iCloud Backup is a service that carbon copies of all of your data onto one of Apple’s computers every 24 hours. That means all of your data will have a mirror image made every day. It’s pretty amazing.

Ever wonder why your iPhone or iPad keeps saying, “You haven’t backed up in 37 days?” or “Your iCloud Backup cannot complete because you do not have enough Storage?” Here’s our simple explanation to solve this for you.

What Is Backed Up?

According to Apple’s latest documentation on iCloud Backup, here is a list of what is backed up in iOS 10:

  • Purchase history for music, movies, TV shows, apps, and books
  • Photos and videos on your iOS devices
  • However, if you turn on iCloud Photo Library on your iOS device (iOS 8.1 or later) or Mac (OS X v10.10.3 or later), your photos and videos are already stored in iCloud, so they aren’t included in your iCloud backup.
  • Device settings
  • Call History
  • App data
  • Home screen and app organization
  • iMessage, text (SMS), and MMS messages (requires the SIM card that was in use during backup)
  • Ringtones
  • Visual Voicemail password (requires the SIM card that was in use during backup)
  • Health data
  • HomeKit configuration
  • Data for any currently paired Apple Watch

This is a great thing because it means you could lose your phone, drop it in the toilet, or shatter it on the ground and when you get it replaced you will theoretically never be more than 24 hours away from a fresh backup of all of your pictures, videos, text messages, and apps. It’s the same thing as a Time Machine backup on the Mac, just on one of Apple’s storage facilities instead of your own external hard drive.

Quick Note: iTunes and App Store content is not backed up, meaning it isn’t counting against your storage. For apps, iCloud Backup only backs up the data inside the apps, not the apps themselves. The apps themselves are re-downloaded from the App Store. Same goes for content from the iTunes Store: Apple already has a copy in their iTunes server and so they don’t need to back it up again or use your storage.

Here’s the trick, iCloud Backup needs three things to backup your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch successfully:

  1. Enough iCloud Storage
  2. Plugged into Power
  3. Connected to Wi-Fi

The main reason it needs power and Wi-Fi is so that it won’t drain your battery or data plan to run a backup. Thanks, Apple!

How to Back Up to iCloud

1. Purchase Enough iCloud Storage

To make sure you have enough iCloud Storage, head over to the following locations on your iPhone or iPad.

iOS 7 — Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup

iOS 8 — Settings > iCloud > Storage

Once you’re there, you will be notified of how much storage you have left in iCloud, along with an estimate of how much more you’ll need. From there, you can purchase additional storage by pressing Buy More Storage.

Plans range from 5GB for free and $20/month for 1TB of storage. That is overkill for most people, so most people will either be on the 20GB or 200GB plans for $1 or $4 a month, respectively. Here is a list of the current storage pricing for your country.

2. Plug Into Power Long Enough to Backup

One common problem that keeps people from doing iCloud Backups is that they never plug their device in long enough to let the backup finish. If you’re the kind of person that plugs their device in 20 times a day for 15 minutes, you may be getting a message that says, “Plug into power to finish your iCloud backup.”

The fix is easy: plug it up when you go to bed every night instead of piecemeal throughout the day.

3. Connect to Wi-Fi

We are a mobile society, so it’s very likely that you are moving in and out of different Wi-Fi networks throughout the day. This can cause your backup to never complete because it never has enough time to finish.

If you have a lot of photos or videos, it can exacerbate the problem because your large backup may take 8 hours to fully complete but you are never in Wi-Fi for more than 1 hour during the day.

iCloud Backup is a wonderful tool to protect the data that you don’t lose the precious photos, memories, or data inside your iPhone or iPad.