For those who want to use cloud infrastructure, rather than traditional cloud storage services, to store files remotely, one of the first things to figure out is how to get files uploaded and retrieved when needed. Even the best cloud IaaS services don’t make that easy, meaning you’ll need a third-party client. One popular one you might have heard of is Cyberduck.

Getting started with IaaS and connecting it to a simple client like Cyberduck can seem daunting to the uninitiated. To help you get your bearings, we’ve put together this guide detailing how to use Cyberduck.

In addition to Cyberduck, other tools worth looking at for IaaS connectivity are CloudBerry Backup and Storage Made Easy. Neither is quite as simple as Cyberduck, but both provide many more features. CloudBerry provides online backup functionality to protect your hard drive, while SME comes equipped with file sharing and sync capabilities.

Another IaaS-friendly client we like is Mountain Duck, which is made by the same development team behind Cyberduck. Before we show you how to use Cyberduck, let’s talk about both tools to make sure you’re making the right choice.

Cyberduck vs Mountain Duck

Both Cyberduck and Mountain Duck connect to on-premises servers using FTP/SFTP, and cloud IaaS providers such as Amazon S3, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure using APIs (if you’re having trouble choosing between those three providers, read this).

Once connected, Cyberduck and Mountain Duck can be used to upload and retrieve files, either from your local server or the cloud. The difference is in execution. Cyberduck is a cloud storage browser, while Mountain Duck creates mounted drives.

As a browser, Cyberduck lets you select local folders and files and send them to the cloud. It also lets you browse remote folders and files and download them to a local destination.

By creating a mounted drive, Mountain Duck provides a more convenient and faster means of moving files to the cloud or retrieving them. A mounted drive — or network drive — behaves just like a local directory on your computer, meaning you can create file trees, drag-and-drop files,  etc.

We have a guide for setting up network drives that features Mountain Duck. Be warned, though, unlike Cyberduck, the software isn’t free. It costs $39 for a single license.

How to Use Cyberduck (with Amazon S3)

Cyberduck is insanely easy to use once you get your bearings and provides many useful features, including client-side encryption. To illustrate using the tool, we’ll create a connection to Amazon S3.

Download and install the client. It’s free and open source, created under the GNU General Public License, so you don’t have to pay for it unless you want to donate to its future development.

Launch the client There’s a button in the top-left corner that says, “open connection.”

Cyberduck-Client

Click it and an “open connection” window will pop up.

Using the drop-down menu at the top, you can select the type of connection you want to make. For local servers, you can use FTP, FTP-SSL and SFTP. There’s also a WebDAV option for connection to cloud services that support that protocol (such as pCloud).

Cyberduck and API Keys

Several services are listed, too, including Rackspace Cloud Files, Backblaze B2, Google Drive, Dropbox and Microsoft OneDrive. For this demonstration, we chose Amazon S3 from the drop-down. By doing so, two fields appear: “access key ID” and “password.”

Most IaaS services will require similar information, which lets Cyberduck establish what’s called an application-programming interface connection. You’ll need to retrieve your API credentials from the IaaS provider.

You’ll also have had to set up what are usually called “buckets” or “containers” with that provider. We won’t go into all the details of that part of the process here, since it’s different from provider to provider. If you’d like a general notion of steps to take, our individual IaaS reviews will provide that:

To get your Amazon S3 API credentials, log into Amazon Web Services and navigate to the AWS console. Click on your name at the top of the screen and then click “my security credentials.”

On the next page, you can retrieve your API key information or create a new one.

Make sure you record your “secret access key,” because Amazon won’t show it to you again. There’s an option to download a key file, which you’ll want to stash somewhere safe, perhaps with a zero-knowledge cloud storage service.

Cyberduck: Browsing, Uploading and Downloading Files

Back to Cyberduck, input the access key in the “access key ID” field. The secret key is for the “password” field. You can save the password in Cyberduck, which you should, if you intend to use the client often. Leave everything else as is and hit “connect.”

The connection will be authenticated and, as long as you got those two fields correct, after a few seconds, it should connect to Amazon S3 and display your containers.

Click on a container to display its contents.

Right-click on any object for a list of options. You can download files and folders, delete them and sync them. You can even edit files. For example, you can open a .docx file in Microsoft Word.

Local files can be uploaded to containers by selecting “upload.” Use the file browser to find the folders or files you want to send to the cloud.

Cyberduck Vaults and Cryptomator

If you need to organize your containers, you can create folders before uploading files. There’s an option to create an “encrypted vault” for more secure storage. The vault feature uses Cryptomator, a client-side encryption service like Boxcryptor (read our Boxcryptor review).

By creating a vault, the software will scramble files before sending them to the cloud using the advanced encryption standard protocol. You are able to set a password that only you know, which will be used to generate the keys that encrypt and decrypt files.

Don’t forget your password. If you do, you’ll lose access to your files since neither Cyberduck nor Amazon will be able to help you, no matter how much you scream at them. We recommend storing the password in a cloud password manager, such as Dashlane, just in case (read our Dashlane review).

Cyberduck Bookmarks

Once you’re done using the browser, you can “disconnect” in the top-right corner to close the connection. Before you do, you might want to bookmark the connection for faster access in the future. To do that, just click the “bookmark” link near the top of the client.

This will save the connection information to Cyberduck’s bookmark viewer, including your credentials, so that you don’t have to look them up again later.

Those are the basics of using Cyberduck with Amazon S3. Other cloud IaaS services are just as easy to set up. Cloud storage services are even easier to connect. For example, with Google Drive, you only need your login email and password to browse, upload and download files.

Final Thoughts

Cyberduck ranks as one of the best and easiest file uploaders and cloud browsers. It’s also free, which is hard to beat. However, there are some good Cyberduck alternatives out there. We looked at the top options in our best file-transfer client guide.

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Hopefully, this guide gave you an idea of what you can do with Cyberduck. If you’re still in the dark, leave your questions below and we’ll try to help. If you’ve decided cloud IaaS isn’t worth the trouble, our best cloud storage and best online backup buyers’ guides will point you to simpler solutions for sending your files cloudward.

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