Clouds on Gladinet’s Horizon
If I spend the first several paragraphs apologizing and making excuses for not posting a column since April 2nd (ouch!), I’ll just be adding insult to injury. The Ur-Guru said to blame him, but he’s only been here since April 24th, so that won’t work. I just got caught up in other things—and I only wish all of it had been high-paying client work, which is the kind of excuse I like to be able to make.
Anyway, here at last is the review of Gladinet Cloud Desktop that I promised Jerry Huang ages ago.
The interesting thing about Gladinet is that it lets you back up to multiple cloud storage sites simultaneously. It also maps those sites as “My Gladinet Drive” in Windows Explorer so you can drag and drop from them. Given the awkwardness of reaching some of these services through their own interfaces, that’s a considerable benefit right there.
Once you install the program, there are a couple of screens of settings to configure.
First, enter your license key if you have one. A home-user license for Gladinet Desktop Professional is $39.99 and a commercial license is $59.99. FTC disclosure: Jerry gave me a license key so I could test all the program’s capabilities. Then register with Gladinet. (Give them your name and e-mail address.)
Next, add some storage. I was impressed at the number and variety of possible storage locations, some of which I hadn’t heard of, and some of which I hadn’t known you could use as storage locations. I initially checked Google Docs and Amazon S3, but later signed up for Azure Blob Storage from Microsoft to make it a better test. (And what a nuisance that was—far more trouble than signing up for an Amazon S3 account, let me tell you. And what kind of name is “Blob,” anyway?)
Once you’ve chosen your storage locations, Gladinet will show you your general information and give you the option to change settings such as the drive letter it maps to (I wasn’t using “Y” for anything else, so I left it), whether to encrypt your profile, and so on.
Before you can use the storage options you checked off, you have to provide login credentials. This was not too tricky with Amazon S3, since I’d had to do it with several other programs already and knew where to find the information. It was also fairly simple with Google docs. It was notably confusing with Azure Blob and took several tries before I had the right information in the right place. That’s not Gladinet’s fault, mind you, but a certain lack of clarity on Microsoft’s part. Maybe if you’re a Microsoft developer you understand these things intuitively. If so, I don’t think the Azure Blob service is really meant for anyone else yet. But I digress.
If you use Skype, you might get an error message from Gladinet saying that Port 80 is blocked. Jerry says the easiest way to fix that is to go into your Skype options under “Connection” (in Advanced settings) and uncheck the box that says “Use port 80 and 443 alternatives for incoming connections.”
After setup is complete and you’ve mounted your virtual directories, you have several options. Gladinet installs a fairly sophisticated tool in your system tray/notification area/whatever they call it in Vista and Windows 7, and you can just right-click that to start the Gladinet Cloud Explorer, the Backup Manager, or the Task Manager—or to run backup tasks directly. You can start the Gladinet Management Console from the Start menu, as well, and the Gladinet Quick Launch screen will pop up when you boot your machine unless you do something to make it go away.
There are several options for backup with Gladinet. You can choose to back up all documents, pictures, “musics”, videos, folders, or select specific items. I wanted a relatively quick test, not an exhaustive hours-long marathon with my upstream connection speed as a bottleneck.
As you can see from the screenshot, Gladinet had no trouble seeing my network drives and considered all of them valid sources for backup, though it does warn that backups may not be real-time. Since I wasn’t planning to use it for continuous syncing, I wasn’t worried about that.
If you do choose to back up all your “musics” or videos or document, Gladinet will go through all your drives to index those files. That can be a time-consuming process and slow down your system, so it warns you about that.
In this case, I just opted to back up my FileSlinger™ newsletter directory to all three backup destinations: Amazon S3, Google Docs, and Azure Blob.
I got a prompt from Google Docs asking me whether I wanted to convert my Microsoft Office Word 2007 documents into Google Docs format or leave them as they were, but otherwise the job ran smoothly and quickly.
Once I’d run the backup, it was easy to go into the explorer and confirm that the files had, in fact, been backed up.
Though the interface can be a little tricky (between first testing Gladinet and writing this review I forgot about how a few things worked), the product is versatile and does what it claims to and more than I used it for. (You can schedule backups or use Gladinet for continuous backup.) And, of course, if you don’t want to customize backups, you can use the simpler options and the system tray interface. The hardest thing may well be setting up your cloud storage accounts, as true cloud storage is still much more the province of geeks than online backup is.
For those who have hung in there in my absence, I have two free licenses of Gladinet Desktop Pro to give away. The two best (meaning most creative and entertaining) answers to the question “Why did Microsoft call its cloud storage Blob?” will win. (The judges are the Ur-Guru and me. Criteria entirely subjective.) Post your answers to the comments. You have as long as I was late to enter.