Once upon a time, Apple’s 5GB free iCloud storage was considered quite generous. Three years later, the same offer looks Scrooge-like in an age where multiple devices on the same account are now capable of holding 64GB or even 128GB of data.
Enter iDrive, a service once focused on Mac and PC backup, now with a renewed focus on mobile (currently iOS, Android, and Windows Phone). iDrive offers unique plans featuring dedicated storage buckets across any linked device: one allotment for backup, another devoted to syncing any files or folders copied into it. Its free tier includes 5GB per category, effectively doubling Apple’s sparser offering. While the free, universal app can’t back up apps or system files due to iOS restrictions, the service covers the most valuable type of user data: contacts, calendar, photos, and videos – which are capable of being uploaded automatically with the tap of a button.
The beauty of iDrive is its cross-platform nature. Files backed up on iOS are available to access or restore on Android or other platforms. The service maintains up to 30 previous file versions, all protected by military grade 256-bit AES encryption. iDrive can even securely backup Facebook photos and videos, including those you’ve only been tagged in.
iDrive Express is a free, once-a-year service for Pro Personal users (300GB for $49.50 annually). Instead of uploading gigabytes of data over a slow connection, iDrive ships a hard drive onto which users copy up to 3TB of data using the Express software. Once returned with the prepaid shipping label, data is available in your account in a matter of days.
The iOS app does have a few caveats. Auto Camera Upload backs up Camera Roll and Photo Stream, so we wound up with redundant backups across multiple devices; more robust settings could prevent such unnecessary uploads. You’ll also want to switch Upload Quality settings to “Original” if iDrive is your only backup, otherwise photos and videos default to less-than-archival “Good.”
The bottom line. Despite a few iOS app quirks, iDrive is a cost-effective, far more generous iCloud supplemental backup. It’s perfect for cross-platform device owners.
iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad running iOS 7.0 or later
- Cross-platform backup and sync. More generous, affordable storage capacities than iCloud. Free iDrive Express skips the need for lengthy initial Internet backup.
- Redundant photo and video backups across multiple devices. Unable to perform system-wide backup of iOS devices. Defaults to lower-quality photo and video backups.