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DLS Review: IDriveSync is a cheaper, more powerful, Dropbox competitor for Windows


I'm an avid Dropbox fan. I've been using it for a long time now, and it's one of a handful of applications that I think of as "mission critical" on my system.

But there are a couple of things that have always irked me about Dropbox. First and foremost, there are the rates. It's US$9.99/month for 50GB. Really? With online backup solutions such as Backblaze and Mozy offering unlimited storage for just $5/month, Dropbox's price tag seems quite steep.

True, it's not a backup solution, but space is space. I understand that Dropbox may experience more traffic than a normal backup provider (which is usually upload only), but I really don't think it justifies twice the price.

That's one thing. The other thing is more subjective: Dropbox is very simple. In most scenarios, that's a very positive thing. In fact, I'm sure that, had it been more complex, less people would be using it. It's elegant, simple, and slick. But when someone uploads a 500MB video file onto a shared folder, while your boss is putting a 70KB DOC file onto another shared folder, and then they wonder why you aren't getting it, Dropbox's simplicity gets in the way of productivity.

Enter IDriveSync. This is pretty much the antithesis of Dropbox. It's only for PC (as compared to Dropbox's multitude of supported platforms). It doesn't have an API, and it doesn't have 10 percent of Dropbox's sex appeal.

But it does offer fine-grained control and status information, and it lets you easily (if not elegantly) sync files that are outside of its folder. And best of all, $4.95/month will get you unlimited sync space. That's just the way it should be.

I took IDriveSync for an extensive spin, and I have started using it alongside Dropbox for some of the heavier lifting (video files, etc.). To see the tour, keep on reading after the fold.

First of all, let's talk about the status window. If a file is syncing, you can see exactly what the file's name is, if it's uploading or downloading, what the transfer rate is, and the time estimation (which you get on Dropbox, too). The "Switch to IDriveSync Explorer" button kind of looks like an in-program banner, but it's not; it's a button that opens up Windows Explorer within your IDriveSync folder (C:\IDriveSync by default - a bit of an odd location).

Moving on, we see the built-in Bandwidth Upload Test. You also get a Download Test. That's a nice touch. I think they work directly against IDriveSync's own servers, so you get a good estimation of how fast or slow program operation would actually be (as opposed to using a third-party bandwidth test with another server).

This is the main program window. They call it "Classic" for some reason. Perhaps that's because it's based on IDrive's existing PC backup solution. It's a simple, technical-looking interface, where you can see all of your files and their status.

Here's a view of the file list itself (while a file is uploading). You can see exactly what file is uploading, its current progress, and the queue. I'm not sure if you can modify the queue, though (i.e., push things up or down).

Again, just like Dropbox, you get versioning support. IDriveSync keeps 30 versions of each file, and you can easily restore them from within the program (unlike Dropbox, which forces you to use the Web interface).

Here's a Session Log window. Again, there are no frills, and it's very technical. Each transaction is a "session," and you can see when it happened, what it was, and view session details. It's very transparent and easy to dig into.

This "Browse My Computer" dialog lets you select any folder for syncing. The way it works isn't elegant, though. It simply creates a symlink to that folder within your IDriveSync folder; it's just like what you can do with Dropbox. Here it's integrated into the program, but it still feels clunky.

This is a young product, and it does have its quirks. I encountered one bug where the Classic interface told me my files weren't in sync, but they actually were (per the logs and Status window). It also doesn't have Explorer overlay icons, which let you see what files are in sync.

It will never be as sexy as Dropbox, and I don't think it will ever be multi-platform or have Dropbox's wide API support. I am certainly not dumping Dropbox for IDriveSync, but as a second solution, it is very, very good. Also, if these guys can provide unlimited storage for $5/month, why can't Dropbox do it? They are certainly at least as successful.

Tags: backup, dropbox, livesync, money, share, sync, upload