Copy.com is a new cloud storage service from Barracuda Networks, a company that has a certain amount of experience in data storage and backup solutions. Copy is being marketed as a rival to the likes of SkyDrive and Dropbox, so it’s entering a crowded market.
Like its high-profile and more established competitors, Copy offers file syncing across multiple devices, a range of apps and easy installation. Users are also treated to some of the more generous referral bonuses we’ve seen.
Copy tries to distinguish itself by promoting its Fair Storage for All policy, so I’ll focus on that in this review.
First, a look at the basics.
What Can Copy Do?
Copy can be used as a cloud storage solution, for cloud sync or as a way to share files (publicly and/or privately). It has a clean, simple and uncluttered interface that’s not unlike Pinterest, and its desktop app is well designed. Its developers also offer apps for most smartphones and tablets.
When sharing a file in Copy, the sender can decide whether the recipient should have full access or read-only permissions. There’s nothing particularly new in that, but it gives every user a reassuring amount of control.
Copy also offers a LAN sharing option which is useful if you want to quickly distribute documents with users in the same room. The feature is called Send to Peer, and it only works with desktops and laptops. If you share with a Copy user on the same subnet, local sharing kicks in automatically.
Fair Storage for All: What it Means
So let’s look at Fair Storage for All. It’s Copy’s flagship feature, and it’s the main reason I felt compelled to try it out.
Imagine I share a 3GB folder with three people. Under Copy’s rules, each user’s quota will only drop by 1GB. On other similar cloud storage or backup services, each user would lose the full 3GB from their allowance.
In other words, the space needed to store that folder is split evenly between the people sharing it.
Unfortunately, the interface and help documentation really aren’t very clear about Fair Storage for All. Given that this is Copy’s flagship feature, it should be better explained.
And, crucially, it should work a lot more smoothly than it does right now.
Sharing Files on Copy
First, let’s be clear about Fair Storage for All. It only applies to folders, not individual files. For the purposes of this review, I decided to share my Camera Uploads folder with a colleague.
First, I tried sharing from my Mac. But Copy wouldn’t allow me to share any folders in my Copy directory. I received an error message.
This is worrying. There’s nothing to explain this error message on the Copy website, yet this is Copy’s flagship feature. According to a Facebook post, this problem was actually reported as a bug in late May 2013, and there was some suggestion that it has been a problem since March. We’re now in June. It’s still not working.
So, as a workaround, I went to the Copy website to create a share there.
(Note: to list the files you have uploaded, click the ‘Browse’ link. This isn’t particularly intuitive.)
From here, I was able to share the file and choose whether my recipient should have full read/write access or not.
Again, we had some problems.
- The recipient joined my folder via the web. It showed up fine in the browser, but the Copy app didn’t sync anything.
- When the recipient checked the app, Copy said he had been invited, but didn’t allow him to re-confirm his acceptance of the invite.
- Fair Sharing didn’t kick in either. My quota took the entire strain, and his still showed zero usage, even up to an hour later.
At signup, every Copy user gets a generous storage allowance of 15GB, with referral bonuses added in 5GB increments. Realistically, most users will be pretty pleased with that. On a basic level, there’s enough functionality to satisfy the average user with fairly basic needs. The web layout is not brilliant, but the mobile apps and desktop functionality is well thought out.
However, there’s a clear problem with Copy’s biggest selling point. Unless I’m seriously mistaken, the sharing functionality that’s been hyped either doesn’t work or isn’t very intuitive. Also, a critical bug seems to have been lingering for at least three months – possibly longer.
When it comes to cloud backup and storage, I’ll use the service I feel is most reliable and functional. I was ready to switch to Copy for the sharing policy alone. But assuming my experience is typical, this isn’t a finished product, and I’d be hesitant to use it for critical data until its core functionality is fixed.