25 Sep 2012 @ 2:36 PM 

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. Amongst others 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 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 for explorer tools and online backup for various cloud providers such asAmazon AWS, Windows Azure, and RackSpace.

Furthermore, CloudBerry Explorer supports multi-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.

Posted By: admin
Last Edit: 25 Sep 2012 @ 02:36 PM

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Responses to this post » (7 Total)

 
  1. Bernie Cook says:

    Nice post Wely. I’ve been using CSS since it’s initial release and, like you, I feel that although it’s a decent product it’s UI still needs to mature a bit more – especially for that kind of price tag. Nice visuals during deployment though and it helps to have just about every option you could imagine at your fingertips.

    It’s good to get some coverage of CloudBerry. I hadn’t come across that until your post.

    Bernie

  2. admin says:

    Hi Bernie,

    I’m glad that it’s useful to you. Thanks for dropping by :)

    Wely

  3. Luke Jefferson says:

    Great review, Wely. Based on your feedback, and that of our users, we’ve overhauled significant portions of the UI and built a new free storage tool, Azure Explorer, which sets our standard going forward.

    You can read about the process on our blog…

    http://blog.cerebrata.com/articles/2013/04/10/introducing-azure-management-studio-and-azure-explorer/

    or just get the free tool here…

    http://www.cerebrata.com/labs/azure-explorer

    Love to get your feedback on Azure Explorer.

    Luke (from the Cerebrata team)

  4. Bill Medland says:

    Thanks for the review; it saved me a lot of searching. And thank you to Cerebrata for responding to the hole in their product line.

  5. Oleksiy Gapotchenko says:

    Nice review Wely, the most notably because it is honest and insightful.

    As always, I never satisfied with existing solutions. They look like over-design, they are not tactile, their quality is … you know.

    That’s why my team and I are deeply involved in Cloud Combine:
    http://www.gapotchenko.com/cloudcombine

    Not so many features (yet) but it is HQ, and generally just instantly works for a customer.

    • admin says:

      Hi Oleksiy,
      Thanks for the compliment. There’re + and – of each of them. I would say CloudXplore is very successful despite of tiny and simple.
      Glad to know that you and your team are rolling out the CloudCombine. All the best.

      Wely

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