FileShadow review: 100GB of free online storage plus local data backup and consolidation

This backup and online data consolidation is simple and effective, but the PC client is a CPU hog.

FileShadow is a free backup program that's grown up. It started as a very nice cloud storage consolidator with advanced search and sharing abilities. It could transfer from various online storage services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive to its own facilities, as well as tag photos and perform OCR on your PDFs. Good stuff, but not PC backup. 

Stop the presses! Or actually, start them up: The company has added both Windows and macOS backup clients. Good thing—free 100GB storage accounts don’t grow on trees these days. 

This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best free backup services. Go there for information on competing products and how we tested them. 

Setup, design, and features

Signing up and setting up FileShadow to mirror your online storage accounts is simple. Just create a user name and password,. When you choose an account to mirror, tell whatever account you’re tapping into that it’s okay by again entering a user name and password.

As to the desktop client, that’s a mere download/run/select-the-data you want to back up kind of operation. It really is that simple.

The three options I’d really like to see begin with the ability to back up data found on your local network. I have quite a bit of stuff that only resides on a NAS box. Another is the ability to duplicate the backup to a local drive. The other is a performance throttle. More on that in a bit.  

file shadow18 IDG

FileShadow’s online interface is easy, and the search functions are great, but the mix of flat and 3D just miss the mark. If that’s all I have to complain about, we’re all in luck. 

While I love having 100GB of storage available, and the ability to easily search it for what I want, I’m not loving the look of the FileShadow interface. The slightly weird mix of flat and 3D interface elements looks a bit old-school, but not the part of school you want to remember.

But beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I’m tired of super-slick interfaces pasted on backup programs with features that don’t work, or are difficult to use. I was also quite impressed with how fast and accurately it found files. Backup is a critical operation. Your software needs to be bulletproof. 

Performance

Transferring data from your online storage services to FileShadow takes place remotely, so you’ll never notice a performance hit. But the FileShadow PC client is a CPU hog, climbing as high as 50 percent usage on the Core i7-2600/SATA SSD system I tested in on. That’s noticeable when it comes to subjective performance of windows, especially when the operations involve disk access. Most backup programs have a throttle setting that restricts the amount of CPU usage. FileShadow’s needs one badly.

fileshadow 2 IDG

The FileShadow client interface is simple and easy. But backups utilize so much CPU that it’s slow to appear, as is the system icon and its menu. 

The FileShadow client itself also becomes quite ponderous when a backup is running. When I right-clicked the client icon in the system tray, the menu didn’t appear, only a thin line, yet I somehow managed to quit the program using said invisible menu. It took several occurrences before I realized that this was what was happening and the program wasn’t just crashing. 

The upside, I suppose is that the backup proceeded at very decent speed. This will obviously vary by your broadband’s upstream bandwidth. I have a fairly large pipe that closes in on about 1MBps.

Long story short; the FileShadow client works in that it backs up your files, but it needs refinement, to put it mildly. 

Conclusion

Exactly how could I come to a negative conclusion concerning a free 100GB storage account? Especially one that consolidates all your online and local data into one place while making it searchable and shareable. The would only happen if FileShadow chewed your local data to pieces or didn’t work. It didn’t and it does.

A more modern look and a client that doesn’t slow down your system are in order, but it does the job. I say take advantage, the sooner the better. 

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Jon L. Jacobi

PC World (US online)
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