eFolder Anchor Review
A decent service that will likely scare many of its potential customers away as purchase requires going through a middleman.
eFolder Anchor provides hybrid (cloud and on-premises) EFSS services aimed at SMB and mid-enterprise buyers. EFSS, short for enterprise file sync and share, lets you access content from desktop and mobile devices without having to spend time managing the file transfer process yourself.
Better yet, near real-time sync and share means you can collaborate seamlessly with coworkers no matter the distance between you.
The biggest problem with eFolder Anchor, though, is that you can’t buy it directly from eFolder: You have to go through a managed service partner. That makes Anchor a pain to get started with and a reason for SMB owners that want greater flexibility to consider other options.
During this review, Cloudwards.net will walk you through basics of Anchor so you can decide if it’s the best EFSS platform for your business. While Anchor can sync content with local servers, we’ll be primarily talking about its cloud storage capabilities, which is what we tested.
We’ll start with a feature and pricing overview, before taking a more detailed look at the Anchor experience, including talking work productivity, security, privacy and support.
- Fast block-level sync
- Secure file sharing
- Office Online/Google Docs integration
- No Linux support
- Unlimited storage plan
- Great application integrations
- Office Online & Google Docs
- Strong security
- No block-level sync
- No annual discount
- 5GB file upload max
- Good monitoring features
- Strong user management controls
- Office Online integration
- Can’t purchase directly from eFolder
- Confusing interface
- No block-level sync
- Not many third-party integrations
The below table will give you a quick overview of some of the key features of Anchor.
While the feature list is good, there are a few notable misses, particularly with regard to security (custom password requirements, SSO integration) and not much in the way of application integrations beyond Office Online.
We’ll touch on both the hits and misses in more detail throughout the rest of our review.
eFolder doesn’t sell Anchor directly. As an SMB owner, you’ll have to go through a managed-service partner (MSP). If that term gives you pause, welcome to the club. Working with an MSP can be a mixed bag. Not only do you have to vet eFolder Anchor, you have to vet who you’re getting from, too.
Moreover, eFolder sells Anchor at wholesale to MSPs in its partner program. It doesn’t list or advertise an MSRP. Partners set their own pricing as they see fit. Making things more murky, in addition to providing the software, MSPs also provide outsourced IT services to support Anchor.
So, you’ll need to sort through those costs, too, if it’s even something you want to take on. We won’t be providing a comprehensive overview of available MSPs during this review.
Before you go hunting for a reseller to buy service from, you can take it on a trial run, which is (thankfully) available directly from eFolder. The trial run gives you 2.5TB of space to work and add up to 25 users. File uploads are capped at 2GB.
Anchor lets you access cloud-hosted content from both your computer and mobile device.
Supported desktop operating systems include Windows and macOS but not Linux. There’s also a plugin for Microsoft Outlook. Download the desktop client, called Synced Tool (yeah), directly from the web portal once you’ve signed up for Anchor. Installation takes just a minute,
Once done, you’ll have a new “SyncedTool” folder on your desktop. This folder is what is known as a sync folder. By default, files stored in this folder are saved both on your hard drive and in the cloud, which is a model commonly used by the cloud storage industry.
Installing SyncedTool also adds a taskbar icon that lets you jump to your sync folder and access properties. From properties, you can manage general settings, restrict how much bandwidth sync uses, setup a proxy, manage selective sync and monitor ongoing sync activity.
While the desktop client is critical, much of the Anchor experience hinges on the web interface.
If you’re familiar with services like Dropbox, Box, OneDrive and most other cloud storage tools, you know those services take a generally minimalistic, user-friendly approach; Anchor, not so much.
The web interface is swamped with functionality laid out in a way that will baffle most users at first. If you can drag yourself over the learning curve, though, Anchor’s capabilities are impressive.
The first thing to know is that Anchor provides two different web portal views: one called “organization” and the other called “my files.” You can switch between these views using the small links on the top-right side.
The organization view features a dashboard for monitoring account activity, space allocation and other metrics.
The information presented in the dashboard is more than what you’ll get with most EFSS tools, and it’s handy for those that need to maintain tight control on their business doings. In addition, the web tool has other tabs to view users and groups, connected machines, shares, backups, activity and run reports.
To get to your cloud content, you need to go to the “my files” view. This view is much easier on the brain. You can browse files and folders and create and upload new content.
There are also tabs to check what content you’ve shared, view guest accounts, backups, file reports and an activity log. Anchor smartphone apps are available for Android, iOS and Windows Phone. Be sure and search for “Synced Tool” in the mobile store and not Anchor.
Mobile capabilities include:
- View, delete, lock and move files
- Upload files from your device
- Edit Microsoft Office files
- Lock files to prevent edits
- Share content
- Download files for offline access
Synced Tool for Android also lets you automatically backup your photos into a “camera uploads” folder, which is a nice touch that many other EFSS tools overlook.
The primary mobile view is called “my files” and lets you quickly access content.
From the menu, you can also navigate to views for recent files, offline files and backups.
Once you learn the ins and outs of the web experience, Anchor offers nice versatility and features. We’ll take a look at some of those features built around driving online collaboration in the next segment.
Unchecked collaborations can get out of hand, which is why it’s important to have precise control over who is accessing your content and what they can do. When using Anchor, most of that control runs through the organization view of the web application.
Earlier, we gave you a quick look at the dashboard, which is a handy way of seeing how much of your space has been used, how many users you have and who your top space consumers both in terms of files and users.
You can add new Anchor users from the accounts tab. Just click the small “+” icon to create a new account.
When creating account for an individual, you can make them an account admin and assign them to groups and team shares, which are subscription-based shared folders (more on those later).
Groups allow you to assign team share access and perform other aspects of user management on multiple individuals at once.
There’s another account management page you can access called “guests” that lets you set up guest accounts. The primary difference between guest accounts and regular accounts is that guests can only access content.
They’re not granted cloud storage space and cannot be given admin rights or be assigned to groups. The organization “machines” tab is a nice feature that lets you check what devices your collaborators have synced to Anchor.
The activity tab gives you a quick view of recent activity so that you can stay on top of what’s been happening on your account. The log, which can be filtered, shows both action taken and who took it.
The reports tab is another useful tool to monitor activity. From there, you can select report metrics and date ranges, schedule reports to run recurrently and input email addresses for report delivery.
Possible report metrics include a storage overview, consumption over time, top storage users, machine health and activity, among others.
File and folder management happens from within the files tab of the my files view. From this tab, objects can be shared with others by right-clicking on them and selecting “share.”
The options available when you share content with Anchor are good, surpassing most EFSS by doing some things that should be commonplace.
You can either create a secure share that can only be accessed by your workforce or generate a public link. Public links are accessible by anybody without restriction, making them suitable for sharing content broadly through social media and similar channels.
When you generate a link, you can set a link expiry date and limit the number of total downloads. The miss with link sharing is that you can’t set a link password.
Generally speaking, you’ll want to opt for a secure share, anyway. Secure shares are sent via email, username or group name, and can only be accessed by those listed as recipients. If you input an email that isn’t associated with an account, a guest account will automatically be created.
Files shares are always read only. There’s no way to give users edit access. However, if they’re account holders, they may already have it.
Folder shares offer the same options as file shares, except that you can opt to give invitees, including guest users, modify and delete permissions.
Team shares are an interesting feature that some users will love and others will never use. Available only for account holders (not guest users), they function as shared folder subscriptions.
Those subscribed to a team share have their devices synced automatically when something changes in the team share folder. The team share creator can manually adjust which user devices are synced from the team share tab.
There’s also a switch for a “daily digest” that keeps users apprised of recent happenings in the team share. You can monitor team shares and shared folders and files from the “shared” tab.
This kind of broad overviews of shares is very useful for SMBs that share a good deal of content. Its very easy to lose track of what has been distributed, which can in turn put your intellectual property in jeopardy.
It’s unfortunate that more cloud storage services don’t do the same.
Sync lets users jump from one device to another and work on the same file without having to mess with thumb drives or email files. This same capability lets collaborators see content changes in near real-time.
eFolder Anchor clones the model perfected by Dropbox. That, as we mentioned earlier, makes use of a sync folder embedded in your file system.
Any content you add to this folder gets sent to the cloud, then other devices (yours and other users) with the Synced Tool client installed.
In addition to moving content into the synced folder, you can also right-click on any folder in your file system and select “backup” to send it to the cloud. Going forward, any content changes made in that folder will be reflected in the “backup” tab of the web interface.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking this as a backup replacement for services like IDrive, CrashPlan or CloudBerry, however. Anchor backups always take place in near real-time. You can’t schedule routine backups, set differential backups or do many of the other things a good business backup solution is capable of.
Anchor also supports selective sync, which lets you control which sub-folders in your sync folder get stored on your hard drive and which are only stored in the cloud. This feature is great for saving valuable space on your computer and is easily managed via the Anchor taskbar icon.
Where Anchor falls short is where most EFSS solutions fall short: it doesn’t offer block-level file sync. Block-level sync means that only the parts of files that have changed get synced, which means much faster sync times for you. Dropbox, ever the sync trend setter, is one of the few vendors to implement block-level transfers into its sync algorithms. Egnyte is another.
To support collaborations, many EFSS tools come integrated with native productivity tools, or they let you integrate with third-party tools. eFolder Anchor doesn’t have any tools of its own, not even a note-taking application.
However, it does come pre-integrated with Microsoft Office.
Even better, most EFSS tools that integrate with Office require that you purchase an Office 365 office and perform any file edits on your desktop. Anchor integrates with Office Online, instead, which is both free and lets you create and edit content directly from the Anchor web platform.
Office Online tools, however, are limited to Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Non-Office documents will need to be downloaded for edits. Unlike Dropbox, Box, OneDrive and a host of other top EFSS solutions, additional third-party work productivity integrations are not available.
This shortcoming, along with the fact that you have to purchase service through a middleman, stands as the biggest reason to consider other solutions.
Strong protective measures like file encryption and two-factor authentication are critical to making sure any content you store in the cloud isn’t compromised. Anchor, like most EFSS tools today, gets the basics right.
Your content is encrypted on your device prior to being sent to the cloud using AES, the protocol recommended by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
In-transit data is further secured using the TLS transfer protocol. This helps prevent hackers from eavesdropping on your data transmissions through what are known as man-in-the-middle (MITM) hacks.
Once your data arrives at the Anchor data center, it gets decrypted. File content is then re-encrypted with the same level of AES. At-rest encryption, as this is called, makes content theft moot in the case of a data breach.
Data centers are hardened, meaning they’re designed to withstand natural disasters and physical and virtual attacks, further securing your files.
While Anchor does most of things it should with regard to file security, there’s one critical aspect of cloud security that’s not entirely within its control: weak passwords. Unlike encryption keys, weak passwords are easily cracked. Or, if you’ve got particularly careless employees, misplaced post-it notes.
To prevent weak passwords, several EFSS tools let you set mandatory password requirements to force uses to create strong ones. Anchor hasn’t yet joined this movement but the service does let you require two-factor authentication, which is even better.
Two-factor authentication means that when users login into their accounts from unfamiliar machines, they have to enter a special security code sent via text to their mobile device. That way, if someone does crack or steal a password, they still won’t be able to login.
In the event of a stolen device, Anchor lets you cut sync on that device remotely from the admin console. Doing so wipes any synced content from that device.
Another security miss is no SSO (single-sign on) integration. SSO tools are a means of allowing users to login into multiple business applications with the same credentials, while at the same time giving admins better oversight of those credentials.
You can get self-help and direct support for Anchor using eFolder’s online support website.
Direct support options include telephone support during business hours and a ticket system available 24/7. When filing a ticket, however, only issues listed as critical are answered 24/7. All others are answered during business hours. Live chat isn’t an option.
Email response times depend on issue severity:
- Critical: under 60 minutes
- High: under four business hours
- Medium: under one business day
- Low: under two business days
We sent a couple of test emails to Anchor to test response time, one with “medium” urgency and one with “high” urgency. Both received responses within the posted times.
For DIY troubleshooting and general product knowledge, you can access the eFolder Knowledgebase through the support portal. Available help categories include “Getting Started with Anchor,” “Configure Anchor” and “Anchor Mobile Apps.” There are also sections for troubleshooting and service advisories.
eFolder also hosts live webinars if you prefer to learn by watching. You can sign up for an upcoming broadcast or view archived ones.
In addition to support via Anchor, many MSPs also provide support. Often times you’ll get a basic support offering with an option for expanded support if your business requires it.
It probably isn’t entirely right to fault eFolder Anchor for using MSPs. Some SMB users, particularly those that aren’t IT savvy or that are running critical production environments may prefer that approach.
Still, while the service is certainly more complex than Dropbox and similar tools, it isn’t so difficult to use that many SMB owners probably wouldn’t rather cut out the middleman.
Beyond having to go through an MSP, the biggest problem with Anchor is lack of third-party productivity apps beyond Office Online. If these issues concern you, you’ll definitely want to look at other options.
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If they don’t, then Anchor has some nice features to offer. We were particularly impressed with its reporting and sharing capabilities. We also like that Anchor lets you add guest users accounts, offers selective sync and can be used to backup file system folders.
As always, we’d recommend you give the trial a go before purchasing. And, of course, we’d love to hear your own thoughts on eFolder Anchor in the comments below. Thanks for reading!