ICloud Drive is here, but what exactly is it?
What is it? iCloud Drive is Apple’s virtual online storage system, built into the latest versions of OS X and iOS, that lets you store files remotely and access them from devices logged in with your Apple ID. It has various storage and pricing options. What does itwo rkwith? OS X Yosemite and iOS 8, but it’s especially powerful with apps that can save files directly to it. This includes Apple’s iWork suite (free on new devices) on Mac and iOS and also TextEdit. PC users can install the iCloud control panel for file access. pple has tried to make a service like iCloud Drive in the past, but its previous attempts met with limited success. Those who have been with Apple for a while may remember iDisk, an early attempt at providing remote file storage accessible using the Finder, onto which you could drag and drop any kind of files to store them in the cloud. It was slow, using WebDAV as its transfer protocol, and offered only limited storage space. It’s somewhat telling that Steve Jobs tried to buy Dropbox some years ago – presumably with the aim of incorporating its then-superior cloud storage technology into OS X – but Dropbox said no. Apple has got there in the end though, and, as you would expect, iCloud now does more than just store files. It has features like backup, locating your iPhone and storing passwords, though here we’re only really looking at the Drive component. In many ways, iCloud Drive is overdue. When iCloud was introduced, many people were disappointed that it didn’t include a regular file repository that could be accessed from the Finder. You could sync contacts, calendars and bookmarks through it, but you couldn’t drop stuff onto it manually. But hooray! Now you can, and it’s also at the heart of Handoff, Apple’s new technology for starting a document on one device and then picking up exactly where you left off on another. You’ll need OS X Yosemite to access iCloud Drive (and be running iOS 8 if you want to use the apps that have been written to be compatible with it, such as Apple’s iWork and a small-but-growing selection of third party apps that will surely expand as the new operating systems are more widely installed).
Signing into iCloud on your Mac running OS X Yosemite lets you switch on the iCloud Drive option, after which it will become available as a shortcut both in the sidebar of any Finder window and in the Go menu from the Finder. Select it, and your remote iCloud Drive appears in a Finder window just as if it was a locally connected hard drive. You can then drag and drop anything from your Mac onto the drive and it will upload to the cloud. For small documents this will take a mere matter of seconds, but for bigger items it will depend on your connection speed. You also only get 5GB of space for free, and while this is fine for uploading some files, if you’re backing up your iOS device too, those backups may already be using most of that space. You can upgrade for a modest monthly fee to 20GB, 200GB, 500GB or 1TB of storage depending on your needs, and downgrade too if you want to change your mind.
As well as simple file storage, the space on your iCloud Drive can be used for other things too, when you are running the latest version of OS X. Perhaps the most useful is a new feature called Mail Drop, where you’ll be able to send Mail attachments much larger than those allowed by any ISP directly from inside Mail. Attach a file, and, if it’s large, Mail will upload it to iCloud and instead of sending the whole message through your ISP, the attachment gets uploaded to your iCloud Drive. If the recipient is also using Mail they see an inline copy of the file and can click to download it. Users of other mail