Back in January when I wrote about Automatic WordPress Backup, Andy K. from CloudBerry Lab popped up in the comments on the cross-post to the WordPress Asylum site asking why I had recommended S3Fox over his company’s product, CloudBerry S3 Explorer. (For the simple enough reason that S3Fox was the first product I’d come across, and worked as a Firefox plugin.)
It seemed to me that I’d heard the name “CloudBerry” before, so I went and checked my collection of backup bookmarks. There, indeed, was CloudBerry Online Backup, so I arranged to download a copy and then talk to Andy about it.
Incidentally, a CloudBerry is not a relation of the BlackBerry. Cloudberries are real fruits that grow in northern climates—like Russia, where CloudBerry Lab is located. Andy explained that he wanted a business name with the word “cloud” in it, but hates made-up names.
CloudBerry Online Backup is not an online backup service like Mozy, Carbonite, or my sometime clients Spare Backup. Instead, CloudBerry provides a simple software front-end to automate and manage backing up to and restoring from your Amazon S3 account.
Unlike S3 itself, CloudBerry Online Backup is simple and user-friendly. The welcome screen gives you two simple options: set up backup plan and restore backup plan:
There are some suggested backup plans built in: My Internet Bookmarks (for people who haven’t started using a service like Delicious), My Pictures, and My Documents. But you can choose to back up any folders you want, on any drive—including your network drives. As I’ve mentioned before, not all online backup tools can even see your network drives, or anything at all besides your C:\ drive. This has as much to do with business models as technology, as Andy pointed out during our phone conversation. Since CloudBerry is selling software, not storage space, they have no motivation to restrict the source of your backup data. It’s Amazon you’ll be paying for storage, not CloudBerry, and Amazon bases prices for its S3 service on a combination of the space you use and the frequency with which you upload and download files, not how many different computers or users are putting their data into your account.
When you set up your backup job, CloudBerry prompts you to choose an Amazon S3 account:
Just in case you don’t have one yet, there’s a link so you can set one up. They also walk you through the signup process in detail on their blog. (The blog is on Blogger, but you can’t have everything. This blog was on Blogger for years.)
CloudBerry also has a handy monitor to show you how much Amazon storage you’re using. And as of the latest build, you can delete files you no longer want from your S3 backup by right-clicking on the file name in the “Backup Storage” tab and selecting “delete.”
As you can see from this snapshot, I chose a fairly small directory for my test backup. The real issue with any kind of online backup, no matter where you are storing it, is upload speeds. You can both encrypt and compress backups with CloudBerry, but nevertheless, it pays to exercise some judgment and be selective about which files you back up.
Subsequent backups (which you can schedule or run manually) will only back up files that have been changed. You can choose a number of versions to save or a length of time to keep old backups.
That said, the upload went quite speedily, and I was able to see my files in CloudBerry’s browser window. You can restore and delete files from there through the contextual (right-click) menu, or use the “restore” button from the welcome screen. Either method gets you to the same restore wizard:
For my test file, I chose “latest version,” though as it was a file I hadn’t changed between backups, it didn’t really matter. I restored it to a different directory just so I could make sure it really was being restored. Yep: it worked just fine.
These are the strengths of CloudBerry Online Backup: it’s easy, and it works. It’s also got a decent feature set, one Andy’s team is slowly expanding in response to user requests. The software retails for $29.99, both for the regular version and the Windows Home Server version. You’ll also be paying Amazon for your storage space. On the other hand, Amazon is charging 16.5 cents per GB here in Northern California; since signing up in January I’ve incurred $0.25 in charges.
If you’re a blogger who will write about the software, you can get a free license for CloudBerry Online Backup. I still have to go collect mine.
Andy also offered me 3 free licenses to give away. The first three people who post a comment to the blog explaining what they would back up on S3 using CloudBerry will get them.