Incredibly fast transfers, both backup and restore. Solid compression and security, but not the easiest program to use.
By Joseph Gildred – Last Updated: 24 Nov'17
During this review, we’ll be revisiting a long-time Cloudwards.net favorite, IDrive. Based out of the San Fernando Valley, IDrive has been in the backup game since way back in 1995 (when it was called IBackup). In technology years, that makes it practically a dinosaur. Still, oldies are often goodies and IDrive is one of the best online backup providers out there.
Despite its age, IDrive doesn’t act the part. It separates itself from its primary competitors, Backblaze and Carbonite, by letting you backup unlimited devices with a single subscription. That extends to not only your computers but external drives, tablets and smartphones, too. Coupled with attractive pricing, sync capabilities and an ample — albeit not unlimited — storage limit, it will work for almost anybody.
For a complete look at how IDrive holds up to the competition, have a look at our best cloud storage providers comparison chart.
Read on for a full accounting of why you should at least give IDrive a trial run by signing up for a free 5GB account. We’ll also touch base on some areas of concern that you’ll want to be aware of before committing to a one or two-year subscription.
- Unlimited device backup
- Inexpensive plans
- Sync capabilities
- File-sharing capabilities
- Block-level backup
- Private encryption
- Android and iOS backup
- External drive backup
- Advanced scheduling
- Continuous backup
- 256-bit AES encryption
- Image-based backup
- Social media backup
- File versioning
- Free courier backup/recovery
- 24/7 live chat support
- Harder to use than Backblaze
- No unlimited backup plan
- No two-factor authentication
- Not multithreaded backup
IDrive has a number of strengths to recommend it over the competition. Probably the most compelling are the fact that it can be used to backup unlimited devices (including smartphones), can sync devices and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg (for a service that’s very good but will stretch your wallet, read our SpiderOak review).
As far as weaknesses, IDrive’s somewhat steep learning curve (at least compared to Backblaze, which you can read more about in our Backblaze review) leads the way. Overall, though, it’s hard to find fault with this solid service.
IDrive is primarily a disaster recovery tool designed to protect users from hard-drive crashes. The service has desktop clients for Windows, macOS and Linux, making it one of the few online backups to support all three. External hard-drive backup is also supported.
On top of that, IDrive has smartphone apps for both Android and iOS. Unlike Backblaze, Carbonite and several other popular services, these apps are for more than just accessing computer files you’ve backed up, too. They can also be used to backup phone data. Both Android and iOS apps can backup contacts, media and calendar events.
The Android version can also backup texts, call logs and app data. IDrive can also be used to backup Facebook and Instagram accounts; it’s the only online backup service we know of that does so.
We’ll talk more about some of the features specifically tied to IDrive’s backup and restore processes below. Briefly, however, some of the things we like include advanced scheduling capabilities, notification options, disk-image backup and file versioning.
IDrive also implements “true archiving,” which means that even if you delete a file on your computer, it will remain in the cloud until you manually delete it there or run an archive cleanup process.
Syncing and Sharing
Broad backup options and great backup features aren’t the only way IDrive stands out from its peers: IDrive also offers capabilities more commonly associated with cloud storage.
That includes device synchronization and file-sharing. In this way, IDrive not only competes with fellow online backup services, but with cloud storage options like Dropbox and Google Drive, too.
In addition to accessing your backup and sync files from the desktop client and mobile app, IDrive also has a great web UI for doing so. There, you can also check what content you’ve shared and what content other IDrive users have shared with you.
There’s also an Office 365 feature for backing up Microsoft content and a timeline feature for photo viewing. In a nutshell, we feel pretty confident in saying there’s not a more feature-rich backup service available for home users at this time.
IDrive has two personal plans available. One gives you 2TB of space and the other gives you 5TB of space. There’s no month-to-month subscription plan; you can only sign up for one year or two years at a time.
During your first year of service with IDrive, you get a discount from its normal annual price of $69.50. The advantage of signing for two years is that you extend that discount.
|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
Even discounted, the annual cost is slightly more expensive than Backblaze’s $50 per year, but it’s a much better deal than Carbonite Plus, which will set you back $99. It’s fair to point out that both Backblaze and Carbonite Plus also give you unlimited backup space, while IDrive caps you at 2TB or 5TB.
However, IDrive not only gives you 2TB or 5TB of backup space, it also gives you 2TB or 5TB of sync space. That means you’re really getting either 4TB or 10TB of space to play with depending on which subscription you opt for (and puts IDrive in the same league as some of our best cloud storage services).
SpiderOak ONE might be a better cost comp to IDrive, given that it also caps backup space, lets you backup unlimited devices and can be used for sync. So, let’s consider it: the annual cost for a 1TB SpiderOak One plan is $129.99. That’s half the storage and about twice the cost of IDrive’s 2TB personal plan.
You can give IDrive a try by signing up for a free 5GB plan, which you can read more about in our article on the best free cloud storage. That won’t be enough to backup your computer, but it should be enough to see if you’d like to sign up long term.
The IDrive desktop client experience isn’t nearly as simple as what you’ll get with unlimited backup services.
That’s because IDrive’s 2TB or 5TB cap means you may have to manage your backup space, and so rather than backing up based on file type, IDrive requires that you backup based on file location. That means you need to go through your file system and manually tag files for backup, which can be a pain.
On top of that, IDrive has far more setting options than most backup services we’ve reviewed. While that’s a good thing in some ways, it doesn’t necessarily make for an easy user experience right away (i.e., there’s a learning curve).
Some users, particularly those that like to maintain precise control over their backups, will prefer the complexity of IDrive’s approach to a service like Backblaze, which eliminates most of the work involved. Others will be put off by it.
All that said, IDrive ultimately shouldn’t be too big of a headache for the average user, and once you get your backup plan setup, you can let it run in the background with very little oversight.
After you install the IDrive client on your desktop, it will automatically tag a few folders for backup, including your desktop, music, pictures, videos and documents folders. Everything else will need to be manually tagged by clicking the checkbox beside the folder or file name.
Once done, you can choose to either backup immediately by clicking the “backup now” button, or wait for your scheduled backup. When it comes to scheduling, IDrive offers broad customization.
You can choose a time at night for your backup to run so that it doesn’t interfere with your daily work, pick a cut-off time for it to stop running and choose what days it runs on. If you’d prefer more regular data protection, you can tell IDrive to run backups hourly, too.
IDrive Continuous Backup
In the settings tab, there’s also a checkbox for “continuous backup.” Enable this feature to backup files whenever a change is made; that way, you won’t lose file changes should something happen to your computer before the scheduled backup runs.
Once files have been backed up, when changes to those files are made, IDrive only uploads the parts of the file that changed rather than replacing the entire file. This method of file copying is known as block-level file copying, and serves the purpose of speeding backup processes up while limiting drain on system resources.
Block-level copying also reduces the space required to maintain previous versions of files. Versioning, as this is called, lets you restore past states of files in the event you want to undo a change or a file was corrupted. IDrive maintains the previous 10 versions of every file you’ve stored.
Instead of backing up files to the IDrive cloud, the client also lets you send them to local destinations. This includes partitions on your hard drive, attached external drives, NAS devices and WiFi devices.
In addition to backing up specific files, you can even backup entire drives by creating a disk image. Disk images are ideal in cases like hard-drive crashes. The IDrive knowledgebase has an article on creating a boot disk in the event that your operating system isn’t starting up.
File restores can be managed from the “restore” tab of the IDrive client. You can restore everything that’s backed up or just specific files. IDrive also gives you the option to restore files to their original location or a new location.
You can also restore files from the IDrive web UI. This is useful if you need to get at a file from a computer that isn’t your own. One of the nicer perks of an IDrive subscription is its IDrive Express service. This is a courier service in which IDrive will send you a 3TB external drive in the mail.
While other services, including Backblaze and Carbonite, have courier services for recovery, only IDrive lets you use this service for initial backups, too. The advantage of this is that backups over the Internet can take weeks to complete if you have a lot of data. Local file transfers are much, much faster.
Unlike local backups, online backups can take a lot of time: days or even weeks depending on how much data you have to protect. IDrive circumvents that drag with its free IDrive Express service, which we mentioned earlier.
If you don’t feel like using IDrive Express, you no doubt want to know how IDrive compares to the rest of the online backup field. To make that determination, we conducted a series of file upload and download tests using a 1GB test file (a compressed folder, actually) that we’ve used to gauge other services.
These tests were conducted over a WiFi network from Chiang Mai, Thailand. Upload and download speeds at the time of the testing were 10 Mbps and 50 Mbps. Based on those speeds, we can calculate that the file should take about 15 minutes to upload and three minutes to download with no overhead.
Here’s how IDrive did:
|Test One:||Test Two:||Average:|
That’s pretty close to our calculations and we can probably attribute the difference to distance from the IDrive servers and encryption processes. If you find IDrive is interfering too much with system resources, there’s an option to throttle speed found in the desktop client settings.
IDrive doesn’t let you initiate multi-threaded backups like Backblaze does. That would have been an nice touch to speed up the backup processes even more.
IDrive takes almost all of the necessary steps we like to see to ensure customer data is secure while stored in the cloud. That starts with both in-transit and at-rest encryption. In both cases, the level of encryption used is 256-bit AES, a protocol believed to have never been cracked.
Generally, IDrive will hold onto the key to decrypt your data. That way, if you ever forget your password, the company can reset it for you. However, if you’d prefer to retain that key yourself so that nobody but you can ever decrypt your data, that’s an option, too.
If you want to opt for private encryption, you’ll need to do so when you first sign up, however. Once you start backing up to IDrive, you won’t be able to make a change.
While 256-bit encryption keys might take billions of years to brute force crack, passwords — especially weak passwords — don’t. Even with a strong password, there’s a chance your password could be stolen or otherwise obtained.
To protect against this possibility, the usual approach is to offer two-factor authentication. Disappointingly, this is a security feature that IDrive has overlooked. IDrive does let you remotely disconnect synced devices. That way, if a computer or phone are stolen, whoever has that device won’t be able to access your files.
IDrive servers are maintained in hardened data centers in the United States.
These facilities are built to withstand natural disasters and fires thanks to features like raised floors, HVAC climate control systems, cooling zones, fire-suppression systems and racks built to handle earthquakes. 24/7 secured access, surveillance, motion sensors and breach alarms are in place to protect against trespassers.
IDrive is one of the few home online backup services to offer 24/7 support.
Better yet, that includes not only email, but live chat support, too. We fired up the live chat client at 2 a.m. on a Saturday night for fun (we like to party), and received instant connection with a support representative who quickly answered all of our questions.
For comparison, Backblaze live chat is only available during weekday business hours. Carbonite doesn’t offer live chat at all. If you prefer email, you can fill out a support form online. IDrive won’t even try to dissuade you from submitting the form by redirecting you to a bunch of unrelated support articles.
That said, if you do prefer figuring things out on your own, IDrive maintains an excellent support knowledge base with FAQs and tutorials (including video). IDrive also has a support phone number, although times for that channel are limited to weekday business hours.
In the end, we can’t quite say that IDrive is the right service for everyone. Users who don’t want to be troubled with managing their backup or those with more hefty backup needs will want to have a close look at Backblaze and even Carbonite, first.
That said, for those looking to save money, IDrive has affordable pricing and its cloud storage features means that you could cut that Dropbox, Google Drive or iCloud subscription cost out of your monthly bill, too. The fact that it can be used to backup your external drives and smartphones just adds to its versatility.
IDrive Express is a godsend for the impatient. 24/7 live chat support doesn’t hurt, either. No two-factor authentication is a troubling miss, but we applaud the option for private encryption and the steps IDrive takes to ensure data center security and user privacy.
No, IDrive isn’t the best choice for everyone, but, it is a great choice for almost everyone. That’s more than just about any other online backup service can say. For a look at how IDrive compares to its two biggest rivals, be sure to read our Carbonite vs Backblaze vs IDrive feature. Also, check out our individual online backup reviews for more detailed analysis.
Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to let us know your thoughts on IDrive in the comments below.
|Free Storage||5 GB|
|Price||Starts from $ Array per month|
|Free External HD Backup|
|Bare Metal Backup|
|Exclude File Extensions for Backup|
|File Size Limit||Unlimited GB|
|Share Photo Albums|
|Server Side Encryption||256-bit|
|Keeps deleted files||Unlimited|