SOS Online Backup is a product by Infrascale, a DRaaS and data protection company based in El Segundo, California.
Founded in 2011, in the past few years its established a good reputation amongst cloud storage vendors serving the business user.
SOS represents a move towards the personal backup space, currently dominated by the likes of Microsoft, Google and Dropbox.
What has SOS that marks it out from those big hitters?
As the name suggests, SOS Online Backup provides a means to secure and restore devices from cloud Storage as part of a disaster recovery plan.
While most users don’t think in those terms, the heritage of this solution is a business one, and it effectively treats people are if they’re very small businesses.
Once you have signed up for this service you can install a client app on your computer, Microsoft Windows or Apple Mac but no Linux, or mobile devices. For phones and tablets, both Apple iOS and Google Android are supported.
For desktop systems, all the files on the computer can be secured, and that also includes any on external storage devices and network connected drives. With no restriction on file numbers or size, this could be ideal at the right price.
However, there are a few twists to SOS that contradict what many might consider standard for these types of products.
For example; this isn’t a live backup, but instead uses a timed event model.
At best a backup runs each hour, so mess something up in that timescale, and SOS Backup won’t be much use to help you.
Where it can help is if you have a secured file and you either mess it up or accidentally delete it. SOS keeps unlimited versions of any files that change, and it also retains any files that you’ve deleted.
What the home user solution doesn’t do that the business versions did was offer imaging for bare metal restores. Being able to bring files back is useful, but a full reinstall of the operating system and apps needed beforehand could slow a disaster recovery down considerably.
We were very impressed with how rapidly any customer for SOS can be up and running as installation and configuration are lightning quick.
Once the tool is installed and connected to an account, you can select what on the computer you’d like backing up and initiate the process.
For those who aren’t confident, SOS provides installation guides and a step-by-step video taking you through the process.
The app looks a little dated, but it does what it needs to deliver the files and folders to the online storage facility.
More of a disappointment was the web interface.
Normally at this point in our review, we’d talk about how the web interface provides a subset of what the client tool offers and possibly some things it doesn’t.
Well, the SOS Dashboard isn’t much like any web interface for cloud storage we’ve seen before, because it is almost entirely focused on monitoring activity rather than providing access to the files it has secured.
It is possible to dig into a backup to find a specific file or folder, but it’s a tedious and painful exercise as SOS has no means tools to elegantly navigate the folder structure. Starting at the root of C: drive it took at least six clicks to get into a folder of the user document level, and a few more to get to isolate particular file.
What it does do is enable a device to be disconnected from the service, and even identify where it currently is located. But the lack of an easy to use interface for navigating backups is concerning.
Sharing is also an afterthought, it appears. You can share a file or a folder, but there are no password or time limit controls. And, the recipient gets an email that contains a hyperlink to download the files that they’re free to pass on to anyone else. And, they can be used as many times as they like
Like much of SOS, the security aspects of this service are good, but not without fault.
When you first launch the desktop client you have a choice over three levels of security; Regular, Standard UltraSafe and UltraSafe MAX.
From what we can deduct, a Regular account is encrypted but SOS keeps a copy of the key so you can reset, and both Ultrasafe options the user takes responsibility for the key and remembering it.
UltraSafe MAX merely adds another passphrase and doesn’t store any of this in the cloud, making it zero-knowledge and therefore extra safe.
What’s missing here is two-factor authentication, which if added to Regular security would probably be sufficient for most users.
File transmission is covered by SSL, so they can’t easily be intercepted as they travel from the PC over the internet to the SOS servers.
Overall, security is good, but with TFA it could have been even better.
What we have here is a gulf between what you might reasonably expect for a service based on cost, and what SOS Online Backup functionally delivers.
We could mention the lower tiers, but who in their right mind would pay $4.99 (£3.84) monthly for just 50GB of space. Especially when for a few dollars more Microsoft gives you 1TB and Office 365 into the bargain!
Those wanting 1TB of storage on SOS Backup will be smacked with an eye-watering $39.99 (£30.75) monthly bill or $399.99 (£307.48) if they choose to pay annually. Those numbers are so far removed from the reality of current online storage pricing that we can’t see this commercial proposition.
When you factor that you don’t get easy web access to the files, there is no live backup or two-factor authentication; it's hard to imagine what part of the market that Infrascale is focused on.
The inclusion of support for NAS boxes and all the other platforms is wonderful, but the costs aren’t going to accepted by many individuals, or businesses for that matter.
Unless Infrascale undergoes a major reality check about the pricing, SOS Backup won’t be the product that puts Backblaze or Dropbox in a bind anytime soon.
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