iDrive Cloud Backup
iDrive combines cloud backup and cloud storage in a single package with many additional features thrown in, these include, a synchronisation client, system image backups, continuous file backups, end-to end encryption, file versioning and much more. In addition to these features, iDrive, also offer to ship customers an external hard drive should they wish to perform a very large restore or initial backup to help save time, a great idea!
Whilst none of the above features are particularly unique, what makes iDrive stand out more than most competitors is their very generous pricing and storage quotas, this includes the ability to use unlimited devices per account (the storage quota is all that is measured). This results in a very capable backup and cloud storage service which should meet the needs of almost all PC users, especially those who regularly work across multiple devices.
I’m looking forwards to see what iDrive has to offer, let’s go!
- Fully featured combining backup, cloud drive, disk cloning and more in one service
- Desktop software available for Windows, MacOS & Linux
- Zero knowledge encryption available (end to end AES 256bit)
- Both image based and file level backups supported
- Built-in disk cloning tools for migrating to new PC hardware
- iDrive express, option to receive very large restores via a shipped hard drive
- Unlimited file archiving (keep deleted files in cloud storage until removed)
- 30 historic versioning on the backup and sync drive
- Generous 5GB free account
- Unlimited external drives can be included
- Smartphone apps for iOS and Android available
- Limited file sharing functionality
- Multi-factor authentication (2FA) available
- No monthly plans available (must pay annually)
Signing up to iDrive Backup
Getting started with iDrive Backup is as simple as navigating to the sign-up page and then filling in some basic details, you can also log-in with an active Google account should you so wish.
iDrive offer all users a free 5GB account in addition to their premium offerings of up to 10TB, so this is a great option if you wish to try the service out first for yourself.
Once an account has been created and we have signed-in to iDrive we will be taken to the cloud backup dashboard, from this dashboard we will be prompted to download the backup software as can be seen below.
Installing and using the iDrive Backup Software
Once we have signed-in to the iDrive web console we can download the software from the “cloud backup” tab found on the left side of the screen, at just over 30MB this installer is quick to download and installation required only a few clicks before the software was ready to use.
Once the installation has completed (which required virtually zero user input) we are prompted to login to our iDrive account to link up our computer and start using the desktop backup software itself.
Once we have logged in using our iDrive account we are greeted by the main dashboard of the desktop software, from this screen we can get to all of the main features of the application form the left menu (Backup, Restore, Sync etc.) as well as the image based backup and cloning tools found in the bottom left corner.
So far everything has been simple and easy to use, adding new PCs to the iDrive account is as simple as logging in on said PC and there is no limit as to how many PCs we can add to our account (the only limitation is the storage cap itself). In the next sections I will be running some backups and exploring the other tools such on offer including the disk cloning, cloud backups and application settings themselves further.
Performing Cloud Backups within iDrive
Backing up a PC is one of the core uses of iDrive, in-keeping with the rest of the iDrive experience, so far, this is easy to get going with and can be started within the desktop backup software from the main dashboard. In the image below I have highlighted the two main backups we can start, one is a local backup which will keep our data on a locally attached external hard drive or NAS device and the other is the iDrive cloud storage service itself, during this review I will be focusing on the iDrive cloud backup.
Once we have decided on the location of the backup we can select the files and folders to backup from the middle of the screen, iDrive make our lives easy by pre-including the most common user folder locations for us. Other files and folder can, of course, be added and removed from the backup using the “change” button below the file selection box as is shown below.
Once we are happy with the selection of files to backup we can click on the “Schedule” button, found at the bottom right of the screen, to initiate a schedule for our new backup.
Once in the scheduling screen one of the first things to notice is, at the top of this screen, is that we have been assigned a backup set name by the application already. This name is auto generated and, unfortunately, only used to differentiate between local and cloud based backups (in other words we can’t set-up our own custom backup sets any further than this). Whilst it is great that iDrive supports multiple backup sets this particular implementation feels a little bit limiting. It would be much better to just allow users multiple, custom backup sets if they wish to use them (but not too big of a deal really).
Looking at the main part of the scheduling screen we can see a good set of options for scheduling our new backup set. This schedule can be set to daily or hourly (with an optional cut-off time) and we have the ability to receive desktop or email notifications when finished and even run the backup when the PC starts if a previous backup slot was missed or left unfinished.
Once the files have been selected and the schedule set we must use the applications main “settings” page to further configure our backup, this includes things such as excluding certain files and folders, setting a backup verification schedule and turning on the continuous (real-time) backup functionality. Whilst selected files and folders can be excluded at this stage it is worth pointing out that we can’t exclude files based upon their file type (e.g. we can’t exclude all “.exe” files from the backup).
I personally feel, at this point, I need to mention that I think the workflow for configuring a backup is a little bit fragmented. Whilst this settings screen in itself is easy enough to use, it does not fit in completely well with the concept of using backup sets only to have certain elements (such as continuous backup) selectable in a central settings screen. Suppose I wanted to have continuous backup switched on only for my local backup and run my could backup only once at the end of the day, this would not be possible under this configuration!
But with this slight complaint aside and going back to the settings screen it is easy to get the remainder of the backup configured, this includes switching on the continuous protection mode (for all backup sets) and configuration of the level of notifications we want to the application to show us.
Moving further down the settings section we also have the ability to adjust the performance of our backups, this includes specifying how much network bandwidth and use of the PCs CPU the application will consume.
And finally, in the settings screen, we have the ability to add-in any mapped drives into our backup set, this includes passing through a username and password wherever necessary.
Image Backups and Disk Cloning within iDrive
One of the main features of iDrive which helps differentiate it from other cloud backup providers is the ability to take image based backups and perform hard disk cloning (for migrating to a new PC etc.). Both of these features can be found in the “Clone/Computer Backup” screen which is accessed via a button found on the bottom left of the desktop software.
Once in the “Clone/Backup Computer” screen we can create a full image backup of our PC by selecting the “Entire Machine Backup” option, this will then take us to the image backup configuration page.
As can be seen above, the creation of a backup image is kept fairly simple with the only real options available being selecting the drive to image and the storage location to use (we can backup up to a local device like an external hard drive or to the iDrive cloud).
Once a backup location has been selected, we can click on the “Schedule Now” button to set the schedule for this backup, this is the same scheduling tool as we use for setting up our file based backup set earlier on.
After a schedule has been set, the image based backup will be complete and active, it is worth noting that making image based backups could be very slow depending upon your internet connection and the size of your data to be backed up!
The other feature under the image backup section is the cloning tool, this is useful when migrating to a new PC or simply upgrading the main hard disk which has Windows installed on it to a newer / bigger version.
As can be seen above, the disk cloning screen is both compact yet has all of the features we might need, this starts with selecting a type of clone to take and then electing to store this image locally or on the iDrive cloud.
The type of clones available include an option to take an entire drive image with your operating system included or a full disk image for full protection (this full disk option potentially including other partitions, operating systems etc.).
Again, as with the imaging backup, this cloning function does offer a schedule for making regular clones if you need to. This tool also, by default, allows restoring to dissimilar hardware which is ideal when migrating your Windows OS system to a new PC. Other than this it is a fairly basic yet very functional disk cloning utility with the option to store your image file on the iDrive cloud should you so wish.
True archiving and Historic Versioning within iDrive
Archiving is one of the most useful features of iDrive (in my opinion at least), this is the ability to keep potentially all files backed up regardless of whether they have since been deleted from the local PC in question. This means if a file has been deleted from your local PC it will still remain in your iDrive account forever (or until it is manually “cleaned up” or removed).
This functionality is automatically turned on by default when you start using the iDrive software, this means you will automatically have access to all files you create, even if you have since deleted them!
Whilst this is a useful feature, it should be noted these archived files will still eat up the storage quota assigned to the account, as such you might, at some point, have to look at cleaning up these archived files. Thankfully this is quite simple to do using the archive cleaning tool found on the iDrive web based console.
As can be seen above, we must first manually enable this clean-up tool to use it, once enabled we can specify a time period to automatically check through any differences between the cloud and our local PC and then remove any archived files and folders no longer present on the PC (but still in our cloud storage).
The automatic clean-up option below this (in above image) allows fully automatic cleaning of a small number of files if below a set threshold, in the above example this is set to 5% of the total number of files backed up.
I also need to mention at this point that whilst archiving is a useful feature, iDrive also has 30 days of file versioning built in for any other files which are actively being backed up. This is fairly standard within the online backup world although I would have liked to have seen this timescale set a little longer (or potentially unlimited) to compliment the true archiving features.
Restoring within iDrive
Having looked at all of the different options for backing up with iDrive (and there are plenty) we can now have a look at restoring some of our files. There are two main methods to perform a restore, these are via the backup client itself or the web based console which allows files to be recovered whilst using any device.
Starting with the backup client, we can start restoring files using the “Restore” tab found within the application itself, this will allow us to start restoring from the standard file-based backup covered earlier on (I will look at image restores later on). After entering the restore screen we can choose to restore form the iDrive cloud or a local device such as an external hard drive or NAS system, if choosing a local device we can then choose the device to restore files from (remember we can have multiple devices under our iDrive account).
Next, after selecting a storage location and device to restore from we can select any file(s) we would like to recover using the file picker tool in the main part of the screen.
As was mentioned earlier, we also have file versioning switched on by default when we use iDrive, this means can can (potentially) choose to recover older versions of some / all files. To do this involves first locating the file in the file picking tool and then right clicking to bring up the previous versions box (seen below).
As can be seen above, in the previous versions selection box we can see all previous versions of a file and choose the relevant one which we require for our current restore operation.
After all files are selected, the only thing left to do is select the restore location, this can be the original location of the files if required (overwriting existing files) or to another location entirely should the current versions need preserving. With this option completed the restore can be started by clicking on the “Restore Now” button at the bottom right of the screen.
Next I will be covering the image restore options, these must be initiated from the “Clone/Computer Backup” screen which was looked at earlier on. As can be seen below, to recover from a system image backup we must first enter the “Entire Machine backup” screen and then select the “Restore tab”.
Such image based restores are more involved than simple file restores, as can be seen above they require an additional piece of hardware such as an external hard drive to first stage the image before the operation can take place.
Whilst much more complex than a simple file restore and involving additional hardware and a Windows PE boot disk, these image based restores are useful should you wish to recover a PC which no longer boots up or move your entire Windows system to a new PC.
Cloud drive and Sharing features within iDrive
In addition to backup and recovery, iDrive, has built in a set of cloud drive features into its offering, this means iDrive will work like many other cloud providers taking advantage of any spare storage space assigned to the account after backups have being accounted for.
As can be seen above, we can monitor our synchronisation folder, which is set-up automatically, whilst installing the iDrive software (using the “Sync” tab). Selective sync (configured using the link at the top right of this screen) can be used to limit the files and folder synchronised to the current PC from other PCs should we not want the whole account synchronised for any reason.
In addition to using any other devices configured with the iDrive software we can also access the cloud drive via the iDrive web console. From here all files in the synchronisation folder can be accessed, downloaded and also shared via a web browser.
Link sharing is possible for any files in the cloud drive folder (in addition to files backed up using the cloud backup functionality) and links can be generated in the web interface by right clicking the item that is to be shared.
When in the sharing box we are given an option to enter the email addresses for those we wish to share the selected files with. Interestingly, we must provide an email address as there is no option to create a sharing link in itself here nor can we set password protection, expiry dates etc. making this a very basic link sharing tool!
iDrive Smartphone Apps
In addition to desktop clients for Windows, MacOS and Linux, iDrive, have smartphone apps available for iOS and Android devices.
The iDrive apps allow things such as any photos and videos taken on the mobile device to be backed up under the main iDrive account as well as providing access to other media stored on the account.
iDrive also provides full encryption for all media backed up via the smartphone apps in the same way they do via the desktop client.
iDrive make use of AES 256 bit encryption throughout their backup and cloud drive services, this is initially configured with a key automatically generated by iDrive but users do also the option to use their own password should they wish.
Other security features include multi-factor authentication (2FA) which can optionally be configured for the iDrive account.
iDrive have a very useful support section featuring tutorials, FAQs, a knowledge base and the ability to contact the support team via an online ticketing system, telephone or via live chat if required. All-in-all a good support system which makes it easy to get information and also get in touch with iDrive if needed!
iDrive Pricing Explained
iDrive initially provide everyone with a 5GB free account for testing of the service, this can be configured over at the iDrive sign-up page. In addition to the free account, iDrive also offer both 5TB and 10TB personal premium plans priced as followed:
5TB: $69.5 / year, $139 / 2 years (1 user / unlimited computers)
10TB: $99.5 / year, $199 / 2 years (1 user / unlimited computers)
Business accounts are also available, these allow multiple users and computers within the storage quote for the account.
250GB: $99.5 / year, $199 / 2 years (unlimited users & computers)
500GB: $199 / year, $399 / 2 years (unlimited users & computers)
1TB: $499.5 / year, $999 / 2 years (unlimited users & computers)
As can be seen above, pricing is very competitive given the ability to add unlimited devices to each account option. One of the only pricing downsides is that iDrive don’t offer any monthly plans at present, this means a full year must be paid for in advance regardless of the plan.
iDrive stands out as a comprehensive service offering subscribers cloud backup, file synchronisation, image based backups, disk cloning, file sharing and much more at a very competitive price point. One of the big draws of the service is not only this low cost but the generous premium plans (starting at 5TB) and the ability to add an unlimited number of devices per account.
Generally speaking, I found iDrive to perform well during my testing and getting a PC backed was simple and straightforward as was using the built-in cloud drive features.
A couple of small points were slightly less favourable, this was mainly due to the poor (or perhaps just over simplified) way of implementing backup sets and the generally confusing settings screen which seem to mix together the setting required for the backup set itself with those of the wider application.
The web interface works very well and it is nice to have all files from all devices centralised here and the ability to then download or share them thereafter. This is (unbelievably) actually still quite uncommon in a cloud backup tool and iDrive have actually made a very good attempt of implementing this (albeit, as was mentioned in the review the sharing functionality is a little limited).
Overall, if you backup and cloud drive goals are not too complicated this is a very good choice, especially for those relying on multiple devices and seeking good value!