Wuala Can Securely Synchronize Your Documents

Wuala Can Securely Synchronize Your Documents

Wuala LogoI hear from a lot of readers that while they like the idea of having files synchronized across multiple computers and devices, they definitely do not like the idea of having their files stored unencrypted online.

Usually in those cases I recommend a service called Wuala, but I have not had a chance to play around with it until now. I wouldn’t consider this post a full review, but more of a quick runthrough.

What Wuala Is

Wuala[1] is an online service that lets you backup, sync, share, and access your files.

Now, you might be thinking, “don’t Dropbox and SugarSync already do this?”

Yes, yes they do. But Wuala’s key differentiator is the software will encrypt your files before uploading them to the cloud. That way, if Wuala’s servers ever got hacked into, or they had a bored IT person, your data should still be safe. It would just look like scrambled garbage to them. Only you have the key to unlock your data, provided you keep your password safe of course.[2]

Setting It Up

There is a very famous Quora answer in response to the question “Why is Dropbox more popular than other programs with similar functionality?” The answer goes like this:

  • There would be a folder.
  • You’d put your stuff in it.
  • It would sync.

They built that.

While Dropbox has hitched its wagon to simplicity, Wuala is betting on security. For that reason, there is a bit of setup to be done.

To set it up, you go to Wuala’s site and download the software. Once you install it and create your account, you will be presented with a window with an initial set of four folders.

Wuala First Screen
Wuala First Screen

You can, of course, add your own folders.

To upload files to Wuala, you can drag the files to the folder in the Wuala window, and it will automatically upload them and you will see them in the window.

Wuala uploaded files
Wuala uploaded files

Integrating With Your File System

If you are on Windows, when you install it, it will default to be able to integrate with Windows Explorer. When you install and run the software, it will add a W: drive[3].

On the Mac, to add Wuala to your Finder, you need to install the included OSXFUSE application. It’s a little weird that you have to do this, to be honest, and I can’t imagine non-technical people feeling comfortable with it.

Once you install OSXFUSE, you will have a Wuala drive, which is a representation of your Wuala files.

OSX Fused
OSX Fused

A Note About File System Integration

An important point to note. Even though you see a W: drive on Windows or a Wuala drive on the Mac, it does not mean that the files are on your computer. If you lose internet connectivity or shut down the Wuala software, the drive will disappear until the next time you connect and you can’t get at your files.

If you actually want the files to be synchronized to your computer, you’ll need to set up Syncing which I will cover below.

Viewing On Multiple Computers

Wuala has client software for Windows, Mac, and Linux. When you install the software on another of your computers and log in, you will be able to access your files. Here is a screenshot of my Windows computer’s W: drive.

Wuala on Windows
Wuala on Windows

Accessing Files On A Mobile Device

While the files are encrypted, you are still able to access them with a mobile device. Wuala has client software for iPhone, iPad, and Android. Here’s a screenshot of those same files on my iPhone.

Wuala iPhone
Wuala iPhone

From there you can save files locally to your device, email them, or open them in another application.

Accessing Files Via The Web

One thing that I have always wondered about Wuala is, if you are able to access your files via the web, how can the encryption possibly work?

Now I know. When you go to www.wuala.com/launch, it prompts you to start up a Java applet. From there, it basically looks the same as if you were accessing it on your computer.

Wuala Java Applet
Wuala Java Applet

Of course, this means that your browser needs to support Java. Why do they do it this way? It is probably better to hear it from them:

You may be asking, “Why can’t I access my data right through the website?”. The answer is simple: Your privacy is important to us. To access data through a website requires that a web server sends data to a browser. In other words, Wuala’s web server would have to decrypt your files so that they can appear in your browser. However, all your data on Wuala is encrypted directly on your computer. Further, your password never gets transmitted, so that no one – not even Wuala as the provider – can open or read your files.

Sharing Files

You are able to share your folders by creating a secret web link (the recipient does not need to be a Wuala user), or by sharing it with a Wuala contact.

Unfortunately, you aren’t able to share a single file. You need to share a folder.

You can also create Groups to collaborate with other users.

Sync and Backup

If you want your documents saved locally as well as encrypted on Wuala’s servers, you need to set up Sync.

There are full instructions here, but basically you set a folder to synchronize your computer, then tell it where on your computer you want it to go.

Then, any change to the file on any Wuala-connected device will automatically be reflected on your computer, and vice versa.

You can also do a more traditional backup, where files on Wuala’s servers are backed up to your computer. Full instructions for that are here.

Is Wuala Right For You?

Wuala is definitely not as simple as something like Dropbox, but if you want file synchronization, don’t mind some setup, and security is a main concern, it is worth a try. Wuala is free for 2 Gigs, so it doesn’t cost anything to play around with it.

Any Wuala users out there? Leave a comment and let us know how you like it.

  1. Which I just learned today is prounounced like voila, not like woo-ala.  ↩

  2. Pro tip: Don’t lose your password.  ↩

  3. Not sure what happens if you already have a W drive, I assume it picks another letter.  ↩

About the Author

Brooks Duncan helps individuals and small businesses go paperless. He's been an accountant, a software developer, a manager in a very large corporation, and has run DocumentSnap since 2008. You can find Brooks on Twitter at @documentsnap or @brooksduncan. Thanks for stopping by.

Leave a Reply 1 comment

MH - January 18, 2013 Reply

Wuala is really an excellent solution and actually quite easy and straight forward to setup.

In particular in the light of the upcoming changes to the U.S. legal system with regards to data protection and access to data even outside the U.S., Wuala is the answer for anybody trying hard to refrain from placing any information with any of the (popular) U.S.-based alternative provider and in an unencrypted manner.

Honestly, I’d have second thoughts placing any juicy personal details with dropbox et al, especially when considering identity theft!

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