European cloud storage with Swiss protection

UPDATE: Just had an email from Wuala to tell me that they’re halting their free storage offer at the end of the year. BASTARDS. This is the second company I’ve heard that are doing that. All Wuala referral links on my site will now point to an alternative.

I have nothing to hide, but sometimes I am perturbed by rumors of prying government eyes, so I worry that they might be probing my US-based cloud storage on DropBox, etc, even though my files are encrypted, I am still paranoid. When I mentioned the demise of Backify recently, my good friend Joerg Heber, a Senior Editor at the scientific journal Nature Materials, pointed out that the Swiss hard drive manufacturer LaCie bought up a Eurocentric cloud storage company, Wuala. They offer various tiers of storage space with 2 gigabytes free when you sign up and a bonus if you have a LaCie hard drive of your own.

One of the big advantages of Wuala over other cloud storage services is that it encrypts your files before uploading them to its servers. This is not the case with DropBox. Moreover, your Wuala password is held only on your computer, the company never sees it (important then that you never lose it, as they cannot send a replacement). The application is available for Windows, Mac, Java (in a browser) and Linux and there is a mobile app for iPad and the like.

You can also run Wuala directly from the web without any need to download or install software, other tahn having Java running on your machine and a web browser. This is essentially a web-based version of the Wuala desktop software but it’s not direct web access like one has with DropBox and others.

Heber believes that Wuala is much more secure than the alternatives. Remember the DropBox debacle early in 2011 when user files were exposed to the world because of a bug. Of course, sensible users of cloud storage encrypt their sensitive data files with TrueCrypt or AxCrypt before backing up or synchronising anyway. But, an additional benefit of Wuala is that because it is based in Europe, US homeland security laws do not apply, adds Heber.

I have downloaded and tested the Wuala software. It is very easy to install, it creates a virtual drive (on Windows that shows up as “W:\” in Explorer) and you can start backing up files once you have created an account, all quite painless. Backing up progresses smoothly, total time needed will, of course, depend on your internet connection and file sizes.

I asked Wuala’s Gianluca Pirrera to tell me what the company considers to be its unique selling point: “What makes us so special is our unique security model. Every file gets encrypted on your local device and is stored redundantly in our European data centers. That means that not even we as the provider have the possibility to access the files.”

Author: David Bradley

Freelance science journalist, author of Deceived Wisdom. Photographer and musician.