Review: Cloudberry Online Backup 2.2 for Windows Home Server

by Chris Ratner on July 26, 2011 · 4 comments

in Reviews

When I first decided to write about the CloudBerry Online Backup add-in for Windows Home Server v1, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. As I suspect many novice to intermediate readers might think, backing up to the cloud may be outside your general understanding, price point or perceived value for the hassle. Well, I can confidently tell you that CloudBerry Online Backup makes it very easy to do and storing to the cloud can provide you added peace of mind for a relatively small price. Before you get started with setting up your own cloud backup, what follow is a high level synopsis of my experience with the add-in and the Amazon S3 service.

My system:

  • HP MediaSmart Server EX485
  • 1 500GB Western Digital (system & storage pool)
  • 2 2TB Hitachi Hard Drives (storage pool)
  • Intel Celeron 2GHz
  • 2GB Memory
  • Windows Home Server v1 with Power Pack 3
  • CloudBerry Backup 2.2

What is costs:

  • $29.99 USD (as of this review)
  • On-going cloud service costs (see more information below)

What I like:

  • It does exactly what it’s designed to do and does it very well — set it and forget it.
  • Restoring lost files is easy and intuitive with the Restore Wizard; you can even go back in time and download specific versions of files (depending on how you configure your backups).
  • My scheduled backups kick off as expected and a backup plan can can be set to send an email when it completes.
  • An informative Welcome screen tells you about your cloud space, backup status and current settings; also provides a lunch point to the two wizards: Create a Backup Plan and Restore.
  • Forum support is available and quick (I did use it once for setting up and testing Microsoft Azure).
  • Built-in feedback mechanism for recommending features and enhancements is a plus.
  • Logging and diagnostics are built in for troubleshooting, although I didn’t need it.
  • Multiple cloud service connectors are included; I tested Amazon S3 and Microsoft Azure.
  • I don’t have to add an internal or external hard drive for backup purposes — no wasted drive bay and no desktop clutter, a huge plus!

What could use some improvement:

  • 15-day trial is a little short, particularly if you plan to transfer large amounts of data your first go; I recommend testing with a small data set.
  • Interface looks great, but lacks some polish with some annoyances (see below); what I’ve seen of the 2011 version looks to be a port, so don’t expect a substantial change if you move to WHS 2011.
  • Lack of contextual help from the five main screens; the Help button does nothing when in Settings (newbies, you’ll need to go to the forums if you need to asking questions about basic features).
  • Lack of user manual or wiki; my expectation for the price is online help, a small PDF user guide or a wiki with some explanation of features and suggestions on how to use them (best for novice and intermediate users; again access the forums if you need help).
  • There is no way to temporarily suspend a backup plan other than adjusting the schedule to run manually.
  • Interface annoyances (that you can ignore or work around):
    • There is no button in the console interface to return to the Welcome Screen; you must click Backup Wizard or Restore Wizard to refresh the Welcome screen which appears behind the wizard dialogs.
    • Time Left estimates for uploading and downloading were not very helpful; I suspect they are based on the speed of your connection and as your speed may vary depending on your network activity, so will the time estimates.
    • Backup Storage view could use buttons on the main screen for actions that are only accessible via the right-click of your mouse.
    • Upgrading from add-in 2.1 to 2.2 requires you to uninstall the older version before installing the newer version.
    • The “Check for Updates” feature in CloudBerry Settings checked for a new version, but didn’t find it one although 2.2 was available (check the website and download directly when in doubt).
    • There’s a litle promo area in the bottom left corner announcing “What’s New” but doesn’t link you to any additional detail about it or how to use it.
    • The ampersand character ( & ) does not translate correctly in your backup plan titles.
Click to see a larger screen shot.

Welcome view (accessible via either the Backup Wizard and Restore Wizard buttons)

Backup Storage view

Backup Plans view

Overall Impression

With a backup drive attached to my WHS alone, I would only be protected from a catastrophic hardware failure. But my fears of data loss involve a fire gutting my house. If a fire were to occur, I would lose all my family history in pictures and videos. Paying a little a month for cloud storage to secure my photos and videos is worth it and provides me the peace of mind that my loss would only be temporary.

To that end, CloudBerry Back is an indispensable tool that allows you to backup anything stored on your home server to the cloud. Setup is relatively painless, but some of the wizards use jargon that may be a bit overwhelming for novice user (don’t worry, default settings are generally fine for most users). Restoring from the cloud is easy; with just a few clicks through the Restore Wizard, your files are back right where you expect them.

My home server is pretty healthy and I haven’t had a true need to restore my files in any real quantity (yet). I did zip entire directories and perform restores to evaluate the ease and overall speed. It took about 11 minutes to restore about 500MB from the Amazon S3 cloud. It worked as expected, however, your download speed may differ depending on your service.

Overall, I’m impressed with the add-in. It provides excellent value for the price and I’m sure CloudBerry Labs is already working on some of the annoyances that I reported earlier. CloudBerry Backup for WHS is a must have if you’re concerned about losing your precious data and getting off-site for safe keeping.

My experience using the cloud

Using a cloud service means you’ll be paying an on-going fee to use the space (as long as you need it). The cost of the Amazon S3 service if free up to 5GB of data stored and comes with an allocation of PUT and GET transactions. Think of PUTs and GETs in terms of backing up (putting) and restoring (getting). To give you some perspective, I uploaded about 24GB of data my first month and was charged $12.97 for the first month’s service. The breakdown on the cost is as follows:

  • $8.52 for transaction costs to get the files to the cloud beyond the free tier
  • $2.26 for the storage costs beyond the free tier
  • $2.18 for the initial transfer of the data beyond the free tier

You’ll notice I have “beyond the free tier” after each statement. Each activity has a set number of no-cost transactions that are included, once you hit the cap, you’re charged based on the pricing tier. You’ll want to study this information from any cloud service provider carefully.

The following month, I add 9GB more for a total of 33GB and the monthly charge was $5.25:

  • $2.10 for the the transaction costs beyond the free tier
  • $3.15 for the storage costs beyond the free tier (total of 33GB)
  • $0 for the initial transfer of data beyond the free tier (I was clearly under the free tier)

All my Amazon S3 data usage above is without performing a restore. Depending on your usage, there is going to be some variability to your monthly bill. Remember to keep in mind that once you upload a file, you are only charged for the space it occupies in the cloud. If it changes, a PUT from your WHS to the cloud will also incur a charge if beyond the tier. In most cases, once you’ve transferred all your data in, you won’t be performing any massive uploads (PUTs) again unless you’re including something entirely new to backup. From that point forward, any changes (PUTs) or restores (GETs) to those files beyond your monthly tier is where you’re going to incur charges. So if nothing changes beyond the 33GB I uploaded last month, I expect my monthly charge to be around $3-$4 per month for the storage costs alone. Ultimately, I highly recommend you investigate the costs before selecting your cloud service.

Support

To me, one of the most important requirements of any tool I add to my collection is how well it’s supported by it’s author. The good news is that the tool is updated frequently and CloudBerry Labs provides an in-application method of providing feedback which I think shows their commitment to listening to their customers. To that point, they just recently added two new features as I was investigating the add-in: mapping a virtual disk to your cloud storage and using Google Storage as a cloud service provider. I haven’t had a chance to play with these new features yet, but I can see where the virtual drive can come in handy.

Beware your Internet provider and data caps

Finally, a brief word about the overall speed and performance. Some DSL plans are now being capped. Check with your service provider and determine if you’re affected. If you are, you may want to consider sending a physical drive with the data you want to import. Amazon S3 provides this service for $80 (not cheap). Or you can do your upload in increments over a longer period of time to avoid your cap. I didn’t have caps at the time of my testing and I uploaded 24GB. It took about a week (on and off) to complete the upload. I also use VoIP for phone service and the upload caused havoc with the quality of my phone calls. While you can tinker with the some of the CloudBerry Backup settings to reduce the bandwidth requirements, the best advice I can give you is this:

  1. Run & stop your backup during off hours: Determine the time your network is used the least and set your backup plan to start and end within that period of time. You can easily set the backup plan to STOP after it exceeds a certain duration. If you don’t, the backup plan will continue indefinitely until it has uploaded all the files to the cloud. I set my backups to stop after 4 hours, all of which started at 1AM and ended by 5AM.
  2. System files can be restored in other ways: Save precious storage space, upload time and money by NOT sending your system files to the cloud. I recommend using it for your critical data only — pictures, videos, tax files, etc. You can always reinstall your system from your original discs.

Getting started with CloudBerry Backup

Now that you know more about CloudBerry Backup for WHS v1, give it a try and let us and the rest of the community know what you think of it. There are plenty of features to maximize your backup, perhaps your experience is different than mine.

If you’d like to get started using CouldBerry Backup for WHS v1 today, I’ve written a Quick Start Guide for CloudBerry Backup. It contains some of the finer points of what you need to do to get your Amazon S3 ready and installing and configuring your first backup plan.





Article by

I'm a technology enthusiast who loves to tinker on the weekends. My house is filled with tech, including a WHS v1 used for general file storage and DVD/BD streaming to the various XBOX and Windows 7 receivers around my home. I also play around with home automation using an ISY 99i and various Smarthome Insteon plugs and switches. There never seems to be enough time on the weekends to get to everything on my list. :-)


{ 4 comments }

Damian July 26, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Thanks for the great writeup Chris. I have been thinking about a cloud solution for the important stuff (especially since my WHS has been out of commission for the last two days). Probably just personal docs and photos would be my “critical” files. Once I get my WHS back up and running I may have to give this a try!

Dave A. August 3, 2011 at 8:11 am

I have been avoiding ‘the cloud’ because I thought it was A. Expensive and B. a lot of hype.

To me the set up with Cloudberry is better than Carbonite or Mozy, especially since it works specifically with WHS. The problem now is keeping the storage small. I’d rather have a set price, but you can’t have everything.

This is something I can recommend to my clients as well.

Thanks for the in depth article.

Eric Jilot December 27, 2011 at 10:48 am

When I first started to use the Cloudberry addin for WHS 2011, I hought it was great. But after the first update it flooded my network, to the point that My 50meg connection was reduced to 1meg. After changing the connection from the from the unlimited (which worked perfectly in my initial install) to 200k, I mangaed to get it to work again. Anything above 200Kbytes/s still kills the net work. Now the last three updateds have yet to complete a backup, at this point I am looking for a new solution. I will no long recomment Cloudberry as a viable backup solution.

Chris Ratner December 29, 2011 at 9:07 pm

Eric, thanks for the response. I’m sorry you’re having trouble and I think I understand the problem. My experience was similar at first, this is why it is important to set your backup to run during a time when your network is used the least — generally overnight. The initial upload, depending on how many GBs you’re moving will take some time to transfer. Once all the data is there, your bandwidth should not be hit like it is with the initial upload. I moved over 40GB to date and I can tell you that it gets better. It’s even more so with the block backup introduced in Nov. Good luck.

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