|At a glance|
|Product||STRATO HiDrive Free () [Website]|
|Summary||Free 5 GB teaser version of HiDrive's paid versions with WebDAV support.|
|Pros||• 5GB free storage|
• Easy setup
• Free version supports WebDAV
|Cons||• Most features only available in paid versions|
• Limited support for free version
Typical Price: $0
If you're looking for a place in the cloud to store your data, there's certainly no shortage of vendors who will sell you storage plans loaded with features. And many vendors offer a free trial so that you can try out all of the product's features.
But if you're looking for free storage, there are also vendors who offer free accounts with limited storage and a reduced feature set hoping that you'll upgrade to a monthly or yearly plan in order access the full feature set .
HiDrive Free falls into the category of a free account with limited features and limited storage. HiDrive Free is a product from a Berlin, Germany-based company, STRATO, which is a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, Europe's second-largest web hosting and web application provider. While HiDrive Free is new in the US and Canada, it's been in available in Europe for several years.
So, what are the benefits of upgrading to a monthly subscription, and how much does it cost? The 100 GB single-user plan costs 9.90 €/month (about $12.77 at the time of this writing). Since it's billed to your credit card, your bank will figure out the exact exchange rate (and possibly a foreign transaction fee) as of the billing date. The 500 GB plan costs 29.90 €/month ($38.57) and supports 5 users with per user quotas.
The 5000 GB plan is a new offering costing $199 €/month ($256.71) for 120 users and 20 administrators. All plans are billed for three-months of service at a time.
The comparison table below provides an overview of HiDrive's features, but doesn't show the 5000 GB plan. The 5000 GB plan's features are the same as the 500 GB plan, only with more users and admins as noted above.
Hi Drive plan comparison
Though not exposed on the home page as an available plan, HiDrive also offers a version of its free 5 GB plan called HiDrive 5. This is a hybrid; more features are enabled than in the free version, but not all of the features you find starting with the HiDrive 100 product.
HiDrive 5 costs 0.59 €/month ($0.76) billed on an annual basis (~$9 right now). On this plan, you pick up secure SMB/CIFS access, but not FTP/SFTP/FTPS, Rsync or SCP. You also get a single email upload address, a limited number of upload Shares and for share links, you get 30 day expiration and 10 downloads per file link. For users who want to map drives and don't have a lot of cloud storage capacity needs, this could be a good, economical solution.
Some of the features in the table bear a bit more explanation. Downloadable Windows and MacOS programs allow you to create local folders that are securely (via Open VPN and SMB/CIFS) connected to your HiDrive cloud storage. Upload Sharing lets you create a link to send to a third party who can use the link to upload to a specified folder on your HiDrive. And Mail Upload lets you upload data via email to your HiDrive.
Backup Control allows you to create backup versions for specific folders and determine their backup frequency or back them up on demand. Backup control storage time for paid accounts is 6 weeks. The free version backs up a snapshot of "Root" and all subdirectories daily on an automatic schedule with a 7 day storage time.
There's really not much to setting up an account with HiDrive. Just go to the website, provide an email address, user name, and password, select a country and click on Activate. Once your account has been activated, just log in, and you'll land at your HiDrive home page (see the Gallery below).
The Overview tab has three choices: Upload File; Exchange File; and Connect your computer with HiDrive. To upload a file, just click on Start in the Upload file tab. This will take you to the file manager screen and will automatically open up a file upload dialogue box. Using this interface, you need to browse to and specify each file that you want to upload individually.
To exchange files, just click on To File Manager. The file manager lets you create new folders, add new files, rename or delete files, create a .zip archive of selected files, or extract a .zip file to the current location. To share a file, just click on a file to select it. Select "Share" and choose setup link. This opens a dialog box that prompts you for number of days for the link to remain active, and the number of times the file can be downloaded.
This is where you'll encounter one of the limitations of the free version. Note the upgrade link adjacent to the grayed out password box. The link expires after 5 days , is limited to 5 downloads and you can't add a password to the link. With any of the paid versions, there are still some day/download limitations based on your storage levels, but all paid versions let you password protect the link. Once the link has been created, you can share it via email or paste the link into your favorite social networking site. Note: HiDrive uses HTTPS to protect your file sharing.
The Share menu also lets you delete a link, and provides you with an overview summary of all of your links including number of downloads and expiration date. The file manager also lets you download files as well as preview them. There is also a built-in slideshow for previewing files selected in the file manager.
The Settings page is where you control your account. There are icons for Account management, Manage storage space, Connect with HiDrive, Backup Control, What's new and Downloads. However, for the most part, many of these features aren't available on the free version.
Account settings is one area where you do have some control. You can change your user ID, password, email address and optional description. You can also set access rights to the public folder. However, the settings menus become more populated as you upgrade to paid accounts that support multiple users, and additional communications protocols.
Other than using the browser-based interface, the only option you have for connecting with your free HiDrive storage on your computer is by using WebDAV. HiDrive supports WebDAV over HTTP and HTTPS. If you click on the Connect with HiDrive icon under the settings menu, you'll be taken to a page with instructions for connecting. You can choose your operating system, and, on the free version, WebDAV is your only protocol choice.
The instructions include a link that already has been configured with your account information. I connected without a problem over HTTPS, and my HiDrive showed up under "My Network Places" in Windows Explorer.
Note that with the free version, you can't "map" a drive to a drive letter as that requires SMB/CIFS support which is available only in paid versions. So while it's a pain having to navigate to the WebDAV-connected HiDrive folder, it's still a lot more convenient than browser-based up/downloading.
Access, Support, Security
As noted above, you can access your HiDrive storage via many different protocols from Windows and MacOS computers. There are also downloadable apps for iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7, Google Chrome and Synology NASes that provide access to HiDrive storage.
STRATTO doesn't provide much information about security on the HiDrive website. Security when using the browser interface is HTTPS for transfers to and from HiDrive storage. When using SMB/CIFS connected drives, the connection uses VPN, but no details are provided about the encryption level.
There is no information on whether your data is encrypted when stored on HiDrive's servers and there is no option to have a private key. In the absense of information to the contrary, you would be prudent to assume that your data is not encrypted. You should also be aware that your data resides on servers in Berlin, Germany.
Support, even for "premium" accounts is minimal. There are neither email nor phone contacts provided anywhere on the HiDrive website. The Contact link on the HiDrive web interface takes you to an intermediate page with a link to HiDrive's GetSatisfaction "Community-powered support" site. The site has less than 200 topics listed and doesn't have any tutorials.
On a positive note, the PDF QuickStart guide downloadable from your account Overview tab provides some good how-to information on uploading, using share links, 3rd party uploads, mail upload and other topics.
HiDrive free doesn't compete directly with backup services such as Mozy or Carbonite because it has no backup client. Nor does it compete directly with products that synchronize files between multiple computers and/or mobile devices. As the name implies, HiDrive is about storage. For many people, the free 5GB account with relatively few features will be all that they need - especially if they a have another backup scheme.
Competitively, there seems to be a pricing gap in the HiDrive's offerings. For the minimum full-featured product, 100 GB is a lot of storage, but at a relatively high price $150/year. A more modestly sized, full-featured offering, say 50 GB, coming in at ~ $60-70/year would probably attract a lot of customers whose cloud storage requirements aren't huge. And, I would imagine that some US customers would prefer to purchase in US dollars rather than Euros - even though the banks and credit card companies handle the conversion.
5 GB is the new 2 GB when it comes to cloud storage and so there are many options if that's all you want. While HiDrive paid versions offer some unique ways to get your data to the cloud (rsync, SFTP, etc.), the free version has little to recommend it.