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iCloud+ a Gamechanger for Small Teams?

icloud+ a Gamechanger for Small Teams?

Microsoft’s 365 and Google’s Workspace suites are the gold standard choices for email, productivity software, and cloud storage. We have been testing out Apple’s new custom domain feature to see how iCloud+ could serve as a replacement for Microsoft’s or Google’s solutions.

Custom Domains Are Here

Custom domains are now supported with iCloud Mail. Up to now, you only had @mac.com, @me.com, or @icloud.com domains supported. With Apple’s iCloud+ update, custom domains now work. What this means is that you can have an email address like @clients.mcnairmedia.com and send/receive emails. Because we absolutely love beta testing things, we decided to take the plunge and migrate our emails over to iCloud.

Starting to use your custom domain is pretty straightforward all you have to do is follow the instructions, and your customer email address is up and running. One issue we ran into when we first tested it was that the email address needs to be active and accepting emails from your previous provider before you can validate the custom domain and move to the next steps in the setup process. While this aims to be a better user experience, it feels cumbersome and annoying if you’ve set up custom domains on other service providers.

Once you get past the setup prompt, emails start flowing in rather quickly and you are off to using iCloud Mail for your emails. One minor annoyance is that if you have been using iCloud Mail beforehand, your custom domain emails just flow into that mailbox. This wasn’t a big deal to me in that emails that I have going to my iCloud Mail inbox are really important and I use my old Gmail account as a junk mailbox.

…Other Services

Something that stuck out in the custom domain set up was the line:

Add a domain you own to use with iCloud Mail and other services.

As we were setting up our McNair Media email, that part intrigued me a bit but I wasn’t sure what they meant. Once email started flowing in, notifications started pinging all of my Apple devices. I started getting notified that I could use my custom domain for FaceTime, for iMessage and other Apple services. This is a huge game changer in that if you can set up iCloud+ for your business, you can iMessage your team members by just typing in their email address. You can also place audio calls through FaceTime audio or do video chats over FaceTime video.

Finally, a viable Alternative for Microsoft/Google

As soon as our custom domain was set up, using iCloud+ as a replacement for Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace became a real possibility. Things like iCloud Drive and all of the sharing functionality became super simple between our team and Apple’s Mail Drop feature has allowed us to send large attachments in line with our emails versus having to upload a file to a cloud storage provider. We’ve already been using Apple services in the workplace but now he can have a professional look and feel and can be client facing.

One concern that we had was cross-platform functionality, we spend a lot of time on Apple devices, but we also spend a lot of time on Windows and Android as well. Apple has addressed this with a native iCloud app on Windows that provides features like password management through Chrome/Edge extensions and iCloud Drive right within File Explorer. Apple also has some pretty competent web apps that work quite nicely. Erik loves using Apple’s Notes web app on the Windows 11 beta.

Some Caveats

The biggest limitation right now to using iCloud+ as a replacement to Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace is that you are limited by Apple‘s iCloud family sharing limitations. For a boutique web/app development shop like ours, that limitation isn’t an issue and are team fits naturally within the McNair family iCloud account.

The obvious issue is the lack of business grade features that Microsoft 365, Google Workspace and chat tools like Slack and Microsoft Teas provide to corporate IT and HR departments like data retention, searching employee messages, etc. Likely this would require Apple to completely rethink services like iMessage, which is likely the reason that a true business version of iCloud+ wasn’t rolled out at this time. There are also some pretty major legal issues that could arise if you were to use iCloud+ as a replacement to Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace. While we can’t make legal recommendations, our recommendation would be to talk to your legal counsel about email retention and other digital documents. Depending on your industry and your business type, there are different laws governing how you must collect and retain that information.

Only a Matter of Time?

It’s hard to not look at the iCloud+ service and see how adding a “team” option would open the door to businesses ditching Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace. With the ever growing services focus of the company, an “iCloud Team” service would be a no brainer for Apple centric design shops. What do you think? Would you want to use iCloud as a replacement to Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace? Let us know your thoughts below!

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