The trend towards moving all your digital content to the cloud has gotten the most exposure wth consumer services like Apple iCloud, Google Drive, and Microsoft SkyDrive. These services can store things like photos and documents, automatically syncing them among all your devices and computers. But cloud syncing really becomes powerful when used in a business setting. This is where FileLocker, a new product from InfraScale (the company behind SOS Online Backup) hopes to shine. FileLocker claims better security than existing players as its main differentiator, and that’s of huge importance for businesses. The service also boasts robust user-administration capabilities and a “private cloud” capability that lets businesses host the service on their own servers.
A particularly powerful capability of syncing services for business users are their collaboration features that let coworkers share and co-edit work documents. FileLocker is the newest entry in this game, but other services target businesses specifically, too, including Box, Egnyte, SafeSync for Business, and Syncplicity Business Edition. Let’s explore this new service and see how it stacks up.
Setup and Sign up
FileLocker offers free personal accounts with up to 5GB of storage each for up to five users, for a total of 25GB. For more than five users, it’s $5 per user per month support for six to ten users costs $500 a year—significantly less than Box’s $1,080 a year for six users ($15 per user per month). Unlike Box, thankfully no credit card info is needed to get your free account. Even though this level is called “personal,” the signup form still includes a line for “company.” You also need to fill in your name, email, secret questions, and password.
Given the FileLocker’s emphasis on security, I was surprised that strong passwords were not required at this point, but it does have to be 6 characters in length and contain an uppercase or non-alpha character. By comparison, Dropbox’s signup is very clear about password strength, with even 8-character ones indicating levels like “very weak,” “so-so,” and “good,” and Box offers similar ratings. With its emphasis on security, I’d expect FileLocker to have this kind of password evaluation, but it didn’t. After this, you just sign in on FileLocker’s website. (For some great tips on passwords, read Password Protection: How to Create Strong Passwords.)
To get FileLocker to synchronize files on your desktop PC (a Mac version should be coming this month), you need to install a local agent program. Oddly, this seemingly integral part of the system is found under “Extras” on the dashboard page.
Most interactions with FileLocker occur in a Web browser, and the service’s Web interface is mostly clear and nicely designed. The first time you look at your account page, a popup tells you to “upload a file,” and a large Upload button and drag-and-drop target always graces the top of the page. IE told me with every page view, “Only secure content is displayed,” with an option to “show all content.” Again, I was surprised such a security-minded site would prompt this message. The Web interface does allow drag-and-drop file syncing, but it’s not supported in IE9.
FileLocker adds its context menu to all files and folders listed in your Windows Explorer windows, but the options were less than crystal clear: What I wanted was a simple “Sync this file or folder now” choice (like that in the new Cubby product from LogMeIn), but instead I got Sync, Sync and Share, About Sync, Sync Options, and Show Sync Status. The first sounded easy enough, but it required me to choose a remote syncing folder, which could well contain other files that had nothing to do with the present folder’s contents. For the average user, I think it’s actually preferable to have synced folders and files all in one place, as SkyDrive, and Google Drive do, though some will prefer the flexibility of sync anything anywhere on your system.
When I added the “and Share” option, the same process was followed by another dialog for Share Settings, which had a check box for “Enable Download Receipts.” Deploy that option, and FileLocker will send you an email each time someone downloads the shared file or folder. But I wasn’t asked with whom I wanted to share; only later, a tooltip say Share Link available, and then disappeared. Ideally, I’d be given a box to type in emails of collaborators. Shared folders helpfully get a new folder icon, with FileLocker’s arced arrow logo.
FileLocker’s Search Files option, available from the left panel, worked well for finding files, but why not have the search bar always available at the top, as it is in every webmail interface? Once I’d found a file (or this would be the case for any file listing in the Web interface), I could right-click or just click a dropdown arrow to get Preview, Download, Upload New Version choices. I could also view history, send the file, generate a link to the file, unshare it, move it to another folder, delete it.
Version control is a strength of FileLocker, as it is for InfraScale’s flagship service, SOS Online Backup. Both services keep all versions of your files forever, unless you explicitly delete them. I also liked how the versions box on the Web interface lets you make any existing version current; this way, if a collaborator made an edit that was overruled, it would be easy enough to roll back the change.
Security may be FileLocker’s biggest trump card, compared with the competition. Box, the new service’s closest competitor comes close, with SSL encryption during transfer and 256-bit AES on the cloud servers, but FileLocker adds encryption prior to upload in its UltraSafe option. Unless you set up UltraSafe folders (a feature included in all accounts), though, you’re getting the same security as with Box.
Box offers reporting and administrative control over multiple users, most of which are only accessible in the paid Business level. Users at this lever can also customize the service with their own logo and company name. They can also connect to the company’s LDAP directory server and have files saved to a company FTP server.
FileLocker’s management features include the ability to limit each user’s storage quota as well as notifications, file sharing, file access, and commenting. Users of the Business edition can connect to an FTP server, configure LDAP, and restrict plug-ins and apps for users. There’s also a report generator that lets you see user and file statistics. With this tool, you set a date range, and can see upload, download, deletion, login, and editing history for all your users. I could also view activity for just a specified user or file. I could also create an “incoming folder” for any user, with notifications for new file arrivals.
FileLocker’s Private Cloud deployment option, similar to the Enterprise Local Cloud option in Egnyte, is the security holy grail for some business owners: It lets them keep the server inside their own firewall. Like Egnyte’s solution, FileLocker’s Private Cloud works as a virtual appliance you download and install on your server in a VMware virtual machine. But a company is this well-staffed in the IT department may just want to offer VPN access to its own servers? FileLocker does offer some advantages over a VPN, though including a Web interface, offline file access, and no need for users to log in with VPN software.
Just four Web integrations are included in FileLocker at present, with more no doubt to come—LinkedIn for another way to share docs, Autodesk Freewheel for viewing drawings, Zoho Office for viewing office docs, and Scribd for viewing PDFs. Note that I say “viewing.” You can edit spreadsheets and presentations in Zoho, but you can’t edit that which you’d probably most like to edit: Word processing documents. Alternatives like SkyDrive, with its Office Web apps, Google Drive, and Box don’t have these limitations.
At this point, the only mobile app for FileLocker is the Android version—in this way, the service trails all its more-established competitors. You can use the mobile Web version, though, which offers most of what you’d get in an app. A serious limitation of both the mobile site and app is that it doesn’t offer file uploading, though it does download and display common file types from your online storage and lets you send share links. I ran into some slowness and an application error while testing the Android app when trying to download. Nor did the site didn’t detect that I was on mobile automatically and send me the mobile version, and display a message telling me to install Flash—impossible on an iPhone.
A Safe Locker
FileLocker is a promising service, and businesses that want added security, administrative tools, and the ability to host file-syncing on their own servers would do well to consider FileLocker. It also lets you sync files residing in any folder on your system, if that’s something you need. But FileLocker still shows some growing pains, and for consumers who just want access to certain documents or media, Dropbox, Google Drive, or Microsoft SkyDrive—all Editors’ Choices—will be simpler to set up and use. And each of those gives you a generous amount of free storage, too.
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|OS Compatibility||Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8|
|Type||Business, Personal, Professional|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc