On June 6, 2011, Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced the upcoming fall release of iCloud, on online cloud storage service designed to wirelessly store and share music, email, photos calendars and other data between Apple’s handheld gadgets and desktop computers. The service uses already existing cloud computing techniques to make the convenience and flexibility of the cloud work for home users. iCloud represents competition for services such as Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Simple Storage Service (S3), or Google’s Gmail, Calendar, Picasa and Google Docs.
What’s the iCloud?
The iCloud is advertised as more than simply remote storage. Instead, it provides users with access to their digital content on any of their Apple devices, anytime, anywhere. For instance, users would be able to take a photo with their iPhone and have it appear right away on their iPad. Experts say that this is the consumer industry’s foray into the third era of consumer electronics: connected digital media.
iCloud features include:
- iTunes in the Cloud – Music purchased in iTunes automatically appear on all of the users’ Apple devices.
- Photo Stream – Photos taken on one device appear on other devices.
- Apps, books, documents and backups – All devices on iCloud will have the same apps, books and documents. iCloud also automatically backs up users’ data.
- Contacts, calendar and mail – The iCloud stores email, calendars and contacts. It also automatically pushes them to all connected devices.
Observers comment that the iCloud is the follow up to Apple’s MobileMe service. While the MobileMe subscription cost users $99/year, most of the iCloud features are free, as they are built into iOS 5, the next generation of Apple’s operating services. The only cost for using iCloud is the music scan-and-match service, where music from users’ existing libraries not acquired from iTunes can be matched by the 256 kbps-resolution versions in the iTunes library and then downloaded. The cost for this service is $25/year.
Dis/Advantages of the iCloud Service
Experts have taken a look at the pros and cons of the iCloud service. Some benefits it offers include:
- Synchronizing documents to ensure that users can access files conveniently from various digital devices.
- Apple offer 5GB of free storage, not including music, apps, books and photos.
- Synchronizes documents created with third-party apps. This raises issues on the impact it could have on developing apps for iCloud.
Some disadvantages of the service include:
- Apple applies an annual fee for the storage of singles not bought from iTunes.
- No iCloud support for XP users; the service requires that users are using either Vista or Windows 7.
- iCloud is much like a closed ecosystem, thus there is limited support of/by third parties, such as Flash video or Facebook in iOS.
Not everyone is a fan of this expansion. In response to Apple’s announcement, CNET editor Dong Ngo said:
“The second side effect is the loss of control. As iCloud is integrated into apps and devices, that might mean users will not have control over it, and may not even be able to opt out. If you store your purchased digital content in Apple’s iCloud storage space that could mean the company has control over what you can view. It’s unclear if you can even upload your own content, ripped music from your CDs or music purchased from other services for example, and store it in Apple’s iCloud. Judging from the way iTunes syncs contents with devices, it’s a safe guess that the iCloud service will offer users much less control over it than other existing cloud services.
Other cloud services allow users to access them on an opt-in basis, as the features and services are available on the devices if and when the users desire to use them. Critics point out that there is much less user control over the iCloud service. Since it is so integrated with the new Apple OS, there will inevitably be an excessive use of data connections. The iCloud will most likely use much more bandwidth than the iPhone; pushing data to multiple devices at the same time is much more bandwidth-intensive than playing games or downloading apps on a single device.
Another problem is the loss of control, which presents a security risk factor. Of course, this risk is present in all cloud services, but it is still something that users must be aware of.
This article introduces Apple’s upcoming release of iCloud, an online data storage and synchronizing service that will be offered with Apple’s latest operating system, iOS 5. The iCloud service will provide users with access to their digital content on any of their Apple devices, anytime, anywhere. The article takes a look at some of the advantages as well as disadvantages of the cloud-based service.
CCSK Exam Preparation
In preparation for the Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK), a security professional should be comfortable with topics related to this post, including:
- Contractual Security Requirements (Domain 2)
- Provider Selection (Domain 8)
- Access Control (Domain 12)