Online backup services are a great way to store important files and documents in the cloud. ElephantDrive offers features on par with many of the top online backup options we’ve reviewed, including unlimited versioning, a continuous backup option, and fast upload speeds. That said, ElephantDrive has some deal-breaking flaws: Its desktop application is disjointed and buggy, plus it imposes a 2GB file upload limit for home users. ElephantDrive needs to address both of these shortcomings before we can recommend it.
How Much Does ElephantDrive Cost?
ElephantDrive offers a free account with 2GB of storage. Free sounds good, but this is less free space than some competitors offer, and it comes with limitations: The maximum size of individual files is limited to 100MB, you can only set it up with three devices, and you cannot back up external drives. IDrive and OpenDrive offer free accounts with 5GB of storage and fewer limitations.
ElephantDrive’s Home plan costs $100 per year and increases your storage allotment to 1TB, with additional terabytes of storage available for an extra $100 per year. This tier also bumps up the maximum file upload size to 2GB. Other services do not impose such a limit, and this will likely make the service a nonstarter for people backing up video files. A representative from ElephantDrive noted that the company is “evaluating the possibility of increasing the limits.” The Home plan adds external drive backups and increases the number of supported devices to 10. Notably, this account level supports NAS and Server backups.
ElephantDrive’s Business Plan costs $200 per year and starts with 1TB as well; each additional terabyte of storage adds $200 to your annual bill. This account supports up to 25 devices, adds Managed Restore capabilities, and increases the maximum file size to 15GB. ElephantDrive’s Enterprise Plan starts at $300 per year; it includes 1TB of storage (every additional terabyte of space costs $300 per year) and raises the maximum file size to 200 GB. One major difference between the plans is the maximum storage space. You can expand the Home plan’s online storage allotment to 15TBs and the Business Plan to 50TBs, while the Enterprise plan has no limits.
For comparison, IDrive’s $69.95-per-year plan offers 2TB of storage and support for an unlimited number of devices. Backblaze charges $60 per year for unlimited storage, but only includes one device license. SpiderOak One costs $149.99 per year for a 2TB account that can be used with an unlimited number of devices.
ElephantDrive offers apps for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, and select NAS devices. That’s more platforms than most other services we’ve reviewed.
Security and Privacy
ElephantDrive says that it encrypts files locally using a method that conforms to the AES-256 standard and that transfers to its servers are handled over a 128-bit SSL channel. ElephantDrive also gives users the option to set up an account with private encryption keys, which means you are the only person that can decrypt your files. Keep in mind that if you lose this private encryption key, ElephantDrive has no way to help you recover or reset it.
ElephantDrive does not yet support two-factor authentication for web logins. A representative from the company told me that this feature is on the roadmap. Every internet service that stores potentially sensitive data should include two-factor authentication. Backblaze, IDrive, and OpenDrive support this security feature.
ElephantDrive’s functionality is scattered across several different interfaces; it’s similar to OpenDrive‘s desktop experience. It’s a degree worse here, though, since the various parts of the application are less visible, cohesive, and stable than those of OpenDrive. For example, the tasks of configuring, monitoring, and restoring your files are all handled in separate windows that are accessible only via ElephantDrive’s system tray icon’s Actions menu. During testing, the ElephantDrive icon sometimes did not appear in the system tray, however, and was finicky to navigate. The interface for restoring files crashed during testing, too. The good news is that a representative from ElephantDrive said that a new desktop interface would be available later this year.
In File Explorer, ElephantDrive lives in your User folder. Click on the MyElephantDrive Folder to access the Backup and Everywhere (file syncing) folders. The Backup folder is where you add files to quickly move them to online storage. This folder functions separately from the backup tasks discussed below.
To configure Backup tasks, click on the application’s system tray icon and select Actions > Add/Edit Backups. Like Acronis True Image, ElephantDrive allows you to set up tasks on different schedules and with different preferences selected. From this window, users can create, edit, delete, or run any backup tasks.
Backup settings are divided across five categories: General, Exclusions, Scheduling, Archiving, and Versioning. The General and Exclusion sections are straightforward; you specify which folders you want to include in a file set along with rules for the files you don’t want to include (you can specify file type, size, and date). As for scheduling, ElephantDrive offers a continuous backup option (in which it checks for and uploads any changes to files as frequently as every minute), along with daily, weekly, and monthly schedule options. We prefer online backup services that offer this continuous option.
The service throws in excellent archiving and versioning features, with the option to keep deleted files in the account permanently and to retain an unlimited number of versions forever. You can turn either of these features off or change the retention preferences, if you so choose. SpiderOak One also offers true archiving and keeps an unlimited number of file versions. IDrive keeps the previous 30 versions of files forever, while OpenDrive can keep up to the last 99 versions.
The Preferences window, another option from ElephantDrive’s notification tray icon, allows you to change how the program works. The first tab shows account and storage information, but you need to head to the ElephantDrive website to make any changes to your plan. In the Encryption section, you can choose between using ElephantDrive’s managed keys or private keys, as well as select the no-encryption option, which means that your files will not be encrypted before upload. We don’t recommend that last option and would prefer if it wasn’t available at all. A representative from the company said that this option is for those users whose systems would benefit from the performance difference between encrypted and unencrypted backup and restore processes. ElephantDrive still transfers all files over an SSL connection, no matter which option you choose.
The Resource usage tab in the Preferences window lets you limit the amount of network and CPU resources ElephantDrive can use at all times or on a specified schedule. Rounding out the Preferences window are options for configuring system notifications and program behavior.
ElephantDrive’s Everywhere folder works much like any other folder-syncing tool, be it Dropbox or Livedrive‘s Briefcase feeature. Simply add a file to that folder and ElephantDrive syncs it to any other computer or device on which you install the service.
(Editors’ Note: Livedrive is owned by J2 Global, the parent company of PCMag’s publisher, Ziff Davis.)
If you don’t want to deal with ElephantDrive’s messy interface, you may find its File Explorer integration useful. Right-click on any file on your computer to share it or view any previous versions. You can also designate an entire folder (but not individual files) for backup. Carbonite offers a similar feature but allows you to back up individual files via its right-click interface.
Web and Sharing
ElephantDrive’s web interface is straightforward and performed well in testing. It opts for a clean blue-and-white design with a series of tabs across the top for navigation.
At the far left is the Files section, where you can view, download, and share any of the files you’ve backed up to ElephantDrive. The next two tabs, Sharing and Links, are for managing folders and files you’ve shared. I really appreciate the simplicity of ElephantDrive’s sharing options, since it allows users to password-lock files as well as set expiration dates for the sharing links. You can also share folders, though you can’t protect those with a password. Everyone who you share a folder with must sign up for a free ElephantDrive account to access and edit the contents of it. SpiderOak One’s ShareRoom system is more flexible in terms of managing access, but more tedious to set up.
The Backup Settings section of the web interface allows you to manage scheduling and encryption settings for your backup and restore tasks, as well as add or delete any. However, you cannot run backup processes remotely, which is something that IDrive and Zoolz BigMind both allow. The reports section shows you all the latest activity associated with your account.
The My Account section is pretty standard, with options to change billing preferences and account information. As mentioned earlier, you do not get the option to set up two-factor authentication, which is something every online backup service should have. ElephantDrive does allow you to set up a security question and answer pair, but those are for situations in which ElephantDrive needs to verify a user’s identity.
To cancel an ElephantDrive account, head to the Account Cancellation section of the My Account tab. Here, you can close out your account by filling a brief form. This is a painless process.
The Your Vault interface (accessible from the system tray icon via Actions > Access My Files) is where you restore your files. The main area of this interface displays a file browser, in which you can select files in your backup to restore. You can also search by filename or type as well as filter by device. Across the top, you see a variety of generic file tools, such as Rename and New Folder, and others that are specific to backup services, such as Version history, Share, Restore, and Download. I dislike that the Your Vault interface is an entirely separate window from every other part of the program.
If you just need to download a few files once, the Download button is your best bet. For restoring several files or for setting up a regular restore schedule, you need to hit the Restore button to create a Restore task, which only asks for your preference of download location. This process adds a task in the Manage Backups window, which is confusing, since it is not a backup task at all. ElephantDrive does not offer any bulk mail-based backup or recovery services. Backblaze and Carbonite can send you an external hard drive with your data or, if you need to quickly upload files, send you a blank drive you can load up and send back to them for upload.
For testing the service’s versioning capabilities, I set up a continuous backup task for a text document and saved over it several times with new edits each time. The new versions appeared separately from the original one in the main view, which is confusing, but ElephantDrive did show the edited versions when I clicked the Version History button with the original file selected. Strangely, ElephantDrive downloaded a later version, not as a .TXT file, but as an unspecified File type.
Generating a sharing link is easy enough by clicking the Share button and the generated links took me to the correct file-sharing page every time. ElephantDrive fixed an issue I experienced during testing in which the download link for a password-protected file I shared took me to a broken AWS page.
ElephantDrive’s Mobile Apps
I had no issues downloading and logging into my ElephantDrive account on an Android 11 test device (the company also offers an iPhone app). The Android app‘s design has improved since the time of my last review and uses the same blue-and-white color scheme as the web interface. However, occasionally, the app briefly showed the splash screen and then closed, when I tried to open it.
You navigate the app via four icons in a bottom menu: Home, Offline, BackUp, and Settings. The Home section shows a collection of all your backed-up files arranged in three categories: Everywhere, My Computers, and Trash. Navigating through file trees is quick and painless, though I would like ElephantDrive to add a search tool to make it easier to find files. To download a file, just tap on it. Tapping the Information icon to the right of a file gives you the option to open it; view and download any versions; generate a sharing link for it; designate it for offline access; rename it; or delete it. The offline section just shows a list of files that you chose to make available offline, but there’s no way to sort these files, unfortunately.
In the mobile app’s BackUp section, you can manually back up your contacts, pictures, and videos, but ElephantDrive does not allow you to specify a backup schedule; previous versions of the app had this capability. IDrive offers additional options for backing up your music and calendar.
The Settings section is pretty basic. You can tell ElephantDrive to remember your login password and restrict the app to download or upload files over a Wi-Fi connection. Unfortunately, ElephantDrive forgot my account username and password at least once.
How Fast Does ElephantDrive Upload Files?
To test online backup services, I time how long it takes each of them to upload three 1GB file sets. Then, I take the median of the results for comparison. This year, I tested on a home Ethernet network (16Mbps upload), because I did not have access to PCMag’s corporate network due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We’re working from home, too! My test device was a Dell Inspiron tower running Windows 10 with a 256GB SSD and 32GB RAM. Your results will likely vary due to differences in available network and computer resources.
ElephantDrive performed very well, completing the upload test in a time of 12:44 (minutes:seconds). The top finisher, IDrive, finished in a slightly quicker time of 12:29. ElephantDrive was a little less than twice as quick as last-place performer, NovaBackup (22:14).
The Elephant in the Room
ElephantDrive offers private encryption keys; a continuous backup option; unlimited versioning and archiving capabilities; and it performed well in our upload tests, too. However, some of ElephantDrive’s flaws should give you considerable pause, including the 2GB-file-upload limit for home users and the buggy and convoluted desktop application. For a more consistent online backup service, try our Editors’ Choice winners: IDrive, for its great value, or Acronis True Image, for its top-notch backup and security features.