UPDATE – 23rd June 2015: Unfortunately Cyphertite has announced its imminent closure on 18th August 2015. The provider is recommending that existing users migrate their data away and we therefore don’t recommend anyone try to sign up anew.
The loss of this open-source provider is a shame, but thankfully there are plenty of alternatives, we recommend you head to our current round-up of the top ten backup services.
Different online backup providers often choose different focuses to use to promote their services. With Cyphertite, it’s abundantly clear that this focus is security. So, if unbreakable encryption is what you’re looking for, this service is worth a quick look.
However, the solution does have a worryingly “unfinished” feel and, as such, it’s fair to say that this open-source solution is more suited to enthusiasts and those willing to “read the manual.” Cyphertite simply doesn’t hold users by the hand in the way that many online backup solutions do. Furthermore, the Windows software is buggy and primitive and the Mac software wasn’t complete at the time of writing, making this only truly worth a look for security-conscious techies.
US-based Cypertite describe their service as “high security online backup.” They also offer a very generous 8GB of free storage, considerably more than the 2GB provided by Dropbox or the 5GB provided by SugarSync.
It’s important to understand what Cyphertite is and (perhaps more importantly) what it isn’t. This isn’t really a polished, consumer-level service – at least certainly not at the time of writing. The Windows version is in beta, according to the provider’s wiki, with the vendor saying that “we cannot verify every option will work as expected.” In addition, there wasn’t a Mac version of the software ready at all at the time of writing.
So, on this basis, technical novices with simple requirements may prefer to use a product where a little more focus has gone into ease-of-use. Enthusiasts may wish to give this a try, especially given the free allowance, but the software needs a lot more work before we’d feel ready to recommend it.
Many online backup providers offer a certain amount of free data storage. Cyphertite are particularly kind in this respect, with 8GB of free storage open to all at no cost.
If you need more, the chargeable options are very straightforward. Cyphertite offers an unlimited personal account for $10 per month and a “Premium” business service at 10cents per GB per month. The latter service works out to $50 per month for 500GB, which happens to be the same price charged by Dropbox.
It is worthy of note that the “Premium service,” aimed at enterprise customers includes free deployment consultation, faster transfer speeds and priority support – although what the latter means in terms of response times is not clear.
The unlimited nature of the $10 per month home-user service is a big plus point for those with a significant amount of data to backup.
If you wish to upgrade to a chargeable service, you must pay by Visa, Mastercard, American Express or Discover.
The features included in Cyphertite’s service are actually quite hard to ascertain, as the website content focuses on security and encryption more than anything else! These elements are worthy of mention, however.
Cyphertite go to great lengths to ensue the security of client data, and emphasise that their open-source encryption methods can be independently verified. In addition, it’s made clear that once data is stored within the service, it is completely inaccessible to the Cypertite team.
We needed to download the Windows client software and begin using it before we could determine the other features available. The key functionality we discovered was as follows:
Right-click backup: Cyphertite integrates with Windows and adds a Cyphertite option to the context-sensitive right-click menu. This provides you with an easy way to quickly “push” a file up to your online backup service.
Cyphertite Folder: The Cyphertite folder is added to your “computer” menu, providing easy access to all of the files that have been uploaded to the online backup service.
Hardware Independent Restore: It’s possible to access the files uploaded to Cyphertite on any compatible computer, provided you have your username and password. However, it’s important to note that this isn’t the same as “bare metal restore” where you can backup your whole computer and restore the image to new hardware.
Scheduling: Cyphertite has the ability to schedule a backup of one or more files and folders (but please see notes on this later on in the review).
As discussed earlier in the review, security is Cyphertite’s main strong point, and the provider makes plenty of reassuring information available to help you understand how it works.
Cyphertite claim to use the “strongest standards-compliant cryptography available.” In addition, they state that all customer data is mirrored across two machines for extra resilience.
Cyphertite also run their own storage infrastructure rather than leasing space in a “co-location” facility, where the underlying provider’s infrastructure could introduce security implications.
Customer service options initially seem rather limited for Cyphertite. Aside from a Wiki and FAQ section, email support is all that’s on offer when you hit the “contact” link:
However, when we had a dig about in the members’ area, we found links to a forum and a live chat facility, which is available from 9am to 5pm CST.
Subscribers to the “Premium” service qualify for “priority” support, but as mentioned above, we weren’t able to ascertain exactly what this means in practice.
Cyphertite promise that they will respond to support emails within one business day.
The first step in signing up to Cyphertite is to create a user account. This simply requires an email address, username and password:
Once your account is created, you are taken straight to a members area where you can see how much storage you have used, change passwords and upgrade to a paid plan if you choose.
We used a Windows test machine and downloaded the beta Windows software, as advised in a welcome email that arrived as soon as our sign-up was complete.
The Windows installer was a standard executable and triggered a normal Windows install, which essentially involved our clicking “next” a few times.
Once the install was complete, we were taken through entering our username and password and creating a crypto passphrase. Unfortunately, we hit a snag at this point: We were given the option of choosing our own passphrase or using an automatically generated one, but regardless of the options we chose, the program threw up an “unspecified error.”
We rebooted, and selected “Cyphertite GUI” from our “Start” menu. This time, we were taken to a browser-based interface, where we were able to configure our passphrase successfully.
We were advised to keep this somewhere safe and warned that data couldn’t be retrieved in an emergency if we were to lose it.
Once all this was done, we could access the features Cyphertite had added to our Windows test machine, including the right-click backup, Cyphertite folder (which, for the interest of techies, uses a SharePoint-style connection), and scheduling features.
The scheduling features, again, lead you back to the browser-based GUI. Unfortunately, we were unable to ascertain how to select individual files and folders for our backup and the wiki didn’t provide us with the answer.
Even though we were aware we were using beta software, we were left with the feeling that we were using a rather unfinished product.
While we appreciate Cyphertite’s focus on security and generous 8GB free allowance, we found too much that worried us to feel able to recommend you commit to a chargeable service, even though the provider offers unlimited home user data storage at a very competitive cost.
So, rather than recommending Cyphertite, we will instead say that it’s perhaps “one to watch,” especially for techies who are looking for a high-security solution. As it stands at the moment, the software badly needs further testing and refinement. Essentially, it feels as if you are testing a beta product and not using a finished solution. That’s not to say it may not be worth looking again in the months to come, to see what improvements have been made.
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