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.
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.
This review will examine these products using the following four dimensions:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Figure 2 – Cloud Storage Studio Copying Blobs
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.
CSS2 provides powerful settings that enable users to easily define the configuration settings.
Figure 3 – Cloud Storage Studio Configuration Settings
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 – View Storage Analytics Data
CloudXplorer is entirely free-of-charge, downloadable from here.
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
I would say it satisfies most of the basic needs.
I don’t find any options for user to define advanced configuration and settings.
Unfortunately, I also didn’t find any fancy features in CloudXplorer.
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:
Check out the following for the comparison between the two.
Figure 6 – CloudBerry Explorer User Interface
Like the other two tools, I would say it satisfies most needs.
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
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
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.