What is iCloud? Apple’s cloud storage explained

iCloud, the cloud storage offered by Apple, comes preinstalled on every Apple device and offers 5 GB of free storage space. You can use it to automatically back up your data and synchronise it on your other Apple devices.

How does iCloud work?

If you own a Mac, iPhone or any other Apple device, you can use iCloud automatically. It’s a cloud storage introduced by Apple in 2012. You can store various types of data on the Apple cloud, synchronise it with your other Apple device and create a Mac backup.

iCloud has access to various Apple services, and data is automatically backed up and synchronised at regular intervals. This data can be:

  • Photos and videos
  • Emails
  • Passwords and login data
  • Contacts
  • Calendar entries
  • Notes
  • Reminders
  • Messages
  • Bookmarks from the Safari browser
  • Music, videos, and e-books from iTunes or iBooks
  • App purchases from the App Store

After the data is synchronised, not only can you access the data from all your Apple devices, but you can also share them with others with an iCloud account. iCloud also offers collaboration possibilities to work together on documents from services like Pages, Numbers or Keynote.

iCloud requirements

There is only one requirement to use iCloud as an Apple user: An Apple ID. It’s usually created during the first setup of an Apple device and can then be used for all other devices as well.

In case you haven’t set up your Apple ID yet, you can also do this quickly and easily via the iCloud website. Just go to iCloud.com, click ‘Sign in’ and then ‘Create Apple ID’. Enter your personal information and your email, choose a password and then answer some security questions. Now you can log into iCloud with your new Apple ID and specify which apps should be connected to iCloud.

You can also use iCloud without a Mac or iPhone. You can access iCloud through the web app or with the ‘iCloud for Windows’ app, which enables you to use the service on a Windows PC. However, in order to do this, you must have already set up iCloud on an Apple device. In another article we’re explaining how to use iCloud for Windows 10.

How to set up iCloud

In your iCloud account settings you can specify which data should be synchronised in the cloud and you can always change. If you have a Mac, you can for example follow the following steps:

  • Open ‘System Preferences’ via the Apple menu.
  • Choose ‘Apple ID’ and log in if necessary.
  • Click on ‘iCloud’ to set up or adjust the settings.

In the user interface, you will see all the available iCloud services on the right side. You can enable or disable them individually by checking or unchecking the corresponding box. The changes you make in iCloud are visible on all other Apple devices you are logged in on using your Apple ID.

iCloud offers 5 GB free storage space and individually adjustable data storage options.

In addition, you can define which data should be stored on which device. For example, if you want to store your contacts on your Mac and iPhone but not on your iPad, then uncheck ‘Contacts’ in the iCloud settings of your iPad.

To specify which services are connected to iCloud on your iPhone, just find the corresponding settings under the ‘Apple ID’ section.


According to Apple, no data from security features like face and object recognition is stored in iCloud. This type of sensitive information is only processed locally on your Apple device and not uploaded to the cloud.

How safe is my data in iCloud?

Apple stores your data in secure data centres and encrypts it with at least 128-bit AES encryption during transfer. Additionally, end-to-end encryption is used with particularly sensitive data, such as that of the iCloud keychain, where you manage your usernames and passwords.

However, this secure two-factor authentication (2FA) is not applied automatically. You have to enable it first. Apple could also theoretically access data that is not 2FA encrypted and pass it on to third parties. However, as a private user there’s really no need to worry because Apple’s security standards for the iCloud are high.


If you want to store your data more securely than in a cloud, store it with IONOS MyDefender for optimal protection.

How much storage space does iCloud offer?

When you sign up for iCloud you’ll automatically receive 5 GB storage space for free. If your iCloud storage is full, no more data will be loaded into it. You can solve this problem by freeing up space by deleting photos from your iCloud.

If you need more space, you can also upgrade to the paid subscription model of iCloud+. Apple offers three different pricing models depending on the storage space size:

  • 50 GB of storage for £0.79/month
  • 200 GB of storage for £2.49/month
  • 2 TB of storage for £6.99/month

All three subscription models can be shared with up to five people.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of iCloud?

With iCloud, Apple users can back up and synchronise their files reliably and fully automatically. You can access all your files from different Apple devices and share them with others quickly and easily. Your files are always up to date, as you don’t need to manually synchronise them between devices. In addition, as iCloud comes automatically with all Apple devices, you don’t need to install any additional cloud software.

One of iCloud’s disadvantages is that the files created by its services require a lot of storage space. The free storage space is quickly used up if you like to take a good number of videos and photos. And then you’ll need to start either deleting your files or paying for additional space. Furthermore, you’ll always have to be connected to the internet to access iCloud.

Do I need to use iCloud?

As an Apple user, you don’t necessarily have to rely on iCloud. Of course, you can also use another cloud storage to back up your files. You can always log out of iCloud, which will remove all stored data from your device, but keep it in the cloud. This way you can still access your files via the web app or via another device that is logged into iCloud.

You can also deactivate the function that automatically stores your data on iCloud. However, it’s not possible to disconnect iCloud from your Apple ID. Logging out of your Apple ID to deactivate iCloud will not work as the service will reactivate the next time you log in. Therefore, you can only deactivate specific iCloud functions if you are logged in with your Apple ID.

To do this, simply remove the checkmarks by each app in the user interface. If you have changed your Apple ID or want to switch to an iCloud alternative, you should delete your iCloud account.

What are some iCloud alternatives for Apple users?

There are many popular iCloud alternatives on the market, such as:

  • Microsoft OneDrive
  • HiDrive cloud storage
  • Google Drive
  • pCloud
  • Your Secure Cloud

The biggest difference between these services is how much free data storage they offer. For example, Google Drive offers 15 GB of free storage, which is three times as much as iCloud. The storage size can also be increased for an additional fee. Finding an alternative to iCloud is not difficult, but figuring out which one of them is best for you may take a little bit more time. Reading through cloud storage comparisons can help you to find the right alternative.


If you want to ensure that your data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, the iCloud alternative IONOS HiDrive cloud storage is a highly secure and affordable option.

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