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Wely is developer, architect, trainer, consultant, technical writer, and technology lover. With the grant of ASEAN Graduate Scholarship, Wely obtained his Master of Science (Information Systems) from Nanyang Technological University. He’s currently working as “Cloud” Solutions Architect in the largest System Integrator in Singapore. Architecting cloud solution, designing and developing cloud project, and delivering cloud training are his daily activities as part of driving the adoption of Cloud Computing, specifically on Windows Azure platform. In spare time, he writes blog, delivers presentation, and participates in online community. His passion in driving Microsoft technologies especially Windows Azure made him to be awarded the first Windows Azure MVP in Southeast Asia. Wely is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 19 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

An Independent Review of Explorer Tools for Windows Azure Blob Storage

09.24.2012
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Windows Azure Blob Storage

Windows Azure Storage is one of the core components in Windows Azure that offers a scalable, highly available, and competitively priced storage option. Among other abstractions in Azure Storage (Table Storage and Queue Storage), Blob Storage is perhaps the most widely-used service. Blob Storage allows us to store any unstructured text and binary data such as video, audio, images, and so many more.

Blob Storage can either be accessed through the API programmatically or through explorer tools. This article discusses and reviews several popular explorer tools for Blob Storage.

Reviews and Ratings

Disclaimer

The reviews and ratings are entirely my individual opinion and preference. The reviews and ratings are based on my personal experience when using each product, and what I consider important.

Measurement Criteria

This review will examine these products using the following four dimensions:

  • User interface and experience
    I’ll look at how usable the product is. Have the user interface and experience been designed to be comfortable and user friendly?
  • Basic features
    This category covers the standard and basic functionality when dealing with Blob Storage. This includes operations such copying / moving files, managing security, and access.
  • Advanced settings
    This dimension measures how flexible and configurable the product is. This includes the ability to adjust settings or preferences such as defining block size, retry policy, bandwidth settings, and so on.
  • Others notable features
    This metric is about supplementary features that enrich the product, making the product more powerful and beneficial for users. This might include innovative features such as multi-language support, directory comparison, graphical user interface for logging, etc.

For each measurement, I’ll provide a brief description and rating ranging from 1 to 5. 1 means the product provides a poor experience or lacks capability, 5 means the product provides awesome proficiency. Additionally, I would be also giving a N/A (not applicable) for the product that doesn’t have any applicable features.

1. Cloud Storage Studio 2 by Cerebrata

We start the review with Cloud Storage Studio 2 (CSS2) from Cerebrata, a company acquired by Red Gate last Oct 2011. CSS 2 is an exploration tool not only for Blob Storage, but also for Tables and Queue Storage.

The product costs $195 for a Professional License (volume discounts apply). Customers are encouraged to try it out with a 30-day free trial.

a) User interface and experience

CSS2 provides a powerful UI grouping concept and navigation, enabling users to group related storage accounts and subscriptions together – as can be seen in the Figure 1.

Cloud Storage Studio UI from Cerebrata

Figure 1 – Cloud Storage Studio UI

The Navigation (in red) and Tabs (in yellow) area look good to me. However, I find the Explorer Area (in blue) is tedious. Copying files and directories will prompt a dialog box that only allows us to copy the blobs within the container only as can be seen in Figure 2. I believe there should be more intuitive way to implement this.

 Cloud Storage Studio Copying Blobs

Figure 2 – Cloud Storage Studio Copying Blobs

Rating: 3.5

b) Basic features

I would say it satisfies most of the basic needs when dealing with Blob Storage. Starting from managing containers, displaying directories, all the way down to individual blob level are all properly supported.

Rating: 5.0

c) Advanced settings

CSS2 provides powerful settings that enable users to easily define the configuration settings.

Cloud Storage Studio Configuration Settings

Figure 3 – Cloud Storage Studio Configuration Settings

Rating: 4.5

d) Other notable features

One of the features that I like most in CSS2 is the graphical UI for Storage Analytic Logging and Metric. It provides a really expressive experience and has a good look and feel.

Figure 4 - Cloud Storage Studio Data Views

Figure 4 – View Storage Analytics Data

Rating: 4.0

2. CloudXplorer by ClumsyLeaf

CloudXplorer is a lightweight yet handy explorer tool from ClumsyLeaf Software. It has been very popular and has been used by many people including Microsoft folks in various events.

CloudXplorer is entirely free-of-charge, downloadable from here.

a) User interface and experience

CloudXplorer comes with Windows Explorer-like user interface, providing a friendly experience, especially for Windows users. Uploading and downloading Blobs are implemented with “Copy / Cut and Paste” experience, and the same when dealing with our local files.

Figure 5 – CloudXplorer User Interface

Figure 5 – CloudXplorer User Interface

Rating: 5.0

b) Basic features

I would say it satisfies most of the basic needs.

Rating: 5.0

c) Advanced settings

I don’t find any options for user to define advanced configuration and settings.

Rating: N/A

d) Other notable features

Unfortunately, I also didn’t find any fancy features in CloudXplorer.

Rating: N/A

3. CloudBerry Explorer for Azure Blob Storage by CloudBerry Lab

The last product I’m reviewing is the CloudBerry Explorer. CloudBerry Labs offers many great products focusing on explorer tools and online backup for various cloud providers such asAmazon AWS, Windows Azure, and RackSpace.

Furthermore, CloudBerry Explorer supports multiple languages: English, Chinese, and Japanese. The product comes in two versions:

  • Free version
  • And PRO version, purchasable at $ 39.99

Check out the following for the comparison between the two.

Figure 6 – CloudBerry Explorer User Interface

Figure 6 – CloudBerry Explorer User Interface

Rating: 4.5

b) Basic features

Like the other two tools, I would say it satisfies most needs.

Rating: 5.0

c) Advanced settings

CloudBerry Explorer also provides a powerful and flexible option for user to configure settings such as setting bandwidth, chunk size, encryption, etc. However, I notice that a few of the features such as encryption and compression are only available in PRO version.

Figure 7 – CloudBerry Explorer Options

Figure 7 – CloudBerry Explorer Options

Rating: 5.0

d) Other notable features

My favorite feature of CloudBerry Explorer is Compare and Sync Folders. This is an extremely useful feature enabling us to compare and sync either cloud or local folders. As seen in the screenshot below, the tool shows the comparison result between the two displays. Then we can finally define to either sync left to right, right to left, or in both directions.

Figure 5 – CloudBerry Explorer User Interface

Figure 5 – CloudBerry Explorer User Interface

Rating: 4.5

Conclusion

We have gone through three explorer tools for Windows Azure Blob Storage. I would say all three products are pretty awesome. There are always advantages from one to another. The following table summarizes reviews and ratings that we’ve come across.

In conclusion, if you need a simple and lightweight explorer, CloudXplorer is probably the way to go. However, if you need more flexible settings and innovative features, you should consider Cloud Storage Studio or CloudBerry Explorer.

 

 

Published at DZone with permission of Wely Lau, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)