Blog on IDrive: Cloud backups and peace of mind

I have been using IDrive since the fall of 2009 as a means for securely backing up all of my data, and while I’ve posted about it before, I’ve never really done so in detail. But it is worth blogging about because it is, in my mind, the perfect solution for data backups*.

When people talk about backups, they are usually only talking about half of a solution. It is one thing to make sure the data on your computer is backed up. It is quite another to be able to quickly and easily restore that data. IDrive is a complete solution, one that makes restoring data as easy as backing it up.

IDrive is a cloud-backup solution. That is, it backs up your data, whether you are on a Macintosh or Windows computer, to the Internet. It does so in a secure fashion, and your files are accessible to you from anywhere you have Internet access. Like most backup systems, IDrive typically will do a full backup of your computer (or the files that you select) and then subsequent backups are incremental, backing up only those files that have changed.

We have all heard stories–if not experienced for ourselves–the frustration, if not pain, of losing data. My biggest loss came a month or two before I started using IDrive. The hard disk on my MacBook died. I was backing up to an external disk, but it wasn’t a completely automated backup and I did lose some data that I wasn’t able to recreate, most importantly some photos from a trip to Europe. After the loss, I went about looking for the best possible solution for backing up data. Being an application developer by day, and working in a large company, I had some notion of what worked and what didn’t, what people tended to complain about and what they liked. My set of requirements looked something like this:

  1. Backup system needs to be simple. I shouldn’t have to spend much time messing with settings. Kelly, not a technical as I am when it comes to computers, should be able to easily restore her data if she needed to.
  2. Backup system needs to handle multiple machines. At the time we had 3 computers at home.
  3. Backup system needs to store data offsite. Already, much of our data at home is stored on a large external disk. But if something were to happen at the house, or the disk were damaged or destroyed, that wouldn’t help much.
  4. Backup system needs to be secure. If I’m sending data into the cloud, it should be adequately protected.
  5. Backup system needs to make restoring data very easy. This is key: the most important thing I have learned about backups over the years is that backing up the data is not the goal: the ultimate goal is to be able to recover from a data loss; that is, to safely restore the lost data. As a science fiction writer, protecting my stories, manuscripts, electronic versions of contracts, correspondence, etc. is a must.
  6. Backup system needs to be able to handle a large volume of data. We have lots of pictures, movies, music, etc. and while these don’t change much, the initial backup would be pretty large.
  7. Backup system should be self-maintaining. Once set up, I shouldn’ t have to think about it.
  8. Backup system should be relatively inexpensive.

With these requirements in mind, I set out searching and in the end, IDrive met all of these requirements and then some.

  1. IDrive’s backup system is simple. It has a template of the most commonly backup files and folder and you can get started in seconds. (You can also tweak and customize what gets backed up, but you don’t have to do this.)
  2. IDrive Pro’s Family Pack allows you to backup up to 5 computers under the same account.
  3. IDrive backs up the data “to the cloud”; that is, over the Internet and to their secure storage facility.
  4. IDrive uses three layers of security to protect your data: the data is encrypted over the Internet; the data is encrypted on their servers; and of course, there is the physical security of their storage facilities
  5. IDrive makes it easy to restore data. I’ve had to do one-out file restores here and there. I can do it from the thick-client installed on my machine, or I can restore any file I’ve backup to any computer using their web-based client. Furthermore, they include additional features, like versioning, that allows me to restore a specific version of a file.
  6. By default, a free IDrive account allows you to backup 5 GB of data. I needed more so I opted for their Pro Family Pack. This plan allows me to backup up to 500 GB of data from up to 5 machines. In nearly 2-years of use, I’ve only hit about 50% of my quota so there is plenty of room to grow.
  7. I never have to think about backups. This is one of the best things about IDrive. I’ve setup 3 machines to be backed up and each night, I get an email sent to me when the backup has finished, summarizing what has been done. If a machine happens to be turned off, it backs up the next time it is on. And it doesn’t matter where I am, so long as I am connected to the Internet.
  8. The Pro Family Pack costs $14.95/month, or $149.50 if you pay for a year in advance, which is what I do. For me $150 is well worth the peace of mind. You would spent that much on renters insurance. This is like insurance for your data.

I have recommended IDrive to friends and family who have asked me for backup solutions, and I feel good making the recommendation because it has worked so well for me. It is a true self-service backup and data protection solution, and quite frankly, it puts to shame many of the corporate backup systems I’ve encountered.

*In the interest of full disclosure, IDrive is having an IDrive Blog and Tweet contest, and if I’ve followed their instructions, this post would qualify for that contest. But I’ve written about IDrive before, when there was no contest and I would continue to recommend it, regardless.