Livedrive is a London based platform, originally launched back in 2008. It’s another company bought by J2 Global, who also owns other SaaS businesses SugarSync, KeepItSafe and LiveVault.
With so many competitors inside and outside its own sphere, how can Livedrive hope to offer something unique and distinctive?
On first impressions, there isn’t much radical about the Livedrive solution, as it uses the same desktop client replicating to cloud storage model that most of them use.
Both the PC and Mac have client tools, although the PC is exclusively Windows with no Linux support currently available.
There are Apple iOS and Google Android apps, and these do secure photos, but not any settings or application data.
Any media backed up from a phone or tablet appears in the Briefcase folder, and therefore requires that functionality in the chosen plan to work.
The big selling point is that there isn’t any specific storage amount allocated to backing up a system, although limits are set on general offline storage that Livedrive branded ‘Briefcase’.
That functionality comes exclusively with the Pro Suite, and as part of that subscription, there is 5,000GB of Briefcase storage add-on.
Alternatively, you can choose to not have an unlimited backup plan and just Briefcase functionality, if that suits your needs.
The reason that we’re mentioning these plans so early in this review is that they directly impact on the Livedrive dashboard client tool. Depending on the plan you have it has backup and Briefcase options or one of those two.
This tool was probably the best aspect of Livedrive, as was easy to use and understand.
Livedrive Dashboard is the main tool that most users will access for backing up, restoring, and to monitor the overall status of the system.
You can flip easily between the two modes, Backup and Briefcase, and configure each to use the available bandwidth smartly.
Oddly, Backup isn’t live, being on a one hour cycle by default, but you can click ‘Back up now’ if you want to make sure that a file is duplicated to storage before shutting down the computer.
The versioning of files is supported, although you won’t actually see the previous editions until you go to restore it.
An interesting feature of Dashboard is that it can initiate a backup of other systems that have Livedrive installed on the same account and physical network.
Overall, the Dashboard is a decent tool that’s only major weakness is that is rather small on a high-resolution display, and it can’t be resized to make working with long folder or file lists any easier.
Less restricted in size is the web interface, where you can see all the systems that are secured and what files are backed up or in Briefcase.
Where other services are offering end-to-end encryption or private keys, Livedrive hasn’t gone down that road. The backup files are AES-256 bit encrypted on the Livedrive servers, but you must explicitly set that files in the Briefcase folder are, as they’re not by default.
The keys are held only by Livedrive, so that doesn’t protect them from the company being hacked or a disgruntled employee.
A long trip through the terms and conditions also threw up some indicators that Livedrive employees are empowered to look at what is being stored, and even delete things considered to be in breach of copyright, without notification or reference.
In short, if you want enhanced security then pick another service, like Spideroak, because privacy and security do not appear to be high on the Livedrive agenda.
When you offer a 14-day free deal to try the system out, what you don’t normally expect is that the next step in the process to demand a card number. That’s the way that Livedrive rolls, and cancelling requires you ring customer services, even after filling out a form requesting cancellation.
The excuse given for demanding payment information on a ‘free’ trial is that the information is needed to activate your account and ensure your files remain protected. That makes no sense to us, as surely all data gets the same protection irrespective of its payment status?
If you are willing to give up this information on the basis that you trust a company that you’ve never dealt with previously, you have a selection of plans on offer.
For the personal customer, Livedrive offers three levels of service that starts at $6.47 (£5) a month for the Backup tier on a single computer, PC or Apple Mac, with unlimited storage.
Alternatively, you can use the Briefcase service exclusively with 2TB of capacity and sync specific files and folders for $12.93 (£10) per month, or you can combine the two in the Pro Suite and also get five machines covered and 5TB of Briefcase storage for $19.40 (£15) a month.
For a family or small business, the Pro Suite option seems a good deal for keeping machines and files secure from failure or theft.
It also offers business-specific packages. Business Express is a three uses solution with 2TB of cloud storage for $38.80 (£30) per month, and Business Standard is a ten user facility with 10TB of cloud storage for $129.35 (£100) per month. Business Standard can be tailored to have more users and more cloud storage at an additional cost, should the business want to expand use.
One drawback of Livedrive is that the servers are UK based. This isn’t ideal for potential customers outside Europe, as they’re data will have a long journey in both directions.
Another is that the demand for payment details from the outset, and there isn’t any private encryption key option.
The message here is a mixed one, and it makes us wonder if Livedrive is aware what the likes of Backblaze, Google and Microsoft are doing, and how it differs from what Livedrive is offering?
We also found it disconcerting that Livedrive has scheduled downtime on its service for maintenance, taking the system out of operation for 4 hours and 30 minutes during normal UK working hours.
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