iCloud Backup Explained in Layman's Terms

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Ever wonder why your iPhone or iPad keeps saying, "You haven't backed up in 37 days?" or "Your iCloud Backup cannot complete because you do not have enough Storage?" Here's our simple explanation to solve this for you.

What iCloud Backup Is

iCloud Backup is a service that is supposed to make a carbon copy of all of your data onto one of Apple's computers every 24 hours. That means all of your pictures, videos, text messages, and the data inside your apps will have a mirror image made every day.

This is a great thing because it means you could lose your phone, drop it in the toilet, or shatter it on the ground and when you get it replaced you will theoretically never be more than 24 hours away from a fresh backup of all of your pictures, videos, text messages, and apps. It's the same thing as a Time Machine backup on the Mac, just on one of Apple's storage facilities instead of your own external hard drive.

Quick Note: iTunes and App Store content is not backed up, meaning it isn't counting against your storage. For apps, iCloud Backup only backs up the data inside the apps, not the apps themselves. The apps themselves are re-downloaded from the App Store. Same goes for content from the iTunes Store: Apple already has a copy in their iTunes server and so they don't need to back it up again or use your storage. 

Here's the trick, iCloud Backup needs three things to backup your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch successfully:

  1. Enough iCloud Storage

  2. Plugged into Power

  3. Connected to Wi-Fi

The main reason it needs power and Wi-Fi is so that it won't drain your battery or data plan to run a backup. Thanks, Apple!

How to Back Up

1. Purchase Enough iCloud Storage

To make sure you have enough iCloud Storage, head over to the following locations on your iPhone or iPad.

iOS 7 — Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup

iOS 8 — Settings > iCloud > Storage

Once you're there, you will be notified of how much storage you have left in iCloud, along with an estimate of how much more you'll need. From there, you can purchase additional storage by pressing Buy More Storage.

Plans range from 5GB for free and $20/month for 1TB of storage. That is overkill for most people, so most people will either be on the 20GB or 200GB plans for $1 or $4 a month, respectively. Here is a list of the current storage pricing for your country.

2. Plug Into Power Long Enough to Backup

One common problem that keeps people from doing iCloud Backups is that they never plug their device in long enough to let the backup finish. If you're the kind of person that plugs their device in 20 times a day for 15 minutes, you may be getting a message that says, "Plug into power to finish your iCloud backup."

The fix is easy: plug it up when you go to bed every night instead of piecemeal throughout the day.

3. Connect to Wi-Fi

We are a mobile society, so it's very likely that you are moving in and out of different Wi-Fi networks throughout the day. This can cause your backup to never complete because it never has enough time to finish.

If you have a lot of photos or videos, it can exacerbate the problem because your large backup may take 8 hours to fully complete but you are never in Wi-Fi for more than 1 hour during the day.

iCloud Backup is a wonderful tool to protect the data that you so dearly care out.