Really good data privacy features, cross-platform compatibility, and flexible ways to handle your sync, data backup and file storage, Wuala is truly a Swiss army knife of cloud backup world. How does it fare against SpiderOak? Or other competitors like the industry’s leader Dropbox? Read more to find out the details or you can sign up now.
Before we really sit down and test Wuala, we thought it’s just another syncing and backup service. We thought it’s the same as Dropbox, SpiderOak or any other syncing services. But when we begin to test it, we learn that all our initial assumptions were dead wrong.
The website will not excite you much. At least it didn’t for us. But Wuala is the kind of service and software that the more you test and use, the more you will become actually excited. In fact, Wuala will wow you in so many ways. Yes, at the first glance, it seems like a simple software. It doesn’t have fancy graphics, nor a lot of wizards or visual guides to tell you what you should be doing. There is no pre-selected backup folders, or anything. More on this later.
Another thing that surprises us a lot is that Wuala makes sure your data are really private and only you can access it, just like what SpiderOak promises to its customers. We think that Wuala may even be taking this a notch further, although they don’t publicly advertise their service based on this. Heck, we don’t even see that being mentioned on the site.
Wuala may not be for non-tech people who wants the software to hold their hands every step of the way. But it is not something only geeks and sysadmins can use either. You may need to read the manual a bit, or fiddle around in the software to learn your way around. Once you get a hang of it, you will learn that Wuala is very easy to use and very powerful. In fact, it actually is “Swiss Army Knife of Cloud Backup World”. No surprising since LaCie, the parent company behind Wuala, is a Swiss company.
Wuala comes with 5GB free account for every users. No features are skimped so you will enjoy every features Wuala has to offer. If you want to get more space, you can either invite people through your referral link or purchase additional storage. For every referrals, you will get 1GB additional storage, and you can gain up to 10GB storage through referrals. So basically you can enjoy 15GB of free storage with Wuala. That’s actually quite a lot, and more or less in line with the current industry’s leader Dropbox (2GB free, up to 16GB additional through referrals) but still lower than SugarSync (5GB free, up to 32GB additional through referrals).
If you want to purchase more space, the following is additional storage price list.
- 20GB – 2.99-‚¬ per month (US$3.88) or 29-‚¬ per year (US$37.69)
- 50GB – 5.99-‚¬ per month (US$7.78) or 65-‚¬ per year (US$84.4)
- 100GB – 9.99-‚¬ per month (US$12.98) or 109-‚¬ per year (US$141)
- 200GB – 19.99-‚¬ per month (US$25) or 219-‚¬ per year (US$284)
- 500GB – 49.99-‚¬ per month (US$64.9) or 549-‚¬ per year (US$713.5)
- 1TB – 89.90$ per month (US$116.8) or 999-‚¬ per year (US$1,298.4)
For business users, it is 389-‚¬ per year (US$505) for 100GB storage and 5 users. And you can purchase as much as you want.
You can make payment via both PayPal and credit cards, so it is very convenient for all of us. Some of us may not want to use our cards for privacy reasons.
The most important feature that excites us the most, but not advertised or promoted heavily by Wuala, is how it handles your data privacy. SpiderOak primarily uses “zero-knowledge policy” as their main promotion. Wuala doesn’t, but from what we gather, they are serious about your data privacy too. We will come to that in our Security section later.
Cross-platform compatibility. Wuala takes this approach slightly differently. While many other providers develop their software specifically for each platforms, Wuala uses Java to develop its client (just like CrashPlan) so you will need to have Java on your computer to run it. Basically, if you are running Windows, Mac OSX or Linux and have Java, you will be able to run Wuala. They have iOS and Android apps too.
Mounted network drive. After installing Wuala, it will mount WualaDrive on your computer as a network drive, where you can directly access all your files and even save files directly there. You can also open and edit files from WualaDrive using any other software installed on your computer. It will work just like any other drives on your computer.
Backup. Wuala will also let you make backups of any chosen folders (there is no limit). You can choose interval from continuous, hourly, daily, weekly or monthly. The folder will also show up on your WualaDrive too (which you can specify when you add a new backup).
Syncing. Syncing in Wuala works a bit differently from Dropbox. Instead of one specific folder like Dropbox or Magic Briefcase for Sugarsync, you can add any local folders for syncing purpose. And there is no limit on how many folders you can sync either. Folders you choose to sync will show up on your WualaDrive, and you can choose which computers you want to sync each folder to. Every changes you make on files on those folders using synced computers will be synced back to Wuala and across other devices you have.
Groups. Group concept may confuse you a bit if you are not used to that. With Wuala, you get both public and private groups even for personal accounts, but every uploaded files in a group will be counted against storage quota for every group members. For public group, everybody can find the link even using search engine and all can join, but only group members can have write access. Private groups will have a specific key code in the URL and only those with full URL can access to it. Depends on the settings, access to weblinks can give both access to files and membership of the group (need Wuala account) or just access to the files in Web interface.
Sharing. Sharing on Wuala is kind of different from other providers. Basically, you can make a folder Public so that everyone with link can access to it or even use search engine in Wuala to search. Or you can choose to share with your contacts in Wuala (same as how Dropbox share works), or you can choose to give a private web link.
Tags. You can put several tags for every files and folders you have uploaded on Wuala, so if you have put in some thoughts into directory hierarchy and tagging the files, you can easily search your files on Wuala using those tags. This is very powerful search feature.
Versioning. Wuala doesn’t keep your files version with date. Instead they will keep your files for up to 10 versions.
Time Travel. Time Travel feature isn’t exactly the same as versioning, but it lets you view folders and files as they looked days or weeks before, using a slider to go back to a date.
With Wuala, all encryption and stuffs happen right on your computer before you upload. Encryption key and passwords are stored at your side, not at Wuala side. And there are no web forms or sign ups to create your account, so that Wuala will not know your password. And since encryption happens on your PC before uploading, Wuala will not have any encryption key to decrypt your data either. So basically, your data at Wuala is absolutely safe from any prying eyes, including government.
Wuala employs the 2048 bit RSA, 256 bit AES and SHA-256 algorithms for encryption, signatures and integrity checks. If you’re interested in encryption methods used by Wuala, they have a published paper on Cryptree. Not only that, all data are stored in redundant storage locations across Germany, Switzerland and France, ensuring data integrity in case of failures in any one location.
Wuala doesn’t have telephone support but they have pretty extensive user manual and FAQ, as well as a customer support forum where both Wuala staff and other users hang out. If you would like to have direct assistant or can’t find what you want on aforementioned venues then you can shoot an email to support staff.
It seems that Wuala has a rather small support team, but they respond to emails pretty fast (usual turnaround time is like 12 hours, according to our tests). However, forum posts will get attention from other users and community moderators too. So unless your problem is something only Wuala developers can fix, you will get pretty good support. A quick search on the Web also reveals that most people are mostly confused with how to use the software, but then the user manual actually covers a lot of topics too. So if you are feeling lost using Wuala, we recommend giving the manual a go.
There is no signup form on Wuala website, since it will give away your password to Wuala team. So all you have to do is download Wuala software from its website, which is only about 18MB.
After installation, you will be asked to either create an account or log-in using an existing account. There is no confirmation email, or nothing of that sort, which is a plus and we think it helps to boost the privacy more.
After creating an account, you will be logged in immediately and you will see pre-created folders in Wuala software. WualaDrive, which is a network drive, will also be created and you can see it in your Home folder or among mounted drives. You can upload and download files from both Wuala software and WualaDrive using your OS file browser.
Backing up files is easy. You can create new folders from Add menu to the left, or just right click in the folder view in Wuala software. Uploading files will be the same way too. If you use Wuala software to upload files, the upload progress will be shown beside files’ icons.
If you want to add backups, it’s pretty easy. You just have to use Add menu at the left panel, and choose Backup. Then you will have to choose a local folder you want to backup to, and which folder in Wuala you want it to appear. Then under Advanced section, you can exclude files you want to exclude, and you can even use wildcards to exclude files with specific extensions or names. And after that, you can choose the backup interval you want. You can create as many backups as you want, and choose whatever interval you want for each backups. Pretty flexible, we would say.
For syncing, it works pretty much the same as creating Backups. From Add menu, just choose Sync, and choose a local folder, folder in Wuala and voila, you are done. However, for other computers you want to be synced to, you will have to choose which folder you want to sync to after you install Wuala on those computers. So basically, not all sync folders will be synced across every computers with same Wuala account, and you can actually choose which folder you will sync to what computer.
If you want to create a group, either private or public, you still have to go through Add menu. A public group is searchable by search engines and on Wuala software, and everyone can join the group but only members have write access to it. The group name will be used after http://www.bestbackups.com/goto/wuala as a public link for web access. Beware if you use this though, since your files will be made public. For a private group, it is another story. The web link will be secret and you must give it to people you want to give access to, and the link will have a unique key code behind it. You can choose to give access to just files only, or also membership to the group (need Wuala account for that)
You can see all groups you create or belong to in Group view.
You can share your folders and files in Wuala too. And there are several sharing methods. For one, you can make it public, which will change the folder color to blue. Or you can “share” the folder to other Wuala contacts if your choice (basically other Wuala users), or you can generate a web link with a special key code. And unlike Private Groups, you can actually change the special key code to whatever you want, making it a bit more secure since you can easily just change the key code if you think extra eyes are having access to your shared folder. Shared folders will have Red color with a lock icon on it.
You can control bandwidth, change your profile and password, and some other preferences in Preference dialogue under Edit menu.
So are you excited yet? If you are not, go ahead and download Wuala to give it a try. This little software will actually surprise you. It gives you so much flexibility over your syncing and backup, and as the password is at your side and Wuala doesn’t know about it at all, there is no way your files will fall into the hands of anyone else except you. Encryption is done on your computer too. And if you are feeling extra paranoid, you can encrypt your files using something like TrueCrypt before uploading to Wuala.
In general, we are actually loving Wuala, even more so than SpiderOak. Only bummer is that all referral bonus storage will expire after 1 year. If there is no such expiry date for free storage, we will be choosing Wuala over SpiderOak. We think that Wuala gives a lot more flexibility than SpiderOak syncing and backup features too. So if you are ready to fiddle a bit more with the software, and don’t really mind the lack of step by step wizard that you can find in other software, go for Wuala. Heck, if you are serious about your data privacy at all, just use Wuala. We know some of us here at BestBackups will be switching from Dropbox soon.