A storage and synchronisation service with some nice additions, but it's too expensive.
Microsoft's Live Mesh is a firm favourite at PC Pro, used almost universally across the team to synchronise files between work and home PCs. Although it's still in beta it works marvellously, so we're unsurprised to see others muscling in on the same territory. Livedrive has been in development for some time - its makers claim to have fought off Microsoft for the name back when it was starting what is now the SkyDrive online storage service.
But it's more than just a Live Mesh clone. At its core it works in the same way: once you assign files and folders for Livedrive to back up to its online storage space, any changes made to those files will be synchronised across your network of PCs, and you can access your files from anywhere via a web browser. It uses AES-256 encryption and multiple storage servers, as we've come to expect. What Livedrive adds to the formula is a layer of extra flexibility when it comes to manipulating your files.
For a start it integrates the open source applications Zoho, FotoFlexer and Scribd into its web interface. So, if you're accessing a document or image remotely, LiveDrive lets you view and edit it directly without downloading a copy to your local machine - making it ideal for use in internet cafes and on other public computers. It even lets you watch video files if the local connection is fast enough.
Then there's the downloadable Facebook plug-in which, once you've granted Facebook access, lets you drag and drop photos directly to and from your profile albums.
Drag and drop is a theme of Livedrive's web interface, with a Java uploader (which doesn't yet work in Google Chrome) acting as a drop-box for any files you want to quickly add to your collection.
The same applies for the desktop client, with a virtual L: drive that acts like any normal folder - drag a file to it and it effectively creates a shortcut to the file's location and adds it to your Livedrive. More traditional right-click menu methods are included too, and files can be easily shared via email with non-members. It's exceedingly easy to setup and use.
But these extra features come at a cost. Livedrive is aimed at the professional or small business, and with this in mind the decision was made not to offer a free version. Livedrive cites the superior support its users will receive as one of the key reasons to pay, but the limits seem awfully arbitrary to us.
The £40 inc VAT Standard package is limited to a single PC, which takes away the main strength of such services - synchronisation. The £90 inc VAT Pro version supports 10 systems, which makes it more tempting for a small office looking to share files easily. It still lacks a remote desktop function, though, which Live Mesh offers.
Admittedly Live Mesh is still in beta, so there may come a time when Microsoft too charges for use, but for now it remains the benchmark. While there's certainly a lot to like about what Livedrive does, at these prices it doesn't do enough to sway us.