You've probably been told—ad nauseam—how important it is to back up your small business data. But if you backup data only to storage devices located on your company's premises—you're not fully protected. Think about it. Fires, floods, or myriad other calamities have the potential to take out your building—and your essential business data backups.
Backing up to the cloud—in addition to your on-premises backup—provides truly comprehensive business data protection, and there's no shortage of companies that offer cloud-based backup storage and software tools. CloudBerry Lab's cross-platform cloud backup takes a different approach; it's software that lets you backup anything from a solitary laptop, an enterprise application, or an entire server, while also giving you the freedom to back it up to—more or less—the cloud storage service of your choice.
Separating your data backup software from your cloud storage provider offers advantages, not the least of which is it leaves you free to choose a cloud storage provider that best meets cost or other business requirements. It also lets you switch cloud providers as your needs (or provider offerings) change. It also lets you back up data to multiple providers at the same time if you need that level of redundancy. After all, one of the major sources of anxiety regarding cloud storage tends to be the longevity of the provider.
As of this writing, CloudBerry Lab's software works with several dozen cloud storage services, including familiar and major players such as Amazon S3/Glacier, Google Cloud/Drive, HP Cloud, Microsoft Azure/OneDrive, Openstack, Rackspace and many others.
Figure 1: CloudBerry Backup software works with numerous cloud storage services.
Data Backup Software Variations and Pricing
CloudBerry Lab offers a dozen different stand-alone versions of its backup software ranging in price from $30 to $300. They cover Mac and Linux, and of them ten are designed for Windows machines, including versions for desktops, servers (including some SBS servers), Oracle and Microsoft SQL databases, and Exchange email. All versions include a 15-day (full-function) trial period.
We tested the Cloudberry Backup Enterprise Edition ($300), which provides file/folder and image-based backups of a Windows server with SQL, Exchange, and bare-metal backup capabilities as well.
CloudBerry Lab's pricing provides a perpetual license to the software, as well as one year of product updates and technical support. For subsequent updates and support you need to buy an annual maintenance subscription at 20 percent of the product cost—between $6 and $60. Be advised that CloudBerry Labs doesn't offer phone support; it uses a Web-based ticketing system. CloudBerry makes opening a support ticket very easy—you can do so directly from within the software; the ticket's prefilled with technical details about your CloudBerry software and the system it runs on.
Testing Cloudberry's Small Business Data Back Up
Given the extensive capabilities of CloudBerry Backup Enterprise Edition, getting it up and running is a relatively straightforward—though certainly not trivial—task. After installing the software on our Windows 2012 Essentials test server, we configured a cloud storage account for storing the backups.
If you lack a preexisting cloud account, you'll appreciate that, for some supported services, CloudBerry provides an account signup link directly from the software. In addition, the company's support website offers step-by-step instructions on how to sign up with various providers. (We backed up our test data to an Amazon S3 account.)
Figure 2: Launch data backups, restore data, and track your monthly cloud storage cost from CloudBerry's Welcome screen.
When defining a cloud storage account within CloudBerry you can schedule periodic consistency checks to make sure your backups are intact in the cloud—a helpful feature. You can also configure CloudBerry to automatically calculate your account's storage costs based on price per GB and, if desired, set a threshold (in either GB or dollars) after which backups will no longer take place. You can also view what your monthly cloud storage cost is at any time from CloudBerry's Welcome screen.
Backing up data with CloudBerry involves creating a Backup Plan—the company provides a wizard to walk you through it—and specifying your configuration options, which may vary depending on what type of cloud storage account you choose.
In the case of Amazon S3, for example, you can back up via Simple mode, which lets you access your data via Amazon's own AWS Console. But it doesn't support file versioning, and it only encrypts data once it reaches Amazon's servers (i.e. server-side encryption).
Alternately, you can back up via S3's Advanced Mode, which does file versioning and encrypts data before its uploaded (i.e. client-side encryption); but this requires the CloudBerry software to access the stored backups.
Speaking of encryption, CloudBerry supports numerous standards including the same AES-256 cypher that Amazon uses. Importantly, however, Cloudberry won't generate or remember an encryption key for you; you need to manage that to avoid being locked out of your data.
Managing Cloud Storage Consumption
CloudBerry includes several ways to manage your cloud storage consumption, including built-in data compression, though its effectiveness largely depends on the kind of data you're backing up. Files that consume the most space—pictures and video—are already compressed and rarely compress any further during backup.
We also noticed a feature that let us customize the lifecycle policy of our Amazon S3 account in order to define when to transition older backed up data to tiers with lower storage costs. It's also worth noting that as an adjunct to backing up to cloud storage, CloudBerry can also backup via SFTP or any device accessible via the Windows File System (e.g. NAS); this lets you perform local and remote backups using the same software.
Figure 3: CloudBerry Lab provides loads of configuration options for your data backups.
Upon completing your backup plan, you can specify that CloudBerry send an email when the backup finishes (or fails to). Conveniently, you don't need to use your own mail server to do so. We did several test backups and had no problems accessing our backups or restoring them, and we appreciate that you can restore individual files or folders from system image backups. CloudBerry Backup also boasts the capability to restore an image as a Hyper-V or VMWare virtual machine or as an Amazon EC2 instance, though we didn't have the opportunity to test that.
Data Backup: Nothing's Perfect
While there's a lot to like about CloudBerry, we do have a few complaints. For starters, a backup plan can only contain a one type of backup; if you want a soup-to-nuts backup of, say, a Windows Server running SQL and Exchange, you need three backup plans—bare-metal image, SQL, and Exchange backups—which you must create, manage, and schedule separately.
In addition, CloudBerry's Exchange backups don't allow for a granular restore, which means you can't recover an individual mailbox, folder, or message—only the entire mail server. (CloudBerry says this feature is currently under development.)
These weaknesses aside, CloudBerry Backup for Windows 4.5 is a good choice for one looking for power and flexibility regarding how and where to back up small business data in the cloud.
Joseph Moran is a technology writer and IT consultant who specializes in services for consumers and small businesses. He's written extensively for numerous print and online publications, and is the author of File Management Made Simple, Windows Edition from Apress.
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