Mac computers, as Mac users will tell you, differentiate themselves from other PCs such as MS Windows-based machines in several ways. Apple’s own design, user interface and operating system, all contribute to making Macs different. Online backup and file storage services provided for Macs might be expected to distinguish themselves like this as well. But does that make them better? Or just different?
File Storage and the Mac Philosophy
Macs are built to be simple to use, work well and look good. Certain online file storage providers make a point of using Apple technology to help them get similar results in their cloud services. Instead of creating a generic Java application that could run on any platform, they may use Apple’s own Xcode software development tools to build a native Mac application with a Mac-like ‘look and feel’. A design difference perceived by the Mac user may then be a deciding factor for one online service over another.
Going Online with Apple’s Time Machine
Apple already offers its own backup utility called Time Machine. This is part of the Mac OS X operating system. It makes incremental back-ups of files to attached storage devices. Apple is careful to specify that Time Machine is a back-up application, but not a file storage or archival solution. One of its features is the ability for users to restore individual items (files, photos, schedule events) without leaving the application in which they are working. Some online backup providers integrate their application with Time Machine to extend its functionality to cloud storage too.
Mac and Windows Feature Parity (or Not)
However, online providers offering backup and file storage for both Mac and Windows PCs don’t always give both platforms the same functionality. While technological considerations may play a part, marketing decisions may also be the reason. One example is an online provider offering extended periods of file versioning for Windows users, but not for Mac users. That means that Mac users using the service cannot access past versions of their files or recover files after deleting them.
But then who better to make an online file solution for Macs than the Mac-maker itself? Apple launched iCloud in 2011 and has so far attracted over 300 million users. The service supports OS X machines (Macs), iOS devices (iPhones and iPads), and Microsoft Windows computers (from the Vista version onwards). Cloud file storage, file syncing and backup are all part of the services offered. As a plus for users with iPhones, the ‘Find My iPhone’ feature shows you its approximate location on a map and lets you display a message to the finder. You can also remotely change your password and delete your data if you choose to.
Deciding on an Online File Storage/Backup Service
Users can choose a service specifically designed for Macs (and iPhones and iPads); or a service built to handle a wider variety of computing platforms. While functionality and price are likely to be decision factors, so is the online provider’s reputation for quality and reliability. Whether or not it turns out to be the final choice for a user, Apple’s iCloud may be a useful standard by which to evaluate the merits of other online file backup and storage solutions.