Amazon Drive reviews have generally not been kind. Leading the list of complaints has been the lack of a sync function, the mainstay of cloud storage. However, much has changed, including its name (it used to be Amazon Cloud Drive), and with little fanfare the service has become much better. In fact, it recently made our list of the ten best Dropbox alternatives mostly on account of its excellent value.
Whether Amazon’s cloud storage service deserves a first, second or tenth look from you will largely depend on your needs. There are still some issues with the service, including a lack of productivity tools and no server-side encryption.
If you’re ready to give the service a try, you can sign up for 5GB of free storage plus unlimited photo storage by heading to Amazon Cloud Drive. If you’re still deciding, the following Amazon Drive review will help you determine where it stands in comparison to the best cloud storage services.
Strengths & Weaknesses
- Great subscription options
- Unlimited photo storage
- Fast file syncing
- Selective sync
- Nice user experience
- 24×7 support
- Chat and email support
- No at-rest encryption
- No link passwords
- No productivity apps
- Support not knowledgeable
Alternatives for Amazon Drive
Amazon Drive is in a much better place than it was even a year ago when it comes to features, but it still has some work to do.
One of the big problems Amazon Drive had previously is that it didn’t have a sync client, which kept it from competing as a serious cloud storage service. Amazon has since corrected that problem and now uses the same sync-folder model popularized by Dropbox. It also has smartphone apps for Android and iOS.
Even better, it uses block-level file copying when synchronizing content. This method of file copying produces faster syncs because it only copies the parts of files that changed rather than retransmitting the entire file. It’s the only cloud storage service we know of besides Dropbox and Egnyte that does this.
Amazon Drive also features taskbar notifications that alert you to activity and lets you throttle sync speeds.
File previews are available for common file types, including Microsoft Office extensions. You can also view photos and watch videos. You can store music, but can’t play it directly from the Amazon Drive web interface. However, Amazon Music should be able to access your music folder (it did for us).
Amazon Drive doesn’t include any work productivity integrations like Office Online and Google Docs, which is probably its biggest remaining handicap as a Dropbox, Google Drive or OneDrive alternative. More strangely, the service doesn’t yet perform file versioning, which will push some users away. Two other big misses are no at-rest encryption and no password protection for links.
While Amazon Drive has some great features, it’s clear there’s still much work to be done.
Amazon Drive nets you 5GB of free storage. That’s 3GB more than Dropbox, but doesn’t come close to placing Amazon Drive on our list of the best free cloud storage providers. However, if you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can store unlimited photos.
If 5GB isn’t enough, Amazon Drive currently has 13 storage plans available, making it the most flexible subscription cloud storage option we’ve seen yet, even beating out Google Drive. On top of that, the rates are more than reasonable.
- : Free plan
- : 5 GB
- : 100 GB
- : 1000 GB
- : 2000 GB
- : 3000 GB
- : 4000 GB
- : 5000 GB
- : 6000 GB
- : 7000 GB
- : 8000 GB
- : 9000 GB
- : 10000 GB
- : 20000 GB
- : 30000 GB
Amazon Drive used to have an unlimited storage plan for just $60 a month. However, the company discontinued its unlimited storage plan in June, 2017. While that might be disappointing, Amazon Drive’s sixty dollar 1TB storage plan is about $40 less than those offered by Dropbox and Google Drive.
Amazon Drive doesn’t have a referral program to gain additional free storage, unfortunately. If that’s something you’re interested in, Sync.com also gives you 5GB of free storage, plus an additional gigabyte for every friend your refer (read our Sync.com review for more details).
Ease of Use
If you already have an Amazon Prime account, you can login to the Amazon Drive website with the same credentials and should have immediate access to your 5GB of free storage. The user interface is pretty straightforward and shouldn’t give most people any difficulties, whether they’ve used cloud storage before or not.
To upload a file, just click the “upload” button in the top-left corner. You can either upload an individual file or an entire folder. You can also create folders and drag files around from within the user interface.
Desktop clients are available for PC and Mac. Installation is fast and creates a sync folder in your file system.
Any files that go into this folder gets sent to the cloud. If you have other computers with sync clients installed, those files will be passed along to them, too. That means you can make changes to files and access the changed versions from other devices without having to manually transfer them.
The Amazon Drive taskbar menu lets you quickly check file upload status and manage your settings by clicking on “preferences.”
We also tested the Android app to gauge the general mobile experience. The mobile apps let you access your files and send content on your phone to the cloud, including photos
Overall the experience doesn’t throw any curve balls at you and we like the design quite a bit. Amazon Drive doesn’t do anything spectacular when it comes to user experience, but doesn’t disappoint either.
File Sharing & Syncing
Amazon Drive features basic file and folder sharing that can be initiated from the web interface, sync folder or mobile apps. You can share content by clicking on it and clicking the “share” button.
Several options to share content are available: You can generate a link, email or post your content directly to Facebook or Twitter.
It’s convenient enough, but Amazon has some work to do to make file sharing as secure as a service like Sync.com, or even Dropbox. Missing capabilities include the ability to password protect links and place access expiry dates on them.
Amazon Drive does, at least, have a “shared” tab to quickly audit what content you’ve shared. That’s something many cloud storage services, including Google Drive, overlook.
Amazon lets you share folders, too, but doesn’t let you give users edit permissions to upload files to those folders. That severely limits its use for collaboration.
Sync, as we mentioned, is now an option with Amazon Drive, and the development team has even added block-level sync capabilities. That nudges Amazon Drive ahead of most of the competition with regard to device synchronization.
To be fair, though, zero-knowledge services like Sync.com and SpiderOak can’t incorporate block-level sync because private encryption and block-level sync don’t play well together. Amazon Drive also includes a feature called selective sync that lets you turn syncing off for certain files so that they don’t get saved to your hard drive.
The only issue we have with Amazon Drive’s approach to selective sync is that when you turn sync off, you can no longer see those folders in your sync folder. We like Dropbox’s approach better, which simply tags content that isn’t available offline but still lets you see everything.
As usual when evaluating a cloud storage service, we decided to take a quick look at how Amazon Drive handles file uploads and downloads. Like most tech fans, we run a little short on patience.
Our tests were performed using a 10GB test folder that we use for routine testing. Tests were performed from a location near Boston, Massachusetts, over a WiFi connection with download speeds of around 200 Mbps and upload speeds of around 12Mbps.
Here are our results:
|Test 1:||Test 2:||Average:|
Around fifteen minutes per gigabyte is about where we like to see uploads, while two minutes for downloads is a bit faster than average.
These speeds are for initial file transfers, too. With block-level syncing, remember that whenever changes are made to a file already copied elsewhere, you should expect to see the updates significantly faster than the times posted above.
Amazon Drive also lets you throttle upload and download speeds if you find sync impacting your system resources. However, during our testing we didn’t find this to be the case. During subsequent tests, we were able to stream YouTube videos while sync was ongoing without issue.
Good cloud security starts with encryption, which these days should be a basic expectation. Unfortunately, Amazon Drive stumbles out of the gate by failing to encrypt user data at-rest on its servers.
We got suspicious when we couldn’t find any mention of what encryption protocol it uses online, so we double checked with Amazon Drive support. After some confusing runarounds (see support, below), we finally got confirmation that data doesn’t get encrypted.
Data center security itself with Amazon, on the other hand, should be excellent. The Amazon Drive cloud utilizes the same server network that Amazon uses for Amazon S3 and its own internal data.
Amazon supports two-factor authentication for your login credentials, which you can turn on through your Amazon.com account page. These are the same credentials used for the eCommerce platforms, Amazon Video and Amazon Drive. Two-factor credentials prevent a weak or stolen password from letting someone else login into your account.
Other than that, though, it’s not good news. We generally recommend that users take their privacy into their own hands, but in the case of Amazon Drive, it’s much more important to do so.
If you do decide to use Amazon Drive, you’ll want to make sure you encrypt your files first using a service like Boxcryptor.
Amazon Drive support is below average and it’s mostly because Amazon ties support for all of its services together. That means that support representatives handle the eCommerce platform, Amazon Video, Amazon Music, Amazon Drive and everything else, leading to issues with knowledge gaps. The net result is that while both email support and live chat are available, it’s a bit hard to get straight answers to your questions.
Frustrated, we opened a chat session with Amazon instead and asked a simple question: Are files stored on Amazon Drive encrypted?
Here’s the answer we received: “Yes, if you sign in then you are eligible access. Other person can’t access your files without you sign in.”
Okay, not exactly want we wanted to know, so we clarified the question, and after a few minutes were advised that sometimes Amazon makes us go through a two-step verification process on unknown devices. Still not what we were looking for.
Undeterred, we tried again. Finally, after an extended wait, the technician came back with the answer: “As I have checked that there is no encrypted, It will be the same which you have uploaded.”
The answer,then, is that no, Amazon doesn’t yet encrypt your files on its servers but that “there will be changes.” We tried to find out when those changes might be happening, but that discussion went nowhere fast.
The good news is that Amazon technicians are available 24/7, chat agents are readily available and emails are replied to within a day based on our tests. You just have to be a little persistent and not settle for irrelevant answers.
Amazon Drive has come a long way in the past year or so and now stands as a viable cloud storage option in many ways. It’s priced extremely competitively and lets you store unlimited photos, although cost and storage have never really been issues. The biggest difference is that Amazon Drive can now be used for syncing, and actually seems to manage that process better than most cloud storage services.
That said, Amazon still has some work to do.
File sharing could be made more secure with password protection and we’d like to see Office Online, Google Docs or even a native notes application added for work productivity. Without those things, sync capabilities are of limited use. Additionally, while support is readily available, dedicated Amazon Drive support would ensure better trained support representatives.
The biggest drawback with using Amazon Drive is that the company doesn’t encrypt files stored on its servers. Given Amazon’s popularity, it’s hard not to imagine that it’s a big target for would-be hackers, and that makes us doubly nervous. If you do decide to go with Amazon Drive, the smart play would be to encrypt your files before sending them to the cloud.
We’ll keep you updated if and when Amazon Drive decides to add at-rest encryption. In the meantime, we hoped you enjoyed our Amazon Drive review. Please leave your comments below and thanks for reading.