Below are the most common questions we receive about how Symform works, how we keep data secure, our features and functionality and other areas. If we’ve missed anything or you just want more information, please contact us for assistance.
How Symform works
You can also refer to the How Symform Works section of this Website.
- What is the best way to describe the Symform Cloud Storage Network?
- In the Symform Cloud Storage Network, how is the data kept secure and always available?
- Could someone breach Symform’s security?
- Can we encrypt our files and manage our own keys?
- What happens if devices fail in the network – hardware failure, power loss, user error? Could data ever be lost?
- Does Symform do both local and cloud backup?
- Does Symform mirror all the data in the folders on a set schedule?
- Can I use Symform in jurisdictions that may have rules or laws around storing data, including copyrighted or illegal content?
- What is the recommended Symform configuration?
- Why do I need to open a port for this device?
- Do I need to change the settings on the router/firewall?
- Do I have to constantly tune and manage my Symform implementation?
You can also refer to the Why Contribute section of this Website.
- How does contribution work?
- Does Symform “cordon off” this contribution folder?
- What happens to the data on my contribution device if it crashes? Wouldn’t that cause other users to lose data?
- Can I contribute storage from multiple devices and locations?
- Can we contribute from a laptop?
You can also refer to the Key Features section of this Website.
- Which operating systems and devices does Symform work with?
- How does Symform deal with Exchange and database files like SQL?
- What about versioning, incrementals, differentials, etc?
Data Seeding & Recovery
- How long does it take to complete the initial “seed” of data?
- Is Symform slow when uploading and downloading data? I notice that most online services are extremely slow.
- How should I think about bandwidth and the speed of moving data into the cloud?
- Can I manage how Symform utilizes my bandwidth?
- In the event of a disaster is there a super-fast way to recover my data?
- What is the best way to describe the Symform Cloud Storage Network?
- Symform is a secure and affordable decentralized cloud storage network for online data protection and disaster recovery. Symform provides you with secure, reliable, and inexpensive unlimited online storage that is faster, more secure and more affordable than anything traditional data center-based providers can offer. We make it possible because each customer exchanges cheap local storage equal to the valuable storage space they use in the cloud.
- Symform has developed patented technology we call Resilient Storage Architecture that is more redundant and secure than the centralized data center approach.
- We assume that all Symform devices are insecure and unreliable. This is the basic foundation of our architecture. We address this by encrypting the data using the 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) at source. AES has been sanctioned by the NSA and adopted by the U.S. federal government. We then divide the encrypted data into 64MB blocks. Each block is then shredded in 64 1MB fragments. Then, we add 32 parity fragments to every block using an error correction algorithm called Reed-Solomon. This results in 96 fragments with built-in redundancy and security where any 64 can be used to reconstruct the block. These 96 encrypted fragments are then distributed randomly to 96 devices within the Symform Cloud Storage Network. We call this RAID-96TM.
- It would require the right 64 people to first find each other, then “collude” to re-construct a single block of encrypted data. Just a single encrypted block. Then they would have to break the military-grade 256 AES encryption. Finally, they would have to repeat this process for each of the other blocks of the file with a new set of 64 people and a new key! Compare that to a data center where all your data sits in one location and a single disgruntled employee would be sufficient to result in a breach.
- In terms of encryption, you can encrypt the data before Symform touches it; however, we will encrypt all data with military-grade AES-256 encryption before it ever leaves your device for the cloud.
- In terms of key management, Symform creates and manages all keys. We generate a random, secure key for each folder. Our best practices in this area is the most secure way to maintain data protection and ensure the encryption keys are the highest level of security and managed properly.
- We assume devices will fail. Symform operates a service called “Cloud Control” from multiple SAS 70 certified facilities which monitors the uptime of all devices continuously. If a device fails (it doesn’t call home on schedule), Cloud Control regenerate the lost fragments (remember the 32 parity fragments?) then re-locates them to other operating devices.
- Symform’s Cloud Control constantly monitors all the devices in the Cloud Storage Network. When it detects that a particular computer has failed, it automatically triggers regeneration of the fragments that were stored on that computer and repopulates them elsewhere in the network. The system prevents data loss by self-healing automatically. In fact, with Symform the right 33 devices would have to simultaneously fail for data loss to occur. Compare that to a traditional data center using a RAID-5 configuration where just 2 simultaneous failures would result in data loss.
- Symform can work as either an independent online backup system for your critical files or as an offsite backup to your local backup, whichever suits your needs.
- You may use any good local backup application (e.g. StorageCraft, NT Backup, Backup Exec, et al) that you prefer. Once you make a local backup and store it on an internal disk or USB drive, you point Symform at the folder(s) that hold the local backup files. These folders then get “mirrored” into the Symform Cloud Storage Network.
- We recommend a two-tier backup architecture, where you do both local and offsite backup to ensure disaster recovery. However, if you wish to utilize an online only backup solution, simply point Symform at the folders you wish to backup and we’ll mirror them to the cloud. This is particularly useful for backing up laptops where performing local backups is too hard due to constant mobility.
- Symform continuously monitors changes in your local folders. It “de-dupes” automatically at the block level. So, only those blocks that have changed are mirrored into the cloud. This makes it very efficient and fast.
- Because of the way we encrypt, shred and geo-distribute all data, Symform is highly secure and also should not present data storage compliance issues in your region. However, you should review the details of our system with your compliance and security teams for your own analysis and conclusion.
- There are many options depending on what you are backing up, but here’s a typical scenario for devices such as servers and PCs containing critical business data and are stationary at a site:
- Designate one computer to be the Symform device. Download the Symform software to this device.
- Point Symform at the folder(s) that holds the files you wish to backup (in many cases your local backup files from all other devices). The folder(s) can be anywhere on the LAN. Symform will automatically ask for credentials if you choose a networked location.
- Designate a “contribution folder” on a drive somewhere on the LAN. This could be an internal disk, a NAS drive, USB drive, etc.
- Open a port (on your firewall) for this device so that Symform can identify where to place encrypted fragments from other devices.
- When backing up mobile devices such as laptops:
- Designate a non-mobile computer such as a PC or a Server to contribute local storage to the cloud. Install the Symform software and set up the contribution folder as above.
- On each of the laptops, install Symform software and configure it to only synchronize local files to the cloud and select the specific folders that contain the business critical data that needs to be protected.
- It is necessary for the Symform Contribution service to listen on a port for incoming traffic (encrypted fragments coming in from other devices). This port is picked randomly (or you can choose your own) to ensure that it is not identical across all devices in the network in order to protect against port scanning attacks.
- Note that the Symform software will try to make this easy by automatically attempting to open the port using UPnP. UPnP is enabled on most residential and ISP provided routers to make management easier. On enterprise grade routers managed by skilled IT professionals, this would need to be done manually.
- Yes in some cases where the Symform software is not able to automatically open the port using UPnP. This will happen in situations where you have a complex network configuration with multiple routers creating multiple private networks or if you are using an enterprise grade router that is expected to be managed by a skilled IT professional. You must configure a port mapping rule on the edge firewall and any intermediary routers to allow inbound traffic to this port. The external port on the mapping rule MUST match what is configured here. If the port number selected is already in use by another application, you need to select a different port number. The rule should allow traffic from ANY external IP address. The internal IP address should be of the machine on which the Symform device is configured – we therefore recommend using a static IP address for the computer running the Symform device software. Note that Symform does NOT require you to have Internet facing static IP addresses. The port forwarding rule on the firewall does require you to have a local static IP address for the computer designated to contribute storage internally on your private LAN.
- No. Once it is implemented, it is set-and-forget. You will receive regular reports and alerts in email from the service communicating the status of your customer devices. You can also log into the Symform Dashboard to get real-time status of your devices.
- If you choose to pay with Bytes instead of Bucks you must contribute local drive space equal to twice the amount of data you need to back up in the cloud. Local drive space can be contributed from any supported device or from multiple devices in multiple locations if necessary. Windows users can even choose to contribute from other devices on the LAN. The minimum required up time percentage of a contributing device is 80%. Your Symform account will show you how much cloud storage you are consuming and contributing.
- No. Symform won’t “lock” this space so that it is unavailable for normal use. Should Symform find that there isn’t an adequate amount of space available in the contribution folder, it will send a notification to the email address provided. We provide a grace period for the customer to remedy the situation.
- Yes. A feature called “Flexible Contribution” enables you to contribute storage and bandwidth from another device or devices. You are able to set-up additional storage in a second office, co-lo or other facility. Symform Partners often offer this as a service on behalf of their clients. Symform automatically “pools” all contribution resources and provides a snapshot report of your contributed space versus the cloud storage you are using.
- Symform adds 50% redundancy to all blocks before they are distributed globally throughout the network. To recover a block of data (part of a larger file) only 64 of the 96 devices it is spread across need be available. When Symform sees that fragments are not available it automatically regenerates and redistributes them to other devices. Read more about how we encrypt, shred, and geographically spread data.
- Symform’s software runs on a laptop where it can continuously sync data from the laptop to the Symform Cloud Storage Network. Since laptops aren’t always in the office or tethered to the Internet, the Flexible Contribution function makes it easy for a laptop device to be “sync only” and contribute storage from another device or devices.
- Symform supports a variety of operating systems and devices. See our System Requirements for more information.
- Symform makes use of the Windows Volume Snapshot Service to backup locked files. Or, if you use a local backup application in conjunction with Symform it should also be designed to gracefully manage these files. Symform will mirror the backup files into the storage cloud.
- Your backup software and standard procedures will govern how, what, and on what schedule you backup your data. Symform will mirror the resulting backup files to the storage cloud. When mirroring files directly to the cloud, Symform monitors and detects changes and will mirror any new or changed files automatically. This process is happening constantly in the background.
- This depends upon two things: the amount of data and the speed of available bandwidth. If you have slow bandwidth, you can setup the initial device to start mirroring the folders, then copy the data to a portable storage device (e.g. a USB drive) and move it to a location with faster bandwidth: Another office, a colo facility, or wherever. Setup Symform on a device at this location and the data will begin being copied from both locations simultaneously. Remember, Symform automatically de-dupes the data that is already in the cloud.
- Symform also provides a Turbo Seeding feature that makes that initial seeding easier and faster.
- Symform creates up to 96 parallel channels up and down so throughput is extremely fast. This is a key architectural benefit. Unlike traditional online services, we don’t use one pipe for thousands of customers. We also don’t throttle or pay for bandwidth. Traditional online services throttle bandwidth intentionally in order to avoid paying expensive peak bandwidth rates in data centers.
- Most bandwidth is asymmetric – example: 2 Mbps up and 10m Mbps. Your up-link is your most precious resource. The table below will give you a basic understanding of how much data you can move offsite in one day and one week.
BW in Business Hours (10hrs)
BW in Off Hours (14hrs)
1 Day Max
1 Week Max
This table shows the recommended full backup schedule based on data set size and bandwidth available
|<=50GB Total, <50MB/Day||Monthly||Weekly||Weekly|
|<=500GB Total, <1GB/Day||Quarterly||Monthly||Weekly|
|>500GB Total, <5GB/Day||N/A||Quarterly||Monthl|
- Yes. There are controls to manage when Symform operates. For example, you may set Symform to operate during non-business hours. Think about how much resource you have during nights and weekends.
- You are able to restore your data extremely fast using the current system. Of course, this depends on the available download bandwidth at the restore site or at another facility.
- In addition, the “Instant Restore” feature enables you to sync a Symform device (your data) to the Symform Cloud Storage Network and simultaneously sync it with another device — like one in a second office, an employee’s home, or in a co-lo facility. This way, the data is always “hot” and ready to be restored immediately should a disaster occur. Full restore times of a few hours instead of a few days are now achievable. Symform partners offer this as a key value add feature to their clients where their premises act as the Instant Restore location for their customers.