If you’re a Mac, iPhone, or iPad user, chances are, you’re already familiar with Apple iCloud. But what you may not realize is the true capacity the cloud service possesses to enable collaboration, protect against data loss, preserve system settings and configurations, and permit file access from a variety of authorized devices. Adopt these recommendations to make the most of Apple iCloud.

SEE: Top 20 Apple keyboard shortcuts for business users (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

1: Store files in iCloud Drive

You can back up photos and videos automatically to iCloud. Using a Mac or iOS device, just open iCloud from System Preferences or the Settings screen and ensure Photos is selected. Everything from Mail, Contacts and Calendars to Reminders, Notes, and more can be independently selected for iCloud backup (Figure A), with options varying depending upon whether you’re using iOS or macOS.

Figure A

But iCloud Drive offers the ability to store files of all types, including documents, spreadsheets, presentations, TextEdit files and PDF and Preview files, as well as files created by third-party programs. Just set applications to save to iCloud Drive by default or select iCloud Drive when saving new files.

The difference between storing a file on your hard drive and saving the same file within iCloud Drive is the iCloud Drive option also backs up a copy to your cloud account. Two benefits immediately arise: One, you can access, review, and edit the file from another authorized device; two, if the equipment you used to create or update the file becomes lost or stolen or suffer corruption or hardware failure, a copy should still reside in the cloud.

iCloud Drive settings offer additional customization, too, within macOS. From System Preferences, click iCloud, and then click the Options button that appears with iCloud Drive (Figure B).

Figure B

Checking the Desktops & Documents Folders box (Figure C) automatically backs up the contents of those locations to the iCloud account. Other apps you can select for iCloud integration include Automator, Preview, Script Editor, iMovie, Maps, and System Preferences.

Figure C

iCloud Drive files are subsequently available using iOS’ Files app, macOS’ Finder, and iCloud.com. iCloud Drive is also compatible with Windows PC’s File Explorer.

2: Collaborate more easily

Sharing files with other authorized users, and collaborating in real time when producing documents, notes, spreadsheets, and presentations, is simplified using iCloud–just send the user with whom you wish to collaborate a private link from within the corresponding compatible file.

Pages, Notes, Numbers, and Keynote permit viewing edits in real time via live updates. This way, collaborators can always be on the same page (pun intended) without having to resort to clunkier methods, such as AirDropping, emailing, messaging, or leveraging a third-party cloud service, which don’t always synchronize edits.

SEE: Cloud computing policy (Tech Pro Research)

To collaborate with others, click Share and select Collaborate With Others when working within a Pages document, a Numbers spreadsheet, or a Keynote presentation. Specify the method you wish to use to send the user the link–Mail, Messages, copying the link to the clipboard, and AirDrop are among default options–then specify who can access the file and the permissions you wish to apply. For example, you can specify only people you invite can access the file or anyone possessing the link, and you can permit others with those permissions to only view the file, or you can permit them to make changes using the provided drop-down menus.

3: Back up iOS devices

Not only information, but settings, apps, device configuration, and more can be backed up using iCloud; thus, replacing your old iPad or iPhone needn’t be a painful, complex process. If you back up the old device to iCloud Backup, the service records application data, Apple Watch backups, device settings, HomeKit configuration, home screen and app organization, Messages, the Apple service purchase history, and more. As a result, the process of setting up a new device has gone from requiring several hours, in many cases, to just minutes.

4: Leverage two-factor authentication

If you’re going to trust your data to the cloud, secure it. While no platform is foolproof, even multifactor-protected systems, implementing such security is a best practice to adopt for all compatible applications and systems. Check out my TechRepublic article How to securely manage an Apple ID to best protect business information for guidance on securing your account.

SEE: How to set up two-factor authentication for your favorite platforms and services (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

5: Store away

Apple storage is reasonably priced. Apple includes 5 GB for free. 50 GB of storage, Apple’s most popular option, costs less than a dollar a month (just $0.99). A 200 GB plan runs just $2.99 monthly, while a terabyte sets you back $9.99/month. The smoothness of iCloud’s integration within iOS and macOS, combined with the low storage cost, make better leveraging iCloud in 2019 a no brainer.