Built-in OCR and indexing; Fine-grained user controls
Could not make two-factor authentication mandatory
This review was originally pubished on 13 June 2016, and has since been updated to reflect pricing changes and the availability of the mobile apps.
Zoolz Intelligent is a clean, capable and clever cloud service for backing up your data and managing your documents. Its aim is to simplify the backup process and let you find archived files via a quick search, whether what you're looking for is a document, a video clip or sound file, letting you stream them when you locate the right one. Native OCR (optical character recognition) and Zoolz's advanced eDiscovery search engine make this search process practical by indexing your archives so you can find them quickly.
Zoolz allows your staff to upload content from multiple sources and devices, provides auditing features so you can see who accessed what data and also has multilingual OCR and content analysis. It lets you back up content from servers, as well as individual users' computers. Plus, it has EU servers hosted on the AWS cloud to ensure that you're properly covered by European data protection law. Large files such as images and videos are transcoded into an easily streamable format while the full-quality originals are placed in 'cold storage' for long term archiving.
While most online backup services charge per user, Zoolz charges for capacity and, when it comes to its OCR and video streaming features, processor power. The default Business Plan lets you mix and match features, either billed annually for a discount or, if you want a bit more flexibility, monthly.
On the baseline monthly billing plan, every 1GB of instantly accessible hot storage will cost you 6p. Cold storage, where data may take up to four hours to retrieve, costs 3p per GB. On the more processor-intensive side of things, the eDiscovery search and file indexing feature costs £7 a month, 1,000 pages of OCR (which you can renew as needed) is £30, standard definition video streaming is free, while every 1GB of HD video you stream will be billed at 2p - Zoolz's automatic quota allocates you 600GB of HD video streaming if you opt for the feature.
A free-tier package gives you 10GB of hot storage, two users and a single server, with mobile device backup, 50 OCR-indexable pages and content search and eDiscovery. That won't be enough for most, however, so the starter plan might be a more likely port of call. This gives you 500GB of hot storage and 100GB of cold storage, with 10 users sharing one server. With mobile backup, 500 OCR pages and content search and eDiscovery, this plan will set you back £159.50 per year.
Being a bit more expensive, a business plan is billable either monthly or annually - the latter gives you two months free. You can toggle the amount of hot storage you require, but 100GB will cost you £60 per year, while the plan offers you 500GB of cold storage (which can't be adjusted up or down). To stream files in HD, rather than SD, will cost an extra £20 a year, and a lifetime audit option costs £7 per year. You'll also get 500 users and 50 servers, 'gold'-level customer support and the option to import and export data with Amazon Web Services' Snowball.
Media/enterprise plans are tailored to each client and priced individually, but Zoolz offers unlimited amounts of hot and cold storage, and will support an unlimited number of users, as well as 'platinum'-level customer support, a dedicated account manager and more, such as 4K and 8K video transcoding and free remote system set up.
Zoolz provides a web portal where users can access stored files, as well as desktop and server applications that handle the local backup and restore process. Unlike many online storage services, Zoolz is built for backup and archiving, rather than file syncing. That means your users' content will be stored online, accessible whenever they need it, but files won't be automatically kept up-to-date between their different computers. It's also worth noting that you can't directly upload files to Zoolz via its web interface.
The web interface is the first port of call for most users. As administrator, you can invite them to set up an account as part of your corporate licence. They'll access their Zoolz dashboard from the same web address as you, but standard users are shown a different, more limited set of features than administrators.
Users can download the Zoolz Intelligent desktop client to view, browse and search files from systems they've already backed up via the client’s Discover Data interface. They can also share their backed up files with other Zoolz users on your account and via an email link to external users. Regardless of who files and folders are shared with, you can configure Zoolz to require a specific password, remove access after a specific expiry date and to notify you - the owner of the shared content - when something is downloaded. These simple but significant features, particularly dated expiry which relatively few of Zoolz's rivals support, make it far easier to ensure data security.
When you share a folder with a colleague on your corporate Zoolz account, they can access it via a direct link or the slightly hard-to-find 'Shared with me' tab in the desktop client that can be expanded on the Discover search page. 'Shared with me' allows you to search the files shared with you, although this isn't an option if you just follow the direct link emailed to you - the Zoolz team is reportedly working on improving search behaviour in shared folders.
Despite this quirk, the document search engine is excellent. We were especially impressed by the quality of the OCR, which allowed us to effectively carry out keyword searches for documents that we'd scanned as flat images or PDFs.
Images and videos get large, helpful preview thumbnails in the web-based search interface and file browser. You can play video and audio files directly from the web interface, too, and you can search for them and sort them by file name, among other criteria, although there's no playlist feature.
The Zoolz web interface can preview PDFs, Microsoft Office files, a huge range of image formats including RAW files and TIFFs, all the most popular video formats - which it can also transcode and stream online - and a number of both open and proprietary document and ebook formats. However, there are a few omissions - for example, RTF and MOBI files can't be previewed.
When you first install and sign into the Zoolz desktop client, you're prompted to select the directories you wish to keep backed up. A basic selection interface lets you easily choose to back up user media and document directories as well as specific file types, such as ebooks and PDFs, images or financial files. You can alternatively browse and select whichever content you want to back up.
This is particularly useful if the computer you're connecting from has only a relatively slow internet connection or keep files in specific locations. You can also choose whether you want that data to go into standard hot storage for instant retrieval or cheaper cold storage. The latter takes longer to restore your data, but is ideal for archival files you're no longer actively working on. A wide range of scheduling options can also be configured here.
If, on the other hand, you have a lightning-quick net connection and want to back up everything, you'll find the No-Zoolz Zone folder useful. It's the opposite of a traditional sync folder: anything stored in it will never be uploaded to the Zoolz cloud, making it ideal for those occasional personal, high-security or otherwise very private files that you aren't prepared to trust to cloud storage, no matter how secure. The desktop application also allows you to easily restore files and folders from your account, with easy control over which version of a file you restore.
Zoolz Intelligent was a very new service at the time of our review, and that occasionally showed. Planned iOS and Android apps - which will allow files to be backed up, downloaded and searched from users' phones and tablets - weren't yet available at the time of writing (although they now are - administrators can log in via mobile devices to the web portal to add and manage users, perform remote data restores, establish backup policies, add or change search permissions and track user activity, according to the company.).
We also encountered problems linking our Dropbox account to Zoolz Intelligent via a connector that was still in beta. We look forward to seeing this feature in its fully-fledged form, as syncing, even via a third-party service, would be a genuinely useful extra feature (a service allowing you to import files from Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, and One Drive is now available).
Admin and security
The admin version of the Zoolz web interface has more features than its standard user counterpart, but is just as well designed. The main Dashboard screen lets you see how many activated and total user accounts you have, the number of servers and a breakdown of how your storage is used, recent activity, where your users are uploading from and how much your next bill will be. Shortcuts from the overview graphs can take you to specific sections of the admin interface, as can a series of tabs at the right of the page.
Your Discover tab is right below the dashboard icon and works just like the version normal users have, but administrators by default get access to all their users' backups. The Users/Servers tab gives you an overview of all the accounts in your company, including both servers and individual users. You can assign users extremely fine-gained privileges, not only in terms of how much upload space they have and how many pages they're allowed to OCR, but also with regards to exactly what content they can search.
That means you can give teams access to one another's storage so they can, for example, easily see which documents have already been scanned and uploaded by their colleagues. You can also give them access to backups of specific servers. Finally, users can be suspended, deleted and labeled to make it easy to manage staff accounts and departing colleagues' access privileges.
Connecting a server is slightly different process to connecting a standard PC and must be done via an admin account. The easiest way of doing so is to go to the Zoolz web dashboard from your Windows server and go through the Add Server wizard, which allows you to define any storage limits you may want. You'll be given a link to download the server client and activation token to complete its set-up. A token system also allows you to tie Zoolz into your corporate Active Directory system to enable Single Sign On support.
You can create policies that are automatically applied to different users and groups, controlling what data gets backed up to hot or cold storage, adding specific files and folder paths and determining how various file types are handled. You can even enable the backup of open files using the Windows Volume Shadow Copy service. A hybrid mode means that a local copy of all the data that goes to the Zoolz cloud will also be kept on, for example, a local network location for fast access.
Other options allow you enforce bandwidth throttling at certain types of day. We would have liked to be able to make two-factor authentication mandatory for all users, but at least individual users can enable the feature for themselves. Zoolz supports Google Authenticator, Duo Mobile, Amazon AWS MFA and Windows Phone 7 Authenticator.
The settings tab lets you define retention and reporting options. These include the number of versions kept when files are modified and how long they're kept available for restoration after deletion. Reporting settings allow you to set how long the system will wait before telling you that one of its clients hasn't backed up lately. Detailed audit and report options in other tabs allow you to see exactly who's using how much space and uploading what from any given account or location.
Zoolz Intelligent is a relatively recent addition to the online backup and storage market, but we're already impressed by its polished interface and search capabilities.
It's important to remember that this is pure backup, with local as well as online storage options, while many rivals include sync and web-based upload capabilities as well. However, Zoolz Intelligent's integrated OCR, search, indexing and document management features set it apart from rival business backup services such as MozyPro. Better yet, its storage pricing is extremely competitive and its per-capacity, rather than per-user model makes it able to easily scale as your business grows.
At the time of our review in June 2016, Zoolz Intelligent's mobile app and Mac client were not released, so we couldn't review them, but its iOS and Android apps are now available. Even without the apps, it was already an excellent online backup option in terms of both pricing and features.
Smart, cost-effective online backup with integrated search and OCR but a few features are still under development.
K.G. is a journalist, technical writer, developer and software preservationist. Alongside the accumulated experience of over 20 years spent working with Linux and other free/libre/open source software, their areas of special interest include IT security, anti-malware and antivirus, VPNs, identity and password management, SaaS infrastructure and its alternatives.
You can get in touch with K.G. via email at email@example.com.