eFolder… my first impressions of an automated on-line backup solution

My files are bulletproof… or at least I think/hope/pray that they are.  I have a 60GB file on my laptop that stores my documents (and another 10GB of pictures).  For security reasons the partition on which those directories sit is encrypted with BitLocker, so if I lose my laptop my files are safe.  Every night my laptop is configured to back up these files (along with the entire laptop) to my Windows Home Server… so as long as I am home I am protected.

Over time I thought of a number of ‘doomsday scenarios’ that worried me, that would leave me somewhat unprotected:

  • What if there was a fire in my home, and both my laptop and my Windows Home server were destroyed?
  • What if I was on the road and my laptop was stolen (or corrupted) and I needed access to my files quickly?

Now let me be clear, I use my Live SkyDrive all the time… and Live Mesh for other things.  However when i started asking around I learned about a couple of tools that would install on my laptop, backup the files (directories, drives, etc…) that I selected, and then continue to do this automatically on a set schedule.  I liked the idea.  Their term for this is ‘Cloud Storage’.

I met Jan Spring at a number of events over the last couple of years, and because her company had a good community focus (they sponsored a meeting of user group leaders from around the world recently) I decided to give their product – eFolder – a try.  They were more than happy to accommodate me with a trial license (which, I confess, took me ten weeks to getting around to trying).

Once I was registered I received an e-mail from the company with my account number, username, and password.  I had to go on-line to change my password right away, because they want to be clear – once you are using their solution only you can use it to either back up or retrieve your files.

The next step was to download their tool – eFolder Backup Manager installed on my Windows 7 x64 laptop without any hassles or arguments.  Its install base is just shy of 40MB, not at all intrusive.  More importantly to me is that its Windows Process takes nearly zero CPU cycles and less than 6MB of RAM while running, so it does not affect my performance and I can continue to work normally.

I had to configure my account – Remote Server name is provided, and I have the option of backing up to a local server or local disk as well.  I had to enter my account credentials, and once that was done I had to create a Pass Phrase that would be my encryption key.  It tells you how secure the key is, which is based on the length rather than complexity.

By default it was set to back up my user profile, but as I store my document and picture libraries in non-standard locations I was easily able to add those locations in the Options tab. <a recommendation to them and anyone developing software: update your default locations to interact with Windows 7 libraries, and not only the default file locations> 

I set my schedule, keeping in mind that I did not want the ‘Cloud Backup’ to interfere or clash with my Windows Home Server backup.  I clicked ‘Backup Now’ to run my initial backup.  Of course that takes a long time (and is dependent on how much data compared to how fast your Internet pipe is), but once the initial backup is done it searches for the deltas… in other words it backs up what has changed since the last backup was run.

One of the key features that separates eFolder from many other on-line solutions, and one that will appeal to many of its customers, is their partnership with a Canadian datacentre (in Calgary).  The reason this is so critical is because US law states that the Federal Government can, if it perceives a possible threat, legally gain access to any data stored on US soil.  If you are worried about this then storing the data in Canada ensures that this cannot happen.  I want to be clear that you have to agree during configuration that you will not use their service to break the law, and because I am a law abiding citizen who is not terribly afraid of the government I do not worry about these things.  If you are concerned, make sure you tell them you want your data stored in Canada when you register.

A great feature for consultants or resellers to consider is that their partner program will allow you to rebrand their service as your own and resell it.  I am not going to play with that, but it can be a real value add for your clients!

Once the backup has completed you can (from within the eFolder Backup Manager) click on Manage Account.  This will direct you to their secure on-line portal where you can access their partner center, view a log of your remote backups and disk usage, and see a summary of your account.  It tells you when your last successful backup was, and when your service expires.  As well it tells you what your disk usage quota is so you do not run out of space inadvertently, or go over.  There is also a cool search feature which allows you to search for specific files (or files with specific criteria) in your backup.

To try it out for yourself check them out at http://www.efolder.net/.

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