Is ADrive’s 50GB Free Online Storage worth it?
- FTP Access
- Windows, Mac, Linux
- Remote access to files
- Slow restore speed
- Scheduling only basic
- Awful user interface
ADrive comes up with an enticing offer: 50GB free cloud storage is something very unique. Is so much free space too good to be true? Well, it depends. The problem is that it doesn’t come with encryption (the free account), so I highly recommend you try out this service and if you like it upgrade to one of the paid plans, as they offer good value for money.
Who is ADrive Online Backup for?
At the beginning of each review I write there is always the part where I ask: who might be the potential customer of this particular online backup service? Normally, I can imagine one or the other user type for the online backup services tested here. But in the case for ADrive it’s hard to think about one. Who might want to pay $6.95 for 50GB if you get beautiful unlimited online backup for as low as $4.95? Mhh… Also, I can’t think of anybody who’d want to organize backups with a complicated “Backup Manager” that doesn’t have the option to do automatic backups. Well, there is one advantage (if you can ignore getting eye cancer after leaving their website): ADrive has pretty speedy upload capabilities.
Change note 22.03.2012: ADrive revamped their design, but the main features in this review remain the same.
ADrive Review – Certainly not for everybody
ADrive was founded back in 2007 with the goal in mind to offer the largest free online storage space available. Indeed, 50GB is quite a lot and with the Basic Plan you’ll all that for free. However, free as in beer as always some downsides: there is no encryption applied to your data so anything you send through to their server is exposed to data theft. Also, ADrive claims to be ‘the leading online storage provider’ which is far from true, but self-marketing is okay. What bugs me a little is that there is no personal information about the founders: who is behind ADrive? They just claim is has been founded by ‘veterans of the storage and networking industry’. If I upload highly sensitive data to a service I want to know who I am working with and where my data is stored – at first sight I cannot access this information.
Signing up – Plans and Pricing
If you read other reviews I’ve written you know how important good design is to me. But it’s not only me: good design favors usability which ultimately leads to more sales for the company. So every dime invested into tested and optimizing the company’s website is worth the hassle. I already mentioned that the ADrive website design is utterly outdated. If we were still living the late 90s that would be OK, but 2012 this cluttered website does not convey the seriousness I expect them to handle my data with.
If you’ve found your way to the sign up page you can choose between 3 different plans: Basic, Signature and Premium. There are also Enterprise plans available but we’re not going to cover those in this consumer review. As mentioned before the 50GB free storage space is attractive and is certainly enough for most of the users: Mozy Home charges $5.99 per month for a simliar plan but covers more features, obviously, security being one important factor. Only go for the free plan if you plan to store data that is little sensitive as ADrive Basic does not cover SSL encryption for your files, nor file history or 24/7 support.
These features become available when you sign up for the Signature and Premium plan. The Signature plan offers the same 50 GB as the free plan but with encryption, file version history and multiple concurrent sessions. If you need more space (100GB starting at $13.95) then you have to choose the Premium plan. With $131.95 for 1TB ADrive clearly is on the more expensive side if you compare it to JustCloud where you get unlimited online backup for as low as $4.95.
The part is that you can test drive ADrive for free for 14-days and if you don’t like it you don’t have to pay. You need, however, give them your Credit Card or PayPal info to open an account. So you have to remember to cancel your subscription if you don’t like what you get.
Back up your data with ADrive
ADrive is available for Windows, Mac and Linux thanks to the cross platform application Adobe Air. So the installation of the client software is quite easy. However, it is not necessary to download the software for your backups. If you are a little more tech savvy you can setup your FTP program and start uploading your files directly. The FTP info is quite hidden in some guide on their website but you can use: ftp.adrive.com and login with your username and password that you created during sign up. Offering FTP access is actually one of the benefits of ADrive giving you the opportunity to integrate neatly into your daily routine as a web designer where you have to handle several FTP servers and don’t want to switch programs for your backups.
Most of the users, however, don’t want to mess with complicated acronyms like FTP, WebDAV and the like. That’s where the client comes into play. Apart from the less than ideal design the client is quite easy to use. Unfortunately, ADrive doesn’t offer automatic backup selection. So inexperienced users might have problems with selecting their initial backup. On the other hand, ADrive supports drag and drop functionality for your files that you want to backup. Just select the folder or file and drop it into a drive. Then, you have to select the location on your backup server where the files are going to be stored. Normally, I would expect that ADrive creates the folder automatically but instead I have to go in and create a folder on my own.
As always, I upload a folder of 1 GB in size containing photos, videos and audio files trying to resemble a typical backup scenario. After selecting your files and selecting the upload location you have to hit the upload button to transfer your files to a drive.
Surprisingly, ADrive’s upload speed is pretty fast. For 1 GB I only needed 41 min. Upload speed, however, depend highly on your Internet connection and less on the provider’s servers. So if you have a slower Internet connection expects backups to take longer.
ADrive has a built-in backup manager which lets you organize your backups. Unlike other online backup services it is not possible to upload data automatically with ADrive. But you have the option to add a backup job that you can schedule on a daily basis. Apart from daily backups you can schedule your backups to run every week or month at a certain time. If you have a folder that you want to back up constantly because you keep adding files to it you would have to set up multiple jobs each running with a one-hour delay. I find this method rather complicated and would love to see an option for at least hourly backups.
After selecting the files you want a backup and the target folder on the server you can monitor the backups in an overview window that provides information on the file size, the backup speed and the current status of your backup. This is quite helpful for you to know where you’re at.
Restore your files with ADrive
The best organized backup isn’t worth a dime if you cannot restore your data properly. That’s why I always review the restore process of the backup providers as well. If you go for an online backup service I highly recommend testing the restore process prior to the actual need of restoring your data due to a hard drive failure. That way you can guarantee faster data is safe and available when you are facing a computer crash.
ADrive’s restore functionality is pretty basic. In the client’s main menu you just have to press the download button to access your files and choose the ones you want to restore. Also, you get to choose a folder where you want to restore the data to.
It was pretty astounding to see that the download was actually slower than the upload. This is not happen to me before. As much as I favor speedy uploads it is more important that you get your data fast when you need it. While this is not a major flaw, it could be nerve racking when you need important project files right away after a PC crash.
ADrive managed to restore my test folder correctly. I could access all the files perfectly and there have not been any hiccups during the restore process.
Accessing your files remotely
ADrive gives you the option to access your files from within their web client. That way you can access your data from wherever you are. What I find surprising, though, is that I like the web client better than the desktop software. I can look at individual files what I can’t do with the desktop client which allows me to have a look at folders only.
The web client awaits you with additional useful features: you can share files with your friends, family and colleagues. If the file is for example too big for an e-mail attachment to just upload the file to your ADrive server, going to the web client, and create a public link for that file.
The downside of it is that I cannot limit the amount of downloads I want to grant the file. The only option is to revoke the sharing of the file.
The feature I pretty much like is the option to transfer a remote file to your backups. If you find a document, picture or video on the web you can enter the URL into the web client and transfer that file to your ADrive account. This is a unique feature to ADrive and I have not seen it before with any other online backup service. However, I think most of the users will not need it.
As with the upload and backup of your files you can also access your files via FTP. Generally, accessing files via FTP is a lot faster than using the desktop or the web app. So if you feel comfortable working with a FTP program you should organize your ADrive backups that way.
According to a drive you can edit documents online with the so-called Zoho browser. I tried uploading several Word documents but the option to edit those documents with Zoho was greyed out all the time. So I couldn’t test this feature.
As I’ve mentioned before, I highly recommend not using the basic plan for your sensitive data. The basic plan does not support SSL encryption which is needed to transfer your files safely over the Internet. If your data is not encrypted 3rd parties will be able to look at your data quite easily. If you go for the premium plan for example you get the Internet standard SSL encryption. It does not say, however, if it is 128 or 256 bit encryption. I can only hope that it is the latter as it provides more security.
ADrive doesn’t give you the opportunity to encrypt your files with a private encryption key on your hard drive before sending those files to their servers. For highly sensitive data this is an absolute must. Also, private encryption ensures that not even the backup company knows what files you are uploading. So if you’re really privacy concerned you probably shouldn’t sign up for a drive.
The only way to get in touch with the ADrive support team is via a contact form or a forum. However, the support queries in the forum are generally answered within 1 day which is good for technical support. ADrive advertises 24/7 support and for that to be true I would expect phone support which I couldn’t find on the website.
ADrive Review: Bottom Line
So the bottom line is this: if you are looking for free online storage space larger than 5 GB then you might want to give a drive to try. It is hard to find another provider which offers 50 GB for free. Keep in mind, however, that your data will not be encrypted if you choose the basic plan.
ADrive is more on the expensive side and has some limiting factors such as the file size limit of 2 GB. Also, the restore speed was quite slow. There is no option to set up automatic or hourly backups and you have to fiddle around with complicated backup jobs to get your tasks done.
For some users the option to access and upload your files via FTP might be a selling factor. The good option is the ability to access your files from a web client but this is common standard among online backup services today. The only unique feature I could find was the ability to transfer Internet files directly from the web to your backups. However, this feature will only be used on very rare occasions.