iCloud

Backing up your Mac

Backing up your Mac

Backing up your Mac regularly is quite possibly the most important task you should get in the habit of doing as a Mac user. Your Mac’s hard drive will most likely fail at some point. It may take a couple of years, or quite a few years. And in some rare cases it can happen after just a few months. Sometimes, just a small drop of your laptop, or an electrical surge can damage the drive and eventually cause hard drive failure. Which is why it’s extremely important that you backup your computer on a regular basis. That way,  you can recover all of  your data from that backup if something goes wrong.
I do a fair amount tech support and data recovery work. And for me, one of the worst situation is diagnosing a failed hard drive, and finding out that the client does not have a recent back-up. That could mean thousands of photos and videos gone all of the sudden. Or important work and business documents that are no longer accessible. Sometimes the data can be recovered, but in some cases the drive is so damaged that the data cannot be recovered. Or it can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to get the data recovered. So, this is really important stuff !

So, in this article, I want to cover the 2 basic ways you can backup your Mac. Personally, I think the easiest and quickest option is to backup to an external drive plugged into your Mac. You can then use the built-in Apple application called Time Machine to completely backup your Mac on a daily basis, or just once in a while. You can use pretty much any external drive, as long as it’s big enough in size to hold your data. This kind of external drive from Western Digital, or something similar, should be good enough for most people: Western Digital 2TB drive
Time Machine is not your only option, but it’s definitely the easiest. Here’s a good article that shows you how to use Time Machine.

time machine image
If you’d like something a little more powerful, and with more flexibility, here are some other good options:

Carbon Copy Cloner 
Super Duper
Mac Backup Guru

Another way you can backup your data is by doing it through the cloud, and you have many services you can choose from.
Basically, there is two varieties of cloud solutions:
1) Companies that specialize exclusively in offering backup solutions such as Dropbox, Backblaze or Carbonite.
2) Cloud services offered by large companies as an added feature to their other services, such as Apple’s iCloud, Google Drive, and Microsoft’s OneDrive.

Each service has its own pros and cons, and you’ll want to do a little research before you pick any one service. You can of course combine some of these services together for different purposes. You could for example, use iCloud for photos, Dropbox for business documents, and OneDrive for various other files. It’s completely up to you to decide what works best for you, and it will probably also depend on what services your family and co-workers use.
But most importantly, pick a system that works for you , and make sure use it. If you’re looking for something fast and easy, your best option is to use an external hard drive with Time Machine. If you are constantly traveling and would rather not have to lug around an external drive with you, then a cloud solution will be best. And if sharing files or collaborating with others is essential to your workflow, a cloud solution will be most useful.

As far as I’m concerned, you cannot overdo it with backups. I highly recommend that you have a Time Machine backup along with at least some of your files backed up to the cloud. Take your time to set things up correctly, and you could end up saving yourself  a lot of frustration and money in the long run.

Posted by Ian Van Slyke in iCloud, Mac, Productivity, Recommendations, Tips & Tricks, 0 comments
Customizing your iCloud settings on iPhone

Customizing your iCloud settings on iPhone

If you’re using an iPhone or iPad, it is beneficial to have a basic grasp of which iCloud services are available to you on those devices, and how to turn each setting on and off. When you use iCloud on your iPhone, you are allowing Apple to back-up some of your information to the Apple servers somewhere in the US. Once the initial back-up is done, you can also ask iCloud to sync all your Apple devices so that you will the same information across all devices.
In this video, I cover all the different settings which are available to you on iPhone / iPad, and how to customize them for your needs:

Over the years, iCloud has grown to include a broad set of features which are all pretty useful, but you may not necessarily want or need to use all of them. So, we’ll look at what each service does, and you can decide whether you want to turn it on or not.

  1. iCloud Drive: This is Apple’s answer to other cloud services such as DropBox, Google Drive, and OneDrive. This service allows you to easily back-up files and documents from your computer and mobile devices to the the Apple servers. Those files an documents are then synced across all your devices on which iCloud drive is turned on. If you tend to save a lot of large files onto iCloud Drive, you may at some point need to buy extra storage space for iCloud.
  2. Photos: This allows you to sync either some of your photos and videos, or all of your photos and videos to iCloud. If you turn on the iCloud Photo library, all your pictures and videos will be stored on iCloud and then synced across all your devices on which iCloud photo library is turned on. Turning on the iCloud Photo library can help clear space on your devices, particularly on iPhone and iPad if you’re running out of room.
    But it is important to keep in mind that if you turn on the iCloud Photo library on all your devices, once you delete an image or video from one device, it deletes from your other devices as well. Your Photos library will be identical on all devices on which this feature is turned on.
  3. Mail: This feature is available if you have one of the Apple supplied email addresses that are available for free to anyone. These addresses end in @icloud.com,  @me.com, and @mac.com.
    If you use one of these email addresses, your emails will then be synced across all devices. You can also save previous emails in folders as a back-up should you ever need to retrieve anything.
    These use the IMAP protocol, just like a Gmail address or a Yahoo address, which means that when you delete an email from one device, it also deletes it from everywhere else.
  4. Contacts: When you use the Contacts application (formerly known as Address Book) on your Mac, you can either save contacts to your Mac or to iCloud. The advantage of saving your contacts to iCloud is that your contacts will always be in sync on all your devices, and also become available on www.icloud.com. For the vast majority of people, you will probably be using the cloud to back up and sync your contacts. But it can also be used in conjunction with contacts you may have stored with Google, Yahoo, Microsoft Exchange and many other providers.
  5. Calendar: The Calendar app lets you can create events, appointments, and to do’s in a simple scheduling app. You can create calendar events either just on your Mac, or create them using iCloud, which will then sync across all your devices. Again, I strongly recommend that you use iCloud for your calendar events so that everything syncs across all your devices.
  6. Notes: Same as the previous two, most people should store their Notes in the cloud, unless you are really worried that someone could gain access to your iCloud account. You can create super simple notes, or far more intricate notes with tables and attachments in the latest version. It’s a pretty powerful tool which many people are starting to use instead of something like EverNote because it integrates so well with all your Apple products.
  7. Siri: Turning on Siri in the iCloud panel allows Apple to learn your voice across multiple devices. The way that Siri is supposed to work is that it learns your voice over time and gradually gets better at recognizing your voice and the way you ask it questions. If you’ve been using on iPhone for some time, and you get a new device, having Siri turned on in iCloud means that it doesn’t have to start from scratch and learn your voice all over again on that new device. Slightly spooky maybe, but pretty useful …
  8. Keychain: Keychain is password manager built into Apple products, which allows you to save only certain passwords. When you create or enter a username and password on a website while using Safari, you can save that username and password to your Keychain so that Safari will enter it automatically for you the next time your visit that sit. Your Keychain can also remember wi-fi passwords and various other internet related usernames and passwords. You cannot use it to store just any passwords like you can in some other applications like 1Password or LastPass. But it’s still a very handy feature.
  9. Back to My Mac: Hardly anyone uses this feature, because it hasn’t always worked very well. But, in theory, if you have 2 or more Macs using the same Apple ID, you can access your Macs remotely. So, if for example you’re on the road with your MacBook Air, and you have an iMac at home… If both are turned on and using that same Apple ID, you can access and operate you iMac from your MacBook Air. You can grab files from your home computer while you’re away basically. Again, it’s not used much, but it can be very useful for some people.
  10. Find my Mac / iPhone / iPad: With this feature turned on, you’ll be able to track down your Apple devices and see them  on a map when you log into www.icloud.com, or by using the Find my phone feature on one of your mobile devices. Of course, your device needs to be turned on and within reach of a network for this feature to work. For most people, I’d recommend you have this feature turned on in case you ever lose your device.
Posted by Ian Van Slyke in iCloud, iOS, iPhone, Learning, Tips & Tricks, Training, 0 comments