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Techy Tuesday: iCloud

Introducing my newest feature, Techy Tuesday!  Since my last techy post, a few of my friends have gotten curious about iCloud, so I thought there may be others out there who may not read up on the latest tech news that would appreciate a techy post in average Jane english.  I will do my best each Tuesday to introduce you to other techy parts of my life and hopefully inspire you in the process.

Painting a Picture
Imagine this scenario...a family spends a nice morning after breakfast going about their day.  Mom is in the kitchen with the pantry door open creating the upcoming weeks meal plan on her iPad and typing her shopping list into her iPhone.  Dad is playing with Son in the living room until Mom is done so the family can go on their weekly grocery rounds.  All is well in the world.  Meal plan done, shopping list complete, and the family scurries around the house to get themselves out of the door.  The family is in the car all strapped in and ready to roll out of the garage, when...{gasp!}...Mom realizes that she left her iPhone inside the house to charge and her shopping list {and the reason the family is in the car to begin with} was on her iPhone!  {dramatic music}  What do they do now!?!  Does she dash into the house to grab her phone so it can die on her in a few minutes?  Do they stop the day completely to wait for Mom's phone to finish charging? {enter iCloud}  Mom smiles and remembers that they use iCloud, so she takes Dad's phone, turns on iCloud for his Reminders app, and voila!  Shopping list appears on Dad's iPhone and the day can resume as normal!  Disaster averted!

The picture I just painted is a true story.  It happened to us just last week and iCloud saved my sanity and a lot of trouble for the whole family.  It's scenes like this that make me grateful for the gift of technology.  Other great features of iCloud make it the gift that keeps on giving.  Allow me to take you into the not-as-scary-as-you-think world of technology and specifically into iCloud.  I will go over the who, what and how of it all and hope that it will shed some light and inspire you to use your smart phone to its highest potential.

Disclaimer:  Apple is not paying me in any way to post this.  I just want to share my personal experience with the service and how is has worked for me and my family.

"iCloud stores your music, photos, documents, and more and wirelessly pushes them to all your devices. Automatic, effortless, and seamless — it just works."

What is iCloud?
Apple says it best above, but I'll try to paraphrase anyway.  To put it simply, iCloud takes the stuff on one device and makes it available on other devices so easily that you don't even notice.  This makes plugging into your computer to "sync" a thing of the past.  Thanks to iCloud, you don't even need to plug into a computer to update to the latest software...it does it automatically while you charge your iCloud-enabled-device {iPhone, iPad or iPod}.  Apple has done an excellent job of giving a concise explanation of all the things iCloud can do, so please, please, please visit the iCloud page to learn more than I could ever try to encompass in this post.  Perhaps if I show you how I use iCloud, it will be more relatable.

Who can benefit from iCloud?
Like many good things in technology, there are a few prerequisites that need to be met before diving into the cloud.  Here's a breakdown of some of the requirements:
{taken from the footer/fine print on Apple's iCloud page}
  • iOS 5: Apples latest mobile operating system to give iCloud it's fuel
  • Active iTunes account {aka Apple ID...more about this later}
  • Hardware
    • iPhone 3GS {or later} - for you and your significant other
    • iPod touch {3rd and 4th generation} - for the kid{s}
    • iPad or iPad 2
    • Mac computer with OS X Lion {Mac's latest operating system}
    • PC {yes, even with a PC!!} with Windows Vista or Windows 7
      • Outlook 2007 or 2010 or an up-to-date browser for accessing email, contacts and calendars
That's the technical jargin.  Now who can truly benefit from the real life applications of iCloud?  I believe mostly spouses and families with older kids who all own devices mentioned above will find it works best for them.  As you saw above, my hubby and I use iCloud to share our calendars, contacts and photo stream.  Sharing our calendars helps us know what is going on in each part of our collective lives.  {Stay tuned for an in-depth look at calendar sharing to come soon!}  The same concept applies for our contacts.  Because our shared contacts are our family and friends, it is tedious and inefficient for us both to separately keep track of contact information for our loved ones.  So in our family, I am the keeper of the contacts and I make sure that all contact information is up to date for us to share.  Edit it once and it's done for all!  Photo stream lets my hubby see what silly things our little guy is up to on any given day.  If I catch a funny moment on my camera phone {which is always with me}, all I have to do is tell hubbyman to check out photo stream and instantly his workday has been brightened, just like mine!  No extra sending of texts or emails, it all there for all of us.  The gifts just keep on coming!

How do get iCloud?

"Get iCloud up and running on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, or PC. And learn how to set up Find My iPhone. All it takes is a few easy steps."

I will not go through step by step set up of iCloud because Apple has done that for me.  What I will do is take you through some considerations for thinking about iCloud and how it can work with your family.  As with any kind of organization {virtual or physical spaces}, planning will make or break the success of your endeavor.

Consider sharing calendars if:

  • Your family is always struggling to keep everyone's dates under control.
  • The giant calendar on your wall is never big enough to hold everyone's appointments.
  • You want to see how everyone's schedule looks merged together in one day, especially with multiple kids in extra curricular activities.
If you can relate to most of these, maybe calendar sharing is for you.

Consider sharing contacts if:
  • The hubby is constantly asking for So-and-so's information because it's on your phone, not his.
  • You and the hubby both have different addresses for the same person and you don't know which one is current.
  • You get almost half of your Christmas cards returned to you because the addresses you {or your hubby} have is old.
If any or all of these have happened to you, maybe contact sharing is for you too.

Ready to take the next step into the techy world!?!  
It's not as scary as you think it is and once you get it, you'll wonder why you didn't get it sooner!  

In my life thus far, my iPhone has saved me not only from bulky organizers, but also from having to hand write birthdays, anniversaries and other annual events over and over each and every year and inevitably missing someone's birthday after loosing track of so many dates.  iCloud has done wonders for my family and I hope that you have been inspired to take a step and test the waters of technology to organize your family's time and information.

Have you had an iPhone or iPad for a while and feel like you could be doing so much more with it?  Do you feel like after you got the newest iPhone, you didn't know what all the fuss was about?  Well if you are one of those people, I would venture to say that you may not be using your smart phone to it's full potential.  Jump into iCloud with me!  Maybe you've been using iCloud for a while too and are as amazed as I am with it, share your thoughts so those who are on the fence can join the club!

*** Fair Warning ***  In helping a friend set up her iCloud, she encountered some initial hiccups, especially in the calendar department.  Nothing a little patience and some technical and moral support {via me} won't fix.  You may or may not have to check out the iCloud Support Site for yourself if you're really stumped.  It made me recall my initial set up hiccups, so it is normal.  You're asking iCloud to take in your whole life, so it may take some time and a bit of extra work in the beginning.  Once those first bugs are fixed, you'll be well on your way to iCloud bliss and loving the breezy technology ride.  I encourage you to keep going and seek support if you hit a speed bump.  It will be soooooo worth it in the end!

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