Biggest requirement for setting up iCloud: Time

Many Mac and iOS users have eagerly been awaiting the launch of iCloud. Now that it's here, be prepared to set aside a good chunk of your time.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

iCloud could revolutionize cloud computing for the average consumer with Mac products (or at least be a step up from Mobile Me), but it's going to take awhile to get there.

And when I mean it's going to take awhile, I'm referring to just how long it takes for one user to set up iCloud.

Based on my personal experience and Apple gadgets, it took several hours over the course of a few days -- mainly because I just didn't want to sit around anymore staring at screens and basically doing the same commands and actions over and over again.

To clarify, I'll start with the three iCloud-ready products at my disposal:

  • MacBook Pro (running Lion from when it was first released in July)
  • iPhone 4
  • iPad 2

Initially, it seems like getting into iCloud is easy. Creating an account surely is as it is just tied to an iTunes account, which has to already exist to operate one of these products. From here, I could access the web portal (www.icloud.com), but upon entering, it's obvious that there isn't much there if you don't have anything synced and uploaded already.

I already knew that iOS 5 is a requirement for mobile devices to take advantage of iCloud. That's a given.

But the real time suck started with updating my MacBook Pro software because iCloud requires Lion 10.7.2. And it's no small upgrade either. Including the download and restart times, it took at least 30 minutes to get over that hurdle.

When that was done, it came time to create another account: an email address using Me.com. Then I had to check off which applications I wanted to sync with iCloud. This will likely vary by the user, but there are at least two areas where you should be wary here: calendars and photos.

The problem with syncing calendars comes into play if you use Google Calendars -- and likely other calendars you sync using Exchange as well. A number of iCloud/Google Calendar users have unfortunately run into a problem in which iCloud deleted everything from Google. Google has since posted the following update, but it might not be a bad idea to export a backup from Google Calendars to your desktop first:

We're aware that setting up iCloud sync may cause events to be deleted from Google Calendar if you're already syncing your information between iCal and Google Calendar. In response we've stopped deleting the information until this issue is fixed. Until further notice, setting up iCloud sync or deleting an event in iCal will not remove the event in Google Calendar. We've contacted Apple and we are actively working on this. We're also attempting to restore the deleted events. Thanks for bringing this to our attention, we'll keep you posted.

Using the same export idea, there have been other tips posted on getting around this issue to move Google Calendars to iCloud.

As for the Photos, beware that this could consume a huge amount of the free 5GB allotment. Here in lies yet another software update -- and we haven't even gotten to upgrading to iOS 5 yet. iCloud requires Aperture 3.2 and/or iPhoto 9.2. If you upgraded to iLife '11 last fall, you can get this update using the usual Software Update tool. iLife '11 updates are also available via the Mac App Store.

GottaBeMobile posted a handy guide on operating iCloud's Photo Stream using iPhoto, and it would be wise to heed the advice on automatic uploads, especially if you have a lot of high-res snapshots.

If you own multiple Mac and iOS gadgets, you'll quickly realize that 5GB really isn't much, depending on how you plan to utilize iCloud. If you're only interested in using it for Me.com email, syncing your calendars and contacts, etc., then 5GB will be plenty. But if you plan on using it as a backup system for your iOS devices, start thinking about paying for more storage space.

Moving on to iOS 5, this will also consume a huge amount of time, especially if you have more than one iOS device (i.e. iPhone, iPad or iPod touch). At least in this case, you can keep working on your computer while the software is downloading and installing on your mobile gadget. But just don't do this at a time when you're expecting an important call on your iPhone. It also takes approximately 30 minutes to download and install the software to each device.

From here, you'll also be prompted as soon as the device turns on with iOS 5 for the first time to edit your basic iCloud settings. You'll also see some of the new features taking up space on your mobile home screens (i.e. Reminders, Newsstand, etc.), but let's move on to adjusting more iCloud settings.

iCloud enables the user to either back up basic settings (i.e. calendars, contacts) as well as data from mobile apps. This became a huge hassle (and even more time consuming) as I had to deal with which apps I wanted to back up because I have over 60 apps on each device.

Under Storage & Backup, if I chose to back up the device using iCloud (rather than connecting it to my computer and then using iTunes), the data transfer would be at well over 5GB, and that's just the iPad. Forget about backing up my iPhone then. I didn't like that option, so the alternative (besides going the corded route) is to turn off the back up setting for each individual app except for the handful I cared about. After doing this on the iPad, I had to take a break before going back to doing this on the iPhone.

At the end of all of this, I'm sure (or at least desperately hope) that iCloud will prove to be a useful tool in keeping all of my Apple gadgets connected wirelessly. But I'll never forget how long it took just to get over the set-up process.


Editorial standards