email, music, web bookmarks, etc. in near real-time. The data is very secure, meaning the the cloud-computing providers go to great lengths to protect the privacy of your data. The storage method is also secure so you don’t have to worry about the system losing or corrupting your files.
iCloud is the name of Apple’s brand of cloud-computing service, and in typical Apple fashion provides a very intuitive and user-friendly interface. Here’s a brief list of the features the free iCloud service provides to iPhone and iPad owners:
- Automatic data backups (eliminating the need to connect to a computer with iTunes to backup)
- Address book contact syncing between devices
- Calendar syncing
- Note syncing
- Mail syncing
- Photo syncing
- Lost device location tracking (Find my iPad)
If you use Apple’s Mail, Web, Address Book or Notes programs on a Mac or PC, iCloud will also sync your data to your desktop applications as well.
Setting up iCloud on iPad
Signing up for an account is very straightforward and takes less than a minute:
- On your iPad, go to Settings, and then scroll down to iCloud. There’s a good chance you signed up for an iCloud account when you first initialized your device, but if not this is the place to do it.
- Sign in with your Apple ID, which is the same username and password you use to purchase apps from the App Store.
And that’s all there is to it. You’ll now see a list of iCloud features, with the ability to toggle each on or off.
Using the ‘Find My iPad’ feature
One of the most useful features included with iCloud is the ability to track a lost or stolen iPad or iPhone from a computer. To test the feature, go to www.icloud.com on a computer or second iOS device, and log in with your iCloud username and password. Next select the ‘Find iPhone’ button (the iPhone button brings up the location service for both iPhone and iPad), and the system will begin locating your device.
The one caveat here is that your iPad must be turned on (standby mode is OK), and be connected to a WiFi or a have cellular data service enabled. If your device cannot be located, you can select an option to have the service send you an email if the device connects to the internet again. There’s also an option in the Find my iPad settings that will automatically send the location of the device to iCloud when the battery is critically low, which could be useful in locating the device if the battery runs out of power during the search.
Once your device is located, you’re presented with a Google map and will see a green dot representing your device’s location. You have several options here. First you can have it play a sound to help you track it down if you know it’s nearby in the house or office. The next option is called Lost Mode, which allows you to type in a phone number. This number will be displayed on the screen of the lost device with instructions to call you. And for the ultimate in security you can remote wipe the device, erasing all your data and apps from the device’s memory.
It’s also worth noting that Apple has a dedicated Find My iPhone app that provides the same tracking functionality directly from an app. This is only useful for those that have 2 iPads, or an iPad or iPhone, but will help you quickly track down a missing device without having to go to the web. You can download the app here: Find My iPhone app.
For more information on iCloud and instructions on setup, check out Apple’s instructions: Setting up Apple iCloud.