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As a new user, I'm trying to wrap my brain around iCloud for backup and am wondering if the following things are all true:

  1. Can I use iCloud to back up all the files on my MacBook?
  2. To use iCloud, do I need Lion installed (as opposed to older Mac OS)?
  3. After I've bought Lion, is there a fee to use iCloud with my mac?
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I'm going to step in and edit this down slightly. Welcome to Richard. You've gotten some great iCloud information and adding the totally unrelated Time Machine may confuse others into thinking it's needed as part of this scenario. Please do re-ask your TimeMachine question as a stand alone question. I'll watch for it and try to answer it as well as the ones did here. – bmike Feb 20 '12 at 15:04
up vote 2 down vote accepted
  1. True and False. iCloud only backs up such things as reminders, calendar events and such. AND it also backs up documents created in Pages, Keynote, and Numbers, as well as other programs that are designed to work with iCloud, which is especially useful when you would like to access them on your iOS device. It does not backup your entire Documents folder.
  2. True.
  3. True. iCloud comes with 5GB free. After that there you must buy more storage at their set price.

(While talking about backups, you should checkout Backblaze. I've been signed up for about a year and have been really impressed with them - besides it's only $5 per month)

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1. Can I use iCloud to back up all the files on my MacBook?

iCloud is used to store the data that an iCloud enabled application has saved. It is not a backup mechanism for your Mac, however in principle it can form part of a backup system. iCloud doesn't show up as one simple folder on the mac that syncs (the DropBox model of cloud storage) but instead has a fairly well hidden folder in ~/Library for ad-hoc syncing/backup and instead requires each application to tell the mac which documents should be cached locally and "stored in the cloud".

For example, if your system is modern enough to support internet recovery, then you effectively have the OS not exactly backed up as such, but available for a restore withut the need for having copies of the physical media. Of course, you lose your system preferences, user accounts and indeed everything else, but you can recover an OS installation to a default level easily. On top of tis, if you then login to your Apple ID on the App Store, you can then download all your apps that you have purchased. Of course again there is no guarantee that this will be all of your apps, but for some it may well be. Once you have recovered your OS and your Apps, any Apps that use iCloud will then have their data available for use.

So, in certain scenarios it's the final pin in the recovery of your data, but it's by no means by itself a full backup solution, and you will need to cater (preferable via Time Machine) for a better solution unless you never change your prefs, and only use app store apps. Think of iCloud as storing just a few critical documents from just a few critical apps, and not currently a viable total backup solution.

2. To use iCloud, do I need Lion installed (as opposed to older Mac OS)?

Lion (OS X 10.7) is the minimum OS version required to use iCloud, You can gain access to the App Store from 10.6.6 onwards which is the only place where you can download iCloud enabled applications anyway, but be aware that just because you can buy an iCloud Enabled App Store app pre-Lion, you may not be able to use it.

3. After I've bought Lion, is there a fee to use iCloud with my mac?

There is no seperate iCloud fee, accounts are free in perpetuity, although obviously the apps that use it may have a cost associated with them. Additionally, the free account includes 5 GB of cloud storage, so you may run into fees should you need to store more data off site than the free allotment. Yearly storage costs begin at $20 (USD) to add another 10 GB (so 15 total storage).

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The Mac App Store does not require 10.7, only 10.6.6 – Tom Gewecke Feb 20 '12 at 15:19
Thanks for the correction, my mistake. – stuffe Feb 20 '12 at 15:24

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