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Posts Tagged ‘Amazon S3’

Clouds on Gladinet’s Horizon

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

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.

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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.

gladinet initial settings

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.)

gladinet virtual drives

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?)

gladinet general settings

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.

Gladinet mount virtual directory

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.”

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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.

gladinet management tools

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.

gladinet backup source

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.

Gladinet Backup Multiple=

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.

Gladinet multiple=

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.

gladinet explorer detail

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.

Contest

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.

CloudBerry: Amazon S3 Backup the Easy Way

Friday, February 26th, 2010

image 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:

CloudBerry Welcome

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:

CloudBerry S3 Accounts

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 Storage Overview 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:

CloudBerry 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.

GoodSync—and File Backup, Too

Friday, February 19th, 2010

GoodSync-banner

A good two months ago—or perhaps not so good, from his point of view—the long-suffering Richard Krueger of SS|PR contacted me about GoodSync Enterprise, the new corporate version of  GoodSync Pro, a consumer tool that’s been around since 2006 but about which I hadn’t written before. (So much software, so little time.) It was a good press release: nobody was excited, and the quote from a VP contained relevant information. I was particularly struck by this passage:

Extremely flexible, GoodSync Enterprise can intelligently recognize storage devices and tie specific jobs to specific USB disks; for example, all marketing materials can be synchronized with a thumb drive, while all PowerPoint presentations and Access databases are synchronized with a portable hard drive. Workers in different departments, different geographic locations, at a worksite, or who are telecommuting or on a mobile device, all have access to the right files in their proper context. Furthermore, jobs linked to devices recognized by GoodSync Enterprise can be set up to start automatically once each device becomes available.

There’s just one problem: I’m not in a position to test enterprise software. There’s no way I could test mass deployment or Active Directory integration, and if I could, most of my readers wouldn’t care. This is a blog about backup for small and home office computer users.

GoodSync-box So Richard suggested I take a look at the consumer product instead, which I eventually managed to do. I thought I’d try GoodSync 2Go, the portable version, instead of installing yet another backup program on Enna. Besides, it seemed to make sense to run a sync tool from a memory stick. It saves installing the thing on multiple machines. GoodSync 2Go normally costs $39.95, which is $10.00 more than GoodSync Pro or GoodSync for Mac, but as of this writing (February 19, 2010), it’s on sale for $19.95.

Since GoodSync 2Go takes up less than 10 MB when installed, you don’t need a large memory stick for it. But you may find it a bit confusing once you finish installing and run the program. Unlike a lot of today’s tools, GoodSync doesn’t have any wizards or pre-set configurations. Fortunately there is a manual in tolerably good English online.

GoodSync’s basic unit of operation is the job. A job is either a backup job, meaning GoodSync copies the data from left to right, or a sync job, where data gets copied in both directions (usually replacing older files with newer ones). You need to create a new job for each location you want copied. In that sense, GoodSync works just like Karen’s Replicator or SyncBack.

GoodSync copies files to and from a wider range of sources and destinations, however. Your choices for each are My Computer (any local drive), My Network (any network drive or computer you have permission to access), FTP, WebDAV, Amazon S3, SecureFTP, and WinMobile. (I presume that if you get the Mac version, that last option is different.)

My first test was to sync Outlook PST files between Enna (the 17” laptop I use for most of my work) and Mena (the netbook I take with me to events and when traveling). All that happened was that I overwrote the older PST file on Mena with the newer one on Enna. No great loss there—I can retrieve the few messages I might have had stored on Mena but not on Enna (replies I made while out of the house) from the Rebit. But GoodSync is not the answer to my wish to keep my two Outlook calendars in sync (the mail is much easier). Oh, well.

For the second test, I decided to back up some files to my Amazon S3 account. (You’ll be hearing more about S3 next week, too.) It took a minute to figure out how to get logged in properly and create a new “bucket”, but once I did that, the backup job ran smoothly and quickly. (It wasn’t very large.)

Once you’ve created a job with GoodSync, you can automate it by clicking the little “Auto” button (the one that looks like a clock). The portable version lacks some of the scheduling options of the regular version, presumably because you won’t always have your USB key plugged in, but you can still schedule the job to run On GoodSync Start, On Folders Connect, On Logoff, or Periodically in increments of hours and minutes.

You can set filters to exclude or include certain files or file types, decide whether the program should “propagate” your deletions (why the default is “yes” on a  backup job, I couldn’t begin to say), keep previous copies of your files, and run scripts before or after you run GoodSync. All in all, it’s a fairly sophisticated program, even if it doesn’t synchronize individual Outlook items.

As its name implies, however, GoodSync is designed mainly as a synchronization program. It can make a perfectly adequate file-level backup program, but you’re probably not going to want to pay for it unless you want its multi-source, multi-destination sync capabilities.

If you want something that will just take all the data on your machine and back it up in one fell swoop with no brain activity involved on your part, this is not it. Go back and read about the Rebit SaveMe. But a no-brainer backup device can’t do what GoodSync does, either. They’re different jobs. Sometimes you need one thing, and sometimes another.

A New Way to Back Up WordPress

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Automatic WordPress Backup logo

If you search the WordPress plugin repository for “backup”, you’ll get—as of today—195 results. I wrote about two of those plugins, WordPress Database Backup and WordPress Backup by BTE, just about a year ago, and installed them on all 8 of my own WP sites, as well as insisting that my clients use WP-DB-Backup at minimum.

Both of those plugins back up different parts of a WordPress installation and then either save it there on the server or e-mail it to the admin. I get a lot of e-mails with database backups, as you can imagine. These aren’t large files, and it’s not too time-consuming to save them with other client files and let them get backed up as part of my regular backup routine.

But the BTE plugin backs up your uploads, plugins, and themes directories. And those can start to get pretty large after a while. Not large in absolute terms of how much room I have on my hard drive or backup drives, but large in terms of what it’s convenient to receive by e-mail, especially multiplied by eight or more. And then there’s the fact that the mail server for Author-izer.com, my primary business website, absolutely WILL NOT accept the plugins backup file, even though it’s a ZIP. It believes that file is full of malicious code out to attack me, and refuses it. (Ta ever so, mailer-daemon.) And then there’s the lack of versioning, because each week’s backups of those directories has the same name. These are minor annoyances, but real.

Now there’s a new plugin that combines the functions of these two stalwarts, with a few extras besides: Automatic WordPress Backup, sponsored by Melvin Ram’s Web Design Company, developed by Dan Coulter.

AWB lets you schedule daily, weekly, or monthly backups of your database, your wp-config.php file, your wp-content folder (themes, plugins, and uploads), and even your .htaccess file. Instead of e-mailing them to you, it uploads them to Amazon S3.

aws_logoS3 stands for “Simple Storage Service.” It’s not actually quite as simple as all that, but the idea is that you only pay for as much storage and bandwidth as you actually use. Since a typical WordPress installation—even with a lot of plugins and uploads—isn’t very large, backing up via S3 shouldn’t cost more than a few cents each month.

Before you install the plugin, go to Amazon S3 and sign up for an account if you don’t have one already. (Signing up is free.) Once you get that confirmed, go to “Security Credentials” under the “Your Account” tab to get the information you’ll need to configure the plugin.

WDC-optionsThen log into your WordPress dashboard and install the plugin normally. There’s a handy YouTube video that walks you through installation over on the AWB website. This is a nice touch. I just wish Amazon had done the same for S3! Once you activate AWB, you’ll be prompted to configure the settings. If you need to find them later, they have their own options submenu at the foot of the right sidebar.

 

Fill in your AWS Access Key and Secret Key, create an S3 “bucket” (the Ur-Guru was a bit disparaging about that term) to store your backup in, and decide what you want to back up, how often, and when to get rid of old backups.

AWB-settings

I like both the option to automatically delete old backups and the option to make backups only once a month. There are sites that I don’t update any more often than that, even though I know I should.

When I first installed AWB on the test blog over at the Podcast Asylum, it didn’t seem to work. After you hit “Save Changes and Back Up Now,” you see a message telling you that there will be a link to download your most recent backup when you come back to that page—but there was never any link.

That was when I realized I didn’t know how to see what was on my Amazon S3 server. Amazon’s own site wasn’t too helpful; their AWS Management Console doesn’t work with S3 yet. Fortunately, there are plenty of other tools to let you get access to your S3 account. I picked S3Fox, a plugin for the Firefox web browser. Once I’d installed that, I was able to confirm that while my “testblog” bucket had been created, there was nothing in it.

Yet when I installed Automatic WordPress Backup here on the FileSlinger Backup Blog, it worked just fine. Was this a hosting issue, I wondered? (The Podcast Asylum site is on Dreamhost and the Backup Blog is on GoDaddy—and I don’t actually recommend either of them for WordPress hosting these days.) I got in touch with Melvin Ram, who walked me through installing the development version of the plugin, due for release next week sometime.

That fixed the problem: after clicking “Save Changes and Back Up Now,” I saw the following message:

AWB-restore-interface

That “Restore from a backup” tab is new in the development version; in the current version, 1.0.2, you have to download the backup and restore it manually. Not quite all the bugs are out of the restore process yet, though. I double-checked in S3Fox, and sure enough, the ZIP file was there.

S3testblog

I did notice, however, that while the ZIP file contained my wp-co
nfig.php file, my .htaccess file, and my wp-content folder, it was missing my WordPress database. (So was the one from fileslinger.com.) So I might want to wait through a few more development versions before I completely replace WP-DB-Backup with Automatic WordPress Backup.

Nevertheless, I think WDC has made a great start with this plugin, and that it’s going to be extremely useful once they’ve got the bugs out.

How do YOU Back up Your Computer? FileSlinger™ Backup Reminder 12-28-07

Friday, December 28th, 2007

Here it is the end of another year of backups—almost time to make those special year-end copies of your important data to store with your tax records. I thought I’d do something a bit different for today’s column, so I put a question out to my LinkedIn network asking the people I know what they do for backups. (And no, this is not what “networked backups” means.)

Most of the answers came as private messages, so I won’t quote them in their entirety here, but I’ll list the different tools people are using and write a bit about each, so you can decide which ones might be good for you.

  • Amazon S3. The person who mentioned this isn’t using it yet; he’s got a couple of 250 GB external drives. S3 stands for “Simple Storage Service.” It’s fairly inexpensive: $0.15 per GB per month for storage, plus similar rates for data transfer in and out. Jeremy Zawdny has made a list of S3-compatible backup software, since otherwise S3 isn’t really a backup solution, just a storage solution.
  • Buffalo TeraStation. This is network storage for people who have serious data to back up. It supports full RAID 5 configuration, which offers protection from disk failure (unless something kills off all the disks at once), and comes in capacities up to 4 TB. It’s big, solid, and expensive: about $700 for the 1 TB version. The TeraStation comes with automated backup software called Memeo AutoBackup, about which I know nothing, but will try to find out more. If you’re a photographer, musician, or videographer, or just run an office that generates masses of data, this could be the product for you.
  • Carbonite got two recommendations—or was it three? It’s been around longer than Mozy, and costs $50/year for unlimited online backup. They’re working on a Mac version, but it’s not available yet. Instead of backing up on a schedule, it backs up files as they change. That’s known as “continuous data protection” and has advantages and disadvantages. One potential disadvantage is slowing down your computer; another is backing up changes that you didn’t want to make. The advantage is that you’ll never lose a whole day’s data. Also, unless you’re working on several large files simultaneously, you won’t have to wait through endless uploads after the first backup is finished.
  • Cobian Backup. This was a new one on me, but it turns out it’s been around for a long time. Cobian is free open-source backup software for Windows. It allows scheduling, encryption, and backup online via FTP. The user interface looks fairly similar to that for SyncBack SE and for Backup4All. I guess there are only so many ways to configure setting up a backup program. There’s a tutorial for version 7 online. (You need Internet Explorer to view it, though.)
  • EMC Retrospect for tape backup. Retrospect comes in a lot of flavors and is compatible with both Vista and Leopard—or so their website claims. The Express version that used to come bundled with external drives is easy enough to use, but stores your data in a proprietary format and doesn’t let you browse through the backed up files. (Norton Ghost stores files in a proprietary format, but at least there’s the Ghost Explorer to let you retrieve individual files.) The Professional version supports tape drives, which most consumer backup products don’t. I’m not a huge fan of tape, but it does provide a way to get your data off-site, and it’s still common in enterprises.
  • Genie Backup Manager comes with two recommendations, one from the owner of the TeraStation and one from a respected IT colleague. It comes in Home and Pro versions. Both of them seem to be pretty comprehensive tools for backing up everything on your computer to just about any medium you could imagine. The site also features a backup encyclopedia. The Home version is $50; the Pro version is $70, and the server version is $400—which is probably a good deal if you have 50 computers to back up. Windows only.
  • Karen’s Replicator. Yes, there is someone besides me in the world who’s a big fan of this free program for Windows file backup and synchronization. I suppose I might be slightly biased in its favor because it was created by a woman, but it’s been doing a great job of backing up my files for years now, and it’s easy to use. Very handy for copying files onto one of those USB external drives mentioned above. It’s less sophisticated than Cobian, so which you use depends on your needs.
  • Mozy. I’ve written about this online backup service before, and it seems it, too, has other fans out there. The free version gives you 2 GB of storage and is available for Vista, XP, Windows 2000, and Mac OS X. The Pro version is available for all flavors of Windows (including servers), but not for Mac. Pro licenses are $3.95/month plus a $0.50/GB/month charge.
  • USB External Drive. Given all I’ve written about such drives already, I don’t think that needs a lot of explaining. But if you have an older machine with USB 1.1, consider getting an XHD with a FireWire connection instead. (Assuming you have a FireWire port, that is. You can use an external drive for manual drag-and-drop backups or with automated backup software.
  • Windows Home Server. This is network storage and then some. I have read good things about WHS, and the person who uses it says it rocks. In addition to doing automatic backups of multiple computers, it acts as a media server. (Sort of like my Maxtor Shared Storage II, but more so; the interface on the MSS-II is designed for simplicity rather than flexibility.) You can install it on a not-too-old computer yourself, if you’re on the geeky side, or you can buy it pre-installed on something like the HP MediaSmart Server. The software costs about $189; the full rig about $600. There’s a good description with screenshots over at Tiger Direct. Best for those with multiple computers and lots of audio and video files.

If you use a backup service or program not listed here, feel free to post it in the comments to the blog or e-mail it to me. I’ll be happy to produce a second list. Indeed, I might try to twist the arms of my Mac-using friends to get a list of different Mac-compatible backup products that people actually use.

Meanwhile, try not to spill champagne on your hard drive when celebrating the New Year, and I’ll see you again in 2008.

FileSlinger Backup Blog at Blogged

 

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