Enabling iCloud Backup for iOS

A lot of my posts are the direct result of questions I am asked or things that I see people doing. In the case of today's post, it's something that not enough people are doing. Quite frankly, even if 99% of my readers were doing this one thing, it's still worth posting this to capture the remaining 1%. Unfortunately, I'm learning that most people don't do this. I'm talking about backups. Specifically, I'm talking about iOS (iPhone and iPad) backups.

Last week alone, I had a phone call, email or text from four people with the same problem... for various reasons, they lost valuable data on their iPhone or iPad and didn't have a backup. In many cases, these devices contain photos and videos that don't exist anywhere else. THIS IS DANGEROUS! With one easy setting, you can literally save all those photos and videos from being lost, and it could cost you NOTHING.

There are two ways to backup your iOS device:

  • iTunes
  • iCloud

For this post, I am only going to talk about iCloud backup. Why? It's what I (strongly) recommend. Backing up to iTunes has its place, but for the vast majority of users, it's not practical because it requires physically connecting your iOS device to your computer. Let's face it... it's not that often that people do that anymore. If you forget to connect more than once a month, then it's not really a valid backup.

Backing up to iCloud is not only simple (you'll see how shortly), but it's effective. Backups happen once a day (usually in the evening, when you're charging your device) completely automatically. You don't even have to think about it! It really couldn't get any easier.

To enable iCloud backup on your iOS device, go to Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup. Under the section called "BACKUP", enable "iCloud Backup".


When you enable iCloud Backup, a warning message will appear that indicates that you will no longer backup to iTunes. It may look a little scary, but it's totally fine. It just means that instead of backing up to iTunes, it will backup to iCloud instead. This is exactly what you want.

You will, of course, need a free iTunes account to do this. If you don't have one, you will see instructions on how to create one.

For most people, the 5 GB of storage that comes with the free iCloud account is sufficient. However, for those who want to store more photos and videos than can fit within those first 5 GB of storage, additional storage is available for very reasonable cost (click here for more information on managing your iCloud storage).

You have enabled iCloud backup... now what?

Well, for starters, you can stop stressing about losing data from your iOS device. If you do lose your device, restoring is simple. Part of the setup process of a new device asks if you want to restore from an iCloud backup. After entering your iCloud username and password, it will give you options of dates that you want to restore from (in case you want to restore to an earlier backup). After you have selected the date that you want to restore from, the rest is easy. Sit back, relax and wait for the restore to finish. When it's complete, your device will look exactly as it did when your last backup ran because the backup includes photos, videos, user data, installed app information, app data, settings, etc.

There is one exception to what is captured in the daily backup... passwords. For security reasons, passwords are not part of the backup. This means that you will need to re-enter your email passwords, Facebook passwords, Twitter passwords, etc. Still, this is not a big deal (especially if you use a password manager like 1Password to manage your passwords).

Not only is the iCloud backup feature useful for recovering data on a lost, stole or broken device, but it's also great for planned upgrades to a new device (more on that here).

If there's only one thing you learn today regarding tech, please let it be that you MUST backup your devices! I can't emphasize this enough. Your data and memories are precious. Protecting them can literally cost you nothing now, but can save you a lot of heartache (and headache) down the road.

Posted on July 7, 2014 and filed under How To, iOS, iPad, iPhone, Opinion.