IDrive Personal Cloud Backup Review: Best Overall

[UPDATED with addition of two-factor authentication. This review was originally published May 15, 2018.]

IDrive doesn't boast the most features or the lowest prices of any online-backup service, but it has pieced together the best balance of features and value for owners of multiple computers who don't have massive storage needs.

IDrive Personal has virtually every "nice to have" feature that is on our list, save for unlimited storage, making it an easy recommendation for anyone who can stay within the reasonably priced 2TB storage tier. IDrive Personal backs up phones, offers a syncing option, has unlimited versioning and lets you quickly "seed" your account by sending in a hard drive with your data. If you're willing to spend more, there's a 5TB plan, which should be enough for most people, for $100 per year.

If you have just one computer and would prefer to keep things sweet and simple, you should consider Backblaze, a no-frills "set it and forget it" option that offers unlimited storage for a single machine for only $50 per year. But everyone else may find IDrive's greater flexibility and wealth of options worth the extra cost.

What Online-Backup Services Do and Don't Do

Online-backup solutions aren't the same as online-syncing services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud or OneDrive. Syncing services facilitate easy access to a specific set of files or folders across all your devices, while also providing tools to share those files with friends or colleagues. But it would cost too much to use a syncing service to back up all your personal files. This is where online-backup services step in.

Online-backup services handle all the personal files on your computer that could not be replaced in the event of theft, damage or hardware failure. If you have thousands of photos, videos, music or any other files that you can't imagine losing, an online backup service is what you need. Most offer either unlimited storage or backup for any number of your devices — and, in some cases, connected external drives — for a reasonable subscription fee.

However, the online backups often do not include operating-system files or installed applications. (IDrive Personal does, but you'll have to select those files manually.) The assumption is that you'll be able to reinstall those files in the event of a catastrophe. If you have any software that requires a license key, make sure you've saved that key elsewhere.

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To back up everything on your hard drive, you'll often have to do a full-disk backup to an external hard drive, connected either directly to your machine, or on the local network. Most of the online-backup services, including IDrive, include software to do this, but Windows 10 and macOS also have built-in solutions.

Costs and What's Covered

Technically, IDrive offers a free plan, but as it is limited to 5GB of storage, it would be useful only as an online-syncing solution. Few people interested in online cloud backup have less than 5GB of personal data on their machines.

IDrive is one of the few cloud-backup services we tested that fully backs up your smartphones and tablets.

Moving up to the IDrive Personal plan gets you up to 2TB of storage, and while IDrive doesn't quite match the unlimited storage offered by some of its competitors, it does let a single user back up as many computers as he or she would like, including external or locally networked drives.

At the moment, IDrive Personal costs $52.12 for the first year ($69.50 per year thereafter), or $104.25 for the first two years ($139 thereafter). That puts it nearly on par with Backblaze, which costs $50 per year indefinitely but backs up only a single machine per account. (Tom's Guide readers get even more of a discount for IDrive, at $13.90 for the first year.)

Unlike some of its competitors, IDrive doesn't offer monthly subscriptions. The only upgrade option is a 5TB plan: $74.62 for the first year ($99.50 per year thereafter), or $149.25 for two years ($199 per year thereafter). That's still quite reasonable compared with some other online-backup services.

The IDrive client software runs on Windows 7, OS X 10.9 Mavericks, Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich or iOS 11 and later versions of those operating systems. There are also command-line scripts available to back up Linux systems.

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IDrive is one of the few cloud-backup services we tested that fully backs up your smartphones and tablets, rather than simply offering mobile access to your backed-up computer files. For users of the built-in backups on Android and iOS, this is probably going to be a duplicative process, but having an extra copy of your files can't hurt.

Performance

To evaluate and test the cloud-backup services, we used a 15-inch Macbook Pro 2017 running Windows 10 via Boot Camp. We tested mobile apps on a Google Pixel XL 2. We evaluated each service individually, then uninstalled its software from both devices before the next test. Our set of files to back up included 16.8GB of documents, photos, videos and music. We uploaded this data to the cloud and then restored a 1.12GB subset of these files to the laptop.

We used GlassWire to monitor upload and download speeds in Windows, and the built-in Resource Monitor to track computer usage. We conducted our tests using TDS Telecom Extreme 300 (up to 300 Mbps down and up) home internet service in Middleton, Wisconsin. Real-world speeds during testing were typically closer to 280 Mbps down and 120 Mbps up, according to speedtest.net.

Our initial upload of 16.8GB of files using IDrive's standard settings took approximately 1 hour and 32 minutes, an average data-transfer speed of 26.1 megabits per second (Mbps). This was far and away the fastest upload time of any of the cloud-backup services we tested in 2018.

If you need to upload a significant amount of data, IDrive's rapid speed could theoretically do it a few hours faster than the next-fastest service, Backblaze — and days faster than a slower option like SpiderOak One.

Restoring 1.12GB of photo and video files took approximately 18 minutes and 20 seconds. According to Speedtest.net, our connection provided 295 Mbps download at this time, while IDrive transferred the files at 8.8 Mbps.

This restoration speed isn't terrible, but it's not as good as Acronis and Backblaze, which each took about 10 minutes to restore the same set of files. None were as fast to restore as SpiderOak, which took an incredible 1 minute and 55 seconds. (SpiderOak had by far the slowest upload speed, though.)

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IDrive used an average of approximately 4 percent of CPU cycles during the initial full backup, and the system load varied from 3 percent to 6 percent throughout testing. During regular computer usage, IDrive's background CPU load dropped to below 1 percent.

User Interface

IDrive strikes a solid balance between information and presentation with its desktop-user interface. The program offers one of the more comprehensive feature sets of the services that we tested within a reasonably compact dashboard view. IDrive doesn't overwhelm you with buttons and options.

The primary section of the desktop interface is, naturally, the Backup screen. As with most of the services we tested, IDrive will make an educated guess regarding the files you would like to back up initially, but you are free to ignore this and instead make your own selections.

You can perform the initial backup immediately, or you can schedule it to occur only within specific time windows, in order to avoid taxing your system while you are trying to work or game. You can tweak this option at any time in the Scheduler tab.

IDrive strikes a solid balance between information and presentation with its desktop-user interface.

Restoring files is straightforward as well, and gives you the option to recover either your entire backup, or only specific files from it. You can restore the files to their original locations, or to any other folder on your computer.

File-syncing features are increasingly finding their way into online-backup services, and IDrive has one of the better, and definitely one of the most generous, implementations of this function. It creates a new Sync folder on all linked devices as soon as you enable the optional (but free) feature. IDrive then syncs the contents of that folder continuously across your devices.

The bonus is that the Sync online storage space can match the backup storage size at no extra cost. In other words, if you have 2TB of backup storage, you can get 2TB of sync space as well. Dropbox would charge you $99 per year for just 1TB, so this is definitely a bargain, at least on paper; we haven't tested IDrive's sync services.

File-sharing is another option that online-backup services are waking up to. IDrive's simple implementation is a little limited, as it lets you share files only with other IDrive users (including those with free accounts). You can choose whether the sharing recipient can edit or merely view the file.  Removing sharing permission is as simple as navigating to the "Shared by Me" tab in the IDrive web interface and selecting the option.

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You can't use IDrive to upload a full disk-image backup to the cloud as you can with Acronis, but IDrive does put the option to create a disk-image backup on an external drive front and center. It's a smart idea, and one we missed while we were using Backblaze.

Mobile Apps

Visually, the IDrive mobile app is bland and has slow navigation at times, but it is the most robust mobile app that we tested.

It offers previews of your files before you download them, including thumbnails for your photos and videos, as well as the option to share a link to your files from within the app. A little visual polish would really help this already-powerful app shine.

The IDrive app tries to compete with stand-alone photo apps in Timeline: a chronological view, using large thumbnails, of the photos and videos you have backed up from your devices. Timeline is much easier to navigate than the standard IDrive interface, and allows you to download or share selected files. Hopefully, this feature is a sign of a transition for the IDrive mobile app to a more modern look and feel.

Extra Features

IDrive Express is a courier delivery service that lets subscribers request a physical hard drive (up to 3TB) once per year to either perform an initial backup or restore a large number of files from an existing backup.

If you're doing an initial backup, IDrive will transfer the files to its cloud servers once the company receives the physical drive. Paid subscribers are able to use this service once per year for free. (You must return the drive, obviously.)

The fact that IDrive lets you do the initial backup to a local drive is a huge bonus for anyone with a substantial initial set of files to back up.

Backblaze has a similar restoration feature that you can use up to five times yearly for free (paying only shipping charges to return drives), but it doesn't take drive deliveries for the initial backup process.

The fact that IDrive lets you do the initial backup to a (temporarily) local drive is a huge bonus for anyone with a substantial initial set of files to back up, as this could spare you weeks of a backup service monopolizing your bandwidth.

Like Backblaze, IDrive lets you use a private encryption key if you're looking for a little more security than the default encryption. You must make this decision when you create your initial backup. You will then have the sole key to unlock your files, and if you lose it, your data will become useless.

IDrive's Facebook and Instagram backup feature lets you add all of the photos and videos posted to your social media accounts to your cloud backup.

Recently added features include IDrive People, which applies facial-recognition to backed-up photos so that you can more easily tag and categorize images according to who's in them. (It works only on IDrive's mobile apps for iOS and Android.) The company also rolled out email-based two-factor authentication (2FA) for all users. We'd prefer to see app-based or hardware-token authentication, but any kind of 2FA is better than none.

IDrive keeps up to 10 older versions of each changed or deleted files forever, whereas Backblaze deletes them after 30 days. This endless versioning is great if you're trying to track down an old file, or you're recovering from a ransomware attack, but the old files do count against your storage cap, so keep an eye on them. (IDrive's Archive Cleanup tool helps manage this.)

The unlimited device support sets IDrive apart from competitors that instead offer unlimited backup and must therefore limit the number of devices. But as long as your storage needs don't overwhelm IDrive's 2TB or 5TB limits, the ability to back up any and all of your devices to this single repository is tremendously convenient.

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IDrive also backs up Facebook and Instagram photos and videos, including Facebook images that you've been tagged in.

Bottom Line

Based on features alone, IDrive would be the clear front-runner in the online-backup market. However, Backblaze retains a place near the top as well, due to its low cost and overall simplicity. These two are really addressing different segments of the market, though.

Backblaze is for people who have a single computer, want to set up the automatic backups and then be able to forget about it. But power users with many machines will love the added functionality that IDrive brings to the table.

As long as you can live with IDrive's storage limits, the program's higher cost (compared to Backblaze, at least) will be worth it. The ability to perform the initial backup with the free IDrive Express courier service is, probably by itself, enough of a selling point to win over anyone with 1TB or more of data to back up.

Credit: Tom's Guide

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  • emarhiggins
    IDrive has a fraudulent billing department and the kind of customer support that some dark comedies are built on. Two years ago, I canceled my monthly subscription. A year after that they tried to charge an annual fee for me. Billing and support refused work with me to shut it down. They wanted me to login. I did not have the password, and they would not help me reset it. I understand security issues ... There has to be a better way. I ultimately worked with the Credit Card company to mark the charge as fraudulent, providing them with numerous emails to show my activity to work with them.
  • Doh_123
    I'm a current IDrive user and have one major issues with it. Every time I create a new file I have to bring up the backup software interface to add it to my backup. And when I remove a file, I need to remove it from my backup list, or the backup will again fail. I really don't want to have to deal with incremental cloud backup at this level, I want it to be transparent and just work (like Carbonite and CrashPlan did).

    I also have been trained by the IDrive software to look at the logs at least once a day. The one or two times I didn't do that, the backup had been failing for a week, and I hadn't noticed. That's NOT the kind of transparency that I want. If the backup fails, I need to know about it ASAP so that I can fix it. There's no telling when one's computer might fail, and that's what backup is for.

    Anyways, I cannot recommend IDrive, it's the worst backup I've ever used. Just waiting for a chance to replace it. Both CrashPlan and Carbonite were better, they just worked in the background, and I didn't feel that I needed to be monitoring them all the time. When I added a file, it went into my backup by default, and when I removed a file it didn't cause the backup to fail. I could not pay attention to my backup, and it would be working an intact when I needed it. That's what incremental cloud backup is all about for me.
  • pdg.blitz
    It's all very well reviewing a product like iDrive from a TECHNICAL point of view, but what about whether it actually works in practice? What about it's customers? What do they think? Well if you take a look on Trustpilot you will find that iDrive has an ABYSMAL rating by customers - giving a "Trustscore" of just 1.6 out of 10. Yes that' right. ONE POINT SIX.

    The reviews - all 128 of them - make harrowing reading. Before using iDrive, I would suggest that any potential user takes a look at these, and the various reasons why actual users fell the product is poor or worse still left them high and dry after a data loss incident.

    I downloaded iDrive AND PAID FOR IT on the basis of the special discount offered here - 80% discount for year 1 - and it was only after 3 days that found that the "Continuous Data Protection" (CDP) was not actually doing anything and my new files were not being backed up!. The reason? iDrive was slowly backing up an external drive (used for pics and video files) for the last 3 days, and the software did not have the common sense to pause this backup to squeeze in backups of my new or changed "live" files before continuing with the external drive. Left to its own devices I would have no CDP protection for maybe weeks, until the external drive had eventually finished its initial backup!

    Worse still, iDrive did not warn me of this. And YES I have set up email alerts of backup fail and also checked my spam box.

    Coupled with the way that iDrive works with DELETED and MOVED files and folders, and the nightmare this could give you in a restore situation (learned via Trustpilot from customers having do this in real life), I have decided to sacrifice my $14 paid (a small price to pay) and go for a different back solution. Either Crashplan (shame they have ditched the consumer version service) or back to good old external drives (just more of them and spread around different locations) plus maybe using Syncback and FTP .
  • Doh_123
    Anonymous said:
    It's all very well reviewing a product like iDrive from a TECHNICAL point of view, but what about whether it actually works in practice? What about it's customers? What do they think? Well if you take a look on Trustpilot you will find that iDrive has an ABYSMAL rating by customers - giving a "Trustscore" of just 1.6 out of 10. Yes that' right. ONE POINT SIX.

    The reviews - all 128 of them - make harrowing reading. Before using iDrive, I would suggest that any potential user takes a look at these, and the various reasons why actual users fell the product is poor or worse still left them high and dry after a data loss incident.
    .


    Okay, so I went to Trustpilot and looked at the reviews for all the online backup companies. Trustpilot gets pretty much only negative user reviews...seems to be the place to go and complain when you've had problems. Either there isn't a good backup company in the bunch (which could be), or people with good experiences don't bother to post on Trustpilot. There were a few good reviews of any of these online backup solutions, but very few. Can't argue with the poster's experiences, they're their experiences. But given how many people are using a product like IDrive, this is a small sample of the actual user pool, and no telling what their level of understanding of how a program like this operates and is used is.

    For me, I've made my peace, at least temporarily, with IDrive. It is functional, our backups do get completed and I've restored from them. Myabe because we only have around 100GB. of storage backed up. But I do have to do a lot more monitoring than I'd like. Creating or downloading a file and then subsequently deleting it an hour or so later will cause backup failures until you run "verifiy" manually. Just deleting a file can cause the same sort of failures, again, until you manually run "verify". Shouldn't have to give a background "continuous backup" product this much baby sitting. Neither CrashPlan (only business now) or Carbonite (expensive for multiple computers) required anywhere near this much monitoring. Those both worked well for me, and you should see their reviews on Trustpilot *smile*...terrible products according to the users posting there. All I can say is that their experiences don't jibe with mine.

    By the way, I tried Acronis as well, free trial, and it's just a mess. If you want to spend your life on it you can most likely get it working, very difficult to configure. And the continuous backup options are limited and complicated, and quite difficult to keep running. Continuous backup in the background is what I'm looking for, look elsewhere for that.

    Anyways, while I have no particular reason to stay with IDrive for any period of time and several reasons to move on, I'll most likely stay with them a while now that we understand each other *smile*. FIrst thing I have to do when I turn on my computer is to check IDrive's backup logs to be sure that my backups are working...they're usually working, mainly because I pay so much attention to them.