Case in point: Google Drive. While one of the two or three best cloud collaboration tools ever created, Google Drive has many shortcomings when it comes to security and performance that make it so you need to pair it with another service if you don’t want to leave your data vulnerable.
One of the best Google Drive companions Cloudwards.net has ever reviewed is the hybrid backup service IDrive. During this side-by-side review, we’ll evaluate both services on a range of capabilities including backup, sync and security.
The goal is to prove that when it comes to secure file storage and total hard-drive protection, IDrive leaves Google Drive in the dust.
General Overview of Google Drive and IDrive
With its broad range of integrated applications, Google Drive makes getting work done easy. Most of these applications don’t cost you anything, either, which, paired with the fact that you get 15GB of free cloud storage just by creating Google account, it’s not hard to see why Google Drive ranks alongside Dropbox when it comes to total registered users.
The other reason Google Drive has taken off is that storing data in the cloud is turning out to be a really good idea. It means you don’t have to worry about losing your files if your computer crashes or your device is lost or stolen.
The issue with Google Drive is that it doesn’t make backing up your hard drive as easy as it could be because it forces you to move any content you want stored into a sync folder. We’ll talk more about how sync folders work, below.
That’s where cloud backup services — different from cloud storage — come into play. These services use desktop tools to help readers select content they want to protect, while also letting you maintain your file system structure. Because they preserve this structure, they’re a less disruptive way of recovering your data in case of catastrophe.
Founded in 2003, IDrive has earned its place as one of Cloudward.net’s favorite cloud backup services due to several features that differentiate it from direct competitors like Backblaze, Carbonite and CrashPlan.
At the top of the list is IDrive’s ability to sync content, a productivity feature more common to cloud storage services than backup. Sync lets you hop from one device to another, and work on the same content without having to mess around with USB drives.
Google Drive vs. IDrive: The Battle Rounds
While IDrive doesn’t have any integrated productivity applications, its ability to sync content makes it a perfect cloud companion to use alongside Google Drive.
Getting the most out of both services requires a deeper understanding of where each service stands tall and falls short with respect to the other. During four rounds of in-depth analysis, we’ll help you achieve precisely that.
Backup and Version Control
Being able to backup your files, as well as retrieve past version, is essential if you’re working online; let’s see how our two contenders stack up.
Google Drive is a productivity tool built around storing files in the cloud. Many people also use it to safeguard their most important files. However, storing files on Google Drive requires that they be moved into a sync folder on their hard drive. This means you can’t replicate your device’s file structure in the cloud.
Dedicated cloud backup tools typically feature a desktop tool used to tag files and folders rather than forcing you to move them all into one folder. Google Drive doesn’t have any such utility. That’s why Google Drive’s value, as we’ll discuss in the next round, is almost entirely in work productivity.
To support such productivity, Google Drive does incorporate one very valuable file backup feature: version control. Version control lets you undo unwanted changes and file corruptions.
For native file types created in Google Docs, users can revert backwards to previous versions for an indefinite period of time. On occasion, Google Drive does merge older versions in order to save space but otherwise there are not limitations.
For non-native file types, by default Google Drive keeps prior versions for up to 30 days per revision. You can access previous versions of non-native apps by selecting the item in Google Drive and clicking on the more button (three vertical dots) near the top of the web app.
From preferences, you can also extend how long Google Drive keeps select file versions.
Deleted files can be recovered, too. When you delete a file, it goes to a “trash” bin. It should remain there indefinitely until you delete it. If you delete it from your trash bin, you can contact a Drive specialist to try and recover the file for you.
Note: there are reports of Google automatically deleting trashed items after 30 days. However, I have items in my trash folder that have been there for over two years. It may be that Google does delete items automatically, but I couldn’t find any documentation supporting this assertion.
As far as storage space, Google Drive gives all Google account holders 15GB of free cloud storage space. Beyond that, Google Drive offers multiple paid tiers.
$ 1 99monthly
$ 9 99monthly
$ 19 99monthly
$ 99 99monthly
$ 199 99monthly
$ 299 99monthly
|Storage||15 GB||100 GB||1000 GB||2000 GB||10000 GB||20000 GB||30000 GB|
Annual Discount: 16%
Annual Discount: 17%
Annual Discount: n/a
Annual Discount: n/a
Annual Discount: n/a
Annual Discount: n/a
Price plan flexibility is an area where Google really shines, particularly with its affordable 100GB option. Such plans make it much more cost effective to pair with a cloud backup service like IDrive.
Unlike Google Drive, IDrive is built first and foremost for hard-drive backup. One of the key advantages to using IDrive for backup is that it helps you manage the process with a feature-packed desktop tool.
From the “backup” pane of this tool, you can navigate through your file structure and tag files and folders for backup.
The tool also includes a “scheduler” pane to set backups to run automatically. This is particularly important for users who work with large files, as running backup in real time can squeeze your computer’s resources.
If you prefer real-time backup, that’s an option, too. This feature is called continuous data protection (CDP). While CDP only applies to files under 500MB in size, that should cover most of your work.
The IDrive desktop tool is available for both Windows and Mac. IDrive also supports mobile backup for iOS (iPhone and iPad), Android and Windows Phone devices. Most other popular backup services have mobile apps to access stored content, but don’t let you backup your phone’s data.
Another somewhat unique IDrive feature is that it lets you backup your Facebook and Instagram accounts.
The range of backup options IDrive offers is strengthened by the fact that the service permits you to backup unlimited devices under one account. Other cloud backups services restrict you to just one device.
You can use IDrive for free with 5GB of backup space but that’s likely not going to be enough to protect your hard drive entirely. IDrive offers both 1TB and 10TB subscriptions.
|Plan||Free||Personal 2TB||Personal 5TB||Business 250GB||Business 500GB||Business 1.25TB|
$ 52 12yearly
$ 104 252 years
$ 74 62yearly
$ 149 252 years
$ 74 62yearly
$ 149 252 years
$ 149 62yearly
$ 299 252 years
$ 374 62yearly
$ 749 252 years
|Storage||5 GB||2000 GB||5000 GB||250 GB||500 GB||1250 GB|
Unlike many competing backup services, IDrive does not offer an unlimited backup plan. However, those services usually also only allow backup of one device. Most users will get along fine with just 1TB even for two or three devices.
Another advantage of backing up with IDrive is IDrive Express. Initial computer backups can take days or even weeks to complete if done over the Internet. IDrive Express is a free mailing service in which the company sends you a 3TB external drive in the mail. Load your device data onto it, send it back and IDrive will store it in the cloud for you.
In addition to online backup, the IDrive desktop tool can be used to direct tagged content to an external drive. Cloudwards.net recommends incorporating both online and external drives into your backup plan. Being able to manage both from the same tool is huge time saver.
As far as version control, IDrive maintains the previous ten versions of every file with their IDrive “rewind” service.
Deleted files are sent to a trash bin, just like with Google Drive. However, they are automatically deleted from trash after 30 days and cannot be recovered afterward.
Round One Review
Google Drive offers better version control options than IDrive. File versioning on this scale is better for work productivity than backup, though. It’s the perfect way to maintain control of content being actively collaborated on.
IDrive’s ten-version backup, meanwhile, works well as a safeguard against file corruptions and computer crashes. When it comes to thorough protection of your hard drive, ultimately there’s not much to debate. IDrive is built for backup. Google Drive is not.
Productivity and Collaboration
Working online is the new normal for many people: how do Google Drive and IDrive do here?
While Google Drive may not be designed for device backup, it’s among the best cloud tools when it comes to getting things done.
Google Drive’s work productivity capabilities are built around a set of native browser-based applications collectively called Google Docs:
- Docs: for word processing
- Sheets: for spreadsheets
- Slides: for presentations
- Forms: for surveys and other forms
- Drawings: for image editing
If you’re familiar with Microsoft Office or iWork, you should have no problem using these tools.
In addition to native apps, Google lets third-party apps to integrate with your cloud storage space. There are hundreds of such apps available, each of which can be easily added from a drop-down menu in the Google Drive toolbar.
A few examples of useful third-party apps that you find include:
- LucidCharts: for mockups
- SmartSheets: for project management
- DocuSign: for eSignatures
- WeVideo: video editor
- Pixlr Editor: photo editor
- CloudConvert: convert file types
If you prefer Microsoft Office over Docs, there’s a Google Drive plugin that can be installed to save your Office files directly to your Google Drive storage.
What makes Google Drive especially advantageous is that its application integrations enhance collaborations. Any file type saved to Drive can be shared with others. Once content is shared, collaborators can make edits, suggestions or leave comments from within integrated apps.
When you share content, Google Drive generates a URL link to that content. You can attach either view-only or edit permissions to that link to facilitate collaborations. Rather than create a link, you can also invite other users to access your stored content via email.
There are a few glaring security issues with how Google Drive handles sharing, however. You aren’t given the option of password protecting links or giving them expiry dates.
Additionally, while you can track revisions from within individual Google Docs files, Google Drive doesn’t give you any overarching way to audit what items you have shared and what actions have been taken by invitees.
Any content stored to the IDrive cloud can be shared with others by generating a URL link. That link can be distributed via email, posted directly to Facebook or Twitter, or shared manually (copy and paste).
Shared content can be granted view-only or edit permissions.
In many ways, IDrive handles file sharing better than Google Drive. For example, IDrive lets you protect links with passwords. There’s also a “shared” page available via the web interface to quickly audit what content you’ve shared so you don’t lose track of it.
The bigger issue with IDrive is that it doesn’t have any integrated applications, either native or third-party. This makes it tough to collaborate, as shared content will need to be downloaded and edited/viewed outside of the IDrive ecosystem.
Round Two Review
IDrive might have been the clear winner in round one, but Google Drive has returned the favor in round two.
IDrive handles content sharing more securely than Google Drive. However, that’s not nearly enough to outweigh the fact that Google Drive facilitates collaborations with selection of integrated applications unmatched by any other cloud storage service.
When you’re working across many devices, it’s important that you’re always working on the latest version; how do our two services do in this regard?
Installing Google Drive on your desktop creates a specialized file system folder called a “sync folder.” Any content stored in this folder is not only stored on your device’s hard drive but also in the cloud.
Since this process takes place in near real time, you can hop from device to device and work on the same content without losing a beat so long as Google Drive is installed on each device. Or, you can access your content via the Google Drive web interface.
As far as sync speed, Google Drive compares favorably to its biggest competitors, Dropbox and OneDrive. To put it the test, I timed the upload and download speeds of a 258MB compressed folder comprised of multiple file types.
|Upload time||Download time|
These tests were performed over a broadband connection with download and upload speeds of 160 Mbps and 12 Mbps according to speedtest.net.
However, these tests were also only for initial file movement. Many cloud services streamline the ongoing transfer process with something called “incremental file transfers.” This method of file transfer means that only the altered portions of files, rather than the entire file, are synced when changes are made.
While incremental file transfers are becoming increasingly common, for some reason Google has yet to implement them into its architecture. That means if you happen to work on larger files, sync with Google Drive will be more sluggish than it would be with services like Dropbox, Sync.com or pCloud.
Google Drive does let you throttle sync speeds directly from your device.
This is useful if you work with large files and want to manage bandwidth impacts that might impede other activities.
Most cloud backup services stick to backup. IDrive is one of the few that also incorporates device syncing.
What makes IDrive especially compelling is that you get a cloud storage allotment for sync that’s separate from your backup allotment. That means a 1TB IDrive subscription includes both 1TB of backup space and 1TB of sync space. By offering separate storage allotments, it saves you from having to try and juggle priorities.
IDrive sync works just like Google Drive and other cloud storage services by creating a special folder on your device that is connected to the cloud. To see how well it compares, I performed the same tests I did with Google Drive, using my 258MB test file:
|Upload time||Download time|
File transfers times are a bit slower, but not so much that you’re likely to notice unless you work with really large files.
The bigger difference is that IDrive incorporates incremental file transfers into its sync (and backup) architecture. In theory, that should mean that subsequent syncs of that 258MB file should be faster.
To test that theory, I made a small alteration to the compressed folder I used in my testing: I deleted one of the files inside of it. The altered changes only took 1:34 seconds to reflect in the cloud.
Although incremental transfer architecture lessons the need to do so, you can throttle upload and download speeds with IDrive from your device.
Round Three Review
While device syncing isn’t IDrive’s main goal, it handles it extremely well. Multi-operating system support, the fact that you can install IDrive on unlimited devices, and its use of incremental transfers makes it a better choice for sync than Google Drive.
Security and Privacy
Last but not least are security and privacy; after all, you don’t want your files to be freely accessible to just anyone.
Because cyberattacks and other eavesdropping dangers are so common these days, any cloud service that does not incorporate encrypted data transfers should be avoided. Fortunately, Google Drive isn’t one of those services.
Data moving between your device and Google Drive’s servers is sheltered in a secure 256-bit AES TLS/SSL tunnel using 2048-bit RSA encryption keys and perfect forward secrecy. This is called “in-transit encryption.”
Google Drive also encrypts your content at rest. Stored files are scrambled using either 128-bit or 256-bit AES, which is the encryption method recommended by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Your content metadata, however, is left in plain text on the Google Drive servers. Metadata includes file names, sizes and timestamps. Leaving metadata readable on the cloud might present an issue for some users.
The bigger issue with Google Drive’s security is that Google doesn’t offer users the ability to opt into zero-knowledge (or local) encryption.
Google Drive retains complete control of your encryption keys, which means a Google Drive employee can decrypt and read your content. It also means Google can provide readable copies of your files to third-party businesses and government organizations.
Or, if Google is hacked, it’s technically possible for others to gain control of your username and password, and then login to your account to access your content. By not offering zero-knowledge encryption, the fact that Google encrypts your content at rest doesn’t really mean quite as much.
Google does support optional two-step verification, which is something we highly recommend you use with this service, especially. Two-step verification means you’ll have to log into your account with both your password and a randomly generated verification code sent to your phone. The advantage of this is that it means hackers who crack your password (or steal it from Google) still won’t be able to access your cloud data.
Another plus with Google is that they go to great lengths to keep their data centers protected. Security measures include:
- Custom-built servers for total control
- Chunked and distributed user data across multiple machines
- Onsite patrols and video surveillance
- Biometric and laser alarm security
- Independent 3rd-party certifications (ISO, SOC, FedRAMP)
If you need more information on whether or not Google’s cloud security measures meet your needs, their security whitepaper is a must-read.
IDrive encrypts data both in transit and at rest. While stored in the IDrive cloud, your content is scrambled using 256-bit AES to prevent others from reading it. In-transit encryption is secured with TLS/SSL. When you login into IDrive, your user credentials are also scrambled in transit using 256-bit AES.
All of this is in line with how Google Drive and most other cloud services go about their business. What sets IDrive apart is that it also gives you the choice of opting into zero-knowledge encryption.
IDrive calls it “private encryption,” but it’s the same thing. With private encryption, you set your own encryption key, and IDrive never knows what it is.
Prior to being transferred to IDrive, your data is encrypted on your computer and remains encrypted through transit and storage. The only time your content is unscrambled is when you access it again on your machine.
Because IDrive can’t unscramble and read your data, neither can government agencies nor hackers. That’s why zero-knowledge solutions are the best way to secure your data in the cloud.
The catch is that if you forget your encryption key, you’ll also lose access to your content. That’s why it’s smart to use a cloud password manager like Lastpass.
The IDrive cloud is built on multiple data centers around the world to ensure your data is always available. Data centers are hardened to protect against both man-made and natural disasters. Key features features include:
- Raised floors
- HVAC temperature control systems
- Racks braced to protect against seismic activity.
- State-of-the-art fire suppression systems
- Motion sensors and security breach alarms
- Video camera surveillance
- 3rd-party vulnerability reviews
IDrive also holds periodic third-party reviews of their network infrastructure for vulnerabilities.
Round Four Review
Both Google and IDrive offer strong data center security to ensure your data isn’t compromised by physical threats. By encrypting your data while at rest and in transit, both services also take appropriate measures to secure your content from cyber threats.
If you’re looking for total data security, though, it’s worth seriously considering cloud storage services that use zero-knowledge encryption. Google Drive is not one of these services, and that’s probably the best reason to limit your use of it to ongoing, collaborative work.
IDrive, meanwhile, is the perfect tool for keeping your content safe over the long haul.
Google Drive has earned its popularity because it’s a cheap but powerful way to produce work product. The kinds of tools available for free with Google Drive used to cost quite a bit of money, in fact. So, it’s okay to get a little giddy about the possibilities.
Don’t let your euphoria fool you, though. As good as Google Drive might be, IDrive does a lot of things much better. That includes backing up your hard drive on the cloud, syncing devices and keeping your content safe from prying eyes.
If you’re trying to choose between these two services for a 1TB subscription, the clear winner is IDrive. That’s because the greatest advantages of Google Drive can be had for free. Completely backing up your hard drive, meanwhile, requires subscription-level space.
Both services should have a place in your device’s future, though. Picking the right cloud tool for the right job can go along way towards boosting your productivity while also keeping you safe.