The world is hardly short of online backup services, and it’s hard to see what features providers can come up with to make them stand apart from the crowd. As it stands, Livedrive hasn’t really even attempted to – unles you count minor noveties like offering an iPad iteration. Instead, it gives you exactly what you’d expect from such a service, with the minimum of fuss. Nothing earth-shattering: just a tool that knows its job, and is content to do it as well as possible.
Livedrive offers two products: Backup, and Backup & Briefcase. The former allows you – as you might expect – to securely back up your files remotely, with the option of a web log-in to check them wherever you are. If you opt to add the Briefcase option at a cost of £89.87 per year, as opposed to £35.88 for Backup alone (assuming you pay up front), you open up further features.
Specifically, Backup & Briefcase allows you to set up a virtual drive with its own dedicated drive letter on a number of computers, and use it to share documents between them. It’s actually even more sophisticated than that, as you can e-mail documents to your briefcase, or drag them across from supported social networking services.
Crucially, any changes you make to your Briefcase are automatically synchronised across your computers, and there’s no limit to how many machines you can run the service on.
We went with the Backup & Briefcase option, with which you’re allowed a two-week free trial. To get going, you need to register, and then download a small piece of client software to your PC (just under 8MB in size). Once installed, this sets up the Liverdrive software on your computer, which sits in the system tray working away.
It’s a simple but effective application, even if it does seem to use rather more system resources than we’d have expected. You’re encouraged to go through tutorials before jumping in, but there’s really little need. Within the settings of Livedrive (and the defaults will be dandy for most users), you have the option to choose exactly what’s backed up and what isn’t, and to scale the amount of bandwidth that the service allows you to use. If you’re on a limited connection, you can prioritise certain file types. You also have the option to encrypt files.
Truthfully, though, Livedrive is the kind of service that likes to keep out of your way. The most front-facing it gets for most users will be clicking on the drive letter allocated to the software, and using the files within it as normal (albeit with a slight lag, as you’d expect). Behind the scenes, though, it’s working away in real time. For sharing files between a group of people or locations, it offers real benefits.
Services such as Livedrive, of course, live or die on their reliability, and during our tests, we encountered no problems. A live service update was suggesting issues when we checked, but it turned out not to cause us any problems.
We quickly found ourselves warming to the user-friendly simplicity of the service. It helps that Livedrive places few limits on you, in terms of the amount you’re allowed to store, and the number of machines you can share it between. We found a handful of grumbles from users about Livedrive online, but again, nothing we could replicate.
All of which leaves cost as the last remaining consideration. Just shy of £90 is a lot to pay for an individual users (and it’s more if you don’t pay for a year up front) – but in a small business or cloud-demanding environment, it a solid investment. The service itself is strong, and its thoroughness, ultimately, is what helps it stand out. For a few pounds a month, it’s likely to be money very well spent.