For cloud services, not many names are bigger than Amazon Web Services. Zoolz Cloud Backup Home is an online backup provider that takes advantage of Amazon’s impressive data center infrastructure by using Amazon Glacier to help consumers safeguard their hard drives at a reasonable cost.
During this Zoolz Home review, we’ll run down the features that make it an intriguing option in the home backup market and a strong contender for our best online backup services list. We’ll look at features such as private encryption, multi-threaded backup and a slick desktop client that makes Zoolz a cinch to use.
If there’s one glaring area where Zoolz falls short, it’s file recovery. That’s not its fault, though, as Amazon Glacier is designed for cold storage. That means it’s a data archive, so it delivers files slowly in exchange for bargain storage costs.
Zoolz isn’t for everyone, but for those who don’t mind waiting a few hours to recover their files, it’s a great alternative to IDrive, CrashPlan, Backblaze and other value-based services that seem to have fallen off a cliff.
- Uses Amazon Glacier
- Private encryption
- Multi-threaded backup
- Block-level backup
- Backup by file type
- Continuous backup
- Share with five users
- Decent pricing
- File versioning
- Mobile access
- Slow downloads (Glacier)
- No two-factor authentication
- No mobile backup
- No Linux support
Zoolz Cloud Backup Home provides data archival for your personal computers and external drives. The idea behind an online backup service, Zoolz included, is to replicate your file system so that you don’t lose documents, photos, music, videos and other files if your hard drive crashes.
That differs from cloud storage in many ways, which you can read about in our article on the subject. The big difference is that cloud storage forces everything into a sync folder, meaning you lose your file system structure.
Zoolz backup is primarily managed using a desktop client, which is available for Windows and macOS. There’s also a web interface and mobile apps for Android and iOS, though Zoolz isn’t capable of backing up mobile data. Read our best online backup for mobile article if protecting your smartphone is a priority for you.
Zoolz and Glacier
Unlike many providers in our online backup reviews library, Zoolz doesn’t use its own data centers. Instead, it makes use of Amazon Glacier (read our Amazon Glacier review). Amazon Glacier is a cloud infrastructure service that specializes in cold storage, which means it’s designed for data archiving.
Glacier offers cheaper storage prices, but slower data retrieval speeds, as we’ll see later in this review. Zoolz does do a nice job uploading files, thanks, in part, to Amazon’s global server network, as well as features such as multi-threaded backup and block-level file copying.
Other features include network settings that let you control the upload and download speeds, continuous backup and backup scheduling. Continuous backup ensures that you will never lose data. Backup scheduling lets you set a time for backups, in case you’d rather run them at night.
Zoolz can backup data to local devices, which makes it capable of hybrid backup. That’s a key consideration for those looking to implement the 3-2-1 backup strategy and gain the benefits of both local and remote backup.
Zoolz supports file versioning, meaning you can roll back files in case of unwanted edits or file corruptions. Up to 10 file versions are kept for Zoolz Home subscribers and never deleted from the system. Compare that to Backblaze, which only keeps file versions for 30 days.
We’ll cover security in depth later in the review, but the highlight is private encryption and the lowlight is the absence of two-factor authentication, at least for home consumers.
Not many online backup services have a family plan. Zoolz Home is one of them, allowing consumers to share space between five users.
$ 69 99yearly
$ 249 99yearly
|Storage||1000 GB||4000 GB|
Current Discount: $39.95
Current Discount: 99.95
The current are substantial, but there’s no telling how long they’ll last. Many cloud providers run perpetual discounts, just because. We can’t be sure that Zoolz is one of them, though, so jump on it soon if the price is right.
For comparison’s sake, 5TB of IDrive storage costs $75 for the first year, then bumps up to $99. IDrive can be used to backup unlimited devices, too, so it works well as a family backup solution. Read our IDrive review for more information.
Zoolz Family can be used to backup three external or network drives, while Zoolz Heavy can backup unlimited external or network drives. Looking to IDrive again, that service doesn’t place limits on external drive backup and can be used to backup smartphones, too, which Zoolz can’t do.
That’s not to say that we’re huge IDrive fans. The service has its issues, most notably slow upload speeds and suspect customer support, but, as a point of reference, it shows that Zoolz Home isn’t a spectacular deal. Then again, it could be worse. SOS Online Backup will set you back $1,600 a year for 5TB of backup.
For those looking to try Zoolz first, you can download the software for free and get 50GB of cold storage.
Before you can start using Zoolz to backup your data, you need to download the client and sign in. The process takes about a minute.
Zoolz makes backup easier by letting you automatically backup files based on categories such as documents, pictures, music and videos. You can also tag folder locations in your file system for backup.
Either way, the desktop client is well-designed. As you tag content for backup, a bar near the bottom provides an estimate of how much data you’ll be backing up and how much you have left.
Once your backup plan has been created, you can monitor progress from the client, pause backup, tweak settings and initiate a restoration.
Under settings, there’s a neat feature we’ve never seen before in a backup client: an option to pause backup while playing video games or watching movies. There’s another checkbox to stop Zoolz from running when your laptop is low on battery power.
Like most cloud services, Zoolz maintains a website to help manage your account. Using the Zoolz dashboard, you can view active computers, account status, how much storage you’re using and check system alerts.
By clicking on “view my computers,” you can access files stored in the cloud from anywhere. The same is true of mobile apps for iOS and Android, which let you share files, stream videos, play music and view photos.
As mentioned, Zoolz gives you two ways to start backing up data. The first is called “smart selection” and works by backing up various file types, regardless of where they’re located on your computer.
You can check boxes for mail, your desktop, documents, pictures, music, videos and other file types. In that way, it works like Backblaze, which works by backing up everything.
The difference is that Backblaze provides unlimited backup space and Zoolz does not, so you have to be careful how much data you’re marking for backup. If that’s a concern, click on the “my computer” tab instead.
Once your backup selections are set, you’ll need to tweak additional settings. The first is your backup schedule. By default, Zoolz processes backup every two hours.
You can reduce that interval to as little as five minutes or as much as 24 hours. A set schedule can be created, as well, running backup only between certain hours and on certain days.
Zoolz lets you simultaneously backup to a local drive and the cloud, too. Having a local backup speeds up recovery time, which is handy for a service that uses Amazon Glacier, which tends to have glacial download speeds. Hybrid backup, if running simultaneously, can put a strain on your computer resources, though, so be mindful of that.
Under “advanced settings,” you can set file type exclusions based on extensions. You can also choose whether to generate image previews for RAW files or .jpg images, among other settings.
Zoolz File Restoration
To restore files backed up by Zoolz, open the client and click the big red “restore” box. It’s hard to miss.
Once you do, a separate client window will open to walk you through the restore process. We noticed that it took quite a long time for the client window to populate with our files. That may be because Amazon Glacier has generally slow retrieval speeds, though.
One of the advantages of Zoolz is that it’s built on the back of Amazon Web Services rather than maintaining its own data centers. Because it has data centers around the world, using AWS helps limit network congestion and makes sure your data gets stored in a center near you.
For example, North Americans have data stored in the U.S., EU residents have data stored in the U.K., Australians and New Zealanders have data stored in Australia and New Zealand, and Japanese clients have data stored in Japan. Zoolz clients outside of those regions have data stored in the U.S.
This distribution should provide more speed than providers such as CrashPlan, IDrive and Carbonite, all of which have single data centers located in the U.S.
To test the theory, we uploaded a 1GB test folder after setting up a trial Zoolz Home account. These tests were performed outside of Boston in the U.S. over a WiFi connection with 30 megabits per second upload and 160 Mbps download speeds. The results are below.
|Speeds||Test One:||Test Two:||Average:|
The upload results were reasonable. At 30 Mbps, our file should have uploaded in around five minutes. While that doesn’t account for encryption and other factors, an average of 45 minutes is better than most online backup services we’ve tested. Carbonite, CrashPlan and other value-based services we’ve tested have taken two or three times the amount of time.
We should point out that, by default, Zoolz throttles bandwidth to 128 kilobits per second. You can turn that off, which is what we did. You can also increase the cap up to 16 Mbps. That’s still not great, but it’s better than 128 Kbps.
While backup is running, there’s a toggle to switch between “smart” and “turbo” modes, too. The latter speeds things up, but it affected our ability to access other websites while the backup was running.
Throttling can be scheduled to kick off during certain hours, such as work days, then ease back at night or on weekends, which is a nice touch. That needs to be done after your backup plan has started. Click “settings” on the main screen, then click “resource optimization” to do so.
You’ll also find an option for multi-threaded backup, which might alleviate those painfully slow upload speeds we noted earlier. Multi-threaded backup means that more than one upload packet is sent to the cloud at once.
Now, on to those abysmal download time. They were to be expected. The downside to using Amazon Glacier is that retrieval is extraordinarily slow. Downloads don’t start, on average, for three to five hours. This is by design. Amazon provides cheap storage rates for Glacier in return for slower retrieval rates. Its primary purpose is archival.
While those working with Amazon can pay substantially more for expedited retrieval, that isn’t the case with Zoolz Home.
By default, data stored in the Zoolz cloud — or, rather, Amazon Web Services — gets scrambled at rest using AES 256-bit encryption. That prevents your files from sitting on servers in plain text, letting anyone who gains access to them to read them.
Files in transit are protected using transport layer security to prevent electronic eavesdropping and other cybershenanigans.
By default, Zoolz manages your encryption keys for you. That way, if you forget your password, the company can reset it. If you prefer, private encryption is an option.
With private encryption, you set a password that only you know, and that password is used to generate an encryption key. Because Zoolz doesn’t know your password, nobody at the company can decrypt your files, even under orders from law enforcement.
If you forget your password, you lose access to your backup, so make sure you write it down. Better yet, record it in a cloud password manager.
One weakness of Zoolz Home is it doesn’t have an option for two-factor authentication. If your password is hacked or stolen, whoever stole it will be able to access your account without having to supply an additional security code. For that reason, we recommend taking steps to create a strong password.
Support for Zoolz Home is hard to come by. There’s an email address you can use, but we found it took several days to receive a response. That address took time to find, too, since when we clicked on the “connect with us” link, we were greeted with the following:
There’s a Zoolz phone number, too, but we didn’t try to call it. We did try out a live chat feature which, ostensibly, is designed for sales and not technical support. We found the representative was able to answer basic questions quickly, though, and had no reservations about doing so.
A Zoolz Wiki works as a decent resource for those who don’t mind figuring things out for themselves. The Wiki is searchable and broken down by categories such as “account management,” “backup,” “cold storage” and “file sharing.”
There’s a collection of Zoolz videos that some will find useful, too, though they are more geared toward marketing than learning.
Zoolz was a surprise. Knowing that it used Amazon Glacier for backup storage, we expected slow download speeds and that’s what we got. Otherwise, the service performed well, with reasonably fast uploads and features such as multi-threaded backup and block-level file copying to speed things along.
We were also happy to see it included an option for private encryption and a decent file versioning policy, though the absence of two-factor authentication is a miss that will drive some consumers away.
Try it with a 50GB trial and let us know what you think in the comments below. Thanks for reading.