IceDrive is a cloud storage solution that aims to make cloud storage feel like a physical hard drive with what the company calls “revolutionary” drive-mounting software. With IceDrive, you’ll be able to access your cloud storage just as easily as on your own device’s hard drive, but without taking up any space.
The cloud storage provider is a relative newcomer to the market, founded in 2019. So, we’ll look at how the experience compares to some of the best cloud storage providers in the business across performance, platform availability, pricing, and support.
IceDrive: Plans and pricing
There is a free account with 10 GB of online space, which matches some of the best free cloud storage providers. You’re limited to 3 GB daily (not monthly) bandwidth, but it doesn’t have client-side encryption.
There are three subscription tiers named Lite, Pro, and Pro+ offering 150GB, 1TB or 5TB of storage which should be enough to cover most people’s needs. You can’t get Lite on a monthly subscription, unlike Pro ($5 a month) and Pro+ ($18 a month). All are available on an annual plan for $20, $50, and $180 a year.
You can also get a lifetime plan for a one-off purchase. These are interesting because they’re similar to buying an external hard drive. You’d pay less for a physical device, but in the likely scenario where you need a cloud backup, with the lifetime license, you’d be killing two birds with one stone. Expect to pay $100, $500, or $1000 for one of these, as there are currently huge savings to be had offering around one-third off the usual price.
If you do choose to pay the full price for one of these lifetime subscriptions, you’ll need to keep it for between five and seven years, depending on the tier, to make your money back.
It’s worth considering other providers like pCloud for lifetime subscriptions, or iCloud and OneDrive, which offer family plans with centralized billing and shared storage support if that’s important to you.
IceDrive: Interface & experience
The cloud storage service features a clean, easy-to-navigate interface. Even if you’ve never used any form of cloud storage before, understanding how to use IceDrive will take next to no time. Searching for files and transitions between pages happens very quickly, as does uploading documents to your account.
It is also easy to create public links for files and folders or share them with people by entering their email address. Shared content can have passwords and expiry dates, but there is little else in the way of collaboration features.
We found the overall experience to be much slicker using the browser. It looks just as up-to-date as the likes of Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive, all of which put a heavy emphasis on user experience. However, the desktop app – in our case, the macOS version – let the experience down somewhat with not as clear a layout.
Windows users also have the option of mounting the virtual drive. This has the same interface as Windows’ file explorer, allowing them to interact with files in the drive in the same way as anything else on their computer.
The mobile app experience mirrors the functionality of the browser-based access and desktop client, sitting somewhere between the two in terms of design and ease of use. The lack of consistency in design and layout depending on how you access IceDrive can present navigational challenges for those who are less familiar with the technology.
One of IceDrive’s best features is the ability to use it like a virtual drive that is attached directly to your computer. In fact, you can mount it like any other drive with a single click from within the client app. When we used the Windows version, appropriately enough IceDrive assigned itself the drive letter ‘I’.
IceDrive uses special software so that all the operations you’d need to perform on files—open, edit, delete, and upload—feel as fast as they would for files on your own hard drive or an attached drive. Intelligent caching of your recently used files means you’ll notice almost no slowdown. The only downside of this feature is that it is Windows-only.
Other operating systems aren’t left out completely, though. IceDrive has a ‘portable’ app which can be used on Windows, Mac, and Linux. It’s portable because it doesn’t actually need to be installed; just download it, and then you can run it directly from wherever you’ve downloaded it to.
With it, you can upload and download files and folders, stream media, and preview documents and images without needing to download them first. You can edit files on your computer and the portable app will watch them for changes and upload new versions to your account in the cloud.
There is also a web app that has been designed to work almost identically to the portable app. This means you can access your account from anywhere that has a web browser installed. Apps for iOS and Android provide similar functionality, including the ability to share content and back up your entire device. The web app also supports previewing some files such as images and audio.
Although online collaboration tools and editing are is limited to basic file sharing, when we reached out to IceDrive in April 2022 we were told that it is “not yet possible to edit documents online however [IceDrive’s] development team are working on this,” which suggests that the company is willing to part with some cash in order to keep its services up-to-date and competitive.
The email continued: “File sharing is currently available as well as file request features for [collaboration]. Our development team are working to implement more enhanced collaboration as a priority and will be releasing within the next few weeks and will feature:
- Set different access permission for files and folders
- Extensive, intelligent discussion system implemented for collaborating on files and projects
- Track discussions through the dashboard and get alerted on new comments, and more
- Upload and download to shared access folders for true collaboration”
Since May 2022, we noted that Access Control had been introduced for files and folders. While file sharing works well, it’s not yet possible to collaborate on documents as you would with Microsoft 365 or Google’s G Suite.
The number of file versions saved differs based on your plan, however regardless of subscription these are kept indefinitely. We were told that “this may change” in the future, though, so bear this in mind.
Of particular interest and use is the lack of file size limits. That means even content like large videos can be uploaded and stored in IceDrive. However, the company has said that some browsers can impose limits, so it’s better to use the dedicated software when performing heavy uploads. By comparison, other companies often limit file sizes, presenting limitations that are hard to overcome.
IceDrive support options are a bit limited. The company is based in Wales in the UK, and publicly lists a phone number and Skype ID, but the contact page suggests submitting a support ticket for a faster response.
There is also a help center where you can search for articles, but the few searches we tried didn’t yield too many results.
IceDrive support options are frankly somewhat limited. The company is based in Wales in the UK, and publicly lists a phone number and Skype ID, but the contact page suggests submitting a support ticket for a faster response.
There is also a help center where you can search for articles, but the few searches we tried didn’t yield too many results.
IceDrive is the only cloud storage solution to use the Twofish algorithm, which is recognized as one of the most secure encryption algorithms available. It also features client-side encryption for paid subscribers, so that your data is encrypted on your device before even being transferred to servers. And the service takes a zero-knowledge approach, which means that only you can view and decrypt your data. Note that the separate, encrypted drive within the drive also is only available to paying customers.
Of course, as the software is proprietary we have to take IceDrive at their word that end-to-end encryption and the encrypted drive has been set up and implemented properly for paid customers. One way to reassure privacy-minded users would be to have the encryption algorithms used by the client audited by independent security researchers. Alternatively IceDrive could make their software open source so that the security features can be reviewed by the coding community. Still, few cloud providers do this so we aren’t singling IceDrive out for criticism.
We like the addition of two-factor authentication, which works with an authenticator or a physical key. SMS authentication is available to premium customers but we don’t recommend using this, as text messages are far easier to intercept than one-time passwords generated by the best authenticator apps.
IceDrive does many things well, but, we do feel it lacks collaboration features. If those are important to you, some alternatives to consider are Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive, which both have more robust collaboration options.
Google Drive comes with 15 GB for free with any Google account. Paid plans range from $2 a month for 100 GB, up to $300 for 30 TB. OneDrive also has a free plan, but with only 5 GB of storage. Its paid plans go from $2 a month for 100 GB, up to $10 a month for 6 TB, which accommodates up to six people (1 TB per person).
IceDrive : Our tests
For IceDrive, we ran three core tests measuring sync speed, file recovery and versioning. Our tests were conducted on a Windows 11 virtual machine running the IceDrive desktop client. The VM was connected to the internet via fiber broadband via VPN server, which in our speed tests consistently showed an average upload speed of 70 Mbps
- Test 1 – Sync speed
To gauge sync speeds, we copied a folder containing 22 files including MP3s, images, metadata files and a PDF into the application directory. We then measured how quickly the desktop client was able to sync the files to the cloud.
Our most recent tests showed a huge improvement over our previous tests, which showed upload and download times a little behind competitors. Our 22 files totalling just under 625MB of date took less than 74 seconds to upload. This is slightly faster than big name cloud storage providers like OneDrive.
When we set up the Sync Pairing for our test files we also noticed three options. The default is Two Way, so that any changes either made on the local device or in the cloud will be updated by the app in both locations. You can also choose One Way (PC to cloud or cloud to PC) so changes only go in one direction.
- Test 2 – File recovery
In this test we simply deleted the audiobook folder from the application directory, removing it from the device. We then checked to see if the files had been removed from the cloud drive and if it was possible to recover them.
As we’d chosen to sync files one way from the device to the cloud, for this test we deleted the local synced folder on our device. The client app didn’t seem to register this at first and when we opened the IceDrive web interface the folder was still listed there.
However, when we deleted the folder from the web interface. It was moved into the cloud Trash. From there we were able to right click to restore it, generating a ZIP file of the folder for download. The files were recovered intact, but we’d like to have seen the option just to restore the folder to its original location without having to download and extract an archive.
- Test 3 – Versioning
To test versioning in IceDrive, we copied a Microsoft Word (.docx) file to the cloud application folder. Once it synced, we then deleted all the text except the introduction, then saved and closed. We then tried to restore the document back to its original form, complete with all chapters.
IceDrive doesn’t support syncing individual files so we created a new Sync Pairing with the Documents folder which contained our test Microsoft Word document. Once syncing was complete we removed all text from the document except the introduction, then saved and closed the file.
However, the IceDrive client didn’t register this change to the document, simply saying all files were still up to date. It was only when we quit the client and relaunched that the updated version of the file was synced to the cloud.
When we went to the IceDrive online portal we could then see both the original and modified versions of the document in Version History. We clicked the download icon to save the original to the Downloads folder. Again, it would have been better if the original could simply have been restored from within the app but it opened without issue.
IceDrive impresses in a number of areas, including its approach to security, ease of use, and market-leading features like its virtual drive – although it would be better if the virtual drive were available for operating systems beyond Windows.
Its pricing is attractive, with the lifetime license options in particular representing good value. We also like the unlimited file size support, which adds an extra layer of protection for long-term investments, helping you to futureproof your decision. However, support options are limited, as are collaboration features. Despite the promises of adding more features in the future, it’s important to base any purchase off its current offering, as things can change.
If collaboration is important, IceDrive wouldn’t be your best choice. But if you’re more concerned with security, and are looking for a well-designed, easy-to-use cloud storage solution, IceDrive is a great choice.