You add a contact to your iPhone and it’s supposed to show up on all your devices automatically, right? Isn’t that what out iCloud is for? How come only some of my contacts are showing up on my iPhone? Why are only some of my contacts missing? How can I move all my contacts to one place so this problem doesn’t keep getting worse?
I’ll start by clearing up confusion about “The Cloud”, explain why things went wrong on your iPhone or iPad, help you find out where your contacts, calendars, and other personal information is actually stored, and help you change some settings on your iPhone or iPad to get your contacts back under control.
A Little Background Information
When I first heard that my data was stored in “The Cloud”, I pictured all of my contacts, calendars, and notes floating around in white, puffy clouds high above our heads. I’m not sure who told who coined the term, but it is one of the greatest examples of technology marketing lingo of our time.
Why Do We Need A Cloud?
Since we all use multiple devices nowadays, it makes sense that if I add a contact on my computer, I want it to show up on my iPhone and tablet, and if I add a calendar event on my phone, I wanted to show up on my computer. Sounds great, and it is — but if you don’t know exactly where things are being stored and what clouds all of your personal information is being stored on, you can end up with your personal information distributed across a slew of cloud servers, which makes things really complicated, really quickly.
Wait, There’s More Than One Cloud? Yep!
iCloud isn’t the only cloud in town. Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, Exchange, and many more are all types of cloud servers. Here’s the concept behind the cloud, and the key to understanding how it works is as easy as answering this question: Where does my data (contacts, calendars, notes, etc.) live? Is its home on my device (the old way) or on the cloud (the new way)?
The old way was simple: When you saved a contact on your phone, it was saved in memory on that device. End of story. If you wanted to transfer contacts back and forth between your phone and your computer, you had to plug in the USB cable and use iTunes to sync the data. Using the old way, the contact’s home is on your device. If you delete the contact from your phone, it doesn’t affect the data on your other devices. But, if you drop your device in the toilet (like I did once), all of your contacts go down the tubes.
The new way (using the cloud): When you save a contact on your iPhone or iPad, the contact is saved on a remote server like iCloud, Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, Exchange, etc., and yes, every one of these is a cloud server! Using the cloud, the contact’s home is on the remote server, not on your device. If you delete the contact from your phone, it deletes it from the server, and since every device is connected to that same server, the contact is deleted on all your devices. If you drop your phone in the toilet, it’s OK because the data’s home is on a remote server (a cloud), not on your waterlogged phone.
See Why Things Can Get Really Complicated, Really Quickly?
If iCloud, Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, Exchange, and others can all save your contacts, how do you know where your contacts are actually being saved? A contact is only stored in one place, after all – otherwise there’d be duplicates all over the place, and Apple doesn’t let you make that mistake. That being said, Apple doesn’t help you get organized, either – and that’s why I’m writing this article.
So Where Exactly Is This Cloud?
The concept behind all cloud servers is essentially the same: Build a massive building, fill it with servers and hard drives, and give everybody a little corner of a hard drive. iCloud is actually in North Carolina. In truth, cloud servers aren’t new by any means, and you’ve probably been using at least one for years. Lots of email providers (Gmail, AOL, etc.) have used the IMAP protocol to synchronize email for over 10 years. Microsoft Exchange has, in essence, been a kind of cloud since day one. It’s only in the past few years that we slapped the cloud label on everything because it sounds cool. Saying my contacts are stored on iCloud sounds way better than saying they’re stored on iMassiveServerFarm-InNorthCarolina-WithLotsOfHardDrives-OnWhichIHaveATiny-AmountOfSpaceReserved-ThatAppleOwns – but that’s just my opinion.
Cloud servers are great and we use them for two main reasons:
1. Automatic syncing between all devices. Update a contact on your iPhone, it’s updated on your computer. Delete an email on your computer, it’s deleted from your iPhone.
Note: If when you delete an email it doesn’t delete from your other devices, your email provider is probably using the older POP (Post Office Protocol) method for delivering your mail.
2. Automatic backup. Meet a new person, add them to your phone, and drop your phone in the toilet later that day? No worries! (At least about the contact.) Its home is on a cloud server, so if you have to get new phone, it’ll come right back when you set it up.