‘Ask Apex’ is an ongoing series that seeks to help you understand the sometimes confusing world of business wireless. We’ll look at common questions or procedures and try to explain them in plain English.

If it hasn’t happened to you yet, the odds are one in three that it will. Your smartphone is always at risk for damage or hardware/software failure, and if this happens your data is at risk of being lost forever.

Your smartphone is no more than a computer, after all. And I’m sure you’ve experienced some sort of computer failure before.

But many of today’s smartphone users would value the data on their handset far more highly than what’s on their desktop or laptop. I see it every day where someone comes in for an unexpected repair.

While some people are concerned with the cost of the repair or facing possible downtime, the majority of folks ask “can you retrieve my contacts?” or “will you be able to get my photos off of there?”.

Sadly, the answer in most cases the answer is no. Which is why you should have your stuff backed up to the cloud.

For the uninitiated, a cloud service is a form of remote storage or backup that takes place over your device’s internet connection. This data is then stored on remote servers hosted by someone like Google or Apple. This allows you to store a complete backup of your device, your photos, and your contacts or can even assist you in finding a lost or stolen phone.

Both major smartphone operating systems – Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS – provide a plethora of free or moderately-priced cloud features. I encourage all of my clients to take advantage of these services, so let’s do a quick overview of both.

phone with cloud

iCloud

Like all things in the Apple universe, your iCloud account is associated with your Apple ID and uses the same password.

Go to Settings -> iCloud on your handset and you can configure your options.

The iCloud service only includes 5 GB of free storage – c’mon Apple! So I’d suggest buying a monthly subscription for a little more space. I pay $1.29/month for 50 GB.

This allows me to back up my phone, my tablet, and all my photos. You can also access all of your documents across devices using iCloud Drive. These features are even better if you have a Mac, as all of your devices will have access to the same data.

Music, books and app purchases can also be synced if you have multiple devices using the extremely handy Family Share.

Finally, you can also access all of your stuff through any web browser via http://www.icloud.com.

iCloud home

Android

Just like on the iPhone, your Android device will work best when configured using a Google account, most likely tied to a Gmail address.

Access your account options at Settings -> Accounts.

Google provides many of the same features, although they offer 15 GB of free storage to start – with the next tier coming in at $2.79 for 100 GB. This storage can be used for Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Photos.

Access to these services can also be gained through a web browser, and obviously works best with Google Chrome. Visit myaccount.google.com to see all the handy features.

Google My Account

Privacy

I’ll end with a word on privacy, as this is the main objection I hear when I ask clients why they don’t use these free services.

Simply put, would you rather lose all of your data in an unforeseen smartphone accident or run the incredibly small risk that your data in the cloud could be compromised?

Many people have heard high-profile examples of cloud services being hacked, but don’t stop to think why this happened. These folks were targetted as they were famous, and social engineering was used to attack their weak passwords.

The absolute best way to maintain your privacy [short of never going online] is to use a strong password. The longer, the better – and be sure to use the whole keyboard, including capitals, numbers and other complex characters. Or easier still, use a password manager like LastPass or Dashlane to help you. Check this article from Wired for more info.

So get your stuff backed up to the cloud. Next time you buy a new phone or need repairs you’ll be glad you did!