Review

Wuala Online Backup Review


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  Wuala Summary

UPDATE: Lacie has announced that Wuala is closing its doors in November 2015 and no new subscriptions are now being processed.

Wuala is a cross-platform online backup service provided by LaCie, a company you may well be familiar with for their external hard drives. It seems a logical progression that such a firm would now offer an online backup service, having been a part of many people’s local backup regimes for many years.

Pricing & Plans

Like many online backup providers, Wuala offer a tiered pricing system with a very low entry point of 99 cents per month. We carried out our review in Europe, hence the pricing screenshots showing Euro prices.

Wuala pricing

At the lower storage quantities, Wuala’s pricing is about average (in fact, in Europe it matches what Apple charge for iCloud Drive at the time of writing). However, the higher storage limits can get quite expensive.
If you need to store multiple terabytes of information, the prices can get really significant (e.g. €159.90 per month for 2TB). If you have a serious amount of data, an unlimited service may suit you better. It’s worth noting that this is unlikely to apply to that many people, but it’s always worth shopping around.
Also worth a mention is the fact that all of Wuala’s payment processing is handled via PayPal – you needn’t be a PayPal member to pay using a card, but some people would probably like to see at least a couple more alternatives.

Features

It’s fair to say that there’s not that much to distinguish between the key features offered by mainstream online backup providers. However it is worth emphasising that this is a true online backup service in the traditional sense, rather than a file sync service along the lines of iCloud.

In actual fact, Wuala does offer a file sync service as part of the deal, but it is an additional feature and not the sole purpose of the solution. Wuala is really intended as a regular online backup solution.

At the core of the solution is a backup engine for your chosen files and folders, which can back up continuously, or to your chosen schedule. This supports file versioning, so you can roll back to an older version of a file if you accidentally change or overwrite some content.

The sync service works in a similar way to Dropbox; Wuala allows you to select folders as “sync folders,” for bi-directional syncing across all of your chosen devices.

Wuala also offers some basic sharing and collaboration features. You are able to mark folders as “shared” and invite others to view them. Files can be accessed by others before they have to join Wuala themselves.

Visit Wuala »

Security & Privacy

Like most online backup providers, Wuala make a point of emphasising the security of their service. The data you backup is encrypted “client side,” i.e. before it even leaves your computer, and Wuala proudly state that even they cannot access your stored files. For individuals seeking total security there are a few shortcomings to this that we will discuss later in this review, but they’re probably only worth concerning yourself with if you’re super-paranoid!

On the face of it, Wuala has some great security credentials.

First and foremost, all Wuala encryption is handled “client-side,” so everything is pre-encrypted on your own machine before it even begins to travel to Wuala’s servers.

Security

In addition, your password is never sent in plain text, so even Wuala employees cannot access your data.

Wuala are based in Europe, and your AES-256 encrypted data is spread and copied over multiple locations for extra safety.

There are a couple of small shortcomings in Wuala’s security, which you can read more about in this article, where we looked at online backup solutions specifically with security in mind. In brief, the main flaw relates to accessing Wuala files via mobile devices or via the Wuala website. Doing so means that your passwords are temporarily stored on Wuala’s servers, which undermines the overall security somewhat. However, we think it’s fair to say that only the obsessively security conscious need worry about this, especially as the data itself is spread over multiple locations.

Another potential issue relates to the type of convergent encryption used. Unless you really have something to hide, you needn’t concern yourself with this, but you can read more about it here if you wish.

The website

The Wuala website is clear and simple with a “less is more” approach. In fact, it had just had a small facelift at the time of our review.

Wuala Site

All the key information on the service is presented in a series of short videos, and there’s a detailed security section available for those who require the information.

Pricing information is also very clear. We like Wuala’s website as there’s nothing there to unnecessarily confuse the novice.

Support

Clicking through to the support section of the Wuala website results in arrival at a clean and minimalist support page:

Support

We had a good look through the Knowledge Base and FAQ sections and found great quality documentation with large, clean screenshots.

Docs example

If we wanted to be pedantic, we’d say that the Knowledge Base was a little light on articles, but this is a mainstream service, and the provider has clearly decided to refrain from providing too much confusing information – we therefore respect this decision.

The “Contact us” link leads to a simple form to log a call with Wuala’s ticketing system. We must admit we would have liked to see a support telephone number. More and more companies now seem to avoid providing them, but that doesn’t mean it pleases us!

The Process

Signing Up

(NB. We tested Wuala using a MacBook Pro running OS X Yosemite. It’s fair to assume that, cosmetic differences aside, using Windows would be similar).
Signing up to Wuala begins with a click of the “download” button. You are then taken to a download page. The website detects your platform and gives you the correct download link.

Download

The Mac download was just under 50MB and the installation was quick and simple.

The Windows VPN client

Opening Wuala for the first time produced a dialog box requesting that we sign in or open an account. We did the latter:

First Open

On the registration screen, we were warned that there was no way that Wuala staff could reset our password. This is quite common with secure backup services. After all, if staff could change the password, the basic principle of privacy wouldn’t apply. For this reason it’s important to choose a secure password that you’re not going to forget!

First Open

Next, we were taken on a very simple six-step tour. Once again, this was kept user-friendly and minimalist. Techies would probably skip it, but we feel inclined to complement Wuala for hand-holding novice users.

Tour

With the tour complete, there were a couple of other things we needed to do: First we needed to verify our email address by clicking a link in an email that arrived immediately, and then we needed to install an Wuala update. This was all quite simple to accomplish.
We were then taken to Wuala’s unsurprisingly understated user interface! One thing we didn’t like at this stage was the red bar telling us we had no storage left, when we’d not yet been given the option to subscribe. A free trial would have been appreciated! This is available for Wuala’s business services, but not on the consumer version we tried.

GUI

For this reason, we headed to the “Subscribe” link that we were presented with when we click on the accusing red bar, and headed off to pay for our subscription. After choosing our package, the payment process was like a standard PayPal check-out.

Payment

Once payment was complete, we needed to restart Wuala, and then we had our 5GB of storage available to us.
To start off with, we created a new backup job of a single folder containing some photos. As you will see, the options are kept really simple, although the “advanced” drop down provides access to some more choices, including exclusion of certain files, and the ability to change the backup interval, which by default is set to “continuous.”

First backup

As soon as we clicked “OK” the backup began, and completed impressively quickly.
We then played around with some more features. Adding groups to share files via a secret Web link was nice and easy, and there was also the ability to search for LaCie devices on the local network.
Finally, we created a new Sync folder on our desktop, and copied a couple of files into it. We figured that would give us something to look at on the mobile version of Wuala.

Sync

All in all, we really enjoyed using Wuala’s Mac interface. We won’t try to pretend it’s really feature packed, but nor does it need to be. The platform ticks enough security and privacy boxes for the vast majority of users, yet still manages to get “ease of use” absolutely spot on.

Other Platforms

We decided to take a quick look at Wuala’s iOS client software. The app was easy to find on Apple’s App Store and quick to download.

iPhone 1

Upon opening the app, we were asked for our username and password. After entering them, we could immediately see the files we had backed up using Wuala. We were a little confused as we couldn’t see the “New Sync” folder we had created, but then realised that we’d inadvertently set it up as a subfolder of videos. It was there on our test iPhone, with the content all present and correct.

iPhone 2

Wuala’s iOS app, like all of Wuala, is simple and minimal. Once again we will emphasise that we really don’t think this is a bad thing! There was an option to lock the app down with an additional secure pin-code, which was a pleasing addition to find.

Conclusion

Overall Wuala is a great general use secure backup solution which we wouldn’t hesitate in recommending. If you’re looking for other options, then visit our secure backup list mentioned in the article or head over to our sister website BestBackups for more great Backup service reviews.

We liked

  • A great balance between adequate security and genuine ease-of-use
  • Flawless in operation
  • Simple but effective mobile app
  • Good, understandable documentation

We weren’t so sure about

  • Techies may feel there’s not quite enough to play with
  • Pricing rather high for large storage volumes

We hated

  • No free trial on consumer version
  • No support phone number published

Visit Wuala »


Ben Taylor Ben was a geek long before "geek chic," learning the ropes on BBC Micros, before moving on to Atari STs and IBM compatibles. He was "online" using a 1200bps modem before the Internet was even a thing. Now, after two decades in the industry, he writes about technology for various publications, operates a few websites of his own, and runs a bespoke IT consultancy based in London.

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