Trend Micro's SafeSync for Business is a cloud storage service offering smaller businesses data access through a browser and data synchronisation from supported hardware.
The SafeSync service was launched in May and is aimed at companies with 10-20 employees. It is based on technology that Trend Micro purchased through its acquisition of Leeds-based cloud storage firm Humyo in June 2010. The company also launched a consumer version of SafeSync in September 2010.
Support for data synchronisation extends to desktop and laptop systems running Windows and Mac OS X, but it does not support Linux systems.
Mobile devices running Android or Apple's iOS operating system can download, upload, and view their data. However, the synchronisation client does not support them. The amount of mobile bandwidth that would be needed, as well as the cost of that bandwidth – and possible storage limitations of mobile devices themselves – are barriers to this.
SafeSync administrators can add or remove users to the service and set up team folders – defined areas accessible to named users. Team folders enhances organisational collaboration, allowing users to drop and retrieve files from these shared areas.
The difference between the business and consumer versions of SafeSync lies in the licensing and management of the service.
In the business version, administrators can create and close down user accounts, and also create the previously mentioned team folders. These are a file server-as-a-service, eliminating the need for businesses to have on-premise file servers or VPN software to secure them.
SafeSync is priced at £56 + VAT per user per year for 50GB, with volume discounts applying.
Firms need to nominate an administrator of their SafeSync service.
When administrators first logs in, they see the home screen partitioned into three main areas: two sidebars on the left- and right-hand sides with a large central screen area.
The central area gives administrators information on how to enrol users, create team folders, and download and install the SafeSync agent to the devices requiring data synchronisation [see picture].
It's easy to create users. All that's required is an email address for the potential user to which the administrator can send the invite.
After accepting the invite, users can set up passwords and individual folders by clicking on a URL link provided.
Team folders can only be set up by SafeSync administrators, and they specify who the members of specific team folders are and what access rights they have. Access rights include editor, owner, viewer or no access.
We enrolled two members of the Computing team onto the service, one of whom uses an iPhone 4 while the other uses a Dell Streak mobile.
We set up a couple of team folders accessible to our two users, and they had no difficulties accessing files in the folders or setting up personal folders.
The primary datacentre for SafeSync is located in California and operated by Trend Micro, but there is no second datacentre at the moment. Cloud services normally have a secondary location to give higher availability if there are problems at the primary datacentre.
However, Trend Micro's SMB product manager James Walker says the firm is looking to open a European datacentre later this year, to give better availability.
Some firms would also like their data to be physically located in the EU where it would be subject to the EU's legal system, rather than in the US.
The US site is compliant with the common US certification, Statement on Auditing Standards (SAS) number 70 for data protection processes, set up by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). The UK ISO27001 standard is more common in EMEA, and Walker claims Trend Micro's EMEA datacentre would comply with that standard.
There are two 10Gbit/s network connections into the Californian datacentre, but we did question whether this could service a large amount of clients at once. Trend Micro's Walker said that the firm could easily add network bandwidth as required.
But there are other niggles with the service with which some companies may take issue.
First, there is no service level agreement (SLA), which is normally provided for business services.
Second, the data is not encrypted at rest (i.e. in Trend Micro's US datacentre), although industry-standard 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is applied in transit.
Walker said: "We're thinking of putting an SLA later this year, although we strive for 99.9 per cent availability."
He added that the only way for users to check for outages or service maintenance at the moment is a blog page on Trend Micro's website.
This blog page is also accessible from a SafeSync log history link at the bottom of the right-hand sidebar, but there is no automatically updated page on the SafeSync website showing current and past service levels.
To synchronise data from SafeSync's datacentre to a desktop or laptop, users have to download and install a 9MB client. A wizard takes users through selecting which folder on their desktop or laptop they want to synchronise.
There is an advanced configuration option that lets users pair local (on your desktop) and remote folders (in Trend Micro's datacentre) for synchronisation.
There are also options for companies to set up the service if they have proxy servers (an intermediate system for filtering web requests to other systems) running in their networks. Having a proxy server would also allow them to cache all their online files (located at Trend Micro's US datacentre), giving much faster access to data.
There also the option to automatically check for updates to the SafeSync client software [see picture].
To check how fast it is and see if there were any problems with data synchronisation in operation, we set up a paired local and remote folder, and dropped 250MB of files into the local folder [see picture].
The transfer to the remote folder took less than 15 minutes, though we did have a fast internet circuit. Trend Micro's target market for this service, SMBs, would be less likely to have a fast network upload capability.
Checking this scenario using a standard residential 24Mbit/s ADSL connection yielded a slower result, mainly due to the asymmetrical download/upload speeds in these connections – upload speeds can be 10 times less than the download speed.
It took about 40 minutes for 255MB of files to synchronise locally to Trend Micro's US datacentre. This represents an upload speed of about 100kbit/s, nearly 15 times slower than the maximum download speed of 1.5Mbit/s normally achievable with our residential connection.
As more and more businesses migrate to off-premise cloud storage services, the main determinants of quality will be security, service level and network bandwidth.
Trend Micro has no SLA and only one datacentre for the service in the US, though it will be introducing an SLA and opening a European datacentre for this service later this year.
For the short time that we were using the service, SafeSync performed well and gave no problems.