|At a glance|
|Product||Vembu Home () [Website]|
|Summary||All-in-one product for cloud backup, sync,and sharing.|
|Pros||• Good online interface.|
• Helpful Tech support
• Amazon S3 is fast.
• File sharing links can be expired to stop sharing.
|Cons||• Beta software feel.|
• Poor client user interface.
• Support documentation is useless.
• 10 GB storage option is tiny for today's data sets.
• Online Backup, File Sync, and File sharing are not integrated.
• Unclear if File Sync and Sharing encrypt files
Typical Price: $5
Vembu Home is the consumer-level offering from Vembu that aims to be the one storage option you would ever need. Vembu's primary cloud backup offering is targeted at businesses, with support for SQL and VMware backups.
Vembu Home targets the consumer market with three main feature sets: Online Backup, File Synchronization, and File Sharing. But you will see they aren’t as much feature sets as they are distinct products.
Vembu offers a 2 GB free account to get you started. Once you’ve decided to buy into the service, your only option is a 10 GB account, which costs $5 a month, $28 for six months, or $50 for the year. However, the only payment option available is Amazon Payments, which seems unnecessarily inconvenient.
Installation was straightforward. Vembu Home currently supports only Windows, but the installer was the last time I’d see a standard Windows interface.
Vembu Home is entirely programmed in Adobe’s Air platform. While this provides a convenient multi-OS platform, Air programs generally feel disconnected from the host OS. Browsing directory structures is painful in Vembu because of this, since you can't even do something simple like resize the window. And forget about trying to use Windows Vista/7 "Libraries" or anything that the native OS provides to quickly access files.
Finally I decided to just let it back up my entire “Documents” directory because trying to select a subset of files just proved too annoying. This is where Vembu fell on its face. When the backup tried to start, I encountered an error stating the software couldn't connect to Vembu's servers. This didn't make any sense since I had just logged in.
This went on for a day, and subsequently I had to reach out to tech support. Tech support was a little slow to respond initially, but was very quick once they engaged. I ended up having a tech remote into my home machine and work on the problem.
As it turns out, the Vembu client needs to communicate with Vembu's servers when initially installed to pull down a number of configuration items. My installation didn’t do this, so the tech had to add these manually. To check on Vembu Support's diagnosis, I later tried uninstalling and reinstalling the program to duplicate the problem, and could not replicate it. Your mileage, however, may vary.
Vembu is powered by Amazon’s S3 service, similar to Dropbox and several other competing services. This makes Vembu very fast to upload files. As noted in my Dropbox review, S3 is fast enough and geographically distributed enough to bring my 25/25 FiOS connection to its binary knees.
Vembu provides several throttling options. Since Vembu uses 448-bit Blowfish encryption, you can throttle CPU utilization to prevent the encryption from taking over your processor. Bandwidth usage can also be throttled and scheduled to be active during certain hours of the day. It’s important to note that these throttling options work only on backup operations.
Once I was finally up and running, Vembu worked as advertised, at least for backing up files. Backups can be configured to run every couple of hours, or continuously when files change. During my short time using Vembu, it occasionally had trouble connecting to the cloud, which doesn't speak well for its reliability
This software clearly has a beta feel. For example, File Synchronization and Sharing functions are completely separate from the Online Backup system. Want to share a file to a friend that you backed up using online backup? You have to re-upload the file in File Sharing tab. File Synchronization was the same deal.
File Synchronization operates similarly to Dropbox by using a folder Vembu calls its “dropbox” to know what files to synchronize. You can then choose to include/exclude files inside the folder, which honestly doesn’t make sense as you could just move the file out of the folder to “exclude” it.
File synchronization on the whole felt sluggish when syncing from my primary Windows machine to my testbed Windows machine. Files would be updated and I wouldn’t see them move immediately as I would with the same file in DropBox. Also, I did not get the same speedy uploads I got when using online backup.
File Sharing is a simple offering of emailing links to people that you can then choose to expire after a certain amount of time. File Sharing also did not seem to upload at anywhere near the speed of Online Backup, so I have to wonder if these two beta services are running on separate infrastructure.
Restoring files using the client interface was straightforward, if you can consider the Vembu interface straightforward. You navigate the backup set you want to pull files from, and then can select the entire backup set to restore, or just individual files. Vembu Home then downloads the files and restores them to their original location.
There is no offline restoration option like with Crashplan or Mozy that can ship you files on a hard drive or DVDs. This is not a major deal-breaker since you can only store 10 GB worth of data in Vembu Home anyway. But it is important to realize you will need a decent internet connection should you run into the need to restore.
Access, Support, Security
Accessing files through the web interface is the other way of managing files. With the Online Backup portion, you can access the backup set for the particular day you need. From there, you can choose to zip and download the files, Zip and email the files, or open the files online. Opening the files online uses Zoho, another cloud vendor who is basically a Google Docs competitor.
File Synchronization and File Sharing provide the same utilities you get when accessing files via the installed client software. You can download files that have been synchronized and shared. File management operations are then synced down to your installed clients.
Security seems adequate. Vembu claims it encrypts every file transmitted with 448-bit blowfish encryption. But it is unclear if this happens across the board or only for Online Backup operations, since all three “feature sets” appear to be separate.
Support is available via email even to free users. But there are no online tutorials and the discussion forums are rather dead. The last post I saw was from someone at Vembu back in December. The FAQs available answer only general questions, and there is no documentation installed with the client.
Overall I can’t recommend Vembu Home. The installation problems, plus the entire “beta software” feel really leave me uncomfortable, even if tech support was helpful. Fortunately, there are plenty of better options out there that do what Vembu Home attempts.