iCloud Photo Stream

If you are a bit confused at the name, that’s okay. For many, the name Photo Stream and Photo Library do not seem too far apart. Apple is such a fantastic marketing company it is a wonder they would keep two product names which are so similar, yet have different functionality and purpose. My hope, is that this article will provide some insight into both iCloud Photo Stream versus iCloud Photo Library.

iCloud Photo Stream is a free service included with iCloud which allows users to sync 1000 of your latest photos wirelessly between your iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV. So what’s with iCloud Photo Stream if there’s already iCloud Photo Library ? If we take a quick look back iCloud Photo Stream preceded iCloud Photo Library. So here’s the simple rule, if you already using iCloud Photo Library, you do not need to worry about iCloud Photo Stream. If you are looking for a cheaper option which won’t take up your existing iCloud space, turn on iCloud Photo Stream.

A Few Things to Note

iCloud Photo Stream does NOT include video. iCloud Photo Stream should not be considered a backup as it only stores the last 1000 photos. It is a great way to access your photos across devices, but it is simply that, a convenience feature.

I hope this has served to clear up any confusion. If not, let me know and I would be happy to address your questions.

iCloud Photo Library

What is iCloud Photo Library?
iCloud Photo Library is an optional feature of iCloud which allows you to backup, sync, and share your images including video. 

Many people ask me the following question(s).

1) Should I turn on iCloud Photo Library?
2) Is iCloud Photo Library Safe or Secure?
3) Do You Have iCloud Photo Library Setup On Your iPhone?

Should I turn on iCloud Photo Library?

My answer to this question is not the simple “yes or no” answer most people will be seeking.  I usually address this question with the statement “…well that depends.”  Inevitably the person asking will follow with “…that depends on what?”  My answer will vary based on the users answer to another question.  I follow this question with the question. Do you back up your iOS photos to another location such as your computer?

I would also ask how often the user backs up their photos? In my experience, most users who are not already utilizing iCloud to backup their photos fail to backup their photos manually. I would say this is the case nine times out of ten. Another situation I have observed is that many iOS users have their iCloud account partially setup on their device. Which could mean part of their data gets backed up and part of it does not. They incorrectly assume all is well since they are logged into iCloud.

It is my experience that the majority of iOS device owners can afford to spend the $1.00-3.00 cost per month to secure their data on iCloud. At the very least, I encourage most to buy the $1.00 per month plan. At the time of this article the $1.00 plan gets the user 50 GB of iCloud storage. I also advise iOS users to take a once over (5 minutes) on their iCloud settings to ensure everything is being properly backed up. I’ll be adding more posts as to what I recommend on basic iCloud settings.


Is iCloud Photo Library Safe or Secure?

To answer this question, one should start by defining “Safe or Secure.” Really a user could mean several different things when using these terms. I believe the question behind this question is two-fold. If we referring to the safety of iCloud Photo Library as a long-term solution? Or is iCloud Photo Library safe from of a security breach?

I would say it depends on what a user’s valid alternatives are. If a user is committed to backing up their photos to their computer manually as an alternative, one could argue that their computer is a safer solution. It is important to consider if a user would actually perform the backup on a consistent basis. Many will claim they will perform a manual backup, but when it comes down to it, they fail to do it for weeks on end. In this case, I would argue iCloud Photo Library is a safer alternative. iCloud works automatically without the physical act of performing a backup.

If we were to ask if iCloud Photo Library safe from of a security breach? I would tend to lean on the side of caution and not use a blanket “yes or no” answer. I do believe that Apple cares deeply about the data of their users. I do believe that Apple has more than adequate resources eagerly devoted to securing iCloud as a backup solution. I do not believe that anyone can completely escape security breaches at this point in time. I do believe that of any company, Apple is amongst the most trustworthy companies to lookout for the good of their customers.

Do You Have iCloud Photo Library Setup On Your iPhone?

Yes! I absolutely do. I do this even though I backup my photos manually to an external hard drive. Why? It costs me very little and ensures my photos are safe somewhere. Even when I forget to back them up.

Understanding iCloud

In order to better understand iCloud we need to think about where we came from prior to iCloud.  We do not have to look too far back on the history of iOS devices to remember a time when users actually plugged in their iOS devices to their computer to backup their data.  iTunes was the guardian of our digital lives.  To be brutally honest, most of us detested the process!  Before iCloud backups, the majority of iPhone users were largely dependent on regularly backing up their iPhone data manually to their computer.  What this ultimately meant was that the vast majority of users were failing to backup their devices.


Device backup was a huge pain point and Apple sought a more elegant solution for their users.  At the time, Apple had a product called .Mac which served a variety of different purposes for Mac users.  What (possibly) began as an effort to fix everything wrong with iTunes and manual backups became an all encompassing backup solution.  I believe it is important to have a proper understanding of iCloud in order to fully embrace it as a backup solution.  Seeing iCloud as an all-encompassing backup solution for iOS devices, I’ll refer to as “The What”, will help us to understand “The Why.”  So many times we neglect understanding why we are doing it in the first place.  This results in the act of maintaining our iCloud backup as a meaningless waste of time.

If we will stop and think of iCloud as not merely an annoyance, but as a means of protecting our important data and memories, our photos.  Maintaining iCloud means we keep all of those precious photos of our loved ones in a safe place.  Maintaining iCloud means we can easily contact people at a moments notice because we have their information tucked away in a safe place.  Maintaining iCloud means that we have precious data from all of our apps easily accessible when an accident happens with our iPhone or iPad.  It also means that we no longer need to plug in our iOS devices to our laptop or desktop computer, yay!