Zoolz is built entirely on Amazon AWS architecture. It is nothing new, but what’s new is that Zoolz’s Cold Storage service is built on top of Amazon Glacier, and gives you very affordable storage space at just $3 for 100GB. The software is polished, refined and simple to use although right now only Windows version is available. Read below for more details or you can sign up now.
Zoolz is new kid on the block among cloud-based backup service providers. In fact, both Zoolz and its parent company Genie9 are relative newcomers to this space. But what they have been doing are cutting-edge stuffs targeting both home and business users.
At a first glance, Zoolz looks like something Microsoft is now doing. The interface reminds us a lot about Microsoft SkyDrive and Windows 8 – clean, crisp, bold use of imagery and grid layout, big rectangular buttons. But then, on second look, you will see that Zoolz design aesthetic is an indicator of company’s edginess and innovations in cloud backup field, not a blatant imitator of other players in the industry.
From the site, you can easily determine that Zoolz is different. Very different. It has very interesting features which are clearly targeted towards business users, but the pricing is quite fair and even personal users can afford Zoolz services without breaking a bank. And some of their features are really interesting – things like Cold Storage, which is built on top of Amazon Glacier.
More on that later. You will get our full review after the break. But before that, here are a few key takeaways about Zoolz: 100GB Glacier storage for $3, unlimited computers, no limit on bandwidth and file size, oh and deploy thousands of users in minutes.
Zoolz has an interesting elastic pricing model, which basically is pay what you use. Just like cloud hosting services, you can upgrade and downgrade your storage needs and users at will. There are two kinds of storage: Instant Storage and Cold Storage. Each one works a bit differently from the other. And at absolute minimum you need to get 50GB Instant Storage and 1 user. The following are pricing for each elements in an Zoolz account.
- Instant Storage – $8 per month for every 50GB.
- Cold Storage – $3 per month for every 100GB.
- Users – $2 per month per user.
- Servers – $10 per month for each server.
So for starters, 50GB of Instant Storage and 1 user will cost $10 per month. If you want 100GB of Cold Storage, then it will be $13 in total. Unless you want to backup Windows servers, you don’t need to add in any servers. So if you want something like 100GB Instant Storage (which is something you use for regular backups) and 200GB Cold Storage (based on Glacier, should use mainly for archiving purposes for files that don’t need frequent updates or access), then your cost is $24 per month.
If you compare this to other competitors in the market, you might say it is pricey. But here is a catch – you can’t compare Zoolz with personal plans of other providers. For direct comparison, you will have to compare with business plans of other cloud-based backup service providers. Sure, you can use Zoolz for personal usage, but all features Zoolz provides are primarily for business users. For instance, Carbonite Business will set you back about $75 per month (in reality, $898 per year since Carbonite only has yearly payment plan) for 1TB storage, while MozyPro will set you back for $379.99 per month. JungleDisk Workgroup Edition will cost $152.5 per month (since they give 10GB per user for free).
In all fairness though, 1TB storage from Zoolz here is not just Instant Storage. It is more like 50GB Instant Storage and 1TB Cold Storage. But how many of our backup data do we access and update regularly? Many files are actually there for months without being touched in reality.
If you feel like the price is a bit high to jump in and subscribe immediately, there is a 14-days free trial for 50GB Instant Storage and one user, as well as a demo account available. You will have to find the demo in Pricing page though, not in other pages which is annoying in our opinion since they should have put it somewhere more prominent.
Before you continue reading this, we suggest you to grab a cold drink and maybe some snacks. It’s gonna be a long one. Trust.
Continuous Backup. Zoolz software will monitor file changes and backup your files as you update them.
Backup anything. You can backup multiple computers, external hard drivers and even network drives onto Zoolz. There is no limit.
Multiple performance modes. There are four backup performance modes: turbo, smart, battery saving and presentation. Each one will use your system resources differently.
Advanced file filtering. You can filter by type, size, date and expression.
3 level data deduplication. Machine level, company level, and global. This is very useful for organizations with a lot of users so that you won’t be backing up same file twice and waste your storage space.
No limit on individual file size. Whether you have 25GB MySQL database file or 10GB Lightroom files, you can backup them all. There is no cap.
Several backup policies. You can configure what you want to backup, and what you don’t want. And if you are an admin, you can configure what each users can backup and what they can’t. And you can also set backup schedules and frequency.
Advanced user management. Admins have the ability to configure the user-™s data selection, privileges, and settings all from one centralized location. Not only that, you can add new users locally and globally just by inviting them over email. You also get the ability to suspend, archive, delete computers and users with ease. You can set storage limits all policy changes you make are reflected instantly on other people.
Mobile Apps. You get apps on both Android and iOS devices. No word on Windows Phone or other platforms.
File retention rules. Basically, you can set file retention rules on your own.
Lightweight Client Software. Most computation is done at the backend so the client software is very lightweight.
Share files. You can easily share files via email and link generation. You can also protect your shared files with password. There is no limit on how many files you can share or size.
Expiring Links. This is the ability to expire links after one download or by days.
Copy, Encrypt, Ship. This is unique service Zoolz offers. Basically, you can use a utility software provided by Zoolz to copy and encrypt your data on an external hard drive and ship it to Zoolz, then they will process your files onto the cloud without any knowledge about content of your files. Oh and you can use this service anytime you want to add a file, not just for initial seeding period. This is especially useful for companies with a lot of data.
Cold Storage. Built on top of Amazon Glacier storage infrastructure, it is meant for backing up rarely accessed files that don’t need frequent updating. It is designed for archiving purpose and the cost is very low, although there is 3-5 hours delay in restoration. But for backed up photos, you can preview them without having to wait.
Web console. Apart from uploading files, all other functions can be done from the web interface. You can also access and download your files using web-based interface too.
Instant search. A powerful search engine is built-in Zoolz web interface so that you can easily search among your files.
Easily switch between multiple computers. If you are backing up multiple computers under the same account, you can easily switch between each computers under the same account
Advanced reporting. You can get all sort of reports about your backups, including users across the globe and monitor each user’s bandwidth usage.
Easy restoration. You can do restoration via Web interface (you will download ZIP files) or using the client software. You can pause and resume your restores. You can restore to original file location or to different destination too.
Backup Windows servers. There are several features under this such as:
- Continuous Data Protection; constantly monitors changes
- Server level deduplication that supports encrypted drives
- Backup while logged off
- Open File backup support
Zoolz is actually built on top of Amazon AWS architecture, which is trusted by organizations like NASA, NASDAQ, National Institutes of Health and many others. There are 3 levels of encryption: 256 AES on machine, 128-bit SSL for data transfer, and 256-bit AES server side encryption. Data are stored on Amazon S3 and Glacier servers. According to Zoolz, this kind of security complies and surpasses with all laws and regulations required for data processing, transferring and storing such as Sarbanes-Oxley Act, HIPPA, PCI-DSS, GLBA, FISMA, and the Joint Commission.
Zoolz has a whole section of their own Wiki with a lot of articles on how to use the service and its client software. It is pretty comprehensive. And while they don’t mention telephone support on the website, you can contact them for email support through the website. However, since they are catering to business users, our take is that they will have telephone support as well. It is just surprising thing that they don’t have a 24/7 telephone support. We haven’t actually tested any customer support query with them, since most things we want to know are already on the Wiki. If you are Zoolz customer, you should really give it a try. It’s comprehensive and useful. Not only that, the software has step-by-step easy to use wizards so that helps a lot too.
Signing up to Zoolz is easy. In fact, they won’t ask you for anything like your credit card number up front. There is no immediate sign up link from the homepage though. So either you download Zoolz client software, install it and sign up from there, or you will have to go to sign in page and then click on sign up link there.
Apart from that, signing up is actually easy. You only need to enter your name, email address and password. Then voila, you are done and will automatically get 14-day trial account with 50GB Instant Storage and one user.
When you first sign in, it will ask you to download client software. It is only 4MB but during installation the software will download a few more necessary files, so it’s better to have Internet connection when you install it. Downloaded files aren’t too big though, and it’s quite fast.
Zoolz web interface dashboard is pretty simple and very easy to understand. And somehow, the aesthetic still reminds us of current Microsoft aesthetic style. Here we will be using Zoolz demo account since it has more users and Cold Storage for us to test and play around with. From the dashboard, you can add users, add server, create new backup policy, view your backup computers, or purchase more storage/users/whatever you need.
My Computers tab will bring you to web-based file browser. You will see your computer name in the drop down list at the top, which is how you can switch between multiple computers you backup from. Each computer will have its own list of things you backup, so you won’t feel confused. File browser interface is quite simple and in fact very intuitive to use. What you see as Desktop, Documents, Music and such are Zoolz Smart Selection categories. More on that later when we actually go to the client software usage.
File sharing is quite easy, you just have to right click on any folder or file and click Share. You can generate a link to share, or send an email. Or you can choose to share on social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. For link or email, you can set password and expiration. For expiration, you can choose to expire the link either after one download or on specific date. It can also send you delivery notification when someone has downloaded your shared files. Both password protection and expiration options are not available for social media sharing though (unless you manually post shared link on your social networks).
You can actually view many types of documents and photos directly in Zoolz web interface. For photos, you can view them in a list or as thumbnails. You can even view them as slideshow.
In Users tab, this is where you manage your account users. You can add users through three means: manual, invite via email or multiple entry using CSV. You can set storage limit on each user, as well as backup policy. The Users page will also show how many computers a user has backup, used storage, and last activity.
Servers tab is where you add Windows servers for backup purposes. After adding, you will be prompted to download server setup client software, which you have to install on your server. We didn’t explore this area thoroughly.
Policies tab is where you go to define backup policies. You can set specific policies as well as configure Global Settings which are basically about file retention (you can set either specific amount of versions or days) and wildcard expressions of specific file extensions. For policies, you can set anything from which Smart Selections are allowed, what manual selections are allowed and exempted, performance modes, backup schedule and bandwidth throttling. Then you can assign those policies to each users or computers.
In Reports tab, you will find out bandwidth usage, billing and where your users are located.
Zoolz client software is also really easy to use and boy, it truly reminds us about Microsoft Skydrive! The client’s dashboard is simple, and it indicates your backup process, and let you choose your data, configure settings, or do restoration.
In Data Selection, this is where you can choose what data you want to backup to. You can rely on Smart Selection and let Zoolz client does all the jobs. Or you can go to My Computer and manually select folders and files you want to backup.
In Cold Storage tab under Data Selection, this is where you select files and folders you want to archive in Cold Storage. You can directly buy more space for Cold Storage in that tab too.
Restoration is also pretty easy. If you don’t want to download all your files and folders from the Web interface, you can choose to restore from the client software. You can restore to original location, or to an alternate location. You can also choose if you want to replace existing files.
Then you can choose which computer backup you want to restore, and what backup files you want to restore.
In Settings tab, this is where you go for bandwidth throttling, schedule throttling, changing backup schedules and such. Nothing confusing or too many settings for users here, actually.
Zoolz is very new, but they are among the first few of those that have built a service on top of Amazon Glacier. Glacier is very interesting solution that is set out to replace tapes and other archiving solutions. So it is not your run of the mill online storage for sure, but other than technical users, it does not have its own easy to use interface for end-users (much like S3). Even though base pricing is a bit higher than others, we will have to welcome what Zoolz is doing here – providing us with very affordable Glacier storage and easy to use software. Oh and speaking of client software, Zoolz said they are compatible with Mac OS X but so far, the client software is only available for Windows users. So if you are a Mac user, you will want to hold out on buying Zoolz storage for now. If you are using Windows, and have a lot of things that you don’t often access to backup (like RAW files of photos), then Zoolz is definitely for you. For business users, the jury is still out there but we have a feeling that Zoolz will soon force other competitors to build solutions on top of Amazon Glacier.