Amazon Drive is a reminder that if there's an app or service out there that's needed, Amazon will try and fill that need – from shopping to smart speakers, from video streaming to ebooks, it has everything covered... and that includes cloud storage.
The focus is primarily on photos and videos, though you can add any kind of file at a push (if you can work out how). While there are better cloud storage services out there, Amazon Drive might suit you if you want to make the most out of your Prime subscription.
Amazon Drive features
Amazon Drive has gone through several different incarnations down the years, and what's left at the moment is a bit of a confusing mess. It looks as though Amazon wants to keep the Amazon Photos service up and running, for your photos and videos, and has just kept around some of the Amazon Drive functionality as an afterthought.
Amazon Photos is actually quite a slick service, doing a good job of backing up your pictures and videos from your smartphone, tablet or computer, and getting them organized online. If you're a Prime subscriber, you get an unlimited amount of storage space, and a few extras like face recognition (so the service will automatically group together photos of your sister, your brother, and your distant cousin).
There's not really any two-way syncing, or file versioning, or complete backups for your devices. Actually, you don't get many of the features offered by competing services – features like selective syncing, or scheduled backups, or an online office suite you can use in your browser. Again, the focus seems to be on Amazon Photos.
Amazon Drive actually has a link to Amazon Photos right in the main navigation bar, and if you make the jump over you get a few extras: smarter search, photo editing, and more. If you're going to make use of Amazon Drive, it's likely to be because of Amazon Photos (and we wouldn't be surprised if Amazon Drive gets phased out, eventually).
Amazon Drive interface
As we've said, there are a few confusing aspects to Amazon Drive, not least that the software you download to your computer is called Amazon Photos – that suggests that it just deals with your photo library, but in fact the tool will secure any folder or file irrespective of type. It also now includes the ability to sync, Dropbox-style, providing a means to automatically secure new files without any extra user effort.
We like the way that you can pick any file or folder from your computer and choose to upload them, and the way you can carry out one-off backups as well as keeping specific folders monitored, and overall the desktop applications and web interface are polished enough. File transfers were speedy (considering our home internet connection), and you can just drag and drop files on to the apps to upload them, if you want.
While the interface scores highly for ease of use, it's a bit bare bones in terms of functionality. You can only stream video files that are under 20 minutes in length directly from the web, for example, which immediately puts it behind most of its competitors. Also you can't really view your files in the desktop app: it's more of an uploading tool.
A lot of users may well be able to get by on the web interface alone – you can run one-off uploads from here, but there's no automatic folder uploading. Searching through your files, as well as carrying out simple operations like moving and renaming, is all straightforward. There's also the option to share files and folders, but like a lot of the Amazon Drive features, it's all a bit rudimentary.
Amazon Drive security
Amazon Drive offers two-factor authentication (if you choose to activate it on your Amazon account), but security isn't a strong point here. There's no end-to-end encryption, no at-rest encryption, and a very open method of managing shared links (it isn’t possible to password protect the link or limit it to access from a particular account).
Fine for a few holiday snaps then, but you're not really going to want to put important work documents or sensitive files on here, just in case. You'll find plenty of cloud storage options out there with much better security measures, whether it's end-to-end encryption or password-protected links.
Amazon Drive pricing
Amazon Drive pricing is a little tricky to get your head around – with a Prime subscription (from $12.99 or £7.99 a month), you get an unlimited amount of photo storage space for free (or rather as part of the cost of Prime), as well as 5GB of room for your videos and other file types. If you're not a Prime subscriber, then that 5GB is the initial limit for everyone, for any file type, free of charge.
Extending that 5GB, whether you're a Prime member or not, will cost you: $19.99 (about £16) a year for 100GB of room, $59.99 (about £48) a year for 1TB of room, or $119.98 (about £95) a year for 2TB of room, which compares pretty favorably with the other cloud storage services out there. Remember that if you're a Prime member, you only need the extra storage for files that aren't images.
Amazon Drive verdict
Amazon Drive is quite an odd service in many ways: it almost feels half-abandoned by Amazon, yet it will do a respectable job of backing up files and folders from your local computer, and can even do this automatically for certain folders. It can't match the advanced features of other services, but it does an okay job.
The Amazon Photos component of Amazon Drive is much more impressive – especially if you subscribe to Amazon Prime, which gives you an unlimited amount of room in the cloud for all your pictures. Even Amazon Photos can't match up to the services from Google and Apple though, so we'd suggest this is only for people already heavily invested in the Amazon ecosystem.
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