After a standard installation procedure, FileAssurity presents you with a friendly Explorer-like interface, where you'll do most of your work. Toolbar choices include Secure, which creates signed documents; Unsecure & Verify, which opens signed documents; a Save As Archive check box to create compressed file archives; and two drop-down menus to toggle between keys used to sign and protect your document. Sound complicated? It's not.
The first time you launch FileAssurity, a dialog box prompts you to set up a password-protected file. This file holds the keys for verifying, accessing, signing, and protecting files. A key is an encrypted phrase stored on your system. By signing a document with a key, the reader can be sure no one has altered the content.
FileAssurity is based on 256-bit, PKI-enabled file encryption, a serious amount of security that allows you to protect your data. Basically, the more bits that are used to encrypt a document, the longer it will take someone to crack it. If you like, you can encrypt files so that either single or multiple users can decrypt them--perfect for office correspondence. And once files are encrypted, you can store them securely by dragging and dropping them onto any type of media, including floppies, CDs, DVDs, and Zip discs.
Like other encryption apps, once you protect a file with FileAssurity, no other encryption program can open or decrypt it. The free, downloadable FileAssurity Reader is available only after registration, but it allows people you exchange protected files with to open the files without buying FileAssurity itself. Recipients will still need the encryption keys to decrypt the files, so you must send them the appropriate keys.
As a bonus, FileAssurity enables you to delete files securely by overwriting them several times, in accordance with U.S. government standards. This means that once you delete a file via FileAssurity, it stays deleted.
While you encrypt your file, FileAssurity can also archive it in a secure, proprietary ZIP-like format. Unprotected files can also be compressed for e-mail; however, FileAssurity's compression speed was far slower than any other archiving utilities we've tested. For example, when we attempted to protect and archive a 1GB directory, for example, FileAssurity slowed to a crawl, bogged down our entire test system, and finally gave up on the task altogether. FileAssurity also exhibited some random, erratic behavior at times, such as flashing its taskbar icon for no good reason while protecting a directory.
Another annoyance: In our tests, as FileAssurity protected and archived multiple-file directories, it needlessly displayed more than one progress dialog box: one showing the progress of the directory and others for each individual file. Worse, each progress screen flashed in a distracting manner.
Documentation and support
To troubleshoot FileAssurity, you have access to a readable online manual via either the program's Help command or at the ArticSoft Web site. You get free e-mail technical support for the first year, with a guaranteed response time of 96 hours.
The security in FileAssurity is top-notch, however, the program isn't yet as versatile to use as other compression apps. FileAssurity shows great promise, though, particularly in terms of its strong security features. In the meantime, you'll find a more user-friendly, secure, file-compression package in CuteZip.