Friday, August 15, 2014

IDrive Backup Review

It works and I like it.  IDrive is a backup and file-sync facility with lots of good features, supporting a wide array of computer operating systems and mobile devices.  The features that I particularly like are:
  • The command-line options that allow me to incorporate this cloud backup facility into the rest of our normal, every-night archive system; and
  • The sophisticated incremental backup features which back up only the files which have been modified since the last backup, and then back up only the modified sectors of large modified files.
Example: I have one 2 GB encrypted file which gets modified every day, but only a little.  At DSL upload speeds it took hours to upload that file the first time, but IDrive can upload the daily modifications in just a few minutes.   A download "restore" of last night's uploaded file confirms that it compares perfectly with the current file, bit for bit, all 2 GB.  I used the Windows comp program for that comparison (several times for several downloads), but also if the file was at all corrupt I would not be able to decrypt it, and it decrypts just fine.

Desktop Application:

IDrive has both a GUI desktop application and a brower-based application, with similar but not identical functionalities.  It took me a little while to get used to the two and determine which to use for what purpose.  There are similar applications for many different computer operating systems and mobile devices.  I was able to install and use the GUI desktop app on Windows XP Pro, Vista Ultimate, Windows 7, and Windows 8.1, with no obvious differences in functionality.


Although upload appears to go as fast as my DSL link allows, about 900 kbps or about 3 hours per GB, download through the GUI desktop application appears to be throttled to about 5 Mbps, roughly 2 GB per hour.  My DSL is about three times that fast, almost 16 Mbps, so it should go faster, as do most other downloads.  The browser-based application actually downloads a little faster than the GUI desktop application, maybe 25% faster when restoring my 2 GB encrypted file, finishing the download in 45 minutes instead of 57, though this is still well below half of the maximum speed of the DSL connection.

IDrive isn't very expensive, $37.12 per year for 300 GB, but I am still using the free version because we don't yet need the extra space or features of the professional versions.  Perhaps download speed is throttled for freeloaders like myself - I don't know, and I wouldn't blame them.  It's not an issue in our application, though, because file recovery will be seldom if at all, mostly just for testing, and at 2 GB per hour it won't require more than two or three hours to download everything we have up there in any case.

Technical Support:

Excellent so far - I've had two interactions with them, one via chat and another through a submitted bug report.  They know that I have a free account, I'm sure, but seem interested in solving my problems anyway.  There is also a forum, in which IDrive participates quite actively.  I submitted one problem there and was soon advised to submit the problem as a regular bug report.


Command-line options are implemented through a program called idevsutil.exe, found in the IDrive programs folders (C:\Program Files (x86)\IDriveWindows\... in Windows).  However the one that is supplied by the IDrive installer didn't actually work - I had to go to the Getting Started page and download the idevsutil.exe that actually does work.

Cloud backup provides the ultimate off-site backup, to protect against a disaster such as fire, flood, theft, even death of a principal person.  However, it's no good if the files are inaccessible due to a lost usrname or password.  Be sure to have those somewhere else safe, perhaps in a safe deposit box.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

LG Blu-Ray Disc Rewriter Model WH16NS40 Review

This is an internal drive which can write and read virtually all forms of CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray (BD) discs, including four-layer 128GB BDs.  It works perfectly so far.

Test System: 
LG Blu-Ray Write/Read Drive
Model WH16NS40

Seven-year-old mini-tower computer, home-built from an Intel DP35DP motherboard hosting an E6750 CPU with dual 2.66 GHz processors, 8 GB memory at 800 MHz, system bus 1066 MHz, running Windows Vista Ultimate. Hard disks are SATA 2TB Seagate hybrid disks.

The system is used as a computer, not as a video player. This review is about data backup. It should apply to copying video files as well, but you might want a newer, faster CPU to actually play or manipulate the video files.  The owners' manual lists the E6750 CPU at 2.66 GHz as the minimum system.

The originally-installed Samsung SH-203B DVD Drive is still in place and functioning well after seven years.  It can read and write DVD+R DL (dual layer) discs, though I only use it with standard and archival single-layer DVD's.  Each month, sometimes more often, I create a backup copy of our own important files (not system files or application executables) on a MAM-A DVD-R gold archival disc for long-term storage, then copy that disc to regular DVD's for shorter-term offsite storage.  Those important files have grown beyond the DVD's 4.7GB capacity, however, so the new LG Blu-Ray Disc (BD) Drive will bump that limit up to about 25GB.  A firmware update from version 1.00 to 1.01-A0 is available for the drive but not yet installed.  (First rule of life:  If it works, you can't fix it.)

Test Method:

The new BD drive was installed in the mini-tower just below the DVD drive.  The generic
Windows Vista software was used to write each disc initially.  ISO Recorder 3.1 was used to restore each disc back to an ISO file, or to write that out to another disc. The following tests were performed to demonstrate single-drive data integrity as well as cross-drive data integrity:

CD read:  On the BD drive, restore two of our oldest archival CD's, going back to 1997.  No read errors.  Open a few files to verify data integrity.

CD write/read, using Verbatim CD-R discs:  Write a disc on each drive, restore each disc back to a desktop ISO file using each drive (four ISO files).  No errors reported.  With the Windows utility called comp, compare the two ISO's which were created from a disc written on one drive and restored from the other.  This is a byte-for-byte comparison, and no differences were reported.

DVD write/read, using TDK DVD-R discs:  Same procedure as for CD's.  No errors, no differences.
DVD+R DL write/read, using Verbatim DVD+R DL discs:  Same procedure as for CD's.  The discs were filled to about 5.25GB, so that both disc layers would be used.  No errors, no differences.

BD-R write/read, using Verbatim 25GB 6x BD-R discs:  Write a disc containing 21 GB of data including thousands of files (photos).  Restore that back to an ISO.  Write the ISO to another BD-R disc, restore that back to a second ISO, compare.  No errors, no differences.

BD-R 50GB, 100GB, and 128GB: Not tested - I don't need this functionality now, but I have no reason to doubt that it will work when it is needed, and perhaps disc prices will be better.

Data integrity test results:

The LG Blu-Ray Disc Rewriter Model WH16NS40 performed perfectly.  I am impressed, and I now have renewed confidence in the old Samsung DVD drive as well.

Vista Speed-display Issue:

On this "old" Vista system the writing speed, estimated time left, and progress bar were all displayed incorrectly for the BD discs.  Specifically, the Windows software reported that it intended to write at 39x, and the ISO Recorder program thought it would write at 351x.  I seriously doubt that either was correct.

For both drives and all discs, I always allowed the write to take place at the maximum displayed speed (i.e. 39x or 351x), not attempting to reduce it.  I have no idea what the actual write speed was for the BD discs, and I did not time any of the operations, but the data files were obviously recorded without error.

First actual Blu-Ray backup:

Write encrypted and unencrypted files to a Delkin 6x 25GB Archival Gold BD-R.
Restore that disc back to the desktop as an ISO file.
Write that ISO to each of three Verbatim 6x 25GB BD-R discs for offsite storage.
Open and verify some encrypted files on the last of those discs as a final check.

This procedure worked flawlessly, backing up about 12GB, except that one of the Verbatim BD-R discs failed immediately when ISO Recorder 3.1 tried to write to it.  That one disc was discarded with no attempt at diagnosis.  I attribute the failure to the disc, not the drive, and comments on other blogs confirm that such failures can occur.

I believe that this process creates archival Blu-Ray discs which will last at least as long as there are drives capable of reading them.  The Delkin Archival Gold BD-R discs cost me about $10 each in a pack of of 5, and the Verbatim BD-R discs about $1 each in a spindle of 25.  Both are cheaper in larger quantities, and other brands are available.  The LG Owner's Manual recommends Sony and Panasonic discs for BD-R 25GB, but does not say whether Delkin or Verbatim discs were ever tested.

Blu-Ray versus Flash for Archival Storage:

Removable-media technology seems to be moving away from optical discs and toward USB flash drives these days, and video is increasingly downloadable, so Blu-Ray discs may never enjoy the popularity of DVD's.  Flash for archival storage is controversial, however, and it is still at least as expensive as Blu-Ray for similar capacity, so Blu-Ray is a better choice for now.