This definition is part of our Essential Guide: The ultimate guide to cloud-based file sharing
Contributor(s): Jeremy Stanley

iCloud is an Apple email, storage and data synchronization subscription service that provides 5GB of storage for free.

iCloud allows subscribers to save their address book, calendar, notes, Safari bookmarks and photos on Apple's servers -- changes and additions to one Apple device can be pushed to the subscriber's other registered Apple devices. The service, which requires an Apple ID, can be enabled on Macs running OS X 10.7 (codename Lion) and iOS devices running version 5.0. 

Other features of iCloud include:

  • A free "" email address.
  • "Find my iPhone," which lets users opt-in to geo-locate, lock and remote wipe their iPhone, Mac or iPad if it is lost or stolen.
  • Photo Stream: a service that can automatically upload and store photos in a device's camera roll for access from another device.
  • Device backups : iPhones and iPads can be automatically backed up to the iCloud mobile service daily when the screen is locked and the device is connected to Wi-Fi and a power source. Backups can also be done manually.
  • Downloads: Purchases from the iTunes store, the iBookstore and the App Store can be saved in a digital locker and can be downloaded to the user's other Apple devices automatically or manually.
  • Saved settings:  Purchases from the App Store can store settings and data in iCloud so users don't have to re-enter information on multiple devices.

iCloud, which is offered as a freemium service from Apple, also offers paid storage plans. Customers can purchase 15 GB of storage for a $20 per year subscription fee. 25 GB of storage costs $40 per year and 55GB of storage costs $100 per year. 

This was first published in February 2012

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