The business cloud market is the holy grail for cloud storage. Business-focused cloud services can, and normally do, charge a lot of money to businesses for the privilege of using their favorite cloud platform.
Datto is hoping to buck the trend with their Drive service, launched in early May of this year. They’ve partnered up with ownCloud, an open-sourced cloud platform, in the hopes of providing a cloud service that’s much more economical, yet is still as flexible and feature packed as businesses demand.
Does Datto’s cloud drive measure up to your business needs? Find out below.
- Clean web and app UIs
- Extensive sharing and collaboration features
- Allows federation with other ownClouds
- Custom rule-based file firewalls and auto-tagging rules
- Saves file versions up to 60 days
- Mount external storage from other clouds or network shares
- Powerful user group and permission controls
- Flexible API allows creation of custom authentication rules
- Fast upload and download speeds
- Cheap base plan with unlimited users
- Software for Windows, Mac OS, iOS, and Android
- Supports 256-bit AES and TLS encryption
- Data sovereignty is maintained
- Free trial for one full year to first million companies
- Need custom e-mail domain to register
- Relatively steep learning curve
- All encryption is disabled by default
- No public pricing available outside of Base plan
- No geo-redundancy outside of Business/Pro plans
- No support options for Base plan
- No multi-factor authentication unless you build it yourself
Datto Drive offers a compelling feature set, a mind-blowing array of customization, and some of the best pricing in the business cloud market. They’re currently only allowing companies with a custom domain, so Gmail e-mail addresses are unfortunately excluded. In addition, businesses sticking with the attractive base plan will need a savvy IT guy for set up of advanced features, to set up backups due to the lack of geo-redundancy, and for support. But considering the price and feature set, it’s well worth a try, especially because of the free full-year trial.
First, I should reiterate that this service currently only being offered to businesses. Their sign up form will not allow you to use a free e-mail domain, like outlook.com or gmail.com, to sign up for their service, but instead you have to have your own domain with an attached e-mail alias.
Datto Drive offers a fantastic web UI with modern styling yet all the functions you’d want to have. Drag and drop uploading and movement is supported, as is favoriting and sorting by tags, but note that file uploads are limited to 4 GB outside of the desktop software.
Datto keeps deleted files as long as you want and all file versions up to 60-days old. But the service allocates a storage cap up to 50% of your total storage capacity. If you break that cap, they’ll start removing deleted files and versions.
Datto Drive offers most file or folder information on this right-side tab when you click a file. In addition to checking out file versions, you can also see file activity, sharing options, and even add comments for your team members.
There are no web-based editing tools to speak of, but there is an image and PDF viewer and a very basic photo gallery.
The amount of customization available in the web settings is stunning. Considering most cloud services don’t offer much more than a password reset or maybe notification options, seeing the ability to add rules to a custom firewall for file uploads, or the ability to create auto-tagging rules based on something as techy as IP ranges, and to set retention periods to tags is simply mind-blowing.
Adding and Controlling Users
As this is a business-centric product, the assumption that is that you are bringing entire teams or an entire company on board.
Unfortunately, Datto’s e-mail invite will be filtered out as spam by any spam filter, or any user with any amount of e-mail sense. As admin, you’ll need to add spam-filtering rules and inform your users before inviting.
Once your users are added, management is pretty seamless. You can create and change groups, designate group admins, change names and passwords, and even add storage quotas per user, all on the fly.
For those who already have a central user management strategy, Datto Drive supports both single sign-on (SSO) with SAML as well as Active Directory integration through LDAP. If you want to dive into Datto Drive’s API, you can also integrate with OAuth implementations, create custom two-factor authentications, or create your own custom authentication as well.
File sharing is one of the biggest reasons why businesses move to cloud storage, and it’s good to see that Datto Drive’s sharing features are fairly comprehensive.
Datto Drive supports sharing of individual files and entire folders via a generated web link or the aforementioned e-mail invites. Web links can also be secured with passwords and expiration dates, which is great because they can be accessed without an account.
It’s also possible to share directly to another ownCloud share if you use the syntax of [email protected]/ownCloud, but unless you know another ownCloud user, that’s probably not going to be the case.
Shared folders offer the same options, but also include an “Allow editing” toggle. Since there’s no web-based editing in Datto Drive, this allows receivers to upload or delete files.
Datto Drive users that get an invitation to a file or folder will get the option to accept and have those files be added to their cloud folders.
Datto Drive offers a lot of sharing customization for admins behind the scenes. You can set defaults, force password protections, disable sharing and re-sharing, and change rules for particular groups.
Finally, since Datto Drive is based off ownCloud, you can take advantage of Federation features. If you or a close collaborator controls another ownCloud or Datto Drive server, you can add the ownCloud Federated Cloud ID in your admin settings and create linked folders or servers to leverage greater storage and bandwidth. And because trust is a precious commodity in business, you can also create separate file firewall rules against the other server.
Built-in Cloud Aggregator
Datto Drive supports mounting external cloud storage from a huge variety of business-class storage like Amazon S3, FTP and SFTP, Dropbox and Google Drive, and even Windows-configured network drives.
Once they’re mounted, you can migrate files, but you don’t really have to. As long as you keep it mounted, the external storage can be accessed in Datto Drive like any other cloud folder.
The only downside is that setting these things up can be a pain in the butt, since you can’t just log in with your credentials. For instance, mounting a Dropbox and Google Drive account requires you to acquire and provide your public and private access keys (“App Key” and “App Secret”). These can only be obtained by using developer APIs to make an “app” for your account.
Datto Drive desktop software is sparse but functional. The installer sets up a folder and a sync engine which downloads cloud files and uploads any changes. If you’ve mounted any external storage from other cloud services or network shares, they will appear as another sync-able folder in the Datto Drive software. But the only thing syncing to Datto Drive from the desktop is within this single folder.
All the standard network options are available, like proxy controls and bandwidth limits, but the software also includes an optional file size limit that requires confirmation prior to syncing. A full activity record shows both local and cloud activity within the interface.
To share a file or folder from the desktop software, you can right-click on it and select “Share with Datto Drive.” This will pop up a window where you can add users or groups, as well as generate a share link.
Datto Drive offers simple mobile apps for iOS and Android. Other than a photo and video auto-upload options, and an optional 4-digit password lock, these apps just offer a simplified view of your files.
Each app works a little differently. The Android app offers file interactions in a long-press menu, whereas the iOS app offers options in a right-swipe. Both apps offer the same sharing platform and granular controls as the web UI.
As usual, download and upload speeds were tested on a cable network rated at 50 Mbps down and 5 Mbps up. In my tests, performance was rock solid and consistent, able to leverage ISP performance spikes with relative ease.
|Datto Drive Performance
|Average Upload Speed
|Max Upload Speed
|Average Download Speed
|Max Download Speed
Datto Drive owns and operates their data centers across the globe, and leverages a modified form of the open-source ownCloud platform as their software layer. However, ownCloud doesn’t support two-factor authentication unless you dive into the API and create your own multi-factor authentication. Most importantly, encryption is disabled by default.
In order to enable 256-bit AES at-rest and TLS/SSL in-transit encryption, the default ownCloud encryption algorithm must be loaded from the Apps submenu prior to clicking the option in Settings. Unfortunately, encryption does not retroactively apply to your current files, just to files uploaded after. Once again, this is server-side only, so all keys are stored on Datto Drive’s servers.
However, this encryption will also apply to any external/cloud storage that you’ve mounted on Datto Drive. This potentially creates an additional layer of encryption that neither Dropbox or Google Drive would have access to.
ownCloud also warns in their docs that web-accessed files will decrypt prior to the Apache layer that ownCloud is built on. If someone intercepts an active web session with admin authentication, one could potentially access decrypted files.
Many non-US businesses will be happy to hear that Datto helps preserve your data sovereignty. If your business is based in Europe or Asia, your data will be stored in their European or Asian data centers only. Even Geo-Redundant data will be stored within appropriate regions to maintain sovereignty.
Also note that automated antivirus scanning is coming soon.
Datto Drive offers three different pricing tiers. It’s a bit annoying that they don’t publicize the pricing model for two of the three tiers, but it’s unsurprising given that Datto is targeting the business market.
|$10 / month
Phone & E-mail
Phone & E-mail
Geo Redundancy (2 locations)
Custom Theme and Domain
The Base tier is priced ridiculously low, considering this is a business service. Even Dropbox for Business charges per user.
While I’d expect some features to be dropped at such a bargain price, it’s troubling to see that they don’t support geo-redundancy. Geo-redundancy, the act of storing files redundantly across multiple data centers, is a common feature these days and an important security measure. Businesses on the base plan will want to make sure to run their own redundant backups to keep data safe.
Note that Datto Drive is currently offering a free trial for one full year to the first million companies that apply.
Datto Drive supposedly supports 24/7, 365 days of phone and e-mail support, but only if you call the company and hash out the details of one of their Business/Pro plans. If you’re sticking to the base plan, you don’t get anything but their community FAQ page.
|Average Upload Speed
|5.21 Mbps (5 Mbps connection)
|Average Download Speed
|63.44 Mbps (50 Mbps connection)
|Free Online Storage
|Keep Deleted Files
|Forever (up to 50% of account storage)
|Back Up to Local Drive
Sync and Share Features
|Public File Sharing
|Data Center Location(s)
|2 – U.S. (Pennsylvania, Utah), 2 – Canada (Toronto, Calgary), 1 – UK, 1 – Australia (Sydney), 1- Iceland, 1- Frankfurt, 1 – Singapore