iCloud – Apple’s latest data access service

iCloud is here! And it’s going to change how we store information.

Well, not without some adjustments to how some of us manage our personal data like calendars, contacts and tasks.

Back in March of this year, I lamented about my data syncing issues with MobileMe. Those same issues plus new ones continue with the introduction of iCloud.

This post will focus on tasks, todo lists, GTD items and now with Lion and iOS 5 new addition, the Reminders app.

In simple terms, Reminders is a todo list. Tasks have long been part of iCal, but until the recent release of iOS 5, the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad didn’t have a built-in task app. There are numerous third-party solutions for syncing and/or managing a list of tasks. Even Google has jumped in the game with their Tasks and associated API for developers to create apps [which does not currently sync to Reminders – serious omission, Google]. Now with Reminders, it’s an included app, but not for previous iOS releases.

iCal syncing.

Aside from MobileMe and iCloud, iTunes has always offered a way to sync calendar items to your iDevice via USB. Any iPod could store a copy of your calendar and todo items. But while those options are still available, they are not for anyone that’s moved their calendar and reminders to iCloud. It moves your calendar, reminders and contacts from being local to your Mac and into the cloud. Especially for Reminders, this changes how they work. They are no longer tied to your calendar as they find themselves separately managed, most likely due to the integration of the iOS Reminders app.

Luckily, it’s not just iCloud that can support the Reminders app. Yahoo! and Windows Live can sync their todo lists to the Reminders app. As well as Outlook via Exchange [versions 2003-2010 are supported]

Needing to Switch

So what’s the big deal about switching? I’ve stored all of my todo items locally for years and up until a week ago, I used non-Apple devices to sync them to. My pending purchase of an iPhone 4S in December plus my use of an iPad 2 and iPhone 3GS helped push me to adjust how and where I manage my tasks.

Offline Access

One major disadvantage to storing your data online is when you are offline. No internet connection to the servers where your data is hosted or if they are down or busy removes their view from iCal. Having everything local is a serious advantage in this situation. My tests with storing my todo items inside iCal on Yahoo! and Windows Live proved that if I lost my connection to their servers, so was my access to the tasks. Although the iPhone and iPad do store a local or cached copy of the Reminders, which helps on the mobile side when you need access.

Having very recently moved my MobileMe data to iCloud, it has a nice twist: it caches/stores a local copy of my reminders when I do not have internet access, which resolves this issue.

I put a lot of time into this because my data is important to me. I wanted to make sure I didn’t lose access or had to jump through a lot of hoops to make it all work. Of course, this could all have been resolved with just one thing: Apple having direct syncing support for tasks/reminders under iCal to the Reminders app. They already have local calendar syncing support via iTunes. How easy would it be to add Reminders to that Info option screen when your iPhone or iPad is connected? Simple, especially for those that are not ready to make the jump to iCloud.

Again, iCloud is not for everyone. And I’m sure there’s a good number of others that use a non-iDevice that’s running something other than iOS 5 and OS X Lion and are concerned about keeping their data synced up. For now, I’m using parts of iCloud, like Reminders, and it works very well. I’m also leaving the Calendar locally until I can find a solution that works for me in the cloud.

Next on my list of iCloud issues: Address Book and contacts syncing. Stay tuned.

How important is your data? Do you make backups of it? Are you using iCloud or some other cloud option like Google or Yahoo!?


iCloud Help – Apple Official Site

iCloud FAQ – User Created Page

How To Use Reminders– Cult of Mac guide to Reminders