Livedrive at a Glance
2 / 5 stars
- Backup: $7.95/Month, $79.95/Year
- Briefcase: $15.95/Month, $159.95/Year
- Pro Suite: $24.95/Month, $249.95/Year
- Windows and Macs
- Web interface to upload and access files. Includes streaming music and videos.
- Free two week trial.
- Allows sharing of files. (Briefcase and Pro Suite)
- Backup offered as well as storage.
- iOS and Android Apps for mobile access to files.
- Defaults to not encrypting connections between your computer and Livedrive.
- Allows Non SSL (http) Web Access.
- Allows insecure FTP Access.
- Forum comments indicate poor customer support.
- Music browsing and mobile apps don’t seem to work well.
- Can only download individual files from web not folders.
- Have to install separate Restore client to restore files.
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Full Livedrive Review
Installation of Livedrive is pretty straight forward. I choose the straight Backup version to test and after providing an email address and password and then entering personal details like address etc. After providing all of the that information you finally get to a payment screen where you have to choose what plan you want. If you are just after the free trial you need to look a little bit to find the option for the free trial. Be careful they have an option to enter your credit card details and you could easily sign up for the full version of the service and not the trial simply by entering your credit card information. This is all done on purpose of course to try and get you to sign up and pay for the service instead of using the trial.
Once you are able to download the software to your computer installation goes fairly smooth. Double click the installation file you downloaded and follow the wizard. Once the software is installed you can enter your login details that you provided on the Livedrive website. After the application logs you in you can select the folders you want to backup. It gives you the usual default folders like your Desktop and My Documents on Windows. You can also select other folders from your computer. This will then complete the Livedrive setup and once you click the finish button will launch the application on your taskbar.
With Livedrive installed you can easily access information about your backup from taskbar icon near the clock. Selecting status will give you a basic screen letting you know what the basic status of your backup is.
The biggest flaw in the backup settings is the fact that connections between your computer and Livedrive servers are not encrypted by default. You need to go into the backup settings and check the little box that says “Encrypt all file transfers between Livedrive and your PC”. Without turning on this encryption settings all connections appear to be done unencrypted possibly exposing your data to anyone that knows how to listen in.
There are two ways to restore your files from Livedrive through the web interface and through the Restore Client software. Unfortunately both offer problems and neither is as easy as it could be. The web interface allows you to browse your backed up files and then download them to your computer but you can only download individual files not folders. That is fine if you have only one or two files to restore you can download them but if you need to select an entire folder you will need to use the Restore Client.
The Restore Client is an additional piece of software from Livedrive that you need to download and install and they don’t make it very easy to find. After some searching I finally found it under Accounts -> Software Download. It would be better if they made it available on the home page after you login so you don’t have to go hunting for it. If you did not know you needed the Restore Client you could get frustrated. Apparently the Mac version has the Restore Client built in with the Livedrive software so there is only one thing to install. Why the Windows version does not do this I don’t know but it is another frustrating thing about Livedrive.
Once I was able to install the Restore Client I was able to select multiple files for restore. You can choose to restore to a new location or to the original location. Selected folders and files then quickly downloaded to my test computer. I did not have any problems with the restore files and they appeared to be the same as the original files but I did not do an in depth analysis of each file simply made sure I had the same number of files as the original folder.
Livedrive offers web access through your web browser. Simply log in to the Livedrive web address that they give you and you can browse the files you have uploaded to the Livedrive servers. As noted in the restore section you cannot download folders but only files. On the surface this is all fine, but behind the scenes this is not as secure as it could be. The default for web access is over an unencrypted http connection not a https SSL connection. The login form gives you the choice to select SSL but it is not the default. This is a huge mistake as far as I am concerned, they should only offer SSL encrypted connections.
I ran a little test to see how much you can actually see of the data I was viewing. On my test machine I was browsing the backed up data, on another machine on the network I was running a packet sniffer to watch what was being sent. I was able to clearly see the text file I had backed up via Livedrive and all of its contents. Seems pretty innocent for just a plain text file but what if that was your financial documents? Pretty easy to discover. Not only that but the cookie being transferred in plain text contained my username and a hash of my password. Copying the hash of the password and running it through any number of decrypting hash websites I was able to easily discover what the password was. If you were on your laptop using a free wifi hotspot someone could easily packet sniff your Livedrive account credentials and use that information to login to your Livedrive account and steal all of your data.
If you use Livedrive you need to make sure you never login to their web interface without SSL. This is one of several security problems with the service.
Stream Music and Movies
This is offered as a feature via the web and mobile apps. If it is one of the reasons you are considering Livedrive, don’t bother. First off after I uploaded some music to my test Livedrive account it would not show in the Music browser in the web access or in the mobile app. After some looking through the Livedrive forums it appears that it can take up to a month for music to be processed and show in the music browser. The files are there but they just do not show. Somehow I was able to make the files show up in the music browser after I did a test restore of a music folder, then they magically appeared. I then tested playing a few of the MP3’s and was surprised at how poorly they played. I have a decent Internet connection and can easily stream music and video in high quality from other sites, but from Livedrive the music constantly kept pausing to buffer and was basically not worth listening too.
The video streaming worked a little better because you don’t have to wait for the file to be discovered by a video browser you can just select it to play. They quality however is poor. You would not want to sit and watch it on your computer or tablet. In the end this was more of another frustration than a feature.
I tried the Android version of the Livedrive mobile app and it worked all right. I was able to access files and download them onto my mobile or tablet. I could not get any kind of music playback to work. Considering the added features of other companies mobile apps offering to backup your files from your mobile the Livedrive app leaves a lot to be desired.
Livedrive does not seem to take security very seriously and it shows. The default settings to not encrypt information between your computer and Livedrive, not making SSL default on the web app and the fact that they hold both the keys on their server for your encrypted files makes Livedrive a service you should think twice about using to store your important files with.
Encryption is not something you should have to turn on, it should be on by default possibly not even offering the option to turn it off.
The support forum is full of comments by users and slow responses by Livedrive staff. Granted the forum is not the best way to get quick support, but when it takes over a month for a reply on the official Livedrive forum that is a long time to wait. I did create a support ticket on Livedrive to close my test account and got a fairly quick response with a typical how can we help you if you are experiencing any issues.
Livedrive has a history coming from a web hosting background with the owner, Andrew Michael, previously owning Fasthosts. It is that previous history that shows through in Livedrive with a lack of concern for security and poor customer service. In many ways Livedrive feels like a web host that has simply started offering online backup as a way to make some extra money. Features that look cool and could be great do not quite work as expected or not at all and customer support seems to be lacking.
There are a number of Livedrive resellers that also offer Livedrive services. The majority of them state that they over come some of the problems with Livedrive by offering better support. While they may be able to offer some better support the deficiencies in the Livedrive software in security and use is not something a reseller can over come.
Overall Livedrive does not seem to have improved much since my last review and in fact seems to have fallen further behind compared to their competitors. If you are looking for online backup I would honestly suggest you look at another service.
Review Date: October 30, 2012
Original Review: August 13, 2010