Apple’s iCloud driving your family crazy? How to restore synching sanity

“Apple has set itself up to be the glue that ties together all of your digital devices. And iCloud is a key part of that strategy. Being able to sync your desktop, laptop and all of your mobile devices to a backup in the cloud, what could be simpler? But what if you have a family of devices and a family of people? It gets complex,” Anthony Wing Kosner reports for Forbes. “If you’re not careful, you find that everybody’s stuff is showing up on everybody’s devices. Or if everybody gets their own Apple ID, then you have to buy all of that content all over again.”

“Managing a family in the Apple ecosystem is complex, but, it turns out, not complicated,” Kosner reports. “If you started out with Apple before the cloud and before having children, you probably have a primary Apple ID that you may or may not share with your partner (if you have one). If you move into the world of iCloud trying to just use that one ID, you are in for trouble. You will have already found that you are either syncing too much (and having your personal information showing up on your kid’s devices) or not enough (and shutting off services that are useful just to try to contain the contagion.)”

Kosner reports, “To understand what you need to do, you need to look at the whole complex of entities you need to manage and see which things need to go together and which things should not go together.”

Read more in the full article here.

27 Comments

    1. This isn’t really that difficult but I can see why it can be confusing. In our family of 3 each of us has our own iPad, we share different Macs and have iPhones, touches, etc.

      For iCloud to work each user needs their own Apple ID. Once they have their Apple ID they have to set the devices so iCloud points to this account. It’s easiest to do this when setting up a new device but possible if the device is already linked to another iCloud account. For linked device you have to change FaceTime, iMessages, etc. So you don’t have to purchase everything again the only open iTunes and App Store in Settings and sign into using the Apple ID used to purchase content.

      For our family when we are on a Mac and signed in iMessage and FaceTime work as advertised. It is strange to have notifications appear simultaneously.

    1. I can only say that it is different than MobileMe, which was a failure. Apple does not do services well. They make the best devices and pretty much the best software available. But they do not do services well. I’m hoping that someday they make the iCloud experience what it is supposed to be. Or at least close to what they claim it is. I like the idea of the cloud in some ways but I guess I’m just old-fashioned or paranoid enough not to want to sync everything. Which you do not have to do. I use iCloud but I’m not real happy with it at this point. I’ve been a Mac user forever and some of my Mac friends utilize Google services a lot. And they seem to be very happy with it. I don’t like Google. I don’t trust Google. So I won’t use Google services even though they probably are very good. I like to keep things simple and clean and in some ways iCloud makes that difficult. Hopefully Apple will improve iCloud better than they did MobileMe. Although I did like Gallery.

    1. Must be why, after shouting the issue, they fail to complete the article with a proper ‘so here’s how you do it’.

      We had a family Account in the dotmac days and my wife and I still use our separate .mac IDs even now. No change there then. For shared calendars and music we have a the.surname.family@icloud account. Works well enough, but you have to set the default calendar on the right devices to the joint one, otherwise you miss stuff.

      (And scrap the Google idea – I have a gmail apps work account and it is flaky and unreliable. Don’t go near it!)

      1. You did not read carefully enough, ChamFan. Don’t let your dislike or distrust of someone or some group impact your judgment.

        “Beyond that, there are different options if you want to have a shared family calendar, or email address. You can also cheat and use Google services for sharing and keep your Apple services unique. Graham Spencer wrote a detailed description last year of how this worked with iOS 5, and all of the concepts still hold in iOS 6.”

        The embedded Graham Spencer link takes you to ios-5-icloud-tips-sharing-an-apple-id-with-your-family/

        1. I have to disagree kingmel. The article started off in detail explaining the complexity of the process and how it evolved but failed to provide a step by step guide to eliminating issues.
          The article’s title clearly stated that it was going to show you how to solve these issues. It provide clues but not a definitive guide. It’s almost as if he used up his allocation of words and had to stop.
          The Spencer link is useful but is based on iOS5. iOS6 has added features and that has not be addressed.
          Also there is a place to make comments in the article but no where to read other comments. I find often the comments can answer questions that the author did not address.

          One issue I have recently is that my daughter’s music purchases have stopped being automatically DLed to my account (the main one). I’m still trying to work out what changed and whether this is iOS6 related.

          1. Good, it’s not just me!
            The article is near worthless, it tells you what you should do but not how to do it!
            If you are technical enough to know what the guy is talking about you don’t need the article.
            I am more technically minded than my wife but after reading the instructions I am none the wiser. If my wifey read it, she’d be totally lost.

    2. Apple haters or not, this is a weak point in Apple’s product line. I have chaffed for years now with problems with my apple ID. If my family was tangled into it it would be even worse. Mr. Cook, fix this please.

      1. The point is that, up to now, no-one, not even Apple has properly explained the typical family situation, where one apple-ID is used for music and (OSX,iOS) app purchases for the whole family, while everone (except maybe the main user, the admin if you like) has an additional personal account for mail, calender, bookmarks, etc.

        p.s. My fear has been that, with FaceTime, other family members would see my SMS text messages. Just hoping such a thing never happens on the occasion of a minor software update. A proper explanation of the relationship between one’s FaceTime identity (as opposed to FaceTime devices), hasn’t been offered by Apple either, certainly not in documentation for iCloud. It’s not the same, but still, Apple-IDs may compound the situation.

        Maybe there should be ways to unentangle the situation and allow users to transfer some parts of their identity to (or merge with) another Apple-ID (e.g., calendar, mail)

  1. I have an iPhone, Macbook, and a Mac Mini. I can’t imagine how a family would possibly manage iCloud. When I tried to use it to sync just those three devices , the confusion was massive. More often than not, the info that was synced on all three was a mish-mash of some info from one device, some from another, or a mix of all three. Maybe I am missing something, but it seems to me that their needs to be a way to designate one device as the master. I only have one Apple ID, yet that made no difference. I just dont use iCloud for syncing, I do it manually, the same with major project file folders. Especially those, because many of my web projects have over 1000 files, and Lion-Mountain Lion seems to not have the ability to track all of those versions. I do all that manually, by duplicating folders and copying them to Dropbox and to a separate drive. Time Machine as kind of a general backup, but not if I have to count on it to accurately track versions of a folder that has 1000 files in it. Just my experience. Your results may vary, and I am sure many of you will tell me so.

  2. I have encountered the age restriction in the past. I believe that it may be gone now, however. I have two boys, ages 8 and 4, who both have active iCloud accounts. Perhaps it was changes with iOS 6?
    A call to Apple confirmed that their age would not prevent the creation of a free iCloud account.

  3. This article was not useful. The beginning seemed acurate and mentioned the problem at hand (syncing) but he just starts rambling off on the end and never really mentioned a solid way to solve this problem except for adding a link to someone else’s article… My opinion, skip his article and go straight for the link

      1. Read your dictionary again Dick.
        Complicated: Consisting of many interconnecting parts or elements.
        Complex: Consisting of many different parts…
        iCloud: See complex.

  4. You can create an icloud email account at any age but you cannot tie it to the itunes store until age 13. So if you want to put any content on a child’s ios device you have to associate it with your itunes account. There’s no way around this that I’m aware of.

    The only consequence I’ve encountered with this setup is that I had to turn off automatic syncing of apps as I kept getting all of their kid games. I also had to turn off my email on their ios devices and enable restrictions so they can’t get into things I don’t want them to get into.

    I do agree that apple needs a more comprehensive “family” plan.

  5. What a waste of time, I don’t know why MDN linked to it … pointless.

    I don’t like giving this idiot any further hits but did anyone read his -“The Big Fix #2: Should Apple Be Broken Up?”

    Dumbass!

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