IDrive is the consumer-targeted online backup solution from Pro Softnet, the same company that makes IBackup. We liked the business-centric IBackup in our review, so how does its sister service stack up? Quite well. So well, in fact, we’re not even sure why Pro Softnet bothers making two separate products.
Features, space, and pricing
To start off, IDrive offers what may be the best free tier available for individual users. No credit card required, the free version nets you 5GB of backup space, all of which can be synchronized across as many devices as you can fit into that space. That includes PCs, Macs, iPhones, iPads, Android devices, Linux PCs, and Windows Phones. You can sign-up for the free plan here.
Update, August 2016: IDrive are running a 75% of deal for their 1TB plan here, bringing it down to $17.38 for the year, it’s worth snapping this up while it’s still available. 1TB of personal space costs $59.50 (GBP 39.06) per year, but can be cheaper if you wait for discounts on first year. Business tiers start out at $99.50 (GBP 65.32) per year for 250GB (also subject to discounts), but you can get a better deal from IBackup, which offers 500GB for the same price. IBackup’s and IDrive’s business tiers are almost identical feature-wise, except IDrive doesn’t support the creation of multiple backup sets and sub accounts are handled a little differently.
In addition to backing up your devices, IDrive boasts a rather unique feature–social media backup. Connect IDrive with Facebook and Instagram, and it will back up all of your photos and videos on those platforms. If friends untag you or delete their accounts for some reason, you’ll still have the photos. Or if all your photos are the only thing keeping you from deleting your Facebook account and going rogue, IDrive works for that as well.
Any file stored in your backup can be shared via a public link or privately over Facebook, Twitter, and email. You can set passwords and permissions for collaboration, similar to the “Edit” and “View” permissions on Google Docs.
A single sync folder can be created anywhere on your computer, but it can’t be an existing folder. That means you can’t sync all of your user files–photos, documents, and downloads across all devices. Instead, you must move or save files into your sync folder manually. The sync folder can hold up to your maximum amount of storage space. Even if your folders aren’t synced–that is, instantly updated across all devices simultaneously–they can still be backed up normally.
Incremental backup ensures only files that have been recently changed or created are uploaded to the cloud, saving you bandwidth. The last 10 versions of all your files can be restored, but only the most recent one counts against your storage space. Entire folders can be restored to previous versions as well. IDrive keeps all of your backed up files, including those which are no longer present on your computer. This “true archiving” feature means even deleted files are stored unless you use the “archive cleanup” tool to clear up space.
Restores can be performed remotely from the web and mobile apps. In case of Malware- or virus-infected files, IDrive Rewind can restore all the files of an entire backup to a previous version. Bare metal backups, or full system backups, are also available if you want to store a full image of your computer online, including the operating system and applications.
In the settings of the desktop app, you can allow IDrive to wake your computer from sleep or hibernate mode to perform a backup. Hybrid backup is available if you want to keep a copy of all your files on a local external hard drive. IDrive also sells self-branded IDrive Wifi devices, which are essentially wireless external hard drives that pair well with the service.
Data transfers are encrypted using SSL between your computer and the destination server. Once that data is on the cloud, it is encrypted using a 256-bit AES standard, which is as good as you’re going to get at a consumer level.
You can choose to use the company’s default encryption key or choose your own. If your data is sensitive and privacy is a priority, the latter is probably the better option. It ensures that not even IDrive can decrypt your data, nor can be coerced into doing so by hackers or snooping government authorities. Just keep in mind that if you lose or forget your private key, your backup can never be decrypted and the data is lost forever.
IDrive’s California-based parent company, Pro Softnet Corporation, owns its own physical servers. It doesn’t rent virtual or physical ones from providers like Amazon or Google. That adds a layer of privacy and security, not to mention knowledge of where your data is stored. Pro Softnet claims to operate 30 pedabytes of server space. It also guarantees geo-redundant storage, which means copies of your data are stored and secured in multiple physical locations.
The desktop client contains five tabs: backup, restore, scheduler, sync, server backup, and settings. It’s very well-designed, with everything pretty much where you expect it to be. Bandwidth throttling and excluded files types–settings you’ll probably need to access often–are easily accessible right from the initial backup tab.
We suggest you set your bandwidth throttle prior to starting your backup, as there’s no way to adjust it after you’ve started without completely stopping the process. IDrive, like IBackup, is one of the fastest backup services on the market. But if you don’t throttle your bandwidth, it will hijack your entire internet connection, sometimes even making it impossible to browse web pages while a backup is in process.
The web app includes a similar file explorer for navigating and restoring files. It can be used to restore files on your desktop remotely from another device. The web app is where you’ll manage devices and shared files. It includes a timeline of all the photos uploaded from all your devices in chronological order. From here you can also perform social media backups.
The mobile app isn’t pretty but it is intuitive. Like the web app, you can share files and perform remote restores. Offline mode lets you download and sync files on the phone’s local storage, which is useful for when an internet connection isn’t available. Images and videos can be previewed before being downloaded, which is a simple detail many other backup providers seem to overlook in their mobile apps.
All the apps include a search function.
IDrive provides 24/7 live chat and email support. Phone support is available from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. West Coast US time. The website contains a wealth of info in video tutorials, datasheets, whitepapers, FAQs, and a blog. Missing from that list are user forums, where the community can help answer each others’ questions.
Customer service representatives were quick to reply when we tested out the live chat. They seem knowledgeable enough for basic queries, but the rep we chatted with was clearly just a call center guy on the other side of the world typing out responses from a book. Even so, his English was a little weak. I had a similar experience with IBackup customer support.
One minor issue is the little bar at the top of the desktop client that shows how much space you’ve used up doesn’t seem to work and is stuck at zero percent, so be sure to carefully monitor how much space you’re using. If you exceed account storage limit, IDrive will hit you with an overuse charge of $0.25/GB/month for personal plans and $0.50/GB/month for business plans.
Other than that, there are no nefarious hidden fees or charges that we can see. IDrive will bother you with an annoying popup from the system tray each time you wake your computer from sleep and when you open the mobile app, asking for an upgrade. Thankfully it won’t spam your inbox with promotional emails.
The IDrive desktop client comes with its own uninstaller so you don’t have to tear it out using the Remove Programs tool on Windows. It’s easy and doesn’t leave any residual files. If you want to change your encryption settings, you can reset your account, though all the data in your backup will be deleted. Canceling an IDrive account is easy and takes just a couple minutes from the website account settings.
IDrive is one of the most feature-rich services we’ve tested, and offers one of the best free tiers available among cloud backup providers. It’s well polished and seems like the developers have really put some thought into everything a user could want. Security is top-notch. Be wary of lackluster customer support and potentially costly overage charges. If you can turn a blind eye to that, IDrive is one of the best online backup options available for individuals with multiple devices. Update August 2016: There’s currently a limited time 75% off promotion for the 1 year 1TB plan available here, at $17.38 for a year’s access it’s hard to beat.