Secure Online Storage with Wuala

Developed by LaCie, Wuala is one of the newest cloud storage services on the market. In essence and purpose, the program is similar to Dropbox and 4Shared, but brings in a heftier set of features, which includes a social component as well.
Wuala (currently in beta stage of development) has been created as a solution for secure online backup, folder synchronization across multiple computers and file sharing. Except for cache data, nothing is stored on your computer as the data you access is stored remotely, on their servers, in several locations.

The program is free of charge and so is the default service plan. Initially you get only 1GB of online storage, but don’t let this small value disappoint you since the company offers plenty of ways to expand this number to 5GB or even more through referral service, but also through a trading of a spot on your hard disk for a chunk of storage in the cloud.

For instance, accepting an invitation to the service from me gets you started with double the initial 1GB storage space, which makes it equal to what Dropbox offers for free. What I get instead is a 250MB (up to a limit of 3GB) expansion of my account’s cloud space.

However, you can increase this quota by trading bytes on your hard disk for space online. It is not a 1:1 ratio, as the cloud space you can get is calculated keeping into account your average online time and the HDD chunk you lay on the line. All in all there are plenty of chances to increase the online space drastically.

Installing Wuala is no tough thing to do; but after you go through all the screens and choose the components you want on the system (for accessing the cloud content or checking the status of your backup and synchronization folders straight in Windows Explorer), you have to reboot the computer so that all the changes take effect.

The interface has the layout of a file manager, which makes working with a comfortable endeavor. A set of predefined folders helps you organize your data according to their type: documents and media files (audio, photo, video), but you can create your own directories if these do not suit your needs all the way.

The application can also map a network drive in Windows Explorer, allowing you to handle the information straight from Microsoft’s file manager. As soon as Wuala is turned off the network vanishes from the list of drives.

Accessibility and security of the data is extremely important these days and in Wuala this is demonstrated very well through the various sharing functions and the fact that no piece of information leaves unencrypted from your computer. The encryption key resides on your computer and this makes the files inaccessible even to the developer of the program.

Getting access to your items can be done in several ways, with different privacy levels. You can share them through a secret link that can be personalized, with Wuala contacts (friends you invited to use the service) or with entire groups of friends.

Creating a group is a fairly simple procedure but the flexibility in changing its properties certainly needs some brushing up since there is no way to modify the initial settings. Thus, you have to decide from the beginning if it is going to be a private, public or business group as well as upon the way the data it holds is accessed.

In the case of a private group, for instance, if you enable web access through secret link all the data can be viewed indiscriminately by anyone who knows the link. In order to make it accessible only to member of the group you have to disable this setting, which is turned on by default. Then you can proceed to inviting friends to the group so that they have access to the data through Wuala client only.

As a moderator of a group you can add new members, grant them permission to add and delete any item or just their own. You can elevate other member’s right to administrator by changing their role from the context menu of their icon in your Wuala.

Sharing the information can be done over the web, through the aforementioned, customizable secret links. Any user that knows the link can automatically access the data. Obviously, the randomly generated access key in the link is tough to remember so the chances are close to zero for anyone to uncover your files on purpose.

Backing up the data on your computer with Wuala is a simple job, which requires you to point to a folder and set the frequency interval for the task. The data is immediately uploaded to your account and the folder can function as any other folder in the service, which means that you can share it with others.

Monitoring the action in Wuala is simple when you have all the overview functions stacked into the “Tools” menu. The app lets you view the current state of backup, synchronization, upload and download tasks. The details presented include only the progress in percentage for each item since the transfer rate is available at the bottom of the main application window.

In the configuration panel of the application you’ll find the possibility to impose a maximum upload and download value so that not all the bandwidth is spent on Wuala activity.

Although there are plenty of settings to tinker with, customizing the app does not take too much time. But if you imagine that going through the options is a one-off trip, you’d be wrong. I found myself constantly returning to this section just to make slight adjustments, such as the upload/download rate, the traded storage or for clearing the cache data, which can amount to hefty values (the limit is set to 5GB by default).

The biggest downside in Wuala is file uploading. Because all files, their name included, are encrypted locally it does not use deltas for differential synchronization, which requires for the entire file to be uploaded each time a change, no matter how small, occurs, as opposed to calculating the deltas and transferring only the modifications. This makes it impractical with large files.

The Good

All the data is encrypted locally and then transferred to the cloud. Your backups are split and spread across multiple locations in order to avoid losing it.

File versioning feature lets you access older versions of a file. This comes in very handy when you accidentally delete an item from your desktop because you can recover it in a previous state.

Once uploaded, the data can be accessed from any computer in an instant. Sharing and collaboration features allow you to store items that can be grabbed by others as well, either through a unique weblink or through groups.

Online space is not limited to just the initial 1GB. You can increase the amount by referring the service to friends or by trading local storage for online space.

The Bad

Working with groups is not as intuitive as it may seem at the beginning. If you want to benefit from “group” feature to the fullest and in the way you intend to, a peak at the documentation for clarification of the options is necessary.

At times some folders may be marked as not yet synchronized, when in fact everything is in order. This build is not capable of making delta calculation so that only the differences of a file are transferred instead of the entire file.

We noticed that when there are multiple of files to handle the application requires a hefty piece of your system’s CPU, this behavior prolonging even after all activity is paused.

The Truth

Wuala is more sophisticated than any current online storage service and their desktop client. The features it puts at your disposal are extremely appealing, especially for the more seasoned computer users.

The interface is intuitive only as far as the main options are concerned. Looking for more specific features (e.g. file versioning) can make an average user back up from using the software.

All in all Wuala comes packed with more than you would expect from a regular client for an online storage service. But it also comes with a pretty steep learning curve, considering today’s alternatives, many are not eager or willing to engage in.

Post a Comment

M14 Network Inc. | Hassnain Arts