S3 backup Firefox plugin a diamond in the rough

A plugin that turns a web browser into a rough and ready archiving tool has potential, but is probably too unstable for anything other than personal use.

A Firefox plug-in that offers access to Amazon Web Services' (AWS') S3 storage-as-a-service tool offers a glimpse of a tantalising backup tool but lets itself down with poor reliability.

"Amazon S3 Firefox Organiser," a free tool available here has obvious appeal as a backup tool thanks to its ability to upload the contents of a folder stored on a local or network drive to the S3 cloud and then synchronise the content on an ongoing basis.

That automation makes the plug-in of possible use for archiving unstructured data at a reasonable price, thanks to AWS charge of only $US0.15 per gigabyte per month. AWS' other selling point is reliability: the service is co-located with the infrastructure Amazon uses to operate its online retailing operations. S3 is also managed using the same processes that have delivered exceptional reliability for the retail business

The plug-in offers an interface that will not be unfamiliar to users of FTP software. Local storage resources appear in the left hand pane and the Amazon service appears on the right. Selecting a local folder and clicking the upload button automatically transfers the data into the S3 cloud.

Those operations performed flawlessly in our tests.

Synchronisation, however, was problematic. A dialog that arranges synchronisation was hard to interpret and did not always initiate a data transfer. Other mechanisms to establish a synchronised folder led Firefox to stop responding. On some occasions this proved temporary as the plugin and browser digested the instructions they had been asked to process.

On others, the application crashed irretrievably, leaving us frustrated that a tool with considerable potential to assist in the cost-effective archiving of unstructured data without user intervention cannot yet be considered ready for serious use.

As a manual archival tool, however, the tool is hard to ignore, although the heavy disclaimers in its license regarding total exemption from liability for the tool's creator will give many pause to wait for more mature, commercially backed S3 tools like that from Moonwalk.

Are you experimenting with one of the many other S3 backup tools? Let us know about your experiences by mailing [email protected]

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