Livedrive Review: Get your files into the cloud
- Unlimited backup storage
- 5TB of syncing space
- Automatic or scheduled backup
- Problems with reliability
- LAN Sync doesn’t work
- Customer support questionable
LiveDrive offers unlimited online storage plus a 5TB Briefcase to sync your files among a variety of devices. If you are a little more patient you certainly get good results with Livedrive though there are reliability issues. Customer support isn’t the best, either, but it is getting better.
Who is LiveDrive for?
LiveDrive claims to be not only an online backup service but also a full-fledged syncing powerhouse. You have tried Dropbox and still feel you need more online storage space than their 100GB? You might be interested in LiveDrive. With unlimited backup storage and a 5TB so-called syncing “Briefcase,” you’ll never feel storage shortcomings ever again. So if you’re a data junkie and have lots of videos, music and raw photos you’ll love the freedom Livedrive offers. Also, they have an enticing price tag on their products and give interesting discounts when you’re willing to commit yourself for more than a year. So if you think Dropbox has nothing for you, given its limitations (no real backup and less storage), then give Livedrive a free try. There have been quite bad reviews about Livedrive in the past. Many of the issues have been resolved, but still there are some issues which we’ll cover in this review.
LiveDrive Online Backup Review
Livedrive was founded back in 2006 by the famous Internet millionaire Andrew Michael who previously sold his company Fasthosts for $47m. Wow! With enough money in the bag and a lot more experience to rely on, he could pursue two of his childhood’s dreams: founding successful internet companies and buying a helicopter. Livedrive seems to be another successful coup because with 20 employees, combining backup and syncing, he is at the top of his game.
Livedrive offers several packages that suit different needs. There is the backup-only solution which just does plain unlimited online backups of your data for $7.95/month (standard monthly fee). This is certainly not the cheapest offer out there (BackBlaze, for example, starts at $5/month) but it is in the middle range. Further, they offer a “Briefcase” which is a pure syncing solution, which also technically does a backup of your data. In that case you’re restricted to up to 5TB or else you have to pay more for each TB you require. The “Pro Suite” which I’ll review here combines online backup and syncing features in one great package for $24.95/month. For unlimited online backup and 5TB of syncing that’s a great price. Despite itsbeing overkill for many users, I’ll review the Pro Suite here to be able to compare it with its competition SugarSync and Dropbox.
First impression and signing up
Livedrive surprised me with a very clean, almost businesslike layout. Instantly I have a good overview of what kind of products they offer and what each product does. I can decide if I want to have the backup-only solution when I don’t need to sync my data among multiple devices. The online backup-only solution is available for $7.95 per month. As most of the online backup services do Livedrive also offers a free trial of 2 weeks which gives you plenty of time to try their product, move data back and forth, and see if it works for you or not, without a commitment.
Backup, Briefcase or Pro Suite?
The big question is which kind of service you should choose. If you are looking for online backup only, then go for “Backup.” It’ll give you unlimited, hassle-free online storage and also will back up your network storage in case you have one.
Syncing freaks will love the Briefcase, which syncs your data among virtually all your devices and even promises to stream your data to your iPhone or iPad. Later in this review we are going to have a look at that. With 2 Terabytes of storage you can even use it as a backup, though it is a little more expensive ($15.95/month).
If you want both worlds, then you can get the Pro Suite which combines backup and syncing and you’ll get a backup of up to 5 PC’s or Macs. This is definitely something for advanced users as the price is also quite stiff at $24.95 per month. In this review we are going to test the Pro Suite because we want to compare backup and sync. The functions are 100% the same – so don’t worry if you just want either backup or syncing.
The good thing is that you don’t need a credit card for your free trial. So you’re not running the risk of forgetting that you signed up and then having to pay for a full year. However, if you choose to test drive for two weeks you end up paying a much higher price than if you committed yourself directly for, say, two years.
Frankly, I don’t like this practice. You’ll be at a big disadvantage when choosing the free trial, so, yeah, strings are attached. There is another way, though. It is better to pay for two years and later ask for a refund if you are not happy. In that way you’ll get a 30-day trial and you can cancel any time within this period. If you like it – perfect, you just saved yourself 10 bucks per month. And if you don’t, you just get a nice refund back to your credit card. If you choose the free trial you’ll never have the option of the discount again.
- Easy to use website
- Good and clear overview of plans
- Fair price, in the midrange
- After free trial no option for discount
- No PayPal payment possible
After my first positive impression I was actually a little disappointed. This is not the way one should do business. But let’s have a look at the most important part: does the online backup and syncing work flawlessly?
How to backup your data with Livedrive
As usual, I’ll use my 1GB test folder to test the backup service. It contains photos, videos and other files one might be backing up. After installing the software you run through a wizard helping you select the files you want to secure. I like the option to specify a proxy server in between. I haven’t seen that elsewhere so far, and honestly, this is only something for geeks like me. But this can give you additional protection and security.
There is no automatic file selection as in MyPCBackup or SugarSync and for my test purposes this is just about right. I can select my test folder and start the backup. In the detailed status window I can literally see how my files are being backed up. I must admit this is always a great feeling of relief knowing that everything is secure and nothing can ever happen to my files again. Unfortunately I can’t prioritize the files within the folder in which they should be uploaded. Certainly, some files are more urgent to be safely backed up than others. I’d love to see that feature with future versions of the software. You can, however, prioritize by file type. So you could say you want to give all your images high priority.
All in all, backing up my test folder of 1GB took 4:21h. Not bad, but SugarSync was faster, at around 2 hours.
Livedrive’s Client Interface
Playing around with Livedrive you can get the impression that they don’t want you to use their software but rather do your backups within Windows. Let’s say you are working on an important document that you have been working on for a long time now, and you want to make sure not to lose it, whatever happens. You can just right-click on that file and select “Backup with Livedrive” and it’s added to your backup queue.
If you want to select multiple files and folders to backup you should use the “Manage Backups” Window. This is a lot more convenient and faster. You can identify backed up files and folders with a little green rectangle on the file so you can be sure not to miss anything.
In general I find Livedrive’s software rather confusing. At first I couldn’t really find out what part of the software I needed to use…Do I need to access the “Detailed Status” or the “Manage Backups” tab? It is actually quite a pain.
LAN Sync or what?
LAN sync is especially important when you need to sync data in your network at home or at the office quickly. Because if you don’t do it via LAN, then all those files have to be transferred back to the backup company’s servers. That can take a long time!
Hypothetically, LAN sync should be possible with Livedrive, and I was really looking forward to it since SugarSync didn’t offer this important feature, which could be a deal breaker. In my testing I couldn’t get it to work. It just wouldn’t identify the machines and chose to upload the files to Livedrive’s servers, which takes ages.
I copied the test folder from the backup location into the Briefcase and needed to wait again a couple of hours until everything was uploaded. However, to my disbelief, some files just weren’t uploaded correctly and thus unusable. So neither LAN sync works nor was the briefcase reliably usable. Some files worked, others didn’t, and were just shown with the extension “.ld”.
Scheduling your online backups or autodetect files
Livedrive offers a good scheduling function where you can specify exactly when you want your data to be backed up. So you could program your backups for when you are at work and save bandwidth when you are at home. Especially for slower PC’s and Internet connections, this is a helpful feature.
When you have specified a folder to back up, Livedrive monitors this folder for changes. This worked fine in my testing. I added a couple of files, watched the backup status, and the files would magically appear in the queue.
Online Backup Security
Security is and should be a major issue. to think about. You don’t want any third parties to see your files, especially when you also plan to upload sensitive data. Livedrive’s communication is encrypted with the military standard AES-256 algorithm which gives good security when transferring your data. However, there is no option to encrypt your data with a private key so that even Livedrive employees couldn’t see your files. Competing offers such as the one from BackBlaze do offer this kind of private encryption.
- Easy to select files to back up
- Prioritization of file types
- Confusing software
- Syncing and backup seem to be not reliable
- LAN sync didn’t work for me
Syncing flaws and incremental backup
I already wrote a few words about Livedrive’s syncing and that it didn’t convince me much. However, I wanted to dig a little deeper and test their incremental backup. Incremental backup is a useful feature which only uploads the changed portions of a certain file. This decreases upload time around 90%.
So I created a zip file which contained the files of my test folder and I tried to upload and sync this file with my Briefcase. It did sync after an hour or so but I couldn’t monitor the process in the “Detailed status” window. After it was finished several files weren’t accessible. I think I need more patience but when you are used to Dropbox that has LAN sync, it’s a different story.
Then, I added some files to the zip file and there was the beauty of incremental backup: the file was quickly updated with the changes I had made.
How to restore your data with Livedrive
I can assure you the day will come. You are trying to switch on your PC and nothing works. Without backup you would have lost all your data. That’s why a flawless and speedy recovery process is as important as a hassle-free backup. Let’s see how Livedrive will perform in that case.
Livedrive Restore or Web Restore
This one is actually quite tricky. Other online backup services I reviewed had a restore function directly built into their client software offering me to restore everything with the click of a button. When I tried to restore my test folder I was looking desperately for this little lifesaving button. But I couldn’t find it.
So I thought maybe they only offer web restore which is fine for me, but they should tell me somewhere in their software. I decided to consult their FAQ and learned that I need to download and install more software, called Livedrive Restore.
I chose to restore my files via the web restore interface because I didn’t want to install yet more software that I’d probably just use one time.
Recovery was fast and flawless. I downloaded individual files as well as my whole test folder of 1GB. I think download speed could have been better but it is difficult to measure.
The web interface feels a bit messy and outdated. It requires too many clicks to get to my files. I wish they had implemented a button that says: Recover your data here. So for the inexperienced user, recovering the data could be a pain.
- Incremental backup worked
- Restore only with extra software or via web
- Messy web restore interface
- Syncing quite slow
Prices range from $7.95 to $24.95. I chose the Pro Suite for $24.95 a month which offers unlimited backup and 2TB of syncing space. That is a really good price and you can even save more money when you are willing to commit yourself for more than a year. Remember they have a 30-day money back guarantee – so there is no risk in trying it to see if Livedrive is something for you.
Backup from $69.95 per year – Try it now for free
Livedrive online backup review summary
Livedrive has a very appealing offer – unlimited online backup and 5TB syncing which is currently quite unique in comparison to its competitors. There are, however, reliability issues. Some files in my testing were not backed up correctly and I had trouble recovering them. Syncing works allright, but I couldn’t get LAN syncing to work. That’s a shame, but this function is still in beta status.
There have been lots of complaints in the past about Livedrive and their services. Though I can understand their complaints I think much has been done lately to give the software and the service in general more stability and reliability. Thus, if you are in need of unlimited storage and need an additional huge syncing space for your files – go with Livedrive. But be prepared to bring some patience when syncing and backuping your data.