CloudBerry S3 Explorer is an application that makes managing your Amazon S3 files quick and simple. There are a handful of applications available to manage the Amazon S3 environment, but CloudBerry S3 Explorer is the best product on the market. The freeware version provides lots of functionality but the pro version includes extras, including full access to Amazon's Identity and Access Management (IAM).
CloudBerry S3 Explorer is easily the most advanced tool for managing Amazon's S3 environment. If you are considering implementing a third party tool for your enterprise, you can't go wrong with this product.
As Amazon expands its web services and integrates more of their products, a company like CloudBerry Labs can keep up with the innovation. I found that many of the free products simply fell behind. Immediately after IAM was released, CloudBerry had incorporated it into their S3 Explorer product.
Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3)
Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) is internet based file storage. Out of the box, Amazon S3 provides a web services interface that allows users to read, write and delete data stored in the cloud. The web services interface is really designed for developers to incorporate this storage into their own environment. Third party tools, such as CloudBerry S3 Explorer from CloudBerry Lab, provide an alternative to the web services interface making the service much easier for non-developers to manage files stored in this environment.
The primary benefit of using Amazon S3 is that it is highly scalable. In addition, you only pay for what you use making it very cost effective.
For more on Amazon S3, read the article Using the Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3).
Third Party Amazon S3 Tools
Amazon's S3 console provides basic functionality to manage files stored in the service. While this works for many applications, some of the third party tools do a much better job providing an easy to use drag and drop interface to manage S3 files in the cloud.
There are a number of developer tools listed on Amazon's AWS website that include everything from programming plug-ins to full blown applications like CloudBerry S3 Explorer. The list on Amazon is relatively short for full blown applications like the one being reviewed in this article.I have been using Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) for the past couple of years. We have managed files in S3 using the Amazon Console, S3 Fox Organizer and most recently CloudBerry S3 Explorer. Early in our usage of Amazon S3, most of the file management fell on IT. Like most new users, we started with using the service for large multimedia files, which required access outside of our internal network. This worked okay for the first year. As adoption increased, however, using IT to manage files became a roadblock.
Free Version vs. Pro Version
CloudBerry S3 Explorer comes in two flavors, a free version and a pro version. The free version offers a lot of functionality, but lacking a few critical functions. Check the version comparison page on their website, which compares the versions.
There are a number of features that make the pro version worth the $40, which is really inexpensive. The first is integration with Amazon Identity Access Manager (IAM). When I originally set up our initial users within IAM, I used a command line interface application that I downloaded from Amazon. Believe me, the PRO version of CloudBerry S3 Explorer would have paid for itself setting up our first 10 users!
The pro version also includes support for uploading larger files, encryption, and most importantly, tech support. These are really critical features for an enterprise implementation.
CloudBerry Labs provides free Pro licenses to non-profits and education institutions. If you fall into this category, contact CloudBerry Labs for more information. They also offer volume discounts of 5% for 5 to 9 licenses, 10% for 10 to 19 licenses and 15% for 20 plus licenses.
With so much software being delivered via a web browser these days, using a full Windows application is a nice break. I found the software to be really easy to use and I was able to immediately take advantage of the features without looking at any documentation. Full local documentation is available in the application. CloudBerry S3 Explorer is intuitive to configure, manage files, create a CloudFront distribution, and manage IAM users. You might have to read a little about managing policies. Amazon AWS has adequate documentation available for this.
For those who love Microsoft Windows Explorer, you can drag files directly from Windows Explorer to CloudBerry S3 Explorer, which can be useful. Configuring security is a snap using ACL Settings from a folder or a file. All in all, the software is really easy to use.
CloudBerry S3 Explorer has everything you need to manage your Amazon S3 environment, more than the other tools available including the Amazon Console. I found a number of features to be really useful and worth mentioning.
- Compare and Sync Folders: You can register and name local and Amazon S3 folders with CloudBerry S3 Explorer that you wish to keep in sync. You can then compare and sync the folders at any time. This is useful if you maintain a copy of the original files that you are pushing up to Amazon S3. Instead of keeping track of each file, you can synchronize an entire directory.
- Tabbed Interface: In the Amazon S3 console and S3Fox Explorer, you can only work with a single view of your local and Amazon S3 files. CloudBerry S3 Explorer allows you to create multiple tabs, each with left and right panes showing files. This makes it easy to look around and do maintenance across your entire S3 environment.
- URL Creator: The "Generate Web URL" functionality allows you to easily create web URLs as well as time limited URLs. You can also generate URLs using CNAMEs to make them appear better. It's nice having all of the URL options in a single dialog box.
- Identity and Access Management (IAM): IAM is available in the Pro version only. Fortunately for my company, Amazon released IAM during the time we were trying to move the responsibility for S3 file management to the end users. IAM allowed us to create multiple users under our main Amazon S3 account and provide rights in terms of security and bucket access. This seemed like the perfect solution except for one thing. The 3rd party tool for IAM that was listed on Amazon's AWS site was a Command Line Interface tool that worked, but was very difficult to use.
On the other hand, CloudBerry S3 Explorer Pro offers a much easier to use IAM utility. Configuring groups and users in IAM is based on policies. The policies have to be created exactly right for everything to work. Amazon eventually added IAM to the AWS Console. However, you still need to hand code the policies that deal with security and bucket/folder access.
CloudBerry S3 Explorer has a New Policy Wizard that is really nice. For example, instead of manually creating a policy to lock down a group to access a single folder, I used the wizard and chose "Grant read and write access to selected buckets only". CloudBerry created the basic policy for me.
Without a doubt, CloudBerry S3 Explorer is the best Amazon S3 management application on the market. The Pro version is absolutely worth the $40 which is why I am giving the software a rating of 5 out of 5 stars. Download the trial first and you can easily unlock the pro version later. In my opinion, the IAM functionality alone is worth the cost of the pro version. If you are implementing in a multi-user environment, CloudBerry S3 Explorer serves as a management tool to keep track of everything going on with your Amazon S3 environment.
I recently received a new laptop and had to reinstall the S3Fox Organizer, a Firefox Add-on, in order to compare to CloudBerry S3 Explorer for this product review. The warning in the S3Fox End-User License Agreement, a competitor of CloudBerry S3 Explorer, says it all for this popular Amazon S3 tool:
* I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY FILE LOSS OR ANY DAMAGE DUE TO THIS EXTENSION. INSTALL IT AT YOUR OWN RISK.
* IT MAY SO HAPPEN THAT THIS EXTENSION MAY BE DISCONTINUED AT ANY POINT. I WON'T BE HELP RESPOBSIBLE FOR THAT.
You might want to consider this agreement when choosing a third party tool to manage your Amazon S3 environment. Save yourself the risk, go with CloudBerry S3 Explorer. That's what I did.