Previously, I wrote about switching from CrashPlan to iDrive, then about my initial experiences after using iDrive for five weeks. It’s now over ten weeks since I started with iDrive, so I think it’s about time that I summarised my findings.
iDrive Performs Acceptably on my Windows Desktop Machine
I selected iDrive mainly to back up my Linux server. But it supports multiple platforms, so I felt that I had nothing to lose by using it on my Windows machine as well.
The software is a little irritating, popping up and grabbing your attention, rather like some of the poorer antivirus programs. But it seems to perform its function adequately. It also allows me to restore files which I’ve backed up on other systems (e.g. Linux), which is very useful.
I haven’t tested it on a Windows laptop, so I can’t be sure if it wastes energy while your laptop is supposed to be sleeping — which is something that it does with macOS machines, as mentioned below.
I Don’t Recommend iDrive for a Mac Laptop
The iDrive desktop app made my MacBook Air run hot. I would frequently find the battery was drained by the following morning, after I’d put the machine to sleep the night before — even though there were no files which needed backing up! As soon as I uninstalled iDrive from my MacBook Air, the battery problems went away.
I also found the macOS iDrive software seemed flaky when it came to spotting files which needed backing up. Google Drive sync operations managed to ‘sneak’ files onto my Mac, without iDrive noticing. It required me to ‘verify the backup’ (or wait a few days for iDrive to do that automatically) before it saw the new files, and backed them up.
iDrive Works OK on Linux, with Some Limitations
I’ve spent most of my time using iDrive on Linux, for my server backup.
The initial backup speed for my 1.1 TB of data was reasonable, averaging at around 3.6 Mbit/second. I’m not sure how much faster it would have been if my internet service provider didn’t limit upload speeds so much.
The main problem was that the initial backup kept stopping — it required a great deal of attention to check and restart every few hours or days.
I also had problems with permissions on my Linux system, which prevented some files from being backed up towards the end, until I fixed the permissions of the offending files.
The daily email reports that I receive about my Linux backup almost always say that it has failed, and that around 1 — 5 files failed to be backed up. When I view the log, the problem files always seem to be different, and always ones which have not changed in months. The log marks them as ‘FILE IN SYNC’ — presumably it keeps attempting to backup files which have not changed! It’s somewhat worrying to see ‘minor’ bugs of this nature.
The biggest remaining problem I have with iDrive on Linux is that the supplied scripts do not allow me to ‘clean the archive’ — in other words, to remove files from the iDrive backup which are no longer present on the machine being backed up. I presently have about 350 GB of wasted cloud storage space, due to me renaming and reorganising files after the initial backup — resulting in iDrive treating them as new files and backing them up again. Without resorting to a third party script or writing something myself, the only other solution seems to be to erase the entire backup and start again.
The iPhone App is Flaky for Backing Up
The iPhone app seems a bit hit-and-miss when it comes to backing up things like photos — see my previous article about iDrive. I’d suggest sticking with Apple’s iCloud.
However, the iDrive app is useful for looking at all your iDrive cloud backups — see below.
Restore Is Satisfactory for the Intended Purposes
Restoring via the Website
It is possible to restore files via the website, but this is limited to 650 MB. I found it to be reasonably fast at 2 — 20 Mbit/second (8 Mbit/second typically), which includes the time taken for iDrive to create a zip file ready for downloading. The files were bit-for-bit identical to my own copies, and all files were restored correctly.
Restoring via the Windows App
The desktop app does not have the web interface’s size limit when it comes to restoring files, but it seems slower in my experience. Restores speeds were more in the 4 — 5 Mbit/second range.
Restoring via the iPhone App
It’s reassuring and useful to be able to browse or restore a few files now and then using the iPhone app. Speed is adequate, and the ability to view photos as thumbnails is useful. Browsing photo backups using iDrive is much slower than using Google Photos though, so I like to keep my photos in Google Photos as well as having iDrive and local copies.
iDrive Sync is Best Avoided (At Least Between Windows and Mac)
I found that the free 2 TB of sync space which I got in addition to having the 2 TB cloud backup was of no use to me. I just couldn’t rely on it spotting files which had changed — see the previous iDrive article for more details. I now stick with Google Drive when I need to sync files.
I suspect that all the iDrive macOS software has a number of bugs which make it almost unusable — and the problems I experienced occurred when syncing between Mac and Windows machines — so perhaps syncing between other platforms might work better.
I chose iDrive as a reasonably-priced replacement for CrashPlan. Although it tries to do more for your money than CrashPlan, it feels like a lower quality product than CrashPlan, and seems to have far too many significant bugs and shortcomings — especially considering how long it’s been available.
I would always recommend having local backups in addition to any form of cloud backup service — and in the case of iDrive, I think that’s even more important.
If you view it as a backup which you’d use as a last resort, or to access a few files remotely from time to time, then I think it’s reasonably usable — as long as you’re not using it on a Mac laptop.
Having said that, when my two-year subscription is up for renewal, I will certainly be looking at all the alternatives once more.