For the last decade, as broadband Internet has proliferated and increased in speed, there has been a steady march toward storing data online ("in the cloud") both as consumers and businesses. Now, even more than data, entire applications are being delivered on demand, via the cloud. For the most part, it's sparked a revolution in mobile computing and in document collaboration. Now, hard drives can be small and very fast; documents can be worked on collaboratively in real-time from multiple locations; cloud applications are always up to date; and our music and photos are accessible wherever we are.
With the introduction of the latest iPhone and iPad operating system, iOS 9, Apple - who prides themselves on being a "total solution" for the consumer and prosumer - is strongly encouraging their customers to take another step towards fully trusting the cloud.
How Apple Uses The Cloud
Apple's first foray into cloud computing started pretty rocky. Apple didn't seem to know how they wanted to use the cloud, but that didn't stop them from tying. Their multiple approaches are reflected in not one, but two rebrandings of their cloud services offering. ".Mac" became MobileMe, which became what we now know as iCloud.
Originally, ".Mac" was a set of online publishing tools, and email. Apple completely abandoned the publishing tools and introduced the ability for users to synchronize personal productivity data, like our contacts, calendars, and mail. That was MobileMe. It wasn't long before Apple rebranded MobileMe as iCloud and added even more personal data like our photos and passwords.
As iCloud has matured, it's grown to also store document files, store music, and even store entire device backups. Also worth mentioning is the ability for iCloud to "find" devices associated with the account, remotely lock them, and even remotely wipe them.
Where you need to be concerned, and how to be safe.
First, the obvious: you need to use a secure password to protect your account.
If someone can login to your account, they'll be able to access everything you've stored online in iCloud Drive and read your iCloud email. Perhaps worse, although the ability to track down a lost Apple device can be incredibly useful, the same technology can be dangerous if put into malicious hands. If someone were to compromise your Apple ID password and remotely trigger a data wipe of your MacBook at home, unless you have a backup, your data could be gone, permanently.
Even better than a secure password, you should use two-factor authentication. Apple has recently enabled this feature across all of its services, and it adds a significant layer of security to your account, for not a lot of effort. True cloud security means using two factor authentication. Apple has made it easy.
Second, your data may not always be accessible.
What happens when everything you rely on is stored in the cloud, and "the cloud" (at least, your access to it) goes down? Nothing. Because that's what you'll be doing with your devices. Nothing. While the cloud is great, you probably still want to keep a local copy - just in case.
Lastly, can you trust Apple?
Cloud security requires both you protecting your account, and Apple protecting their servers. Unfortunately, no one is perfect, and even recently, a bug in Apple's iCloud allowed hackers to download private and sensitive data from unsuspecting celebrities. The hackers then shared the stolen photos publicly, online. Apple has since fixed the bug that allowed this flaw to occur and dramatically increased their cloud security to become one of the most trusted providers of cloud services. However, it's never a guarantee that there won't be another attack and another data breach.