There are all kinds of ways to store your information these days but flash devices or portable media just don’t pack the same cool factor as “the cloud”. Storing your stuff in the cloud can provide access from anywhere and for a myriad of uses. Many cloud providers have plug-ins or browser upload systems to help get your files into your account and these are usually pretty good, depending on your needs.

CloudBerry Labs has released a client for Amazon S3 called CloudBerry S3 Explorer Pro, which provides a client interface to your Amazon S3 account with quite a few features.

What is CloudBerry S3 Explorer Pro?

Explorer Pro is a client application for Amazon S3. It provides file and folder transfer between the computer where it is installed and an Amazon S3 account. An S3 account (or other cloud storage account) is required to use this application, but many of the features of S3 can be managed right from Explorer Pro.

How does an S3 client help?

Using the S3 browser experience is fairly cumbersome. Working with a dedicated client just makes the ease of use for things like file transfer and security much better. Explorer Pro also provides information about queued files and files in transit. For large files, the bit of additional detail is great.

What are the features available?

Some of the S3 Explorer Pro features include:

  • Additional cloud provider connections
  • Folder comparison
  • Address Book
  • Access Manager and Policy Management
  • CloudFront Manager and Policy Management
  • Capacity Reporting
  • Security Assessment tools
  • Scheduled Backup jobs
  • FTP Client

Getting started

Using Explorer Pro is very straightforward. You will need a cloud storage account to take advantage of many of the features. The cloud account does not need to be an S3 account as other providers will work as well. These providers include:

  • Amazon S3
  • Amazon Glacier
  • FTP
  • Walrus Accounts
  • Scality Storage
  • Dunkel Storage
  • Tiscali Storage
  • HostEurope
  • And others

Once you have connected to your chosen provider, the application displays two panes, one for local files and one for remote files. Figure A shows the main window of the application when connected to S3.

Figure A

S3 Cloud Explorer Pro (click to enlarge)

In the source drop-down list on the left side of the application, select a location on your computer. In the source selection list on the right side, select a remote location. The folders and files in both locations will be listed. In this regard, the CloudBerry application behaves like a dedicated FTP client.

File transfers can be done using toolbar buttons or drag and drop between the panels of the application.

What is the price of admission?

CloudBerry Labs offers a free edition of Explorer as well as a paid Professional edition. The Pro edition costs $39.99 and offers the following features in addition to those in the free application:

  • Compression/Encryption – all of the files transferred to S3 using S3 Explorer Pro can be encrypted and compressed
  • IAM Manager – allows security rules for information stored to be configured
  • Upload Rules – allows uploads meeting criteria to be compressed, encrypted, or have headers assigned automatically. Upload rules are shown in Figure B.
  • Comparison – compares the selected folder in each location indicating differences, shown in Figure C.
  • Search – allows buckets at S3 to be searched for content
  • Multiple part upload – allows a chunk size to be specified and will split files into chunks before uploading them which can improve upload speed.
  • Multithreading – allows multiple files to be uploaded at the same time without waiting for the current operation to finish.
  • FTP – S3 Explorer Pro contains an FTP client allowing connection to standard and SSL encrypted FTP servers

Figure B

Creating Upload Rules for Compression and Encryption

Figure C

Compare notes to see which files are missing from either side (click to enlarge)

Use cases

Amazon S3 provides affordable storage and, most of all, bandwidth. When I use my S3 account it is typically for large file transfers or sharing files with vendors; however, having seen others use it as a means to store user guides and documentation for download, I am considering this myself as well.

The backup capabilities within S3 Explorer are also compelling; however, the cost of using S3 might get expensive depending on how much data is being backed up and how long it is kept there. This is not a limitation of the application by any means, but a question of cost at Amazon S3.

General thoughts

Using S3 Explorer Pro has made working with Amazon S3 much easier than the web interface. Managing security and sharing is a breeze within the dedicated client. The cost of licensing is reasonable even for the moderate S3 user. If you are an occasional user of S3 or know that you do not need features like encryption or upload rules, the free version might be a better choice.