Setting Up - more
As you saw in Figure 5, connecting to a CTERA portal account is optional. But without it, you'll be unable to take advantage of one of the main features of the CloudPlug: "cloud" storage. The deal is that you get 10 GB of storage on CTERA's servers for a year bundled with the device. But once your first year is up, you pay the following rates:
- 10 GB for $9.95/month
- 25 GB for $19.95/month
- 50 GB for $29.95/month
- 100 GB for $49.95/month
- 200 GB for $99.95/month
A quick survey of cloud storage providers shows that online storage prices are all over the map, and several companies have different rates for commercial vs. personal usage. But CTERA's rates generally seem in-line with other full-featured, encrypted storage companies. But when you're thinking about cloud storage, you can't help but think of the black eye that Microsoft give the concept recently and this is a real concern.
Regardless of the competency of your storage vendor, who's to say which storage company will even be around when you go to retrieve your data? That's why for me, this type of storage would only be a secondary backup. I'd like the NAS device to back data up locally, and then automatically encrypt and back it up to the cloud. Fortunately, the CloudPlug supports this model of backup and that's how I set it up.
Figure 6 shows the entry for a passphrase to go along with the 256-bit AES encryption key that's used to encrypt the data before it is copied to CTERA's servers. Note the warning regarding the passphrase. If you lose this key, your data cannot be retrieved.
Figure 6: Setting up a passphrase
Once you have the device connected to your online account, you'll configure the local directories that will get backed up. Figure 7 shows the setup screen where I've selected a couple of directories on my USB key for backup to CTERA's servers.
Figure 7: Selecting folders for backup
Initially, you have no options regarding what kind of files to back up and what to skip. But you can modify this later in the detailed configuration menus. The same is true for the backup schedule, which by default occurs on a daily basis. Directory selection is the last stop in the wizard so once it's done you can either start using the CloudPlug or jump into more configuration via the administration menus. Note that administration can be done using either an HTTP or a secure HTTPS connection.
Figure 8 shows the home screen of the administration menus.
Figure 8: Home screen
In general, I found the administration screens very well done, attractive and complete as modern web-apps continue to blur the line between the desktop and the browser. Some of the administrative screens did seem to use a bit of CPU and would cause my laptop fan to kick on when I lingered on them. Figure 9 shows one such intensive display where the process of my backup to the CTERA servers is shown.
Figure 9: Backup Status
I'll also note at this point, that the backup to the CTERA servers seemed to be slower than I would have expected. My Internet upload speed is around 768 Kbps or 96 KB/s and I tried backing up 1.8 GB to CTERA's servers. At a full speed of 96 KB/s, this should take around 5.2 hours. But after 8 or so hours overnight, my first backup was only 73% done.
Fortunately, CTERA uses an incremental backup scheme, so your first backup will be the most painful. If you do find that the backup is saturating your network, there's a setting that allows you to throttle the transfer either during certain hours or all of the time (Figure 10).
Figure 10: Throttling transfer speed
Even though the backup seemed to be slow, the CloudPlug device itself hardly seemed strained as the backup was underway. Figure 11 shows a nice overview screen where you can see stats regarding disks, CPU, backups, etc.
Figure 11: CloudPlug Dashboard
In this display, you can see that while the backup is in progress, the CPU is almost idle and there's plenty of available RAM. There are a lot of nice features available through the administrative menus such as user and group creation, detailed logging, etc, but I don't have room to detail them all so I'll touch on some of the more interesting ones.