Wuala – Free and Simple Online Social Storage

Wua.la social storage

Move over Box.net, Mozy and Xdrive, Wuala is here ! Those were exactly the words in my mind when I first heard about Wua.la a couple of months back. Back then, it was in a closed beta and I couldn’t try the service. Well, Wua.la is open to the public now and, boy, am I glad !

Wua.la is basically an online storage service. In that sense, it is no different than Box.net, Mozy or Xdrive. What makes it different is the social aspect of it.

Wuala is storage based on p2p technology. Each and every file that you store is broken down into several pieces and each piece is then stored (encrypted, of course) on wuala’s servers and also replicated on some of the other machines connected to the wuala network at any given time. Wuala’s servers keep track of the various bits of the file. The Wuala FAQ explains the technology as:

Wuala is based on a novel technology that we have researched for the most part at ETH Zurich. In addition to servers, Wuala can harness idle resources provided by participating computers. All data is first encrypted and then split into fragments which are redundantly stored on our servers and in the grid network. This allows us to save costs for downloads (bandwidth, electrical power) and thus to provide a better service for free, with a number of advantages that others just can’t offer: unlimited traffic, no file size limits, fast downloads, and so on.

Wuala gives each user 1 GB of space to start with and if the user runs out of space, he/she can either purchase more space from Wuala (10 GB for $25) or (It gets interesting now) allocate more space to Wuala on their *own* machine. This acts like a barter system for storage. If you dedicate 50GB to Wuala, you get 50GB to upload your files to the service.

The P2P nature of the service makes sure that the data uploaded by a user is replicated to multiple machines and is always available and secure. Also, downloads back from Wuala are much faster since the client lets the user download several chunks of the file at the same time.

How Do I Start

To start using Wuala, you don’t even need to download any software. The Java client installs right off the browser. Just go to the homepage Wuala.com and click on Start. You will be taken to a page which will automagically install the Wuala client to your machine.

If for some reason, the client does not get installed automatically, download the binary from the link given on the same page and execute it. You need the java environment to run the client.

Since this is Java, the client should run without any problem on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. On Windows XP, the client currently requires that it be run by an administrator level user.

When you first launch Wuala, you’ll be presented with a screen showing some image files, with different tabs for viewing Videos, Music and Documents that are available for downloadin from the network. These are the files that have been marked as public by their owners and can be downloaded by anyone. This is the so called “World view”.

To start uploading your data to Wuala, you first need to create an account. Click on “My Files”. You will now be given the option to create a user. Since, the password is not stored even on the Wuala servers, it makes sense to assign a password hint as that will be the only way to retrieve or remember the password in case you forget it.

Once you’ve created a user, you will be taken to your home directory where you will have different folders for different types of files, like Images, Documents, Music and Videos. You will also be reminded that you’ve been given 1 GB of free space from the Wuala team :-)

To start uploading files to Wuala, just drag and drop the files to the Wuala client and the upload will start. At this point, it doesn’t matter, even if you close the client, since the upload process will start automatically the next time the client is started. All files are uploaded as private by default, which means that only the owner can view and download them.

In my opinion, Wuala really doesn’t leave anyone with an excuse to *not* backup their crucial data. It’s an excellent tool and delivers on it’s of providing hassle free online storage.

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