July 23, 2013
£35 per user for 500 users
- Ease of Use:
- Value for Money:
- Overall Rating:
- Strengths: Flexible deployment model; heavy AD integration makes user management simple; does well what it claims it can do
- Weaknesses: Somewhat clunky installation/setup that requires disabling Java updates
- Verdict: Works as advertised, and is an excellent replacement for public, cloud-based services
Many security professionals appreciate the utility of collaborative workspace features they see in many of the free, online, cloud-based applications out there, but loathe the idea of entrusting the security of their corporate data to another company's cloud, no matter how sterling that company's reputation. That is why we love to see products such as activEcho from Acronis, which provide those document-sharing features, but host everything within one's own private network.
The product was provided as an .exe installer, which when ran, installed the required PostgreSQL database server and the product itself. It also checked for the existence of Java, which was required. To make use of the mobile client, we installed the separate mobile management server and specified the network port on which to run it. We were given a choice between installing the mobile management server on the same server as the primary application or installing it separately. To keep things compact, we installed everything on the same server. However, it was pleasing to have the option of segregating the two services.
The tool makes use of the Java Cryptography Extensions, which we had to download from the Acronis website and copy into the Java directory. Acronis is quick to certify new versions of Java for use with its product, but administrators should be aware that there may be a delay of a day or two while that certification process is processing.
Functioning as a collaborative workspace and document-sharing environment - similar to products such as Dropbox - activEcho supports a wide variety of platforms, including Windows, Mac and Linux PCs, as well as iOS and Android phones through respective mobile apps. It supports internal users, but is highly Active Directory integrated, so file sharing permissions, disk quotas and other features can all be controlled by group membership. There does not appear to be any remote-provisioning features, so IT intervention may be required when setting up the mobile client if users are not comfortable inputting their own server, port and login information.
Once the product is set up it functions quite simply. Documents uploaded to a share will appear in the end-user's mobile application and can be viewed, modified and saved. All data is encrypted in motion and at rest with either AES-128 or AES-256, depending on the choice of the administrator. Full monitoring and audit trail features are in place, permitting administrators to track precisely who has viewed or modified what data and when.
The documentation for activEcho is thorough. Despite the complicated setup, the installation guide provided easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions on each task required to get the services up and running.
Acronis offers generous support for this tool, albeit there is only one support level, which provides 24/7 phone, email and web-based assistance. Additionally, there is an online knowledgebase and FAQs list.
ActivEcho has a variable pricing model, which is based on the quantity of licences purchased. For 500 users, the cost would be £35 per user. Licences are offered in perpetual and subscription-based pricing models. One year of support is included, with one-year extensions available.
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