Apple’s iCloud is, as many may expect, a tale of two cities. For businesses already using Apple hardware and software, iCloud is a built-in cloud storage solution that integrates seamlessly with most iOS, iPadOS and macOS applications.
However, for businesses using Android, Windows 10, or another operating system, iCloud is a cumbersome service that causes headaches at every turn and simply doesn’t compete against more agile cloud storage platforms such as Microsoft’s OneDrive, Google’s Drive, or Dropbox.
In our review of Apple iCloud, we consider the strengths of the platform, particularly when used in tandem with Apple devices. However, we also examine the weaknesses of iCloud and its poor compatibility with non-iOS or macOS devices. After reading our review, you will be better equipped to choose a cloud storage solution that is ideal for your business’ individual needs.
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Apple iCloud is designed to operate most seamlessly on Apple iOS and macOS devices. There is no standalone iCloud app on these devices, as the service is built directly into the software. This makes setting up and managing iCloud hassle-free on Apple devices. Without any action by the user, documents, photos, or any other type of file are automatically uploaded to the iCloud Drive and become available across all the user’s professional and personal apple devices.
However, a noticeably unintuitive aspect of iCloud is the distinction between iCloud and iCloud Drive. Whereas iCloud is the overarching cloud storage platform and contains data from numerous Apple applications such as iCal, Find Friends, and Photos, iCloud Drive is an open-format folder within the broader iCloud.
When the user is on an Apple device, data is automatically uploaded to the corresponding iCloud application. iCloud Drive, on the other hand, supports the storage of all file formats, and users can freely organize folders and documents.
What this means is that for businesses using Apple devices, different types of data will be automatically stored in different areas of iCloud. Photos are accessed through the Photos app, and Keynote presentations are accessed through the Keynote app.
For businesses not using Apple devices, these extra folders are mostly redundant due to the formatting of documents made on Apple software. For these organizations, iCloud Drive is where all documents and data would be stored.
Apple iCloud is also available as a web-based application, meaning users can access their files from any networked device with a web browser. This makes it easy to access documents from a public computer. We found the web-based application easy to use; however, compatibility is still an issue. The web application will only open Apple-formatted documents; non-compatible files must be downloaded and opened in a second application.
Finally, businesses can download an iCloud application from the Microsoft store. Although the app does not have a particularly pleasing interface, it is quite simple to set up. Once installed, iCloud for Windows can be found in the device’s file explorer window, and can be designated as the default save location for files and documents. These files can subsequently be found online within the iCloud Drive folder of iCloud. They will not be able to be opened, however, if they were not created on Apple software.
Unfortunately, Apple does not offer an iCloud application for Android devices.
Apple iCloud doesn’t offer many notable features, other than seamless integration with the rest of Apple’s devices and software applications. If your business is using Apple devices and software, users will be able to easily share document links via iCloud Drive and collaborate simultaneously with peers on a document. For non-Apple device users, these features are mostly redundant.
Although less pertinent for most businesses, it is also worth mentioning that iCloud’s Photos app is a comprehensive cloud storage solution for images and videos. The Photos app makes it easy to create shared albums amongst coworkers and ensure these photos are available across all their devices.
On the security front, Apple iCloud requires two-factor authentication to log in. This makes data more secure and ensures only those with authorization are permitted to access an organization’s cloud storage.
All iCloud accounts come with 5GB of free storage, which is more than Dropbox’s free offering (2GB), equivalent to Microsoft OneDrive’s, and much less than Google Drive’s (15GB). However, most businesses will require significantly more than any of these free offerings.
Apple iCloud charges monthly prices of $0.99 (50GB), $2.99 (200GB), or $9.99 (2TB). There are no business-specific plans available with Apple iCloud.
iCloud is a perfectly adequate and functional cloud storage solution for businesses that use only or mostly Apple devices and software within their organization. For these businesses, Apple iCloud seamlessly allows sharing and collaboration across multiple Apple devices and user accounts. For these businesses, the compartmentalizing of iCloud into its different components, such as Photos, iCloud Drive, or Find Friends, is actually a strength and makes the platform more user friendly and easy to use.
However, for businesses that do not use only or mostly Apple devices, iCloud will, inevitably, be a frustrating experience as file compatibility will be a constant issue. When using iCloud’s online web browser, non-Apple file formats won’t open and are uneditable. When using iCloud on a Windows or other OS, Apple-formatted files won’t open and are also uneditable.
Unfortunately, these compatibility issues make it hard to recommend Apple iCloud to any business using a mix of Apple and non-Apple hardware and software. If business leaders or employees use any combination of macOS, iOS, Windows 10, Android, or another operating system, a better cloud storage solution lies in another provider such as Microsoft, Google, or Dropbox. With these services, file compatibility would no longer be a defining issue, as Apple devices work well with each.
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