One of the most frustrating things about the number of mobile devices flooding the enterprise today is the difficulty in keeping information consistent across all of them. Apple’s iCloud service can solve that problem for small businesses, and it’s fairly simple to set up.
Warne says users can still use a work Exchange server or a webmail service like Gmail or Hotmail to receive email across all your devices. But using one of Apple’s MobileMe accounts — that gives you the extra advantage of being able to access mail via iCloud.com.
There’s a caveat — iCloud doesn’t have a disk or folder on your computer like Dropbox or Apple’s previous MobileMe. Instead, applications have to specifically support iCloud. Currently, the main apps that do are Apple’s iWork office suite. While you can use a work Exchange server to push mail to your devices, you won’t be able to access Microsoft Office documents, spreadsheets and the like, because Microsoft runs a competing service called Microsoft Document Connection, Warne said.
How to Set Up Apple iCloud easily
First, you’ll need to install the iOS 5 software update on your iPhone, iPad or even your iPod Touch. Plug your “iDevice” into your computer with the white USB cable that came with it.
Open iTunes, and it should prompt you to install the update. If it doesn’t, click ‘iPhone’ (or iPad/iPod) in the left column of iTunes and then “check for updates” in the main part of the iTunes window.
It’s a large update and will take quite a while to install onto the phone, as it has to back up the contents of the phone, do a clean install of iOS 5, activate the phone with Apple, and then restore the contents of the phone. Once that’s done, simply follow the prompts. If you don’t have an Apple ID, you’ll need to create one.
Those are the basics of set up; Apple released its own guide to setting up iCloud, as Cnet.com’s Lance Whitney reported here, with more detailed instructions and screen shots.
Why use the iCloud?
The most important aspect of iCloud for business users is the ability to not just sync data, but to back up information in the event of a lost, stolen or damaged device, Erik Eckel, managing partner of IT consulting firm Louisville Geek, said in an article for ZDNet Asia. With synchronization functionality built directly within apps, it’s simple for users to automatically back up data, files, device settings and more via Wi-Fi.
A lost or broken iPhone or tablet used to result in the loss of device settings, home screen organization and text and MMS messages forever, said Eckel. But with iCloud, backup of that information (as well as apps, photos, videos, purchased music, books and more) is done automatically. Recovery, for iTunes account holders, improves dramatically as a result, he said.
Apple will provide users with 5GB of storage space free, and purchased music, apps, books, Photo Stream data and even TV shows won’t count against the 5GB limit. Eckel warns, however, that many business users will find themselves requiring additional storage space.
While priced reasonably, additional storage costs could add up, especially if several users each require expanded storage limits. According to Apple, 10GB of additional space runs $20 a year, with 20GB running $40 and 50GB costing $100.