The iCloud storage setup gave way to the new iCloud Drive, with the launch of iOS 8 and OS X 10.10. It offers greater opportunities to share and sync documents between their Macs and Apple handheld devices. In what follows, we have highlighted some topics of interest related to iCloud Drive.
Unveiled at the Worldwide Developers’ Conference in 2014, iCloud Drive has been tipped by many software developers and analysts as Apple’s answer to Google Drive. Contrary to what initial rumors were though, the new cloud storage system is NOT a substitute of Dropbox. iCloud Drive was made available to users with the release of iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite (10.10) in October, and it has been given the thumbs-up by researchers and app developers worldwide. We will here familiarize you with some basic features and functionalities of iCloud Drive:
- Activating iCloud Drive – This one is a no-brainer – before you check out its features, you need to enable iCloud Drive first. Doing so is easy enough. On your Mac, go to System Preferences, select the iCloud icon, and check the box beside iCloud Drive (it might be checked by default too). Once that is done, you can start selecting the apps that are to be stored on the cloud.
- Selecting a iCloud Drive storage plan – You can take your pick from 5 alternative storage plan options that Apple offers for its all-new cloud storage system. According to Mac and iPhone app developers, people who do not use iCloud on a regular basis can very well do with the basic 5GB storage option (which is free). Depending on the formats of the files to be stored and whether other cloud storage services (Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.) are being used, you can also choose from the 20GB (Monthly $0.99), 200GB (Monthly $3.99), 500GB (Monthly $9.99) and 1TB (Monthly $19.99) options. Your choice should be such that you never run out of storage space due to heavy backups.
- Compatibility features required for using iCloud Drive – Apple iCloud Drive can be used to sync data between Mac systems, and upgraded iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch devices. Prior to upgrading to the new iCloud, all mobile devices have to be upgraded to the iOS 8 platform (of course, you need not worry about that if you are using iPhone 6/6 Plus), while the Mac system has to be running on OS X Yosemite. Mobile app developers have confirmed that iCloud Drive can be used to store select iWork apps as well. The minimum browser requirements for using this cloud service are Chrome 28, Firefox 22, and Safari 6.
- What can you do with iCloud Drive? – Syncing and saving files across Apple devices are not the only two services of iCloud Drive. After activating it, you can use the new iCloud to edit, access and import documents directly (you would need compatible apps for doing so). Early adopters had made the mistake of activating iCloud Drive right after the launch of iOS 8, before OS X Yosemite was released. They had, understandably, not been able to sync files between their computers and mobile devices. In essence, iCloud Drive is a virtual external hard drive.
- Viewing files stored in iCloud Drive – On OS X 10.10-powered Mac systems, files saved in iCloud Drive can be accessed directly via the iCloud.com website. Alternatively, iCloud Drive can be viewed from the sidebar of your Mac system’s sidebar. Files can be created directly, and folders can be removed from Drive. All the folders/files are displayed in an organized manner – based on the app they have been created from (a far cry from the ‘Documents & Data’ setup of the erstwhile iCloud). Although Apple app development services have come a long way, there is still no dedicated iCloud Drive app for iOS 8 devices. A third-party app (from the App Store) has to be used to use Drive and access the files stored in it. The ‘storage provider’ point on iOS 8 devices is directly plugged into by iCloud Drive.
- File types that can be stored in iCloud Drive – There are no restrictions as such regarding the file formats that can be stored/synced in iCloud Drive. However, experts in cloud-sharing and app development advise users about two things. Firstly, files uploaded to iCloud Drive need to be less than 15 GB in size. Secondly, users have to make sure that they are not running out of overall storage space (this is where the selection of the right cloud storage plan is of essence). Provided these conditions are fulfilled, any type of file can be uploaded on the new iCloud Drive – right from presentations and projects, to professional documents and files.
- The ‘Look Me Up By Email’ feature of iCloud Drive – Apple offers users the opportunity to let other users find you (by your unique Apple ID/email) and share with/get from you documents via Drive. Once this lookup option is tapped, a set of iPhone apps are displayed – through which users can start connecting with other users of the new Apple Drive. The ‘look me up by email’ feature can be used directly via iCloud.com as well.
- What is the iCloud Drive storage space used for? – Users are often concerned about the things that are present in iCloud Drive by default (those who go with the free 5GB storage option are particularly concerned about it). Professional cloud storage experts and mobile app analysts have explained that the storage space in the new Apple Drive contains iCloud Photo Library beta, iCloud Mail, iCloud Backup, the files stored in the Drive, and the apps that are used to activate/avail iCloud Drive services. The iOS apps, music and books are not counted within the free storage. My Photo Stream does not occupy space within the Drive either.
- Photos on iCloud Drive – The iCloud Photo Library was made available by Apple alongside the release of the (rather troublesome) iOS 8.1 upgrade. There was some initial confusion regarding how the Library was to be used – which were soon cleared up by tutorials and guidelines in online iPhone app development communities. All that you need to do is go to ‘Settings → Photos & Camera’, and toggle the ‘iCloud Photo Library beta’ tab to ‘On’. While the presence of the iOS photos app makes accessing the Library a breeze on mobile devices, accessing it on Mac systems is slightly more problematic. Things are expected to change after the arrival of the OS X Photos application later this year.
- Using iCloud Drive on Windows systems – iCloud Drive becoming available on Windows systems before iMacs was a bit of a surprise. All systems running on Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 can use the Drive – thanks to the ‘iCloud for Windows 4.0’ resources. There are many people who work simultaneously on Windows and Mac computers, and iOS devices – and this feature comes in mighty useful for them.
- Customized folder setup on iCloud Drive – After you have activated iCloud Drive on your Mac system, there should be a corresponding icon (of the same name) on the desktop. Unlike the earlier iCloud system, file and folder arrangement is a lot more systematic and organized on iCloud Drive. For instance, there is a Quick Time Player folder that can only store files which can actually be played by Quick Time Player. Since files are categorized in folders according to their types, risks of data losses are minimal. The simple ‘drag-&drop’ feature can be used to create any number of personalized files and folders in iCloud Drive. For easy access, app developers recommend saving documents in the ‘Pages’ folder.
- Compatible apps with iCloud Drive – Pages, Keynote, Byword, Numbers – all the iWork applications are provided with built-in iCloud Drive integration feature. iOS app developers also have the CloudKit (set of APIs for iCloud) to use the applications that actually help in storing data on the Drive. Every file and app saved in the new iCloud can be accessed directly by users.On Yosemite systems, creating apps inside the compatible applications is also extremely easy.
- Viewing photos on iCloud Drive – Earlier on, we had highlighted how the iCloud Photo Library can be enabled and images can be stored on them. To view the saved photos on your iOS device, you only have to tap the ‘Photos’ app. All the images will be synced inside it. If you wish to see the images on your Mac, you will need to download and install the iPhoto application (from the Mac App Store). Once that’s done, activate iPhoto and turn on the iCloud integration feature. In ‘Shared’, there will be a iCloud option. Click on that, and your photos will become viewable.
- Storage space management in iCloud Drive – Getting rid of old backups and tweaking the backup settings of iCloud Drive (read: deleting unnecessary data/files) is essential to make optimal use of the available storage space. Instead of storing all your photos in Drive, mobile app development experts advise people to use other apps, like Flickr, Cloud Drive and Google Plus. The storage space status of iCloud Drive should be regularly checked (iCloud → Storage & Backup → Manage Storage). In addition, remember that photos on iCloud remain on the servers of Apple for a maximum period of 30 days.
- How does iCloud Drive stack up against its competitors? – In terms of free storage options, Microsoft OneDrive (15 GB), Google Drive (15 GB) and Box (10 GB) are ahead of Apple’s iCloud Drive. Dropbox and Box also have unlimited storage plans (@ $15/user) while iCloud Drive maxes out at 1TB. Some of the rival cloud storage tools have more number of storage options as well. However, iCloud Drive comes up aces in terms of security and reliability. There are hardly any chances of a rehash of the infamous celebrity iCloud hack (which happened last August).
To keep files secure and in sync on the cloud network, Apple’s iCloud Drive is a powerful tool. Although the storage options could have been better (e.g., users would have loved to have the 20GB storage for free too), Drive is great for people who work on their Macs and iOS devices in tandem. Over the next few months, Apple might make iCloud Drive even more user-friendly, so that it starts comparing favorably with its major rivals.
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