Getting Started with Rackspace Cloud Files
Rackspace ranks as one of the best cloud infrastructure services today. It can also be pretty confusing if you don’t know your way around. Always looking to make life in the cloud more comfortable, we decided to put together a brief guide to getting started with Rackspace Cloud Files.
In this guide, Cloudwards.net will cover the signup process and what you can expect to pay per gigabyte with Cloud Files. Then, we’ll talk about how you can most efficiently upload files to Rackspace according to your need, whether that be bulk manual transfer of content, continuous data protection for your hard drive or file synchronization between devices.
After you’re finished reading, you’ll be able to use Rackspace Cloud Files to build cloud solutions to rival the best online backup services and the best cloud file storage services without having to keep your files in more than one place.
Since it’s easier to show than tell, we’ll demonstrate the process with three services in particular: Cyberduck for bulk file transfer, for online backup and Storage Made Easy for cloud storage. However, the basic steps involved will be similar for other products, too.
Before we get to building cloud solutions, let’s talk a bit more about the basics of Cloud Files to make sure you’re in the right place. If you’ve decided you’re definitely not and would like a simpler route to backup or storage, our cloud comparison tool is a good launchpad for finding the best and cheapest online storage.
What is Rackspace Cloud Files?
The cloud, simply put, refers to storing data in server facilities, and accessing and working with those files over the internet rather than keeping them on your computer hard drive. The cloud can be used for backing up hard drives, freeing up hard-drive space, syncing files between devices, hosting websites and many other things.
While most cloud services focus on one or two of these tasks, Rackspace Cloud Files takes a different approach. It provides cloud infrastructure-as-a-service, or cloud IaaS for short, and can be used to store unlimited files for whatever your need. Other cloud IaaS examples include Amazon S3, Azure, Google Cloud and Backblaze B2.
The downside is that, unlike specialized cloud services, most cloud IaaS providers, including Cloud Files, don’t provide a convenient means of getting files into the cloud. For example, cloud storage service Sync.com gives you 2TB of cloud storage and a sync folder to transfer files there. There’s very little work involved, as our Sync.com review can better attest to.
While not as simple as Sync.com or a set-and-forget backup service like Backblaze (read our Backblaze review), CloudFiles does integrate with software designed to handle the same sorts of tasks for you, and rather easily by creating a file “container” and using an API key to permit the integration. We’ll demonstrate container creation and finding your API key in a moment.
Rackspace Cloud Files charges per gigabyte for file storage, which is how most cloud IaaS providers work. This gives you the advantage of scalable storage, meaning you don’t have to pay for 1TB of storage when you only need 200GB, while also allowing you to store as much data as you want without running into a cap.
The price per gigabyte is based on how much you actually store in Rackspace Cloud Files. The more you store, the less you have to pay per gigabyte.
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For those that use Cloud Files content delivery network (CDN) containers, there are also bandwidth charges. If you’re using private containers, which you will for personal file uploads, that won’t impact you.
Signing Up for Rackspace Cloud Files
Once you’ve decided Rackspace is the cloud infrastructure service for you, to sign up for service, you’ll need to head to the Rackspace website. Click the small green “signup” button.
You’ll need to enter some personal information and set up a billing method. Your credit card won’t be charged for service for 30 days, but Rackspace may place a $1 charge on it to make sure everything’s copacetic.
Once done, you’ll have access to the Rackspace Cloud Control Panel.
Rackspace Cloud Control Panel
The Cloud Control Panel is the hub for all of your Cloud Files happenings. To get there, click the login button.
You’ll land on a dashboard where you can quickly oversee account activity and take certain key actions. That includes viewing and creating support tickets, viewing and creating alerts, and accessing knowledgebase and product news articles.
There are also quick build templates for building static websites, virtual servers and databases, among other things. We’re not going to be looking at those in this guide, though, since we’re focused on more basic file storage needs (plus, we’d have to write a full book to cover it all).
For basic file storage, the most important link in the Cloud Control Panel is at the top of the page, under the menu option for “storage.” The link is called “files” and it’s where you’ll go to create containers.
Creating Rackspace Containers
Before you start adding files to Rackspace Cloud Files, you’ll need to create a file storage container. A container is the equivalent of what’s called “bucket” with many other IaaS services; it’s a place to send files to.
To create a container from within the Cloud Control Panel, as we mentioned, you need to click “storage” near the top of the screen and choose “files” from the drop-down menu.
You’ll be redirected to a Cloud Files window showing all of the containers you’ve created, with an option to make new ones by clicking the “create container” button.
The only steps required to create your container are to choose a container name, a region and one of three types: private, public or static website.
The region option indicates where the Rackspace data center you’ll be using is located. There are five options: North Virginia, Chicago, Sydney, Dallas and Hong Kong. Choose the region closest to you for faster file transfers. Doing so will come in especially handy for online backup, which might involve initial uploads of hundreds of gigabytes.
As for type, pick “private,” since it’s used to store files and allow you to access them either through the Cloud Control Panel or an API link. The “public” type is for content delivery networks (CDNs), usable for building applications in which customers will be accessing files. The static website type is for hosting (drumroll) static websites.
Once you’re done, click “create container.” Our new container, which we named “mytestcontainer,” will now show up in the list of available containers.
To add files to a container, or access files within it, just click the container name. A new screen will open where you can send content to the cloud by clicking “upload file.”
The problem with uploading files through Cloud Files is that you can only pick one file (and no folders) at a time, so unless you have gigabytes of patience, you’ll want to go another route.
Thankfully, there are several far more efficient methods of getting your files into Cloud Files, including using bulk upload with an FTP, online backup or cloud storage client. To use any of them though, you’re going to need API key.
Finding the Rackspace API Key
API stands for “application programming interface,” which is computer code that enables two programs to talk to each other. The API key is used to identify calling programs, like CloudBerry Backup, preventing malicious programs from gaining access to your Cloud Files containers.
To get your Rackspace API key, you’ll need to login to the Cloud Control Panel. In the top-right corner, click on your name, then click “my profile and settings.”
On the next page, scroll down to the header for “security settings.” There should be a field for your Rackspace API key. Click the button that says “show” to reveal the API key, and copy it.
To connect software to Cloud Files, you’ll need to feed that softer this key. We’ll show you where to do this as we demonstrate using Cyberduck, CloudBerry Backup and Storage Made Easy, coming up.
Rackspace and FTP Clients
An FTP client is a tool that lets you upload and download files to a server. It’s a technology that’s been around for a while, and while not as advanced as cloud storage or backup, such clients remain popular for transferring boatloads of content.
We’re going to show you how to upload files using Cyberduck, but FileZilla, WinSCP and many other FTP clients are available, and most won’t cost you a dime.
Download the Cyberduck installer for your operating system, and go through the installation process. After that’s done, launch the client.
To connect Cyberduck to Rackspace, click “open connection,” a button in the top left. A connection window will open with several fields. Click on the drop-down menu at the top, and you’ll be able to pick connection protocols like WebDAV and FTP, plus connect directly to cloud services like Amazon S3, Backblaze B2 and Rackspace Cloud Files.
Select Rackspace Cloud Files. Leave all of the other fields blank, including username and password, and click “connect.”
You’ll be asked to enter your Rackspace username and the API key we just showed you how to retrieve in the previous section.
Enter that information, hit the “connect” button and your connection to Rackspace Cloud Files should be established pretty quickly, after which you’ll be able to view all of the containers you’ve created previously. If you haven’t created any containers yet, see our earlier instructions for doing so.
To upload files to a container, right-click on that container and select “upload.”
You’ll be able to browse and upload multiple files at once or upload entire folders.
Once you’ve made your upload selections, Cyberduck will keep you apprised of the upload process, which shouldn’t take long unless you’re uploading gigabytes of content.
There are some other useful actions you can take on your Rackspace Cloud Files container, too, such as creating password protected folders and downloading or deleting files. You can also synchronize containers to folders on your computer so that you don’t have to manage uploading new content that gets added to those folders.
Overall, Cyberduck stands as a simple but very useful tool for basic file transfers to and from the Rackspace Cloud. For more advanced features, though, you’ll want to look to full-fledged online backup or cloud storage clients.
Rackspace and Online Backup
To use Rackspace for disaster recovery, you’re going to need software that can connect to Cloud Files and handle basic backup operations like continuous backup and encryption. There are a few free services you can use, with Duplicati being a good one (read our Duplicati review).
However, the better option, and what we’re going to use to demonstrate the backup process, is .
You can read our CloudBerry Backup review for a better explanation of why we prefer it, but a few highlights include hybrid backup, image-based backup and the ability to connect and backup files to over 50 different cloud services, including Rackspace Cloud Files. It’s our top choice, in fact, for creating a 3-2-1 backup system.
To connect CloudBerry Backup to Cloud Files, you need to create a new “local to cloud” backup from within the CloudBerry Backup client.
Then, click “add new” account.
Select Rackspace from the list of cloud services.
After, you’ll be asked to enter a display name, which is whatever you want to call your backup plan, and two pieces of information from your Rackspace CloudFiles account: your username and your API key, which we showed you how to find earlier.
Before you proceed, you’ll also need to select a Cloud Files container to send your files to. If you’ve previously created a container in the Rackspace Cloud Control Panel, using the steps we showed you before, you can select it in the container field near the bottom of the window. If you haven’t, you can conveniently create one directly in CloudBerry Backup client.
Click “okay” and Rackspace will be added as a selectable account in CloudBerry.
Pick Rackspace as your account, then click “next” to continue creating your backup plan.
Once you know how to grab your API key to connect the software to the Rackspace Cloud, everything else is made easy by the CloudBerry Backup wizard. You’ll have a chance to set encryption levels, choose files and folders for backup, create backup filters (e.g., exclusion by file type) and set a backup schedule, among other options.
Once you’re done, you’ll have a chance to review a summary of your plan. Click “next” if okay and the backup process will launch.
Going forward, your computer will be backed up to Rackspace Cloud Files.
Rackspace for Cloud Storage
While online backup will help protect your files by replicating your computer hard drive, cloud storage has a different set of purposes, primarily freeing up disk space, file synchronization between devices and file sharing.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many choose-your-own storage platforms out there designed to work with Cloud Files or any other cloud IaaS for that matter. There is, however, one very good one in Storage Made Easy (SME).
Storage Made Easy is a powerful tool that competes with many of the best enterprise file sync and share services. There’s a free version, but it limits you to three clouds and 5GB per month of bandwidth. Like CloudBerry Backup, though, license costs are reasonable, with both personal and business options available.
Once you’ve created an SME account, connecting to Rackspace Cloud Files is pretty simple. Start by logging into the web GUI and clicking the button that reads “add new provider” in the middle of the dashboard.
Pick Rackspace Cloud Files from the list of options.
As with Cyberduck and CloudBerry Backup, you’ll be asked to enter your Rackspace username and API key. You’ll also need to name your cloud (how about “Fluffy?”) and enter the region of your Rackspace Cloud Files data center.
Once the connection to Cloud Files is established, you’ll be asked to pick an existing container or create a new one. Make your selection and hit “continue.”
With that done, you can now start adding files by clicking the “file manager” link on near the top of the SME web GUI. This will open a virtual cloud system (if you require a PC client, you’ll need to purchase a one-time Windows Cloud Tools license; it’s a shame it isn’t included for free).
Within the file manager, you’ll want to open your Rackspace container, which is represented by a folder, by double-clicking it.
Once inside, you can click the “upload” button near the top or drag-and-drop files and folders into the space to send them to the Rackspace Cloud.
After upload completes, your files will be viewable in the space. You can click on files to share them with others or even edit them, if you install the CloudEdit add-on.
Storage Made Easy can also sync files between devices. While you have to purchase the desktop apps for a one-time fee, at the time of this writing the mobile apps for Android and iOS are free, giving you on-the-go access to the content you’ve stored in Cloud Files.
Getting started with Rackspace Cloud Files can be a tad daunting at first. Once you learn the layout of the Rackspace Cloud Control Panel and find some decent third-party apps to make file uploads more convenient, you’ll overcome the fear factor pretty quickly.
Hopefully, this brief guide helped you find the footing you need to get started, whether that’s using Cloud Files for online backup, cloud storage or just getting files there with a basic FTP client. If not, leave your questions in the comments below, and we’ll do your best to answer them. Recommendations for other third-party tools to use with Rackspace are also welcome. Thanks for reading!