Catalin Nichita
Published by Catalin Nichita,

Recently, we've came across a very useful piece on iCloud 101, posted by the reddit user dedach. With compliments to dedach, we were inspired and wrote this article for all of you that could use a bit more structure and insight into Apple's storage plans and available options to have data accessible across devices.

iCloud Backup, iCloud Drive, iCloud Photo Library, iCloud Music Library

Are the iCloud-Music-Photo-Drive-Streams confusing you?

Here is a nice little structure around Apple's options so you don't get put off by iCloud's benefits. Feel free to forward this to your mom, friends that moved from Android to iOS or even iOS users that are having a hard time understanding iCloud.

iCloud Backup (Uses iCloud Storage)

iCloud Drive (Uses iCloud Storage)

iCloud Photo Library (Uses iCloud Storage)

iCloud Music Library (incl in Apple Music subscription)

   What for
Set up your iDevice(s) to automatically create backups
of your files & device configuration. The backups are saved to iCloud.
Helps you save your personal files in the cloud, which is very similar to Amazon Cloud, Google Drive or Dropbox. Allows you to save
your pictures and videos and makes
them accessible on all your iOS devices.
Enables you access to your music across devices.

iOS Settings > iCloud > Backup > On Settings > iCloud > iCloud Drive > On Settings > Photos & Camera > iCloud Photo Library > On Settings > Music > iCloud Music Library > On
  Mac iTunes> USB connect your iOS device> Backups> iCloud System pref > iCloud > iCloud Drive Photos > Preferences > iCloud > iCloud Photo Library iTunes > Preferences > General > iCloud Music Library > On

   Useful to
If you change
your device and want to restore the content of your former device on the
new one.
If you lose your phone and want to recover the iCloud backup data.
Saving different type of files like: progress in sketch applications, gamefiles, images, documents, iWork apps and so on. Access images and videos across devices. All the changes from your Pictures / Videos folders are automatically synced and sent to all your devices. Sync music with all your devices and listen your music anywhere, anytime.

Pros & cons
Data not included in your iCloud backup:
  • Apple Pay;
  • Touch ID;
  • iTunes & App Store content;
  • Any imported videos & audio files;
  • Data already in the cloud.
Access these files on iOS 9 devices by turning on 'Show on Home Screen'.
If you're using Mac, access by using the 'Finder' or
If you're using a PC, access with an iCloud Drive or on
Use the images with Optimise for iPhone
Storage to save space on iOS.
This way images will not be stored at full resolution and you can always download them at full resolution if you want to.
Add/favourite/deleted song or playlist will reflect changes across all devices.


5GB free
Unlimited as long as you pay for a subscription to Apple Music. OR
Individual subscription $9.99/ month;
Premium Plus Plan (up to 6 people) – $1 4.99/ month.
Free space enough for 1 - 2 iOS devices. Free space may be filled up quickly. Free space unuseful for most users that like taking lots of pics and videos..

Running out of iCloud space?

You've never even considered buying more iCloud storage because you assumed you wouldn’t be able to afford it? Well, have a look. You might be surprised to see that 50GB of iCloud space (if you're with iOS 9) is only 99c a month.

Apple's iCloud storage plans as follows:

  • 50GB - $0.99 / month;
  • 200GB - $2.99 / month;
  • 1TB - $9.99 / month.

To purchase from your iOS device, simply navigate to Settings > iCloud > Storage > Buy more Storage.
To purchase from your Mac, navigate to System pref > iCloud > Manage > Buy more Storage.

Alternatives to iCloud Photo Library and iCloud Music Library

The alternative to the iCloud Photo Library is Photo Stream and may be activated on your iPhone or iPad by navigating to Settings > Photos & Camera > My Photo Stream > toggle that to On.

Note that My Photo Stream will only store up to 1000 images taken in the last 30 days and will automatically upload new photos and send them to all your iCloud devices when connected over Wi-Fi. Make sure that you do not have iCloud Photo Library activated while using My Photo Stream as it will override Photo Stream completely. The main advantage of My Photo Stream is that it does not use your iCloud storage space.

The alternative to the iCloud Music Library (that currently only allows 25.000 tracks uploaded) is iTunes Match. Compared to the iCloud Music Library price, the iTunes Match is positioned at $24.99/year with enough space to upload up to 100.000 songs. To activate on iOS: Settings > Music > Subscribe to iTunes Match. To activate on Mac: iTunes > Store > iTunes Match.

Note that:

Apple Music makes a large collection of Apple's music available to you for streaming or offline downloading in addition to just making your library visible/playable on all devices – but all of this music including your own music is available with DRM when downloaded from Apple and will stop working if your subscription ends. Your original iTunes collection on the original computer will work fine if you end your subscription.

iTunes Match does not include access to Apple’s library and only synchronizes your content across all of your devices but all downloaded content is DRM free. This also means that it can be used as a one-time re-download of your library even if you do not have non-DRM iTunes plus access to your Apple purchased items. This is super helpful for users that are having trouble because of Apple DRM in situations like Sonos.

Have you considered local iTunes backups instead of iCloud backups?

You can copy and save the data on your iPhone or iPad by backing up in iCloud or iTunes.

Stores backups on your Mac or PC;
 Stores backups on your Mac or PC;
Storage depends on your Mac or PC's available space;
 Storage depends on your Mac or PC's available space;
Offers encrypted backups (off by default);
 Offers encrypted backups (off by default);
Lets you make and use backups from your Mac or PC.
 Lets you make and use backups from your Mac or PC.

To back up, open iTunes > USB connect your iOS device to your Mac/PC > Backups.
Note that if you want to save Health and Activity data you need to opt for encrypting your backup [pay attention to the password you pick and remember it by storing it somewhere safe because you will not be able to recover your iTunes encrypted backup data without the password].
Here's how to recover your local iOS 9 iTunes backup data without iTunes or the iOS device itself.

Using iPhone Backup Extractor v6 to recover iCloud backup data

Has this article been useful to you? Let us know in the comments below. Also, did you experience any iCloud data recovery issues? Have you tried our software yet? We'd love to help!

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