iCloud is commonly thought of as a cloud-based synchronisation service for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Macs and even PCs. In this sense, your mobile devices can automatically be backed up to your Mac or PC. However, it also provides a useful online backup facility for users of iPhone, iPad or iPad and you can make use of this without relying on a Mac or PC for your backup storage.
The first 5GB of online storage is free and if you want more capacity you can pay an annual subscription of £14 for an extra 10GB, £28 for 20GB or £70 for the maximum of 50GB. If you haven’t already signed up to iCloud, you should be aware that your mobile devices must be running iOS 5.x and Macs require Mac OS X Lion version 10.7.2 or later.
iCloud automatically backs up certain types of data on your mobile device so long as backup is enabled and it’s connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi. You can also choose to backup manually at a time of your choosing. Your free or paid-for storage can be used to backup photos, device settings, app data, email, contacts, messages and ringtones plus you have unlimited online storage for apps and media purchased from the iTunes store, App Store or iBookstore.
Don't forget that you can use iTunes to back up everything on your device for free, no matter how much data is involved. The disadvantage of this method, of course, is that you could still lose the backup if your hard disk fails.
We’ve looked at how to backup locally, we’ve considered options for backing up online, and we’ve explained the pros and cons of the two approaches. However, we’ve stopped short of telling you which method and service to use as everyone's requirements are different. You might have 2GB to back up or you might have 2TB.
Using an online service is perfect for small amounts of data, but impractical (and possibly too expensive) for terabytes when you're limited to a slow broadband upload speed.
Most people will benefit from backing up both locally and online. This doesn’t mean that you’ll necessarily back up everything in both ways. Documents, for example, which are critical in both their importance and also need to be accessed quickly, should be backed up online. Photos and videos can be archived on a hard disk or NAS, and this option is likely to be much cheaper and faster than online storage.
In making your decisions, remember that the online approach takes away concerns of media obsolescence and, if you choose a reputable company with ISO 27001 accreditation, the security of your data should be assured. On the other hand, there are no guarantees that your service provider will stay in business for the long term and, in this respect, being able to hold a backup in your hand provides a level of confidence.
If you’ve been reluctant to give backup the attention it deserves, we hope we've demonstrated that it needn't be as time-consuming and expensive as you might have feared. And remember, that effort will be well worth it the moment that your hard disk fails, you suffer a virus attack, lose your laptop or someone steals your pride and joy.