All posts by Ahin Thomas

Floods, Viruses, and Volcanoes: Managing Supply Chain in Uncertain Times

Post Syndicated from Ahin Thomas original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/managing-supply-chain-in-uncertain-times/

There’s almost no way to quantify the impacts COVID-19 has had on the world. Personally, communally, and economically—there isn’t a part of our lives it hasn’t touched in some way. We’ve discussed how it’s affected our operations and our culture, but at the end of the day, the central focus at Backblaze is providing the best cloud storage and backup in the world—a mission that’s especially important in a time when cloud storage and data security has become more vital to day-to-day life than ever.

At the most basic level, our services and products rely on a singular building block: the hard drive. And today, we’re going to discuss how our team has ensured that, as more businesses and individuals turn to cloud storage to solve their rapidly evolving data storage and management needs, we’ve had what we need to care for the petabytes of inbound data.

We’re no strangers to navigating an external threat to business as usual. In 2011, flooding in Thailand impacted nearly 50% of the world’s hard drive manufacturing capability, limiting supply and dramatically raising hard drive prices. At the time, Backblaze was only about four years into providing its computer backup service, and we needed to find a way to keep up with storage demand without going broke. We came up with a hack that became internally known as “drive farming.”

What does it mean to farm hard drives? Well, everyone on our staff, and many of our friends and family members went out and bought every hard drive we could get our hands on, at every retail outlet nearby. It was a bit unconventional, but it worked to maintain our storage demand. We wrote the whole story about how we weathered that crisis without compromising our services in this blog post.

This year, most of us thought the eruption of the volcano Taal in the Philippines was going to be the biggest threat to the hard drive supply chain. We were wrong. Instead, we’ve been called to apply some of the resourcefulness we learned during the Thailand drive crisis to deal with the disruptions to production, manufacturing, and supply chains that COVID-19 has caused.

No, this isn’t “Drive Farming: Part II, the Drivening!” Rather, faced with an uncertain and rapidly shifting business environment, we turned to someone on our team who knew, even before 2020 began, that a global pandemic was a much more likely challenge to our operations than any volcano: our Senior Director of Supply Chain, Ariel Ellis.

Recently, Ahin (our VP of Marketing) sat down with Ariel to discuss how he has been managing our supply chain efforts within the context of these extraordinary times. The Q&A that follows has been edited for brevity (give a marketer a microphone…). It covers a wide range of topics: how business has changed since the emergence of COVID; how our supply chain strategy adjusted; and what it’s like for Ariel to do all of this while battling COVID himself.

A hand holding hard drives up.

Ahin Thomas: Wow! What a ride. Let’s start by understanding the baseline—what was considered “business as usual” in the supply chain before COVID? Can you give me a sense of our purchasing volumes of hard drives and who makes them?

Ariel Ellis: Pre-COVID we were buying hard drives on a quarterly basis and deploying around 20-30PB of data storage a month. We were doing competitive bidding between Seagate, Toshiba, and Western Digital—the only three hard drive manufacturers in the world.

AT: It doesn’t seem that long ago that 30PB in a year would have been a big deal! But are you saying things were pretty stable pre-COVID?

Ariel: Everything was relatively stable. I joined Backblaze in 2014 and pre-COVID, 2019 has probably been the most consistent in regards to the hard drive supply chain that I have seen during my tenure.

AT: Well that’s because neither of us was here in 2011 when the floods in Thailand disrupted the global hard drive supply chain! How did the industry learn from 2011 and did it help in 2020?

Ariel: The Thailand flooding caught the manufacturers, and the industry, off guard. Since then the manufacturers have become better at foreseeing disruptions and having contingency plans in place. They’ve also become more aware of how much routine cloud storage demand there is, so they are increasingly thoughtful about our kind of businesses and making sure supply is provided accordingly. It’s worth noting that the industry has also really shifted—manufacturers are no longer trying to provide high capacity hard drives for personal computers at places like Costco and Best Buy because consumers now use services like ours, instead.

AT: Interesting. How did we learn from 2011?

Ariel: We now have long term planning in place, directly communicate with the manufacturers, and spend more time thinking about durability and buffers.

Editor’s note: Backblaze Vaults durability can be calculated at 11 nines, and you can read more about how we calculated that number and what it means here.

I was actually brought in right after the Thailand crisis because Backblaze realized that they needed someone to specialize in building out supply strategies.

The Thailand flooding really changed the way we manage storage buffers. I run close to three to four months of already deployed, forecasted storage as a buffer. We never want to get caught without availability that could jeopardize our durability. In a crisis, this four-month buffer should provide me with enough time to come up with an alternative solution to traditional procurement methods.

Our standard four-month deployed storage buffer is designed to withstand either a sudden rise in demand (increase to our burn rate), or an unexpected shortage of drives—long enough that we can comfortably secure new materials. Lead times for enterprise hard drives are in the 90-day range, while manufacturing for our Pods is in the 120-day range. In the event of a shortage we will immediately accelerate all open orders, but to truly replenish a supply gap it takes about four months to fully catch up. It’s critical that I maintain a safety buffer large enough to ensure we never run out of storage space for both existing and new customers.

As soon as we recognized the potential risks that COVID-19 posed for hard drive manufacturing, we decided to build a cache of hard drives to last an additional six months beyond the deployed buffers. This was a measured risk because we lost some price benefits due to buying stock early, but we decided that having plenty of hard drives “in house” was worth more than any potential cost savings later in the year. This proved to be the correct strategy because manufacturers struggled for several months to meet supply and prices this year have not decreased at the typical 5% per quarter.

AT: So, in a sense, you can sacrifice dollars to help remove risk. But, you probably don’t want to pull that lever too often (or be too late to pull it, either). When did you become aware of COVID and when was it clear to you that it would have a global impact?

Ariel: As a person in charge of supply chains, I had been following COVID since it hit the media in late December. As soon as China started shutting down municipalities I recognized that this was going to have a global impact and there would be scarcities. By January most of us in the industry were starting to ask the question: How is this going to affect us? I wasn’t getting a lot of actionable feedback from any of the manufacturers, so we knew something was coming but it was very hard to figure out what to do.

AT: That’s tough—you can see it coming but can’t tell how far away it is. But seeing it in January—on a relative basis—is early. How did you get to that point?

Ariel: I’m part of the Backblaze COVID preparation team and the Business Continuity Team, which is a standing team of cross-functional leaders that are part of the overall crisis response plan—we don’t want to have to meet, but we know what to do when it happens. I also had COVID. As we were making firm business decisions on how to plan for disruptions I developed a cough, a fever, and had to take naps to make it through the day. It was brutal.

Editor’s note: Ariel was already working from home at this time per our decision to move the majority of our workforce to working from home in early March. He also isolated himself while conducting 100% of his work remotely.

In December of 2019, we realized we had to stay ahead of decision making on sourcing hard drives. We had to be aggressive and we had to be fast. We first discussed doing long term contracts with the manufacturers to cover the next 12 months. Then, as a team, we realized that contracts weren’t an option because if shelter-in-place initiatives were rolled out across the country then we were going to lose access to the legal teams and decision makers needed to make that process work. It was during the second week of March 2020 that we decided to bypass long term contracts and do the most viable thing we could think of, which was to issue firm purchase orders. A purchase order accepted between both companies is the most certain way to stay at the front of the line and ensure hard drive stock.

We immediately committed to purchase orders for the hard drives needed to cover six months out. This was on top of our typical four-month deployment buffer and would ultimately give us about 10 months of capacity. This is a rolling six months, so since then I’ve continued to ensure we have an additional six months of capacity committed.

Issuing these purchase orders required a great deal of effort and coordination across the Business Continuity Team, and in particular with our finance team. I worked side-by-side with our chief financial officer to quickly leverage the resources needed to commit to stock outside of our normal cycles. We ordered around 40,000 hard drives rapidly, which is about 400PB of usable space (meaning after parity), or roughly $10 million worth of capital equipment. Overall, this action has proved to be smart and put us one to two weeks ahead of the curve.

AT: We’re all grateful you made it through. OK, so a couple weeks into a global pandemic, while you’ve contracted COVID-19, we increased our purchasing by an order of magnitude! How are the manufacturers performing? Are we still waiting on drives from the purchase orders we issued?

Ariel: We’ve deployed many of the drives we’ve received, and we have a solid inventory of about 20,000 drives—which equals about a couple hundred petabytes of capacity—but we’ve continued to add to the open orders and are still waiting for around 20,000 drives to finish out the year. The answer to manufacturer performance changes on a constant basis. All three manufacturers have struggled due to mandated factory shutdowns, limited transportation options, and component shortages. We consistently experience small-to-medium delays in shipments, which was somewhat expected and the reason we extended our material buffers.

AT: Is there a sense of “new normal” for the buffer? Will it return to four months?

Ariel: This is going to change my world forever. Quarterly buying and competitive bid based strategies were a calculated risk, and the current crisis has caused me to rethink risk calculation. Moving forward we are going to better distribute our demand across the three manufacturers so I stay front and center if there is ever constrained supply. We will also be assessing quarterly bidding, which while price effective, gives us limited capacity and it is somewhat short-sighted. It might be more advantageous to look at six-month, and maybe even rough, 12-month capacity plans with the manufacturers.

This year has reminded me how tentative the supply of enterprise hard drives is for a company at our scale. We rely on hard drives for our life blood and the manufacturers rely on a handful of cloud storage companies like us as the primary consumers of high-capacity storage. I will continue to develop long term supply strategies with each of the manufacturers as I plan the next few years of growth.

AT: I know we are still very much in the middle of the pandemic, but have things somewhat stabilized for your team?

Ariel: From a direct manufacturing perspective we’re just now starting to see a return to regular manufacturing. In Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines, there were government-imposed factory shutdowns. Those restrictions are slowly being lifted and production is returning to full capacity in steps. Assuming there is no pendulum swing back to reinfection in those areas, the factories expect to return to full capacity any day now. It’s going to take a number of months for them to work through their backlog of orders, so I would expect that by October we will see a return to routine manufacturing.

It’s interesting to point out that one of the most notable impacts of COVID to the supply chain was not loss of manufacturing, but loss of transportation. In fact, that was the first challenge we experienced—factories having 12,000 hard drives ready to ship, but they couldn’t get them on an airplane.

AT: This might be a bit apocalyptic, but what was your worst case scenario? What would have happened if you couldn’t secure drives?

Ariel: We would fully embrace our scrappy, creative spirit and I would pursue any number of secondary options. For example, deploying Dell servers, which come with hard drives, or looking for recertified hard drives, drives that were made for one of the tier one hardware manufacturers but were unused and went back to the factory to be retested and recertified. Closer to actionable would have been slowing down our growth rate. While not ideal, we could certainly pump the brakes on accelerating new customer acquisitions and growth, which would extend the existing buffers and give us breathing room.

Seagate 12 TB hard drive

AT: Historically, the manufacturers have a fairly consistent cycle of increased densities and trying to drive down costs. Are you seeing any trends in drive development driven by this moment or is everyone simply playing catch-up?

Ariel: It’s unclear how much this year has slowed down new technology growth as we have to assume the development labs haven’t been functioning as normal. Repercussions will become clear over the next six months, but as of now I have to assume that the push towards higher capacities, and new esoteric technologies to get to those higher capacities, has been delayed. I expect that companies are going to funnel all of their resources into current platforms, meeting pent up demand, and rebuilding their revenue base.

AT: Obviously, this is not a time for predicting the future—anyone who had been asked about 2020 in February was likely very wrong, after all—but what do you see in the next 12 months?

Ariel: I don’t think we’ve seen all of the repercussions from manufacturing bottlenecks. For example, there could be disruption to the production of the subcomponents required to make hard drives that the manufacturers have yet to experience because they have a cache of them. And whether it’s through lost business or lost potential, the hard drive manufacturers’ revenue streams are going to take a hit. We are deeply vested in seeing the hard drive manufacturers thrive so we hope they are able to continue business as usual and are excited to work with us to grow more business.

I think there will also be a further shift towards hard drive manufacturers relying on their relationship with cloud storage providers. During COVID, cloud service providers either saw no decline in business or an increase in business with people working from home and spending more time online. That is just going to accelerate the shift of hard drive production going exclusively towards large scale infrastructure instead of being dispersed amongst retail products and end-users across the planet.

• • •

This year doesn’t suffer from a lack of unexpected phenomena. But for us, it is especially wild to sit here in 2020—just nine years after our team and our customers were scouring the country to “drive farm” our way to storage capacity—and listen to our senior director of supply chain casually discussing his work with hard drive manufacturers to ensure that they can thrive. Backblaze has a lot of growth yet in its future, but this is one of those moments that blows our hair back a bit.

Even more surprising is that our team hasn’t changed that much. Something Ariel mentioned after we finished our conversation was how, when he had to go offline due to complications from COVID, the rest of our team easily stepped in to cover him in his absence. And a lot of those folks that stepped into the breach were the same people wheeling shopping carts of hard drives out of big box stores in 2011. Sure, we manage more data and employ more people, but when it comes down to it, the same scrappy approach that got us where we are today continues to carry us into the future.

Floods, viruses, volcanoes: We’re going to have more global disruptions to our operations. But we’ve got a team that’s proven for 14 years that they can chart any uncertain waters together.

The post Floods, Viruses, and Volcanoes: Managing Supply Chain in Uncertain Times appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

How to Leave AWS: Backblaze S3 Compatible APIs & Free Cloud to Cloud Migration

Post Syndicated from Ahin Thomas original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/aws-to-backblaze-migration/

Spoiler alert: At the end of this post, we announce our Cloud to Cloud Migration program—an offer to pay the transfer costs for customers that want to migrate their data from Amazon S3 to Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage. Yup, we’re so confident in our service that we’ll pay for you to save 75% of your cloud storage bill. If you want to stop reading and start saving: Click here.

On May 4th, we released the beta version of our Backblaze S3 Compatible APIs. It was our most requested feature, so we knew it was something our customers wanted. But what we’ve seen has been simply incredible—thousands of customers uploading petabytes of data to Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage. Today, we’re moving those S3 Compatible APIs out of beta and into general availability (GA), as we continue to remove the barriers that are keeping your data locked within the cloud oligarchy.

Not Just Compatible, VERY Compatible

At Backblaze, we take great pride in our track record of enduring innovation. Whether it’s our Storage Pod, Reed-Solomon erasure coding, or our S3 Compatible APIs, when we release something to the public, our sense of craftsmanship demands that it should just work.

By moving our S3 Compatible APIs into GA, we’re announcing that you can expect a bug free, highly functional, and stable experience.

Our functionality and associated infrastructure is fully ready for global, exabyte scale business. Nick Craig-Wood, the founder of rclone, put it well. Our Backblaze S3 compatible layer is not just compatible—according to him, it’s “Very compatible.”

“Very Compatible” Means It Works with Your Workflows

The testing suites are helpful, but what matters most is the actual experience customers are having. During the beta period, more than 1,000 unique S3-compatible tools were used by customers to interact with our new Backblaze S3 compatible layer. We know this because of something called a user agent—an identifier that tells our servers what tool is being used to upload data. Our monitoring looks at the system as a whole as well as at user agents to make sure things are performing as planned. And everything is going smoothly!

Tools like CloudBerry, MinIO, and Synology are among the third parties that had pre-existing integrations with Backblaze but now also have customers uploading through our S3 Compatible APIs. Perhaps more notably, customers brought a wide variety of tools that we had not previously seen upload data to Backblaze. User agents from Commvault, Cohesity, and Veeam all register now in our internal reporting. As do many AWS SDKs and even AWS Lambda.

The recurring theme? Customers can point their existing workflows and tools at Backblaze B2 and not miss a beat.

What It Means for Our Customers

During our beta period, we’ve seen literally thousands of success stories. One of our favorites comes from a company called CloudSpot—a software as a service platform offering photographers the easiest way to share their work online.

CloudSpot’s storage infrastructure is a critical component of both their product and P&L. But, with his company scaling, CEO Gavin Wade realized that his data (and company) were captive to Amazon S3. As CloudSpot grew, his storage related costs threatened to turn his business upside down.

With over 700TB stored and data transfer fees starting at 9 cents/GB, Gavin felt stuck inside of Amazon. He had to start cutting back valued functionality for his customers simply because the AWS pricing was untenable.

With B2 Cloud Storage—which is one-fourth of the cost of Amazon S3—Gavin has slashed his cloud bill, freeing up cash for critical investments in his business and team. After seeing a seamless transition for his active workflows, he migrated over 700TB from Amazon S3 to B2 Cloud Storage in less than six days. Most importantly, there was no service disruption.

“With Backblaze, we have a system for scaling infinitely. It lowers our breakeven customer volume while increasing our margins, so we can reinvest back into the business. My investors are happy. I’m happy. It feels incredible.”

—Gavin Wade, Founder & CEO, CloudSpot

The CloudSpot story is a good one, but it’s just one of the many from our beta period. Customers are tired of being taxed to use their data and need a platform that will not punish them for scaling. We’re grateful that these customers are migrating to Backblaze and have accelerated the month over month growth rate of B2 Cloud Storage by more than 25%. Today, we’d like to encourage you to join those that have liberated their data while significantly reducing their costs.

Transcend the Cloud Oligarchy: Backblaze Will Pay for You to Move Your Data

People want storage that will empower their business and they want a provider that doesn’t try to hide fine print or surprise fees. With our S3 Compatible APIs now generally available, they can have both, all while knowing that their tools and workflows will seamlessly integrate with Backblaze B2.

But customers still need a solution for the excessive fees the cloud oligarchy charges for migrating to a cloud that is better for the customer’s business.

Today, we’re proud to remove the last obstacle between you and shaving 75% off your cloud storage costs: Cloud to Cloud Migration.

And for customers that don’t want to commit to storing it for 12 months? No problem, you can still use our service to directly transfer your data from Amazon S3 to Backblaze B2 for 4 cents/GB. By month three, your storage savings will have paid for the migration.

And if you’re interested in trying Backblaze first? Creating an account is free, your first 10GB of storage are free, and there’s never been a better time to start.

Thanks to all the people, companies, and partners that helped make the beta period such a success. We are excited about what the future holds and are glad that you are coming with us.

The post How to Leave AWS: Backblaze S3 Compatible APIs & Free Cloud to Cloud Migration appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Business (Not) as Usual

Post Syndicated from Ahin Thomas original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/business-not-as-usual/

At the beginning of any given quarter, conference rooms fill with managers extolling the virtues of the key objectives and tactics for the next 90 days. I’ve always been amused by the little voice inside my head as I stand up in front of my team for these talks—in the best of times, it’s saying “C’mon… The probability that this goes exactly as planned is something like 2%.” But, you shrug it off because a good plan is one that creates a clear end point, proposes a viable way to get there, and has the agility to adapt when you come into contact with reality. 89 days later, you look back, chuckle a little at the twists and turns…and, hopefully, celebrate a mission accomplished.

That’s in the best of times. Today is nowhere near that. Today, it’s hard enough to know where the world will be in 90 days’ time, let alone where our business goals and initiatives will end up. To quote our CEO, Gleb, who was borrowing an idea from “Frozen 2,” the best thing is to focus on doing “the next right thing.”

So what, exactly, is that? Well, for Backblaze, it’s to remember that we’re Backblaze. Besides being the right thing, an advantage to being a transparent company is that it’s an easy thing to do even in uncertain times. Quite literally, it made a lot of sense to write a post that looks at the marketing and communications challenges for our business during a pandemic. Our hope is that in sharing what is happening behind the scenes, we might help those that are facing similar challenges.

Writing this post, I am very aware that some of our readers might be furloughed, laid off, or have their businesses entirely gone. I, and our team, hope that each day gets a little brighter and you get back to stable, soon. At the least, we hope you find something interesting or thought provoking here. At the most, we hope you’ll find inspiration to tackle whatever the next right thing is for you.

What Do We Know Right Now?

Fundamental demand is unaffected: The earliest data points we have for Backblaze’s business are that the top of funnel demand (web visits, account creates) have yet to be materially affected by the crisis. In March, those growth metrics hit the forecasts we created at the end of 2019.

These results are a bit head-scratching given the sheer dominance of pandemic news everywhere. Intuitively, one would assume data and cloud storage content wouldn’t be as interesting to people. And yet looking at the data, for now at least, the market for cloud storage is unchanged (more on that later).

Decision making by customers is affected: We can use our sales team’s pipeline to look a little deeper into customer behavior. What we’re seeing is that customers we were working on longer term projects with have largely paused or changed their decision-making approach.

Let’s say you’ve been planning some cool enhancement to your infrastructure since the beginning of the year and were just about to start executing. Well, migrating the archives off of those LTO tapes isn’t today’s problem (setting aside the fact that you may not even be allowed in your office to do that actual work). So those types of projects are delayed. “Change” or “enhance” takes a back seat to “stabilize.”

This does mean that new projects are springing up very quickly—all of a sudden you have a fully distributed workforce. Are your team members’ computers being backed up? How are they accessing mission critical data? While final decisions on existing projects have been delayed, new needs are being identified with accelerated timelines.

This is where a marketer’s post to other marketers feels particularly awkward. But Backblaze is a business: we have customers that rely on the services we provide, families that rely on the salaries we pay, and a broader community that enjoys our occasional gifs. In other words, we still have a responsibility to ensure the future success of the business. In a world where very little non-COVID related news seems to be relevant, what should our messaging look like?

What Can We Do?

There are three fundamental paths we could take with our outward messaging:

      1. We could go dark. Trying to run a for-profit enterprise is odd during a pandemic. That said, infrastructure as a service is an increasingly relevant thing to help with the problems our customers are dealing with.
      2. We could just blissfully execute against our pre-existing plans. Our business model is fortunate to be resilient against these types of events. But ignoring the elephant in the room is odd at best and, at worst, offensively tone deaf.
      3. We could attempt to be in conversation with the moment. Backblaze prides itself on being a transparent company. When other disasters have hit—like the 2011 flooding in Thailand—we’ve had a unique perspective to share. Just like every company, we’re bordering on obsessive consumption of the news on the pandemic. Unlike a lot of companies, we have statisticians capable of running their own models. However, customers come to us for perspectives on data storage topics, not public health—what unique, value added perspective, if any, can we offer?

Option one feels irresponsible. Option two is troubling on a number of levels. Option three is why this post was written (and will be followed up with similar posts covering the challenges faced by our Supply Chain and People Operations teams).

Tactically, we feel that option three means that we adjust our plans, speak to the moment in whatever manner we’re uniquely able to, monitor the market for when storage news becomes interesting again, and try to remain a good corporate citizen along the way.

How We’ve Resolved to Do It:

Backblaze made the decision to move the majority of our workforce to work from home on March 6th (prior to California’s “shelter-in-place” orders). Over that weekend, as our business continuity plans kicked in, a number of proposals were floated. Two broad themes emerged in those discussions:

Should we notify our customers? Sending an email out felt like the right thing to do. But what were we notifying people of? Our operations and services weren’t changing from a customer perspective. We generally don’t send out emails that say, “Here’s 500 words on something that will not affect your experience with Backblaze.” Again, our approach was to speak when and where we could add value to our customers’ lives. An immediate note didn’t pass the sniff test.

Do we adjust our marketing plans? In the most literal sense, we wanted to tone down some celebratory messaging we knew was coming. We cleared an exabyte of customer data under management, but it felt prudent to cancel the party (particularly with guests coming in from around the globe). We had a 5,300 word profile in Inc. magazine (it’s a fun read)…but promoting that in the middle of everything else felt odd. But in the end, if we’re working on products and releases that we think will help our customers, we should still get them out to market.

As we worked through those big picture questions, we arrived at guiding principles for ourselves:

  • We’re Still Running the Business: Our customers rely on us for their data storage. Every day, more people are looking for solutions and tools that can help them face their new reality. If we have a solution to a customer problem, let’s make sure the customer knows about it.
  • Plan for an Eventual Recovery: Most would agree that we are already in a recession. And things are likely to get worse before they get better. That fact can make it hard to plan for the future. So this principle underlines two important realities: admit that there’s a disruption today; believe that things will eventually get better. We can’t know when things will get better. But, by assuming they will, we’ll do our part to create that sunnier tomorrow.
    • This does mean that we should keep releasing our feature/functionality development. While our launches might be somewhat muted, if we have something that will help customers solve problems, let’s try to get it in their hands. (To that end, stay tuned for something big next month!)
  • We Don’t Traffic in Fear, Uncertainty, or Doubt (FUD): There’s plenty of FUD to go around right now, and a lot of companies will try and take advantage of it. That’s never been our style, and we’re not going to start now. We will never be predatory, either in action or perception.
  • Our Reality Isn’t Everyone’s Reality: Our business might be doing well, and much of our staff might be working from home, but that’s not the case for everyone. Our team may be relatively healthy, but many people and their families are fighting a deadly virus. Our communications need to include a statement or a sentiment that communicates, “This is a strange time. We’re staying safe and productive, and are trying to provide you tools/interesting stories.” Also, we need to review our automated messaging. As a backup company, the word “disaster” is often used in the context of “disaster recovery.” Those sentences could read poorly in today’s environment.
  • We’re Still Backblaze: We’re known for providing unique insights and information on our blog that is gleaned from how we operate. We should continue to find ways to share knowledge that might help (or uniquely interest others) from our blog perspective.
    • As part of this, remember that we’re a data storage company, not a health organization. There are many companies—like retailers, restaurants, medical providers—that need to communicate their relative status to the community and customers. Our customers trust that we are doing what’s right to keep their data safe and accessible. Always filter for “why does Backblaze have a value-add perspective?”

When Is the Beginning of Whatever Is Next?

As a business, it’s always important to stay in tune with how our markets and public are feeling. So how do we understand where society stands? With some hope and a lot of science, eventually, we think there will be a vaccine. But what are the steps before then? Will evidence that we’ve flattened the curve bring confidence that we’ve done the right thing and bring people back to more mundane topics?

At some point, we believe that there will be some leading indications that the recovery is starting from a psychological perspective. In that sense, we think that will be when customers will feel “stabilized” and begin thinking again about “changes” and “enhancements.” Here are three things we are monitoring.

  • The curve gets flattened in major markets. We can measure the reduction in rates of infection and mortality in California and New York. Two large media markets, but in terms of coverage and where the majority of media lives. Also, two of the initial “hotspots” for COVID in the US. As those two states progress, we believe that the media environment will start covering other news (and that there will be increasing numbers of people receptive to non-COVID information). The sad realities of overlooking mid and small markets are not lost on us. This is just our perception of how public sentiment will go.
  • Ability to care for those that are sick—as measured by having enough hospital beds for those that need it. As a society, we are facing many challenges in managing this outbreak. But, just like in wartime, the resilience and abilities of humans should never be underestimated. Factories are converting to produce more sanitizer, masks, and ventilators. The Army Corps of Engineers are converting spaces (auditoriums, arenas, etc.) into hospitals. We can track the projected number of beds needed and the capacity in given locales. When supply meets demand, it will be a good thing.
  • Consumers are consuming more non-COVID stories—as measured in week over week podcast listening. The good people at Podtrac are providing statistics on podcast consumption during this time. It’s hard to imagine total consumption returning until people start commuting again, but it should begin to rise as consumer sentiment starts having interest in non-pandemic news.

When I became part of the Backblaze family four years ago, we were a third of the size we are today. The growth and expansion of the business is incredibly energizing, but does bring increased costs around keeping the team on the same page. Writing this post started as an internal memo to help organize our team. We thought it was potentially interesting enough to merit sharing with you. In keeping with our principles, we’ll continue to share our thinking as it evolves and whatever insights we believe might be helpful. We hope you and your family stay as safe and healthy as possible. As always, we’re happy to engage with you in the comments below.

The post Business (Not) as Usual appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Exabyte Unlocked

Post Syndicated from Ahin Thomas original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/exabyte-unlocked/

Backblaze Reaches an Exabyte of Customer Data Stored

If you’re interested in Backblaze’s COVID-19 response, Gleb Budman, our CEO, shared a message with our community here.

With the impact of coronavirus on all of our lives, it’s been a struggle to find pieces of good news to share. But we wanted to take a break from the usual programming and share a milestone we’re excited about, one that’s more than 12 years in the making.

Since the beginning of Backblaze—back in 2007, when our five co-founders were working out of Brian Wilson’s apartment in Palo Alto—watching the business grow has always been profoundly exciting.

Our team has grown. From five, way back in the Palo Alto days, to 145 today. Our customer base has grown. Today, we have customers in over 160 countries… it’s not so long ago that we were excited about having our 160th customer.

More than anything else, the data we manage for our customers has grown.

In 2008, not long after our launch, we had 750 customers and thought ten terabytes was a lot of data. But things progressed quickly, and just two years later we reached 10 petabytes of customer data stored (1,000x more). (Good thing we designed for zettabyte-scale cloud architecture!)

By 2014, we were storing 100 petabytes—the equivalent of 11,415 years of HD video.

Years passed, our team grew, the number of customers grew, and—especially after we launched B2 Cloud Storage in 2015—the data grew. At some scale it got harder to contextualize what hundreds and hundreds of petabytes really meant. We like to remember that each byte is part of some individual’s beloved family photos or some organization’s critical data that they’ve entrusted us to protect.

That belief is part of every single Backblaze job description. Here’s how we put it in that context:

Our customers use our services so they can pursue dreams like curing cancer (genome mapping is data-intensive), archive the work of some of the greatest artists on the planet (learn more about how Austin City Limits uses B2), or simply sleep well at night (anyone that’s spilled a cup of coffee on a laptop knows the relief that comes with complete, secure backups).”

It’s critically important for us that we achieved this growth by staying the same in the most important ways: being open & transparent, building a sustainable business, and caring about being good to our customers, partners, community, and team. That’s why I’m excited to announce a huge milestone today—our biggest growth number yet.

We’ve reached 1.

Or, by another measurement, we’ve reached 1,000,000,000,000,000,000.

Yes, today, we’re announcing that we are storing 1 exabyte of customer data.

What does it all mean? Well. If you ask our engineers, not much. They’ve already rocketed past this number mentally and are considering how long it will take to get to a zettabyte (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes).

But, while it’s great to keep our eyes on the future, it’s also important to celebrate what milestones mean. Yes, crossing an exabyte of data is another validation of our technology and our sustainably independent business model. But I think it really means that we’re providing value and earning the trust of our customers.

Thank you for putting your trust in us by keeping some of your bytes with us. Particularly in times like these, we know that being able to count on your infrastructure is essential. We’re proud to serve you.

As the world grapples with a pandemic, celebrations seem inappropriate. But we did want to take a moment and share this milestone with you, both for those of you who have been with us over the long haul and in the hopes that it provides a welcome distraction. To that end, we’ve been working on a few things that we’d planned to launch in the coming weeks. We’ve made the decision to push forward with those launches in hopes that the tools may be of some use for you (and, if nothing else, to try to do our part to provide a little entertainment). For today, here’s to our biggest 1 yet. And many more to come.

Interested in learning more about how we got here? Check out the recent profile of Backblaze in Inc. magazine, free to our blog readers.

The post Exabyte Unlocked appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Wanted: Director of Marketing Operations

Post Syndicated from Ahin Thomas original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/wanted-director-of-marketing-operations/

Backblaze employee working on a computer

We’re looking for someone who loves to go deep on making marketing technology actually work: process oriented campaign execution, implementing and interpreting actionable analytics, and—ultimately—blending all of the above together to understand and improve the customer journey. Most importantly, we’re looking for someone who is ready to achieve this alongside a team that shows genuine care for each other.


Backblaze is an extraordinary place to work. With a great reputation for service built over the last 13 years, we are entrusted with nearly an exabyte of customer data, placing us among the largest cloud storage providers on the planet. And we’ve built a significantly profitable business with a total of just $3M in outside investment, empowering us to set our own course and live by our own ideals. Our approach is guided by honesty, transparency, and a commitment to doing the right thing for our customers and coworkers. Importantly, we’ve created an environment that makes us both happy and proud enough to recruit our friends to the team.

And it’s working quite nicely! Our business lines have achieved sustainable, double-digit growth—with some approaching triple digits. And we’ve accomplished these results without running any significant paid acquisition programs. Our customers are happy, and so are our coworkers: In the most recent “Great Place to Work” survey, 99% of our team rated Backblaze as “a great place to work.”

But while there is a lot to celebrate in our past, there is almost as much opportunity ahead of us: Our marketing systems and processes are functional, but relatively basic. We seek a Director of Marketing Operations who can help build, operate, and evolve our approach to executing and understanding our marketing efforts.

More About Backblaze

Backblaze provides cloud storage that’s astonishingly easy to use and low cost. Our customers use our services so they can pursue dreams like curing cancer (genome mapping is data-intensive), archive the work of some of the greatest artists on the planet (learn more about how Austin City Limits uses B2), or simply sleep well at night (anyone that’s spilled a cup of coffee on a laptop knows the relief that comes with complete, secure backups).

How Marketing at Backblaze Works

Our business is almost entirely driven by inbound customer interest. We have a blog that will attract more than 3M visits this year, with zero paid audience acquisition. Our team creates compelling, if slightly wonky, content on how data storage actually works. Our secret is writing enlightening, useful stories about customer problems and the solutions they might employ to succeed. The result is a highly engaged readership that yields a significant number of new customers. Approximately half of our customer base is “self-serve” while the other half works with our sales team to help them get started.

We operate across multiple verticals and sell 2 different SaaS products. To do so, our Marketing team organizes around the following team concepts:

  • Product Marketing: For any given vertical, we have at least one Product Marketer acting as the General Manager for her business. The Product Marketers identify their customer personas and expected buyer journeys. They also define the go-to-market activities for their verticals.
  • Editorial: Helps refine and polish the messaging for internal and external audiences.
  • Design: Brings the messages to life.
  • Brand: When you have a question about how our audience will react to thing X, we have a good answer. In addition, the “Brand” team owns our social presence.
  • Growth: Acts as both our CRO and SEO functions. We use Optimizely and have dedicated resources to help within Front End Engineering.
  • Marketing Ops: Owns our “stack,” processes, and analytics. Given content and strategy, enables elegant execution and provides actionable insights on results.

The Role: Director of Marketing Ops

Reporting directly to the VP of Marketing, you will build out our Marketing Ops function.

We think of Marketing Ops as having 5 key areas of ownership:

  • Marketing Technology (aka “the Marketing Stack”): Strategy, evaluation, implementation and operation of our marketing tools.
    • Today, the key pieces of our stack are Hubspot, Optimizely, BrightTalk, AdRoll, Google Adwords (brand terms), JustUno, Google Analytics, and Google Tag Manager.
    • Our company uses Tableau for visualization and Salesforce for Sales Ops.
  • Data: Create and implement the strategy for what our systems collect and how they are connected.
  • Team Alignment: Collaborate with team leads to establish processes and training for long-term success.
  • Campaign Management: Enable our various go-to-market activities by creating processes that are both predictable and scalable; establish clear priorities for Front End Engineering to ensure quality launches.
  • Insights: Analytics and analysis of all aspects of funnel with the goal of providing actionable intelligence for the other Marketing teams.

The Roadmap for Marketing Ops

As mentioned at the start of this post, our Marketing Operations are evolving. We believe there is a clear roadmap ahead of us, but one that will take a couple years to execute well. Here are some milestones that we’re looking forward to:

  • Grow understanding of the existing funnels. In your first 12 months, the majority of the work will be collaborating with the VP of Marketing, the Business Intelligence team, and the Sales Operations team to create a quantifiable understanding of our funnels. We have the right pieces in place and a company willing to invest in making them work together, but we need to solidify our fundamental systems.
  • Optimize existing funnels. Once we refine the understanding of our business drivers, we should create and execute against deliberate tests to identify new opportunities for growth.
    • Example: Once we have insights on what types of content are leading to what types of customers, provide that intelligence to the Product Marketers & Editorial team so they can create more of the desired content. They will create the incremental content, you will be responsible for measuring the results of the experiment.
  • Identify new growth initiatives (aka: find the rocket fuel). Understand the existing business, prove we understand it by optimizing it, and then start working on new streams of demand generation.
  • Tailor systems and tools to the most effective growth initiatives. Today, we have all the pieces for a functional marketing stack. Let’s get everything working, prove out areas for growth, and then invest in more specialized tools/operations for the areas of growth we want to pursue.

The Right Fit for our Director of Marketing Operations

We take a lot of pride in the culture we’ve built and are looking for team members that are a good fit. For a better understanding of who we are, check out this About Us video. Beyond “cultural fit,” for this specific role, we’re looking for an experienced operator that has a customer-journey-focused understanding of marketing. Here are the role-specific characteristics we’ll be looking for:

  • Possess the right amount of experience. You’ve probably been doing Marketing Operations in some form or another for 6-10 years. We don’t need someone with a specific degree or certification. We do need someone that will come in and take control of the existing systems and immediately start moving us forward on the envisioned roadmap.
    • Expertise in at least one of the major Marketing Automation systems is required, with a strong preference for Hubspot experience and/or mastery.
  • Skilled at figuring how the puzzle pieces fit together. Different tools in different configurations do different things. We need someone that can work with the larger Marketing team to understand what we’re trying to achieve, design a stack and processes for achieving those outcomes, and then implement and execute with precision.
  • Ability to work cross-functionally. The role of Marketing Ops engages with a variety of teams across our company. Beyond the Marketing team, our ideal candidate excels in interactions with:
    • Front End Engineering: Determine the prioritization of what gets worked on when as well as be the “business owner” for questions they might have.
    • Business Intelligence: Collaborate with the BI team to get answers from non-marketing systems, facilitate their requests for access into the marketing systems.
    • Sales Operations: Work with our Sales Ops teams to ensure precision in lead management, seamless systemic handoff, and generally find solutions to challenges as they arise.
    • Executive Team: Provide distilled, big picture takeaways on what’s happening because of your granular understanding of the little things.
  • Knows Demand Gen Mechanics for SaaS. Our ideal candidate is focused on generating incremental revenue and understands how to activate/optimize the different stages of the customer journey to achieve that goal.

Some of Our More Popular Perks

Backblaze offers an unlimited vacation policy; generous health/dental/vision/childcare benefits; fully stocked kitchens, twice a week catered breakfast and lunch, and superior coffee; and a generous skills training policy to continue your professional development. Our office in San Mateo is easily accessible from CalTrain, 280, and 101.

If This Sounds Interesting To You

We’d love to learn more about you! Please email us at jobscontact@backblaze.com with your resume. All applications are reviewed by our team. If we think there might be a good fit, our recruiting lead, Michele, will schedule time to chat, answer any questions you might have, and outline our process.

The post Wanted: Director of Marketing Operations appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Making the Data Center Choice (the Work Has Just Begun)

Post Syndicated from Ahin Thomas original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/picking-right-eu-data-center-partner/

Globe with Europe

It’s Europe week at Backblaze! On Tuesday, we announced the opening of our first European data center. On Wednesday, we discussed the process of sourcing DCs. Yesterday, we focused on how we narrowed the list down to a small group of finalists. And, today, we’ll share how we ultimately decided on our new partner.

Imagine a globe spinning (or simply look at the top of this blog post). When you start out on a data center search, you could consider almost any corner of the globe. For Backblaze, we knew we wanted to find an anchor location in the European Union. For a variety of reasons, we quickly narrowed in on Amsterdam, Brussels and Dublin as the most likely locations. While we were able to generate a list of 40 qualified locations, narrowed it down to ten for physical visits, and then narrowed it yet again to three finalists, the question remained: How would we choose our ultimate partner? Data center searches have changed a lot since 2012 when we circulated our RFP for a previous expansion.

The good news is we knew our top line requirements would be met. Thinking back to the 2×2 that our Chief Cloud Officer, Tim Nufire, had drawn on the board at the early stages of our search, we felt good that we had weighed the tradeoffs appropriately.

EU data center cost risk quadrant
Cost vs risk

Similarly to hiring an employee, after the screening and the interviews, one runs reference checks. In the case of data centers, that means both validating certain assertions and going into the gory details on certain operational capabilities. For example, in our second post in the EU DC series, we mentioned environmental risks. If one is looking to reduce the probability of catastrophe, making sure that your DC is outside of a flood zone is generally advisable. Of course, the best environmental risk factor reports are much more nuanced and account for changes in the environment.

To help us investigate those sorts of issues, we partnered with PTS Consulting. By engaging with third party experts, we get dispassionate, unbiased, thorough reporting about the locations we are considering. Based on PTS’s reporting, we eliminated one of our finalists. To be clear, there was nothing inherently wrong with the finalist, but it was unlikely that particular location would sustainably meet our long term requirements without significant infrastructure upgrades on their end.

In our prior posts, we mentioned another partner, UpStack. Their platform helped us with the sourcing and narrowing down to a list of finalists. Importantly, their advisory services were crucial in this final stage of diligence. Specifically, UpStack brought in electrical engineering expertise to give us a deep, detailed assessment of the electrical mechanical single line diagrams. For those less versed in the aspects of DC power, that means UpStack was able to go into incredible granularity in looking at the reliability and durability of the power sources of our DCs.

Ultimately, it came down to two finalists:

  • DC 3: Interxion Amsterdam
  • DC 4: The pre-trip favorite

DC four had a lot of things going for it. The pricing was the most affordable and the facility had more modern features and functionality. The biggest downsides were open issues around sourcing and training what would become our remote hands team.

Which gets us back to our matrix of tradeoffs. While more expensive than DC three, Interxion facility graded out equally well during diligence. Ultimately, the people at Interxion and confidence in the ability to build out a sturdy remote hands team made the choice of Interxion clear.

Cost vs risk and result
Cost vs risk and result

Looking back at Tim’s 2×2, DC four presented as financially more affordable, but operationally a little more risky (since we had questions about our ability to effectively operate on a day to day basis).

Interxion, while a little more financially expensive, reduced our operational risks. When thinking of our anchor location in Europe, that felt like the right tradeoff to be making.

Ready, Set, More Work!

The site selection only represented part of the journey. In parallel, our sourcing team has had to learn how to get pods and drives into Europe. Our Tech Ops & Engineering teams have worked through any number of issues around latency, performance, and functionality. Finance & Legal has worked through the implications of having a physical international footprint. And that’s just to name a few things.

Interxion - Backblaze data center floor plan
EU data center floor plan

If you’re in the EU, we’ll be at IBC 2019 in Amsterdam from September 13 to September 17. If you’re interested in making an appointment to chat further, use our form to reserve a time at IBC, or drop by stand 7.D67 at IBC (our friends from Cantemo are hosting us). Or, if you prefer, feel free to leave any questions in the comments below!

The post Making the Data Center Choice (the Work Has Just Begun) appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

The Logistics of Finding the Right Data Center: The Great European (Non) Vacation

Post Syndicated from Ahin Thomas original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/data-center-due-diligence/

EU data center search map

It’s Europe week at Backblaze! On Tuesday, we announced the opening of our first European data center. Yesterday, we discussed the process of sourcing DCs. Today, we’ll focus on how we narrowed the list down to a small group of finalists. And, tomorrow, we’ll share how we ultimately decided on our new partner.

Ten locations, three countries, three days. Even the hardest working person in show business wouldn’t take on challenges like that. But for our COO, John Tran, and UpStack’s CEO, Chris Trapp, that’s exactly what they decided to do.

In yesterday’s post, we discussed the path to getting 40 bids from vendors that could meet our criteria for our new European data center (DC). This was a remarkable accomplishment in itself, but still only part way to our objective of actually opening a DC. We needed to narrow down the list.

With help from UpStack, we began to filter the list based on some qualitative characteristics: vendor reputation, vendor business focus, etc. Chris managed to get us down to a list of 10. The wonders of technology today, like the UpStack platform, help people get more information and cast wider nets then at any other time in human history. The downside of that is you get a lot of information on paper, but that is a poor substitute to what you can gather in person. If you’re looking for a good, long term partner then understanding things like how they operate and their company DNA is imperative to finding the right match. So, to find our newest partner, we needed to go for a trip.

Chris took the lead on booking appointments. The majority of the shortlist clustered in the Netherlands and Ireland. The others were in Belgium and with the magic of Google Maps, one could begin to envision an efficient trip to all three countries. The feeling was it could all be done with just three days on the ground in Europe. Going in, they knew it would be a compressed schedule and that they would be on the move. As experienced travelers, they brought small bags that easily fit in the overhead and the right power adapters.

Hitting the Road

On July 23rd, 2018, John left San Francisco International Airport (SFO) at 7:40 a.m. on a non-stop to Amsterdam. Taking into account the 5,448 miles between the two cities and the time change, John landed at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) hours at 7:35 a.m. on July 24th. He would land back home on July 27th at 6:45 p.m.

Tuesday (Day One)

The first day officially started when John’s redeye touched down in Amsterdam at 7:35 a.m. local. Thankfully, Chris’ flight from New York’s La Guardia was also on time. With both flights on time, they were able to meet at the airport: literally, for they had never met before.

Both adjourned to the airport men’s room to change out of their travel clothes and into their suits — choosing a data center is serious business, after all. While airport bathroom changes are best left for spy novels, John and Chris made short work of it and headed to the rental car area.

That day, they’ll ended up touring four DCs. One of the biggest takeaways of the trip was that it turned out visiting data centers is similar to wine tasting. While some of the differences can be divined from the specs on paper, when trying to figure out the difference between A and B, it’s very helpful to compare side by side. Also similar to wine tasting, there’s a fine line between understanding nuances between multiple things and it all starting to blend together. In both cases, after a full day of doing it, you feel like you probably shouldn’t operate heavy machinery.

On day one, our team saw a wide range of options. The physical plant is itself one area of differentiation. While we have requirements for things like power, bandwidth, and security, there’s still a lot of room for tradeoffs among those DCs that exceed the requirement. And that’s just the physical space. The first phase of successful screening (discussed in our prior post) is being effective at examining non-emotional decision variables — specs, price, reputation — but not the people. Every DC is staffed by human beings and cultural fit is important with any partnership. Throughout the day, one of the biggest differences we noticed was the culture of each specific DC.

The third stop of the day was Interxion Amsterdam. While we didn’t know it at the time, they would end up being our partner of choice. On paper, it was clear that Interxion would be a contender. Its impressive facility meets all our requirements and, by happenstance, happens to have a footprint available that is almost exactly to the spec of what we were looking for. During our visit, the facility was impressive, as expected. But the connection we felt with the team there would prove to be the thing that would ultimately be the difference.

After leaving the last DC tour around 7pm, our team drove from Amsterdam to Brussels. Day 2 would be another morning start and, after arriving in Brussels a little after 9pm, they had earned some rest!

Insider Tip: Grand Place, BrusselsEarlier in his career, John had spent a good amount of time in Europe and, specifically, Brussels. One of his favorite spots is the Grand Place (Brussels’ Central Market). If in the neighborhood, he recommends you go and enjoy a Belgium beer sitting at one of the restaurants in the market. The smart move is to take the advice. Chris, newer to Brussels, gave John’s tour a favorable TripAdvisor rating.

Wednesday (Day Two)

After getting a well-deserved couple hours of sleep, the day officially started with an 8:30 a.m. meeting for the first DC of the day. Major DC operators generally have multiple locations and DCs five and six are operated by companies that also operate sites visited on day one. It was remarkable, culturally, to compare the teams and operational variability across multiple locations. Even within the same company, teams at different locations have unique personalities and operating styles, which all serves to reinforce the need to physically visit your proposed partners before making a decision.

After two morning DC visits, John and Chris hustled to the Brussels airport to catch their flight to Dublin. At some point during the drive, it was realized that tickets to Dublin hadn’t actually been purchased. Smartphones and connectivity are transformative on road trips like this.

The flight itself was uneventful. When they landed, they got to the rental car area and their car was waiting for them. Oh, by the way, minor detail but the steering wheel was on the wrong side of the car! Chris buckled in tightly and John had flashbacks of driver’s ed having never driven on the right side of the car. Shortly after leaving the airport, it was realized that one also drives on the left side of the road in Ireland. Smartphones and connectivity were not required for this discovery. Thankfully, the drive was uneventful and the hotel was reached without incident. After work and family check ins, another day was put on the books.

Brazenhead, Dublin

Our team checked into their hotel and headed over to the Brazenhead for dinner. Ireland’s oldest pub is worth the visit. It’s here that we come across our it really is a small world nomination for the trip. After starting a conversation with their neighbors at dinner, our team was asked what they were doing in Dublin. John introduced himself as Backblaze’s COO and the conversation seemed to cool a bit. Apparently their neighbor was someone from another large cloud storage provider. Apparently, not all companies like sharing information as much as we do.

Thursday (Day Three)

The day again started with an 8:30 a.m. hotel departure. Bear in mind, during all of this, John and Chris both had their day jobs and families back home to stay in touch with. Today would feature four DC tours. One interesting note about the trip: operating a data center requires a fair amount of infrastructure. In a perfect world, power and bandwidth come in at multiple locations from multiple vendors. This often causes DCs to cluster around infrastructure hubs. Today’s first two DCs were across the street from one another. We’re assuming, but could not verify, a fierce inter-company football rivalry.

While walking across the street was interesting, in the case of the final two DCs, they literally shared the same space; the smaller provider subleasing space from the larger. Here, again, the operating personalities differentiated the companies. It’s not necessarily that one was worse than the other, it is a question of whom you think will be a better partnership match for your own style. In this case, the smaller of the two providers stood out because of the passion and enthusiasm we felt from the team there, and it didn’t hurt that they are long time Hard Drive Stats enthusiasts (flattery will get you everywhere!).

While the trip, and this post, were focused on finding our new DC location, opening up our first physical operations outside of the U.S. had any number of business ramifications. As such, John made sure to swing by the local office of our global accounting firm to take the opportunity to get to know them.

The meeting wrapped up just in time for Chris and John to make it to the Guinness factory by 6:15 p.m. Upon arrival, it was then realized that the last entry into the Guinness factory is 6 p.m. Smartphones and connectivity really can be transformative on road trips like this. All that said, without implicating any of the specific actors, our fearless travelers managed to finagle their way in and could file the report home that they were able to grab a pint or two at St. James’ place.

Guinness sign

Guinness glass

The team would leave for their respective homes early the next morning. John made it back to California in time for a (late) dinner with his family and a well earned weekend.

After a long, productive trip, we had our list of the three finalists. Tomorrow, we’ll discuss how we narrowed it down from three to one. Until then, slainte (cheers)!

The post The Logistics of Finding the Right Data Center: The Great European (Non) Vacation appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Getting Ready to Go

Post Syndicated from Ahin Thomas original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/getting-ready-to-go/

EU data center cost risk quadrant

On Tuesday August 27th, we announced the opening of our first European data center. This post is part of our three-part series on selecting a new data center.

There’s an old saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” The best way to tackle big problems is to simplify as much as you can.

In our case, with almost an exabyte of customer data under management and customers in over 160 countries, expanding the geographic footprint of our data centers (DCs) has been a frequently discussed topic. Prior to opening up EU Central, we had three DCs, but all in the western U.S. The topic of opening a DC in Europe is not a new one within Backblaze, but going from idea to storing customer data can be a long journey.

As our team gathered to prioritize the global roadmap, the first question was an obvious one: Why do we want to open a DC in Europe? The answer was simple: Customer demand.

While nearly 15 percent of our existing customer base already resides in Europe, the requests for an EU DC come from citizens around the globe. Why?

  • Customers like keeping data in multiple geographies. Doing so is in line with the best practices of backup (long before there was a cloud, there was still 3-2-1).
  • Geopolitical/regulatory concerns. For any number of reasons, customers may prefer or be required to store data in certain physical locations.
  • Performance concerns. While we enjoy a debate about the effects of latency for most storage use cases, the reality is many customers want a copy of their data as physically close to where it’s being used as possible.

With the need established, the next question was predictably obvious: How are we going to go about this? Our three existing DCs are all in the same timezone as our California headquarters. Logistically, opening and operating a DC that has somewhere around an eight hour time difference from our headquarters felt like a significant undertaking.

Organizing the Search for the Right Data Center

To help get us organized, our co-founder and Chief Cloud Officer, Tim Nufire, drew the following on a whiteboard.

Expense/Risk chart for data center location
Cost vs risk and result

This basic matrix frames the challenge well. If one were willing to accept infinite risk (have customers write to scrolls and “upload” via sealed bottle transported across the ocean), we’d have low financial and effort investments outlays to open the data enter. However, we’re not in the business of accepting infinite risk. So we wanted to achieve a low risk environment for data storage while sustaining our cost advantage for our customers.

But things get much more nuanced once you start digging in.

Risks

There are multiple risk factors to consider when selecting a DC. Some of the leading ones are:

  • Environmental: One could choose a DC in the middle of a floodplain, but, with few exceptions, most DCs don’t work well underwater. We needed to find an area to minimize adverse environmental impact.
  • Political: DCs are physical places. Physical places are governed by some form of nation state. Some customers want (or need) their data to be stored within certain regulatory or diplomatic parameters. In the case of the requests for opening a DC in Europe, many of our customers want their data to be inside of the European Union (EU). That requirement strikes Switzerland off our list. For similar reasons, another requirement we imposed was operating inside of a country that is a NATO member. Regrettably, that eliminated any location inside of Finland. Our customers want EU, not Europe.
  • Financial: By opening a DC in Europe, we will be conducting business with a partner that expects to be paid in euros. As an American company, we primarily operate in dollars. So now the simple timing of when we pay our bills may change the cost (depending on exchange rate fluctuations).

Costs

The other dimension on the board was costs, expressed as Affordable to Expensive. Costs can be thought of both as financial as well as effort:

  • Operating Efficiency: Generally speaking, the climate of the geography will have an effect on the heating/cooling costs. We needed to understand climate nuances across a broad geographic area.
  • Cost of Inputs: Power costs vary widely, often due to fuel sources having different availability at a local level. For example, nuclear power is generally cheaper than fossil fuel, but may not be available in a given region. Complicating things is that power source X may cost one thing in the first country, but something totally different in the next. Our DC negotiations may be for physical space, but we needed to understand our total cost of ownership.
  • Staffing: Some DCs provide remote hands (contract labor) while others expect us to provide our own staffing. We needed to get up to speed on labor laws and talent pools in desired regions.

Trying to Push Forward

We’re fortunate to have a great team of Operations people that have earned expertise in the field. So with the desire to find a DC in the EU, a working group formed to explore our options. A little while later, when the internal memo circulated, the summary in the body of the email jumped out:

“It could take 6-12 months from project kick-off to bring a new EU data center online.”

That’s a significant project for any company. In addition, the time range was sufficiently wide to indicate the number of unknowns in play. We were faced with a difficult decision: How can we move forward on a project with so many unknowns?

While this wouldn’t be our first data center search, prior experience told us we had many more unknowns in front of us. Our most recent facility searches mainly involved coordinating with known vendors to obtain facility reports and pricing for comparison. Even with known vendors, this process involved significant resources from Backblaze to relay requirements to various DC sales reps and to take disparate quotes and create some sort of comparison. All DCs with quote you $/Kilowatt Hour or $/kWh, but there is no standard definition of what is and isn’t included in that. Generally speaking, a DC contract has unit costs that decline as usage goes up. So is the $/kWh in a given quote the blended lifetime cost? Year one? Year five? Adding to this complexity would be all the variables discussed above (and more).

Interested in learning more about the initial assessment of the project? Here is a copy of the internal memo referenced. Because of various privacy agreements, we needed to redact small pieces of the original. Very little has been changed and, if you’re interested in the deep dive, we hope you’ll enjoy!

Serendipity Strikes: UpStack

Despite the obstacles in our path, our team committed to finding a location inside the EU that makes sense for both our customers’ needs and our business model. We have an experienced team that has demonstrated the ability to source and vet DCs already. That said, our experienced team were already quite busy with their day jobs. This project looked to come at a significant opportunity cost as it would fully occupy a number of people for an extended period of time.

At the same time as we were trying to work through the internal resource planning, our CEO happened across an interesting article from our friends at Data Center Knowledge; they were covering a startup called UpStack (“Kayak for data center services”). The premise was intriguing — the UpStack platform is designed to gather and normalize quotes from qualified vendors for relevant opportunities. Minimizing friction for bidding DCs and Backblaze would enable both sides to find the right fit. Intrigued, we reached out to their CEO, Chris Trapp.

UpStack LogoUpStack is a free, vendor-neutral data center sourcing platform that allows businesses to analyze and compare level-set pricing and specifications in markets around the world. Find them at upstack.com.

We were immediately impressed with how easy the user experience was on our side. Knowing how much effort goes into normalizing the data from various DCs, having a DC shopping experience comparable to that of searching for plane tickets was mind blowing. With a plane ticket, you might search for number of stops and layover airports. With UpStack, we were able to search for connectivity to existing bandwidth providers, compliance certifications, and location before asking for pricing.

Once vendors returned pricing, UpStack’s application made it easy to compare specifications and pricing on an apples-to-apples basis. This price normalization was a huge advantage for us as it saved many hours of work usually spent converting quotes into pricing models simply for comparison sake. We have the expertise to do what UpStack does, but we also know how much time that takes us. Being able to leverage a trusted partner was a tremendous value add for Backblaze.

UpStack data center search map
Narrowing down the DC possibilities with UpStack

Narrowing Down The Options

With the benefit of the UpStack platform, we were able to cast a much wider net than would have been viable hopping on phone calls from California.

We specified our load ramp. There’s a finite amount of data that will flow into the new DC on day one, and it only grows from there. So part of the pricing negotiation is agreeing to deploy a minimum amount of racks on day one, a minimum by the end of year one, and so on. In return for the guaranteed revenue, the DCs return pricing based on those deployments. Based on the forecasted storage needs, UpStack’s tool then translates that into estimated power needs so vendors can return bids based on estimated usage. This is an important change from how things are usually done; many quotes otherwise price based on the top estimated usage or a vendor-imposed minimum. By basing quotes off of one common forecast, we could get the pricing that fits our needs.

There are many more efficiencies that UpStack provides us and we’d encourage you to visit their site at https://upstack.com to learn more. The punchline is that we were able to create a shortlist of the DCs that fit our requirements; we received 40 quotes provided by 40 data centers in 10 markets for evaluation. This was a blessing and a curse, as we were able to cast a wider net and learn about more qualified vendors than we thought possible, but a list of 40 needed to be narrowed down.

Based on our cost/risk framework, we narrowed it down to the 10 DCs that we felt gave us our best shot to end up with a low cost, low risk partner. With all the legwork done, it was time to go visit. To learn more about our three country trip to 10 facilities that lasted less than 72 hours, tune in tomorrow. Same bat time, same bat station.

The post Getting Ready to Go appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Announcing Our First European Data Center

Post Syndicated from Ahin Thomas original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/announcing-our-first-european-data-center/

city view of Amsterdam, Netherlands

Big news: Our first European data center, in Amsterdam, is open and accepting customer data!

This is our fourth data center (DC) location and the first outside of the western United States. As longtime readers know, we have two DCs in the Sacramento, California area and one in the Phoenix, Arizona area. As part of this launch, we are also introducing the concept of regions.

When creating a Backblaze account, customers can choose whether that account’s data will be stored in the EU Central or US West region. The choice made at account creation time will dictate where all of that account’s data is stored, regardless of product choice (Computer Backup or B2 Cloud Storage). For customers wanting to store data in multiple regions, please read this knowledge base article on how to control multiple Backblaze accounts using our (free) Groups feature.

Whether you choose EU Central or US West, your pricing for our products will be unchanged:

  • For B2 Cloud Storage — it’s $0.005/GB/Month. For comparison, storing your data in Amazon S3’s Ireland region will cost ~4.5x more
  • For Computer Backup — $60/Year/Computer is the monthly cost of our industry leading, unlimited data backup for desktops/laptops

Later this week we will be publishing more details on the process we undertook to get to this launch. Here’s a sneak preview:

  • Wednesday, August 28: Getting Ready to Go (to Europe). How do you even begin to think about opening a DC that isn’t within any definition of driving distance? For the vast majority of companies on the planet, simply figuring out how to get started is a massive undertaking. We’ll be sharing a little more on how we thought about our requirements, gathered information, and the importance of NATO in the whole equation.
  • Thursday, August 29: The Great European (Non) Vacation. With all the requirements done, research gathered, and preliminary negotiations held, there comes a time when you need to jump on a plane and go meet your potential partners. For John & Chris, that meant 10 data center tours in 72 hours across three countries — not exactly a relaxing summer holiday, but vitally important!
  • Friday, August 30: Making a Decision. After an extensive search, we are very pleased to have found our partner in Interxion! We’ll share a little more about the process of narrowing down the final group of candidates and selecting our newest partner.
If you’re interested in learning more about the physical process of opening up a data center, check out our post on the seven days prior to opening our Phoenix DC.

New Data Center FAQs:

Q: Does the new DC mean Backblaze has multi-region storage?
A: Yes, by leveraging our Groups functionality. When creating an account, users choose where their data will be stored. The default option will store data in US West, but to choose EU Central, simply select that option in the pull-down menu.

Region selector
Choose EU Central for data storage

If you create a new account with EU Central selected and have an existing account that’s in US West, you can put both of them in a Group, and manage them from there! Learn more about that in our Knowledge Base article.

Q: I’m an existing customer and want to move my data to Europe. How do I do that?
A: At this time, we do not support moving existing data within Backblaze regions. While it is something on our roadmap to support, we do not have an estimated release date for that functionality. However, any customer can create a new account and upload data to Europe. Customers with multiple accounts can administer those accounts via our Groups feature. For more details on how to do that, please see this Knowledge Base article. Existing customers can create a new account in the EU Central region and then upload data to it; they can then either keep or delete the previous Backblaze account in US West.

Q: Finally! I’ve been waiting for this and am ready to get started. Can I use your rapid ingest device, the B2 Fireball?
A: Yes! However, as of the publication of this post, all Fireballs will ship back to one of our U.S. facilities for secure upload (regardless of account location). By the end of the year, we hope to offer Fireball support natively in Europe (so a Fireball with a European customer’s data will never leave the EU).

Q: Does this mean that my data will never leave the EU?
A: Any data uploaded by the customer does not leave the region it was uploaded to unless at the explicit direction of the customer. For example, restores and snapshots of data stored in Europe can be downloaded directly from Europe. However, customers requesting an encrypted hard drive with their data on it will have that drive prepared from a secure U.S. location. In addition, certain metadata about customer accounts (e.g. email address for your account) reside in the U.S. For more information on our privacy practices, please read our Privacy Policy.

Q: What are my payment options?
A: All payments to Backblaze are made in U.S. dollars. To get started, you can enter your credit card within your account.

Q: What’s next?
A: We’re actively working on region selection for individual B2 Buckets (instead of Backblaze region selection on an account basis), which should open up a lot more interesting workflows! For example, customers who want can create geographic redundancy for data within one B2 account (and for those who don’t want to set that up, they can sleep well knowing they have 11 nines of durability).

We like to develop the features and functionality that our customers want. The decision to open up a data center in Europe is directly related to customer interest. If you have requests or questions, please feel free to put them in the comment section below.

The post Announcing Our First European Data Center appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

B2 Copy File is Now Public

Post Syndicated from Ahin Thomas original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/b2-copy-file-is-now-public/

B2 Copy File

At the beginning of summer, we put B2 Copy File APIs into beta. We’re pleased to announce the end of the beta and that the APIs are all now public!

We had a number of people use the beta features and give us great feedback. In fact, because of the feedback, we were able to implement an incremental feature.

New Feature — Bucket to Bucket Copies

Initially, our guidance was that these new APIs were only to be used within the same B2 bucket, but in response to customer and partner feedback, we added the ability to copy files from one bucket to another bucket within the same account.

To use this new feature with b2_copy_file, simply pass in the destinationBucketId where the new file copy will be stored. If this is not set, the copied file will simply default to the same bucket as the source file. Within b2_copy_part, there is a subtle difference in that the Source File ID can belong to a different bucket than the Large File ID.

For the complete API documentation, refer to the Backblaze B2 docs online:

What You Can Do With B2 Copy File

In a literal sense, the new capability enables you to create a new file (or new part of a large file) that is a copy of an existing file (or range of an existing file). You can either copy over the source file’s metadata or specify new metadata for the new file that is created. This all occurs without having to download or re-upload any data.

This has been one of our most requested features as it unlocks:

  • Rename/Re-organize. The new capabilities give customers the ability to re-organize their files without having to download and re-upload. This is especially helpful when trying to mirror the contents of a file system to B2.
  • Synthetic Backup. With the ability to copy ranges of a file, users can now leverage B2 for synthetic backup, i.e. uploading a full backup but then only uploading incremental changes (as opposed to re-uploading the whole file with every change). This is particularly helpful for applications like backing up VMs where re-uploading the entirety of the file every time it changes can be inefficient.

While many of our customers directly leverage our APIs, just as many use 3rd party software (B2 Integration Partners) to facilitate storage into B2. Our Integration Partners were very helpful and active in giving us feedback during the beta. Some highlights of those that are already supporting the copy_file feature:

Transmit logoTransmit: macOS file transfer/cloud storage application that supports high speed copying to data between your Mac and more than 15 different cloud services.
Rclone logoRClone: Rsync for cloud storage is a powerful command line tool to copy and sync files to and from local disk, SFTP servers, and many cloud storage providers.
Mountain Duck logoMountain Duck: Mount server and cloud storage as a disk (Finder on macOS; File Explorer on Windows). With Mountain Duck, you can also open remote files with any application as if the file were on a local volume.
Cyberduck logoCyberduck: File transfer/cloud storage browser for Mac and Windows with support for more than 10 different cloud services.

Where to Learn More

The endpoint documentation can be found here:

The post B2 Copy File is Now Public appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Wanted: Graphic Designer

Post Syndicated from Ahin Thomas original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/wanted-graphic-designer/

Hiring

We’re looking for a graphic designer who understands and loves focusing on the customer. As importantly, we’re looking for someone that wants to be on a team that shows genuine care for each other. Put more plainly, we’re looking for a teammate.

About Backblaze

Backblaze provides cloud storage that’s astonishingly easy to use and low cost. Our customers use our services so they can pursue dreams like curing cancer (genome mapping is data intensive), archiving the work of some of the greatest artists on the planet (learn more about how Austin City Limits uses B2), or simply sleeping well at night (anyone that’s spilled a cup of coffee on a laptop knows the relief that comes with complete, secure backups). We are entrusted with over 750 PB of data from customers in more than 150 countries. From a storage standpoint, our platform is on the scale of Dropbox & Facebook.

More importantly, we’ve earned the trust and support of our customers. When we raised our prices, we got hundreds of tweets like this.

We’re proud (and humbled) to have such strong relationships with our customers that they root for our success.

More About The Opportunity

Our customer base is diverse (from consumer to SMB to developer) and our design approach represents our need to connect with a wide audience while maintaining a consistent brand identity.

Backblaze has five co-founders (all of whom are still working at Backblaze today). One of our founders, Casey, is the VP of design. As our team and business has grown, one person simply cannot serve all of our needs. We have created the role of graphic designer to be a dedicated member of the Marketing department, reporting to the VP of marketing (Ahin). Casey will be focusing full time on our UX needs. As such, our graphic designer is empowered to enable the needs of the Marketing team.

The Ideal Candidate

Is a designer who is ready to jump in at every stage of the creative process, from brainstorming fresh concepts to fine-tuning pixel perfect campaign assets. The ideal person understands how to work with internal customers (members of the Marketing team) to breathe life into our messaging and ensure a consistent brand experience.

The ideal candidate cares about quality, craft, and producing to fixed deadlines.

What you’ll be doing:

  • Webpage design for A/B testing: In conjunction with Marketing leads, create tests to optimize onsite conversion
  • Imagery selection and creation for blog posts
  • Case study layout for print & web
  • Trade show booth design
  • Creating illustrations for print and web
  • Webpage creation/redesign for product launches, marketing campaigns, etc.

The qualities/background we’re looking for:

  • Outstanding portfolio. We love to see your work and all submissions are reviewed. We’re looking for someone with ~ 5 years of professional experience that includes at least 3 years with web enabled businesses (SaaS or eCommerce).
  • Experience with industry standard design tools (Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.). Familiarity with HTML, CSS.
  • Creativity to generate multiple solutions to problems. The best designers work with the business leads to understand what the objective is and then collaborates on the best way to bring it to life.
  • Capable of juggling multiple projects simultaneously, staying organized, and meeting deadlines.
  • Ability to present your work to other members of the team and communicate conceptual ideas and detailed design rationale both verbally and visually. We are a collaborative team that asks everyone to have openness to take direction when it’s given, and confidence to take the lead when it’s not.

Some nice to haves:

  • Experience working with user interface design, typography, iconography, information layout, color, space, and texture.
  • Experience with print, web, and mobile design.
  • JavaScript and JavaScript frameworks (Angular, React).

If this all sounds like you:

Send us an email at jobscontact@backblaze.com. Please put “Graphic Designer” in the subject line. In the email, include:

  • A link to your portfolio.
  • Your resume (either link or attachment).
  • Tell us a bit about why the role seems interesting to you. There is no min or max length, we’re just looking to understand what you’re looking for in your next opportunity.

The post Wanted: Graphic Designer appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Wanted: Head of Publishing

Post Syndicated from Ahin Thomas original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/wanted-head-of-publishing/

Backblaze is Hiring

Since 2007, Backblaze has earned our reputation as a leader in data storage. Our products are astonishingly easy to use and affordable. In a market that includes some of the biggest corporations of our time, we have differentiated ourselves by being cleverly unconventional in how we do things.

Our success is tied to the principles of being open and fair. This approach extends to our marketing and, by extension, content efforts. We like to share the stories (and facts) behind what we’re doing. As an example, we open sourced (and promoted) our storage platform that provides the lowest cost of cloud storage on the planet. It explains how we can offer cloud storage at ¼ of the price of Amazon. This storytelling is the fuel of a content marketing machine that drives our top of funnel growth.

We have created a new role, our head of publishing, because as our team has grown, the opportunity to share stories about how people solve problems is getting bigger. Beyond our team of outstanding marketers, we have an organization (from Ops/Engineering/Support etc.) that believes in the spirit of storytelling. Our new head of publishing role has the mandate to act as the chief storytelling coach for all of our writers (substantive editing) as well as ensuring ruthless precision in our execution. In empowering this role, we hope to continually invest in Backblaze’s storytelling strength as fuel for our content marketing efforts.

The head of publishing reports to the VP of marketing and has one direct report, the content director.

The Primary Responsibilities for the Head of Publishing:

  • Editing: Nurture our tradition of creating widely loved and consumed content, with a primary focus on our blog.
    • Every piece of content that ships should be reviewed by the head of publishing. A representative monthly cadence involves the editing of eight blog posts, one case study, one to two webinar presentations and various web pages/knowledge base articles.
    • Drive the effort to create new content franchises — a topic area that can be revisited on a regular cadence (anywhere between quarterly and annual) told as a story that appeals to an audience that will then share it on Reddit, HackerNews, or similar social network. A franchise is unlikely to make a directly commercial pitch. Rather, its goal is brand awareness for Backblaze — create engagement amongst an audience that would plausibly use our products. We measure success through blog comments and social sharing.
      • Our product marketers are tasked with attempting to create one franchise effort each per quarter, our content director should be creating two per quarter. Given these resources, your job is to be a partner and editor for these efforts. We can’t control things that do and do not go viral, we do control our resource allocation and effort.
  • Empower our content director: Create clear processes and standards to enable our content director to do his best work as a writer and copy editor.
    • Our content director is responsible for our blog operations, writing four to six posts per month, and copy editing. You help make the content director successful through coaching, partnership, and creating clarity on standards.
  • Define & execute Corporate Communications: Given customer segments and key messaging from Product Marketing, the head of publishing is responsible for ensuring a compelling corporate communications cadence that meets our strategic requirements.
    • Maintenance of our 90 day content calendar.
    • Running our weekly content meeting so as to ensure that our storytelling is excellent, the content calendar meets the needs of our business lines, and that deliverables are being met.
  • Promote the blog content: Through a combination of your own efforts, and coordinating with the efforts of our social media team, SEO Team, and PR firm.
    • Be the day to day contact with our PR firm — make sure they are aware of our calendar and progress against agreed upon deliverables.
    • Where our PR firm’s mandate does not include blog content that is otherwise pitchable, directly reach out to journalists for coverage.
    • Partner with our social lead to make sure content is promoted.
    • Partner with our SEO lead to make sure content is optimized.
  • Be the storytelling coach for our company: Be a company-wide editorial resource for making our internal and external communications compelling.
    • The first priority of this role is enabling Marketing efforts. In the long run, we want to create a center of excellence inside of Marketing that the entire company can turn to for better storytelling.

Key Measurements of Success

Our activities, ultimately, should contribute to profitable revenue growth for Backblaze. The leading indicators of success, owned by our head of publishing, include:

  • Growth in our blog audience:
    • Increase in email subscribers → Measures the long term engagement with our stories (love of the content). Achieved through a balance of low unsubscribes and new emails collected from blogs and webinars.
    • Increase in blog pageviews → A reflection of the transactional consumption of our content.
  • Organic engagement/syndication of blog posts:
    • Blog post comments → Shows a readership engaged in the conversation.
    • Reddit/HackerNews shares → Measurement of the community finding our content noteworthy. This is the metric to measure the success of our attempts to create franchises.
  • Sales team utilization of content:
    • Qualitative → Does the team feel they have what is needed to succeed?
    • Quantitative → Do they utilize new content in their efforts?

The Traits of Our Perfect Head of Publishing:

  • Excels in digital publishing for both literary and commercial contexts.
  • Comfortable driving and delivering to deadlines.
  • Demonstrates a honed approach to the craft of storytelling.
  • Embraces the interpersonal dynamics of being an editor (coach, cajoler, armchair psychologist, etc.).
  • Held roles that included the dual responsibilities of substantive editing and copy editing.
  • Has innate intellectual curiosity with technical matters. Experience with storage is not a requirement, but we need to have a mutual belief that the subject matter will be interesting for you.

A Little Bit More About Backblaze

In over a decade of operations, we have taken in a total of $3m in invested capital. This bootstrapped approach has helped to create a culture where we’re able to focus on our team. We’re proud to have created a place where people actually like to come to work. Please check out our Careers page to learn a little more and for a quick video of our team talking about our culture.

Sound Interesting?

In fewer than 500 words, describe an interaction you had with an author to help bring out the author’s best work. Our internal screening scorecard is the bullet points articulated under our traits section. We think someone with that kind of background will be successful in the role and a happy member of our team (read: cultural fit).

Our process is to look at the combination homework and your resume to try and understand how many of the traits you possess and, of the ones that you may not obviously possess, try to determine if there’s a plausible translation of your background to what we’re looking for.

If you’re interested, please send your resume and the 500 words to jobscontact@backblaze.com.

The post Wanted: Head of Publishing appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Backblaze B2 Copy File Beta is Now Public

Post Syndicated from Ahin Thomas original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/backblaze-b2-copy-file-beta-is-now-public/

B2 Copy File Beta

Since introducing B2 Cloud Storage nearly four years ago, we’ve been busy adding enhancements and new functionality to the service. We continually look for ways to make B2 more useful for our customers, be it through service level enhancements, partnerships with leading Compute providers, or lowering the industry’s lowest download price to 1¢/GB. Today, we’re pleased to announce the beta release of our newest functionality: Copy File.

What You Can Do With B2 Copy File

This new capability enables you to create a new file (or new part of a large file) that is a copy of an existing file (or range of an existing file). You can either copy over the source file’s metadata or specify new metadata for the new file that is created. This all occurs without having to download or reupload any data.

This has been one of our most requested features, as it unlocks:

  • Rename/Re-organize. The new capabilities give customers the ability to reorganize their files without having to download and reupload. This is especially helpful when trying to mirror the contents of a file system to B2.
  • Synthetic Backup. With the ability to copy ranges of a file, users can now leverage B2 for synthetic backup, which is uploading a full backup but then only uploading incremental changes (as opposed to reuploading the whole file with every change). This is particularly helpful for uses such as backing up VMs, where reuploading the entirety of the file every time it changes creates user inefficiencies.

Where to Learn More About B2 Copy File

The endpoint documentation can be found here:

b2_copy_file:  https://www.backblaze.com/b2/docs/b2_copy_file.html
b2_copy_part:  https://www.backblaze.com/b2/docs/b2_copy_part.html

More About the Beta Program

We’re introducing these endpoints as a beta so that developers can provide us feedback before the endpoints go into production. Specifically, this means that the APIs may evolve as a result of the feedback we get. We encourage you to give Copy File a try and, if you have any comments, you can email our B2 beta team at b2beta@backblaze.com. Thanks!

The post Backblaze B2 Copy File Beta is Now Public appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

New for Business Backup: Single Sign-On (SSO)

Post Syndicated from Ahin Thomas original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/new-for-business-backup-single-sign-on-sso/

Single Sign-On (SSO) for Backblaze
In 2017, we relaunched our Business Backup platform with a focus on providing administrators better tools for managing their teams. We’ve been busy enhancing the platform since the addition of Groups and thought we’d take a moment to review some of our latest enhancements.

The most recent is our support of Single Sign-On (SSO) using G Suite by Google Cloud. This has been one of our most requested features and we’re happy to be able to launch it today.

SSO Support for Groups

Effective immediately, SSO via G Suite is available for all Groups. There is no fee for turning on SSO or for creating a Group.

We created our Business Backup platform to help make managing your team’s backups easier. Whether your team is inside your household or a globally distributed workforce like charity: water (or somewhere in between), we want to make the process of getting your data backed up astonishingly easy and affordable.

As your team uses more and more software-based solutions, the challenge of managing all the logins gets more difficult. And as your team grows, so do the security issues. In addition, the simple act of administering the services can get complex. Administrators want to know they can onboard and offboard easily and efficiently.

SSO can be enabled for a specific Group, a collection of Groups, or all of your Groups. The flexibility, coupled with the ability to control access privileges at a Group level, provides administrators more tools to accomplish their goals.

You can enable SSO for your Groups inside of your preferences panel where you control all of your Group level customizations.

Groups Preferences Pane — Enable SSO

For more detail & FAQs, please visit our Knowledge Base article on Enabling Single Sign-On (SSO) In Backblaze Groups.

With the addition of SSO, we provide one more tool to manage your teams as you wish. With this roll out we are supporting G Suite based credentials. In Q1 of 2019, we’ll add support for organizations using Office365 credentials.

Mass Install with Microsoft Group Policy & SCCM

Another set of challenges for administrators is the deployment of software. Most users would prefer if their IT team simply “took care of everything.” For the user, a glorious world of having your machine updated and working flawlessly is great. For anyone who’s been in the IT Admin role, you know that things aren’t quite that simple.

Many administrators seek what’s known as Mass Silent Install (MSI). This allows the deployment of software without any end user interaction. Some do the scripting themselves, while others use Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) tools. We recently added SCCM support to our existing list of MSI options.

We are constantly striving to make getting your data backed up as easy as possible, and adding SSO is another strong step in that direction.

The post New for Business Backup: Single Sign-On (SSO) appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Credential Stuffing Attacks: What They Are and How to Protect Yourself

Post Syndicated from Ahin Thomas original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/how-to-protect-yourself-from-credential-stuffing-attacks/

a hacker wearing a hoodie running a credential stuffing attack
While we often see warnings about password best practices (different passwords for different services, change passwords frequently, 123456 is never a good password), we rarely get into why we need to do these things. Incremental security comes at a cost: usually convenience. Every individual must decide her personal tradeoffs. Today, we want to share one of the ways malicious actors try to take advantage of online services and poorly-crafted passwords: credential stuffing attacks.

What is a Credential Stuffing Attack?

A credential stuffing attack occurs when an attacker takes a set of stolen user credentials and automates the entry of those credentials into popular websites. Let’s unpack that:

Credentials
A user name and password combination used for logging in to service x.
Breached credentials
A list of user name/password combinations that have become public in some form. As an example, an enterprising cybercriminal exploits credentials from Adobe, Coachella, Dropbox, LinkedIn, Ticketfly, Yahoo and other sites that have leaked personal information for over 500 million accounts.
Automated entry
The cybercriminal will go to the login page on service x and systematically cycle through each user name and password combination hoping to get lucky enough to find a match. Some will even go further by using one email address and cycling through all the passwords in the database — the logic being that users tend to come up with similar passwords, such as 123456 or Pa$$word$.

What is Backblaze Doing to Defend Against Credential Stuffing Attacks?

Every service of scale, including Backblaze, has defense mechanisms to inhibit this sort of activity. For instance, when you see “too many attempts, try again later,” on a popular site, what is likely happening behind the scenes is something called rate limiting. This is when a web page has a rule akin to: if there are x number of login attempts in y seconds, it’s probably a robot; we should cut them off.

The problem is balancing security with the user experience. If we limited every account to two login attempts per hour, that would hamstring the efforts of any automated attack. However, it would also impede the efforts of legitimate users who made a simple typo when they were entering their password.

Revealing our exact rate limiting policies would pose a security risk to our users, allowing the attackers to fine-tune an attack. That said, we do have rate limiting, we do constantly monitor our systems, and we also have algorithms and humans that will adjust our rate limiting depending on a number of environmental variables that our security team monitors.

The Three Steps We Tell Everyone In Our Family to Take

With the large number of data breaches over the past few years, it’s more likely than not that you’ve been exposed. If you’ve been using the same email and password combination for three years and have a Comcast account that old, you could be exposed. It’s the same story for Ticketfly accounts older than May of 2018. We mention these not to single out any particular service, but to point out how prevalent these things are.

However, if you have different passwords for every website, you effectively protect yourself from being hacked as a result of leaks like these. While that might be true, trying to remember and manage all those different combinations is cumbersome.

How to Fight Back Against Credential Stuffing

Protecting yourself from credential stuffing attacks can be as simple as adopting the following three tactics:

1 — Monitor Your Email Addresses

Troy Hunt runs a phenomenal service called haveibeenpwned.com. He tracks major breaches and will let you know if your credentials were included in them. It’s free, although you can donate to the service. Signing up is one of the easiest ways to take control of your own security.

2 — Use Two Factor Verification

2FV, as it’s commonly called, is when you are asked for an incremental authentication — usually numbers generated by a dedicated app (including a password manager) — after you enter your password. Backblaze offers it as a complimentary service as do many other service providers. 2FV is a good defense mechanism against credential stuffing.

3 — Use a Password Manager

We highly recommend using a password manager such as Bitwarden, LastPass, or 1Password. Those services can help create new account credentials for every website you frequent, and help you manage those credentials when you visit those sites. Many people at Backblaze use these services and are quite happy with them.

One of the advantages of password managers is that they let you create passwords you can’t possibly remember. You just need to remember the master password to your password manager; they do the rest. That means you can set complicated passwords to any service. Each of the password managers integrate well into all major browsers and into Android and iOS devices. Not only will a password manager make your life secure, it makes your login experience much faster.

The Best Protection Against Credential Stuffing Is…

Of course, the best protection in the world is never being exposed in the first place. We encourage everyone to do business with vendors that can articulate how they protect their customers and have a sustained investment in doing so. At Backblaze, we’ve outlined our approach to security on our website.

All that said, the reality is we’ve all created accounts with service providers that may not have the best security practices. Even still, any website with the best intentions can still be felled by a skilled attacker, which is why the the need to protect ourselves and use credential best practices is very real. We hope, and strongly recommend, that everyone follow the three steps mentioned here.

If you have other other tips for the community, please feel free to share in the comments below!

The post Credential Stuffing Attacks: What They Are and How to Protect Yourself appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Introducing Backblaze’s Rapid Ingest Service: B2 Fireball

Post Syndicated from Ahin Thomas original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/introducing-backblazes-rapid-ingest-service-fireball/

Introducing Backblaze Fireball

Backblaze’s rapid ingest service, Fireball, graduates out of public beta. Our device holds 70 terabytes of customer data and is perfect for migrating large data sets to B2 Cloud Storage.

At Backblaze, we like to put ourselves in the customer’s shoes. Specifically, we ask questions like “how can we make cloud storage more useful?” There is a long list of things we can do to help — over the last few weeks, we’ve addressed some of them when we lowered the cost of downloading data to $0.01 / GB. Today, we are pleased to publicly release our rapid ingest service, Fireball.

What is the Backblaze B2 Fireball?

The Fireball is a hardware device, specifically a NAS device. Any Backblaze B2 customer can order it from inside their account. The Fireball device can hold up to 70 terabytes of data. Upon ordering, it ships from a Backblaze data center to you. When you receive it, you can transfer your data onto the Fireball using your internal network. Once your data transfer is complete, you send it back to a Backblaze data center. Finally, inside our secure data center, your data is uploaded from the Fireball to your account. Your data remains encrypted throughout the process. Step by step instructions can be found here.

What is Fireball?

Why Use the Fireball?

“We would not have been able to get this project off the ground without the B2 Fireball.” — James Cole, KLRU (Austin City Limits)

For most customers, transferring large quantities of data isn’t always simple. The need can arise as you migrate off of legacy systems (e.g. replacing LTO) or simply on a project basis (e.g. transferring video shot in the field to the cloud). An common approach is to upload your data via the internet to the cloud storage vendor of your choosing. While cloud storage vendors don’t charge for uploads, you have to pay your network provider for bandwidth. That’s assuming you are in a place where the bandwidth can be secured.

Your data is stored in megabytes (“MB”) but your bandwidth is measured in megabits per second (“Mbps”). The difference? An 80 Mbps upload connection will transfer no more than 10 MB per second. That means, in your best case scenario, you might be able to upload 50 terabytes in 50 days, assuming you use nearly all of your upload bandwidth for the upload.

If you’re looking to migrate old backups from LTO or even a large project, a 3 month lag time is not operationally viable. That’s why multiple cloud storage providers have introduced rapid ingest devices.

How It Compares: Backblaze B2 Fireball vs AWS Snowball vs GCS Transfer Appliance

“We found the B2 Fireball much simpler and easier to use than Amazon’s Snowball. WunderVu had been looking for a cloud solution for security and simplicity, and B2 hit every check box.” — Aaron Rhodes, Executive Producer, WunderVu

Every vendor that offers a rapid ingest service only lets you upload to that vendor’s cloud. For example, you can’t use an Amazon Snowball to upload to Google Cloud Storage. This means that when considering a rapid ingest service, you are also making a decision on what cloud storage vendor to use. As such, one should consider not only the cost of the rapid ingest service, but also how much that vendor is going to charge you to store and download your data.

Device CapacityService FeeShippingCloud Storage
$/GB/Month
Download
$/GB
Backblaze B270 TB$550
(30 day rental)
$75$0.005$0.01
Amazon S350 TB$200
(10 day rental)
$? *$0.021
+320%
$0.05+
+500%
Google Cloud100 TB$300
(10 day rental)
$500$0.020
+300%
$0.08+
+800%

*AWS does not estimate shipping fees at the time of the Snowball order.

To make the comparison easier, let’s create a hypothetical case and compare the costs incurred in the first year. Assume you have 100 TB as an initial upload. But that’s just the initial upload. Over the course of the year, let’s consider a usage pattern where every month you add 5 TB, delete 2 TBs, and download 10 TBs.

Transfer CostCloud Storage FeesTotal Transfer +
Cloud Storage Fees
Backblaze B2$1,250
(2 Fireballs)
$9,570$10,820
Amazon S3$400
(2 Snowballs)
$36,114$36,514
+337%
Google Cloud$800
(1 transit)
$39,684$40,484
+374%

Just looking at the first year, Amazon is 337% more expensive than Backblaze and Google is 374% more expensive than Backblaze.

Put simply, Backblaze offers the lowest cost, high performance cloud storage on the planet. During our public beta of the Fireball program we’ve had extremely positive feedback around how the Fireball enables customers to get their projects started in a time efficient and cost effective way. We hope you’ll give it a try!

The post Introducing Backblaze’s Rapid Ingest Service: B2 Fireball appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Introducing the B2 Snapshot Return Refund Program

Post Syndicated from Ahin Thomas original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/b2-snapshot-return-refund-program/

B2 Snapshot Return Refund Program

What Is the B2 Snapshot Return Refund Program?

Backblaze’s mission is making cloud storage astonishingly easy and affordable. That guides our focus — making our customers’ data more usable. Today, we’re pleased to introduce a trial of the B2 Snapshot Return Refund program. B2 customers have long been able to create a Snapshot of their data and order a hard drive with that data sent via FedEx anywhere in the world. Starting today, if the customer sends the drive back to Backblaze within 30 days, they will get a full refund. This new feature is available automatically for B2 customers when they order a Snapshot. There are no extra buttons to push or boxes to check — just send back the drive within 30 days and we’ll refund your money. To put it simply, we are offering the cloud storage industry’s only refundable rapid data egress service.

You Shouldn’t be Afraid to Use Your Own Data

Last week, we cut the price of B2 downloads in half — from 2¢ per GB to 1¢ per GB. That 50% reduction makes B2’s download price 1/5 that of Amazon’s S3 (with B2 storage pricing already 1/4 that of S3). The price reduction and today’s introduction of the B2 Snapshot Return Refund program are deliberate moves to eliminate the industry’s biggest barrier to entry — the cost of using data stored in the cloud.  Storage vendors who make it expensive to restore, or place time lag impediments to access, are reducing the usefulness of your data. We believe this is antithetical to encouraging the use of the cloud in the first place.

Learning From Our Customers

Our Computer Backup product already has a Restore Return Refund program. It’s incredibly popular, and we enjoy the almost daily “you just saved my bacon” letters that come back with the returned hard drives. Our customer surveys have repeatedly demonstrated that the ability to get data back is one of the things that has made our Computer Backup service one of the most popular in the industry. So, it made sense to us that our B2 customers could use a similar program.

There are many ways B2 customers can benefit from using the B2 Snapshot Return Refund program, here is a typical scenario.

Media and Entertainment Workflow Based Snapshots

Businesses in the Media and Entertainment (M&E) industry tend to have large quantities of digital media, and the amount of data will continue to increase in the coming years with more 4K and 8K cameras coming into regular use. When an organization needs to deliver or share that data, they typically have to manually download data from their internal storage system, and copy it on a thumb drive or hard drive, or perhaps create an LTO tape. Once that is done, they take their storage device, label it, and mail to their customer. Not only is this practice costly, time consuming, and potentially insecure, it doesn’t scale well with larger amounts of data.

With just a few clicks, you can easily distribute or share your digital media if it stored in the B2 Cloud. Here’s how the process works:

  1. Log in to your Backblaze B2 account.
  2. Navigate to the bucket where the data is located.
  3. Select the files, or the entire bucket, you wish to send and create a “Snapshot.”
  4. Once the Snapshot is complete you have choices:
    • Download the Snapshot and pay $0.01/GB for the download
    • Have Backblaze copy the Snapshot to an external hard drive and FedEx it anywhere in the world. This stores up to 3.5 TB and costs $189.00. Return the hard drive to Backblaze within 30 days and you’ll get your $189.00 back.
    • Have Backblaze copy the Snapshot to a flash drive and FedEx it anywhere in the world. This stores up to 110 GB and costs $99.00. FedEx shipping to the specified location is included. Return the flash drive to Backblaze within 30 days and you’ll get your $99.00 back.

You can always keep the hard drive or flash drive and Backblaze, of course, will keep your money.

Each drive containing a Snapshot is encrypted. The encryption key can be found in your Backblaze B2 account after you log in. The FedEX tracking number is there as well. When the hard drive arrives at its destination you can provide the encryption key to the recipient and they’ll be able to access the files. Note that the encryption key must be entered each time the hard drive is started, so the data remains protected even if the hard drive is returned to Backblaze.

The B2 Snapshot Return Refund program supports Snapshots as large as 3.5 terabytes. That means you can send about 50 hours of 4k video to a client or partner by selecting the hard drive option. If you select the flash drive option, a Snapshot can be up to 110 gigabytes, which is about 1hr and 45 min of 4k video.

While the example uses an M&E workflow, any workflow requiring the exchange or distribution of large amounts of data across distinct geographies will benefit from this service.

This is a Trial Program

Backblaze fully intends to offer the B2 Snapshot Return Refund Program for a long time. That said, there is no program like this in the industry and so we want to put some guardrails on it to ensure we can offer a sustainable program for all. Thus, the “fine print”:

  • Minimum Snapshot Size — a Snapshot must be greater than 10 GB to qualify for this program. Why? You can download a 10 GB Snapshot in a few minutes. Why pay us to do the same thing and have it take a couple of days??
  • The 30 Day Clock — The clock starts on the day the drive is marked as delivered to you by FedEx and the clock ends on the date postmarked on the package we receive. If that’s 30 days or less, your refund will be granted.
  • 5 Drive Refunds Per Year — We are initially setting a limit of 5 drive refunds per B2 account per year. By placing a cap on the number of drive refunds per year, we are able to provide a service that is responsive to our entire client base. We expect to change or remove this limit once we have enough data to understand the demand and can make sure we are staffed properly.

It is Your Data — Use It

Our industry has a habit of charging little to store data and then usurious amounts to get it back. There are certainly real costs involved in data retrieval. We outlined them in our post on the Cost of Cloud Storage. The industry rates charged for data retrieval are clearly strategic moves to try and lock customers in. To us, that runs counter to trying to do our part to make data useful and our customers’ lives easier. That viewpoint drives our efforts behind lowering our download pricing and the creation of this program.

We hope you enjoy the B2 Snapshot Return Refund program. If you have a moment, please tell us in the comments below how you might use it!

The post Introducing the B2 Snapshot Return Refund Program appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Backblaze Cuts B2 Download Price In Half

Post Syndicated from Ahin Thomas original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/backblaze-b2-drops-download-price-in-half/

Backblaze B2 downloads now cost 50% less
Backblaze is pleased to announce that, effective immediately, we are reducing the price of Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage downloads by 50%. This means that B2 download pricing drops from $0.02 to $0.01 per GB. As always, the first gigabyte of data downloaded each day remains free.

If some of this sounds familiar, that’s because a little under a year ago, we dropped our download price from $0.05 to $0.02. While that move solidified our position as the affordability leader in the high performance cloud storage space, we continue to innovate on our platform and are excited to provide this additional value to our customers.

This price reduction applies immediately to all existing and new customers. In keeping with Backblaze’s overall approach to providing services, there are no tiers or minimums. It’s automatic and it starts today.

Why Is Backblaze Lowering What Is Already The Industry’s Lowest Price?

Because it makes cloud storage more useful for more people.

When we decided to use Backblaze B2 as our cloud storage service, their download pricing at the time enabled us to offer our broadcasters unlimited audio uploads so they can upload past decades of preaching to our extensive library for streaming and downloading. With Backblaze cutting the bandwidth prices 50% to just one penny a gigabyte, we are excited about offering much higher quality video. — Ian Wagner, Senior Developer, Sermon Audio

Since our founding in 2007, Backblaze’s mission has been to make storing data astonishingly easy and affordable. We have a well documented, relentless pursuit of lowering storage costs — it starts with our storage pods and runs through everything we do. Today, we have over 500 petabytes of customer data stored. B2’s storage pricing already being 14 that of Amazon’s S3 has certainly helped us get there. Today’s pricing reduction puts our download pricing 15 that of S3. The “affordable” part of our story is well established.

I’d like to take a moment to discuss the “easy” part. Our industry has historically done a poor job of putting ourselves in our customers’ shoes. When customers are faced with the decision of where to put their data, price is certainly a factor. But it’s not just the price of storage that customers must consider. There’s a cost to download your data. The business need for providers to charge for this is reasonable — downloading data requires bandwidth, and bandwidth costs money. We discussed that in a prior post on the Cost of Cloud Storage.

But there’s a difference between the costs of bandwidth and what the industry is charging today. There’s a joke that some of the storage clouds are competing to become “Hotel California” — you can check out anytime you want, but your data can never leave.1 Services that make it expensive to restore data or place time lag impediments to data access are reducing the usefulness of your data. Customers should not have to wonder if they can afford to access their own data.

When replacing LTO with StarWind VTL and cloud storage, our customers had only one concern left: the possible cost of data retrieval. Backblaze just wiped this concern out of the way by lowering that cost to just one penny per gig. — Max Kolomyeytsev, Director of Product Management, StarWind

Many businesses have not yet been able to back up their data to the cloud because of the costs. Many of those companies are forced to continue backing up to tape. That tape is an inefficient means for data storage is clear. Solution providers like StarWind VTL specialize in helping businesses move off of antiquated tape libraries. However, as Max Kolomyeytsev, Director of Product Management at StarWind points out, “When replacing LTO with StarWind VTL and cloud storage our customers had only one concern left: the possible cost of data retrieval. Backblaze just wiped this concern out of the way by lowering that cost to just one penny per gig.”

Customers that have already adopted the cloud often are forced to make difficult tradeoffs between data they want to access and the cost associated with that access. Surrendering the use of your own data defeats many of the benefits that “the cloud” brings in the first place. Because of B2’s download price, Ian Wagner, a Senior Developer at Sermon Audio, is able to lower his costs and expand his product offering. “When we decided to use Backblaze B2 as our cloud storage service, their download pricing at the time enabled us to offer our broadcasters unlimited audio uploads so they can upload past decades of preaching to our extensive library for streaming and downloading. With Backblaze cutting the bandwidth prices 50% to just one penny a gigabyte, we are excited about offering much higher quality video.”

Better Download Pricing Also Helps Third Party Applications Deliver Customer Solutions

Many organizations use third party applications or devices to help manage their workflows. Those applications are the hub for customers getting their data to where it needs to go. Leaders in verticals like Media Asset Management, Server & NAS Backup, and Enterprise Storage have already chosen to integrate with B2.

With Backblaze lowering their download price to an amazing one penny a gigabyte, our CloudNAS is even a better fit for photographers, videographers and business owners who need to have their files at their fingertips, with an easy, reliable, low cost way to use Backblaze for unlimited primary storage and active archive. — Paul Tian, CEO, Morro Data

For Paul Tian, founder of Ready NAS and CEO of Morro Data, reasonable download pricing also helps his company better serve its customers. “With Backblaze lowering their download price to an amazing one penny a gigabyte, our CloudNAS is even a better fit for photographers, videographers and business owners who need to have their files at their fingertips, with an easy, reliable, low cost way to use Backblaze for unlimited primary storage and active archive.”

If you use an application that hasn’t yet integrated with B2, please ask your provider to add B2 Cloud Storage and mention the application in the comments below.

 

How Do the Major Cloud Storage Providers Compare on Pricing?

Not only is Backblaze B2 storage 14 the price of Amazon S3, Google Cloud, or Azure, but our download pricing is now 15 their price as well.

Pricing TierBackblaze B2Amazon S3Microsoft AzureGoogle Cloud
First 1 TB$0.01$0.09$0.09$0.12
Next 9 TB$0.01$0.09$0.09$0.11
Next 40 TB$0.01$0.085$0.09$0.08
Next 100 TB$0.01$0.07$0.07$0.08
Next 350 TB+$0.01$0.05$0.05$0.08

Using the chart above, let’s compute a few examples of download costs…

DataBackblaze B2Amazon S3Microsoft AzureGoogle Cloud
1 terabyte$10$90$90$120
10 terabytes$100$900$900$1,200
50 terabytes$500$4,300$4,500$4,310
500 terabytes$5,000$28,800$29,000$40,310
Not only is Backblaze B2 pricing dramatically lower cost, it’s also simple — one price for any amount of data downloaded to anywhere. In comparison, to compute the cost of downloading 500 TB of data with S3 you start with the following formula:
(($0.09 * 10) + ($0.085 * 40) + ($0.07 * 100) + ($0.05 * 350)) * 1,000
Want to see this comparison for the amount of data you manage?
Use our cloud storage calculator.

Customers Want to Avoid Vendor Lock In

Halving the price of downloads is a crazy move — the kind of crazy our customers will be excited about. When using our Transmit 5 app on the Mac to upload their data to B2 Cloud Storage, our users can sleep soundly knowing they’ll be getting a truly affordable price when they need to restore that data. Cool beans, Backblaze. — Cabel Sasser, Co-Founder, Panic

As the cloud storage industry grows, customers are increasingly concerned with getting locked in to one vendor. No business wants to be fully dependent on one vendor for anything. In addition, customers want multiple copies of their data to mitigate against a vendor outage or other issues.

Many vendors offer the ability for customers to replicate data across “regions.” This enables customers to store data in two physical locations of the customer’s choosing. Of course, customers pay for storing both copies of the data and for the data transfer between regions.

At 1¢ per GB, transferring data out of Backblaze is more affordable than transferring data between most other vendor regions. For example, if a customer is storing data in Amazon S3’s Northern California region (US West) and wants to replicate data to S3 in Northern Virginia (US East), she will pay 2¢ per GB to simply move the data.

However, if that same customer wanted to replicate data from Backblaze B2 to S3 in Northern Virginia, she would pay 1¢ per GB to move the data. She can achieve her replication strategy while also mitigating against vendor risk — all while cutting the bandwidth bill by 50%. Of course, this is also before factoring the savings on her storage bill as B2 storage is 14 of the price of S3.

How Is Backblaze Doing This?

Simple. We just changed our pricing table and updated our website.

The longer answer is that the cost of bandwidth is a function of a few factors, including how it’s being used and the volume of usage. With another year of data for B2, over a decade of experience in the cloud storage industry, and data growth exceeding 100 PB per quarter, we know we can sustainably offer this pricing to our customers; we also know how better download pricing can make our customers and partners more effective in their work. So it is an easy call to make.

Our pricing is simple. Storage is $0.005/GB/Month, Download costs are $0.01/GB. There are no tiers or minimums and you can get started any time you wish.

Our desire is to provide a great service at a fair price. We’re proud to be the affordability leader in the Cloud Storage space and hope you’ll give us the opportunity to show you what B2 Cloud Storage can enable for you.

Enjoy the service and I’d love to hear what this price reduction does for you in the comments below…or, if you are attending NAB this year, come by to visit and tell us in person!


1 For those readers who don’t get the Eagles reference there, please click here…I promise you won’t regret the next 7 minutes of your life.

The post Backblaze Cuts B2 Download Price In Half appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Cloud Storage Doesn’t have to be Convoluted, Complex, or Confusing

Post Syndicated from Ahin Thomas original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/cloud-storage-pricing-comparison/

business man frustrated over cloud storage pricing

So why do many vendors make it so hard to get information about how much you’re storing and how much you’re being charged?

Cloud storage is fast becoming the central repository for mission critical information, irreplaceable memories, and in some cases entire corporate and personal histories. Given this responsibility, we believe cloud storage vendors have an obligation to be transparent as possible in how they interact with their customers.

In that light we decided to challenge four cloud storage vendors and ask two simple questions:

  1. Can a customer understand how much data is stored?
  2. Can a customer understand the bill?

The detailed results are below, but if you wish to skip the details and the screen captures (TL;DR), we’ve summarized the results in the table below.

Summary of Cloud Storage Pricing Test

Our challenge was to upload 1 terabyte of data, store it for one month, and then download it.

Visibility to Data StoredEasy to Understand BillCost
Backblaze B2Accurate, intuitive display of storage information.Available on demand, and the site clearly defines what has and will be charged for.$25
Microsoft AzureStorage is being measured in KiB, but is billed by the GB. With a calculator, it is unclear how much storage we are using.Available, but difficult to find. The nearly 30 day lag in billing creates business and accounting challenges.$72
Amazon S3Incomplete. From the file browsing user interface, there is no reasonable way to understand how much data is being stored.Available on demand. While there are some line items that seem unnecessary for our test, the bill is generally straight-forward to understand.$71
Google Cloud ServiceIncomplete. From the file browsing user interface, there is no reasonable way to understand how much data is being stored.Available, but provides descriptions in units that are not on the pricing table nor commonly used.$100

Cloud Storage Test Details

For our tests, we choose Backblaze B2, Microsoft’s Azure, Amazon’s S3, and Google Cloud Storage. Our idea was simple: Upload 1 TB of data to the comparable service for each vendor, store it for 1 month, download that 1 TB, then document and share the results.

Let’s start with most obvious observation, the cost charged by each vendor for the test:

Cost
Backblaze B2$25
Microsoft Azure$72
Amazon S3$71
Google Cloud Service$100

Later in this post, we’ll see if we can determine the different cost components (storage, downloading, transactions, etc.) for each vendor, but our first step is to see if we can determine how much data we stored. In some cases, the answer is not as obvious as it would seem.

Test 1: Can a Customer Understand How Much Data Is Stored?

At the core, a provider of a service ought to be able to tell a customer how much of the service he or she is using. In this case, one might assume that providers of Cloud Storage would be able to tell customers how much data is being stored at any given moment. It turns out, it’s not that simple.

Backblaze B2
Logging into a Backblaze B2 account, one is presented with a summary screen that displays all “buckets.” Each bucket displays key summary information, including data currently stored.

B2 Cloud Storage Buckets screenshot

Clicking into a given bucket, one can browse individual files. Each file displays its size, and multiple files can be selected to create a size summary.

B2 file tree screenshot

Summary: Accurate, intuitive display of storage information.

Microsoft Azure

Moving on to Microsoft’s Azure, things get a little more “exciting.” There was no area that we could find where one can determine the total amount of data, in GB, stored with Azure.

There’s an area entitled “usage,” but that wasn’t helpful.

Microsoft Azure cloud storage screenshot

We then moved on to “Overview,” but had a couple challenges.The first issue was that we were presented with KiB (kibibyte) as a unit of measure. One GB (the unit of measure used in Azure’s pricing table) equates to roughly 976,563 KiB. It struck us as odd that things would be summarized by a unit of measure different from the billing unit of measure.

Microsoft Azure usage dashboard screenshot

Summary: Storage is being measured in KiB, but is billed by the GB. Even with a calculator, it is unclear how much storage we are using.

Amazon S3

Next we checked on the data we were storing in S3. We again ran into problems.

In the bucket overview, we were able to identify our buckets. However, we could not tell how much data was being stored.

Amazon S3 cloud storage buckets screenshot

Drilling into a bucket, the detail view does tell us file size. However, there was no method for summarizing the data stored within that bucket or for multiple files.

Amazon S3 cloud storage buckets usage screenshot

Summary: Incomplete. From the file browsing user interface, there is no reasonable way to understand how much data is being stored.

Google Cloud Storage (“GCS”)

GCS proved to have its own quirks, as well.

One can easily find the “bucket” summary, however, it does not provide information on data stored.

Google Cloud Storage Bucket screenshot

Clicking into the bucket, one can see files and the size of an individual file. However, no ability to see data total is provided.

Google Cloud Storage bucket files screenshot

Summary: Incomplete. From the file browsing user interface, there is no reasonable way to understand how much data is being stored.

Test 1 Conclusions

We knew how much storage we were uploading and, in many cases, the user will have some sense of the amount of data they are uploading. However, it strikes us as odd that many vendors won’t tell you how much data you have stored. Even stranger are the vendors that provide reporting in a unit of measure that is different from the units in their pricing table.

Test 2: Can a Customer Understand The Bill?

The cloud storage industry has done itself no favors with its tiered pricing that requires a calculator to figure out what’s going on. Setting that aside for a moment, one would presume that bills would be created in clear, auditable ways.

Backblaze

Inside of the Backblaze user interface, one finds a navigation link entitled “Billing.” Clicking on that, the user is presented with line items for previous bills, payments, and an estimate for the upcoming charges.

Backblaze B2 billing screenshot

One can expand any given row to see the the line item transactions composing each bill.

Backblaze B2 billing details screenshot

Summary: Available on demand, and the site clearly defines what has and will be charged for.

Azure

Trying to understand the Azure billing proved to be a bit tricky.

On August 6th, we logged into the billing console and were presented with this screen.

Microsoft Azure billing screenshot

As you can see, on Aug 6th, billing for the period of May-June was not available for download. For the period ending June 26th, we were charged nearly a month later, on July 24th. Clicking into that row item does display line item information.

Microsoft Azure cloud storage billing details screenshot

Summary: Available, but difficult to find. The nearly 30 day lag in billing creates business and accounting challenges.

Amazon S3

Amazon presents a clean billing summary and enables users to “drill down” into line items.

Going to the billing area of AWS, one can survey various monthly bills and is presented with a clean summary of billing charges.

AWS billing screenshot

Expanding into the billing detail, Amazon articulates each line item charge. Within each line item, charges are broken out into sub-line items for the different tiers of pricing.

AWS billing details screenshot

Summary: Available on demand. While there are some line items that seem unnecessary for our test, the bill is generally straight-forward to understand.

Google Cloud Storage (“GCS”)

This was an area where the GCS User Interface, which was otherwise relatively intuitive, became confusing.

Going to the Billing Overview page did not offer much in the way of an overview on charges.

Google Cloud Storage billing screenshot

However, moving down to the “Transactions” section did provide line item detail on all the charges incurred. However, similar to Azure introducing the concept of KiB, Google introduces the concept of the equally confusing Gibibyte (GiB). While all of Google’s pricing tables are listed in terms of GB, the line items reference GiB. 1 GiB is 1.07374 GBs.

Google Cloud Storage billing details screenshot

Summary: Available, but provides descriptions in units that are not on the pricing table nor commonly used.

Test 2 Conclusions

Clearly, some vendors do a better job than others in making their pricing available and understandable. From a transparency standpoint, it’s difficult to justify why a vendor would have their pricing table in units of X, but then put units of Y in the user interface.

Transparency: The Backblaze Way

Transparency isn’t easy. At Backblaze, we believe in investing time and energy into presenting the most intuitive user interfaces that we can create. We take pride in our heritage in the consumer backup space — servicing consumers has taught us how to make things understandable and usable. We do our best to apply those lessons to everything we do.

This philosophy reflects our desire to make our products usable, but it’s also part of a larger ethos of being transparent with our customers. We are being trusted with precious data. We want to repay that trust with, among other things, transparency.

It’s that spirit that was behind the decision to publish our hard drive performance stats, to open source the infrastructure that is behind us having the lowest cost of storage in the industry, and also to open source our erasure coding (the math that drives a significant portion of our redundancy for your data).

Why? We believe it’s not just about good user interface, it’s about the relationship we want to build with our customers.

The post Cloud Storage Doesn’t have to be Convoluted, Complex, or Confusing appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Balancing Convenience and Privacy

Post Syndicated from Ahin Thomas original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/privacy-vs-convenience/

balancing convenience and privacy

In early January of this year, in a conference room with a few other colleagues, we were at a point where we needed to decide how to balance convenience and privacy for our customers. The context being our team earnestly finalizing and prioritizing the launch features of our revamped Business Backup product. In the process, we introduced a piece of functionality that we call “Groups.” A Group is a mechanism that centralizes payment and simplifies management for multiple Backblaze users in a given organization or business. As with many services there were tradeoffs, but this one proved thornier than most.

The Trade-off Between Convenience and Privacy

The problem started as we considered the possibility of having a “Managed” Group. The concept is simple enough: Centralized billing is good, but there are clear use cases where a user would like to have someone act on their behalf. For instance, a business may want a System Administrator to create/manage restores on behalf of a group of employees. We have had many instances of someone from the home office ordering a hard drive restore for an employee in the field. Similarly, a Managed Service Provider (MSP) might provide, and potentially charge for, the service of creating/managing restores for their customers. In short, the idea of having an Administrator manage a defined collection of users (i.e. a Group) was compelling and added a level of convenience.

Great. It’s decided then, we need to introduce the concept of a Managed Group. And we’ll also have Unmanaged Groups. You can have infinite Groups of either kind, we’ll let the user decide!

Here’s the problem: The Managed Group feature could have easily been used for evil. For example, an overeager Administrator could restore an employee’s files, at anytime, for any reason -- legitimate or nefarious. This felt wrong as we’re a backup company, not spyware company.

This is when the discussion got more interesting. By adding a convenience feature, we realized that there was potential for user privacy to be violated. As we worked through the use cases, we faced potential conflict between two of our guiding principles:

  • Make backup astonishingly easy. Whether you are a individual, family, or business (or some combination), we want to make your life easier.
  • Don’t be evil. With great data storage comes great responsibility. We are the custodians of sensitive data and take that seriously.

So how best to balance a feature that customers clearly want while enabling sane protections for all users? It was an interesting question internally -- one where a fair amount of meetings, hallway conversations, and email exchanges were conducted in order to get it right.

Enabling Administration While Safeguarding Team Privacy

Management can be turned on for any Group at the time of Group Creation. As mentioned above, one Administrator can have as many Groups as desired and those Groups can be a mix of Managed and Unmanaged.

But there’s an interesting wrinkle -- if Management is enabled, potential members of that Group are told that the feature is enabled before they join the Group.

Backblze for Business Group Invite

We’ve, in plain terms, disclosed what is happening before the person starts backing up. If you read that and choose to start backing up, then you have been armed with full information.

Unfortunately, life isn’t that cut and dry. What if your company selected Backblaze and insists that everyone join the Group? Sure, you were told there are Administrators. Fine, my Administrator is supposed to act in the constructive interest of the Group. But what if the Admin is, as the saying goes, “for badness”?

Our solution, while seemingly innocuous, felt like it introduced a level of transparency and auditability that made us comfortable moving forward. Before an Administrator can do a restore on a Group Member’s behalf, the Admin is presented with a pop up that looks like this:

Backblaze for Business Restore Notification

If the Admin is going to create a restore on a user’s behalf, then that user will be notified of the activity. A less than well intentioned Admin will have some reluctance if he knows the user will receive an email. Since permission for this type of activity was granted when the individual joined the Group, we do allow the Admin to proceed with the restore operation without further approval (convenience).

However, the user will get notified and can raise any questions or concerns as desired. There are no false positives, if the user gets an email, that means an Admin was going to restore data from the user’s account. In addition, because the mechanism is email, it creates an audit trail for the company. If there are users that don’t want the alerts, we recommend simply creating an email filter rule and putting them into a folder (in case some day you did want them).

Customer Adoption

The struggle for us was to strike the right balance between privacy and convenience. Specifically, we wanted to empower our users to set the mix where it is appropriate for them. In the case of Groups, it’s been interesting to see that 93% of Groups are of the “Managed” variety.

More importantly to us, we get consistently good feedback about the notification mechanisms in place. Even for organizations where one Admin may be taking a number of legitimate actions, we’re told that the notifications are appreciated in the spirit that they are intended. We’ll continue to solicit feedback and analyze usage to find ways to improve all of our features. But hearing and seeing customer satisfaction is a positive indicator that we’ve struck the appropriate balance between convenience and privacy.

The late 20th century philosopher, Judge Smails, once posited “the most important decision you can make right now is what do you stand for…? Goodness… or badness?”

We choose goodness. How do you think we did?

The post Balancing Convenience and Privacy appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.