All posts by Peter Cohen

Confessions Of A Digital Pack Rat: Almost Half A Petabyte And Still Growing

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/confessions-of-a-digital-pack-rat-almost-half-a-petabyte-and-still-growing/

Retired rack server

What do you do when you have almost half a petabyte (PB) of data? That’s the situation in which Michael Oskierko finds himself. He’s a self-proclaimed digital pack rat who’s amassed more than 390 terabytes (TB) total, and it’s continuing to grow.

Based in Texas, Michael Oskierko is a financial analyst by day. But he’s set up one of the biggest personal data warehouses we’ve seen. The Oskierko family has a huge collection of photos, videos, documents and more – much more than most of us. Heck, more data than many companies have.

How Did It Get Like This?

“There was a moment when we were pregnant with our second child,” Michael explained. “I guess it was a nesting instinct. I was looking at pictures of our first child and played them back on a 4K monitor. It was grainy and choppy.”

Disappointed with the quality of those early images, he vowed to store future memories in a pristine state. “I got a DSLR that took great pictures and saved everything in RAW format. That’s about 30 MB per image right there.”

Michael says he now has close to 1 million photos (from many different devices, not just the DSLR) and about 200,000 videos stored in their original formats. Michael says that video footage from his drone alone occupies about 300 GB.

The Oskierkos are also avid music listeners: iTunes counts 707 days’ worth of music in their library at present. Michael keeps Green Day’s entire library on heavy rotation, with a lot of other alternative rock a few clicks away. His wife’s musical tastes are quite broad, ranging from ghetto rap to gospel. They’re also avid audiobook listeners, and it all adds up: Dozens more TB of shared storage space dedicated to audio files.

What’s more, he’s kept very careful digital records of stuff that otherwise might have gotten tossed to the curbside years ago. “I have every single note, test, project, and assignment from 7th grade through graduate school scanned and archived,” he tells us. He’s even scanned his textbooks from high school and college!

I started cutting these up and scanning the pages before the nifty ‘Scan to PDF’ was a real widespread option and duplexing scanners were expensive,” he said.

One of the biggest uses of space isn’t something that Michael needs constant access to, but he’s happy to have when the need arises. As a hobbyist programmer who works in multiple languages and on different platforms, Michael maintains a library of uncompressed disk images (ISOs) which he uses as needed.

When you have this much storage, it’s silly to get greedy with it. Michael operates his sprawling setup as a personal cloud for his family members, as well.

“I have a few hosted websites, and everyone in my family has a preconfigured FTP client to connect to my servers,” he said.

Bargain Hunting For Big Storage

How do you get 390 TB without spending a mint? Michael says it’s all about finding the right deals. The whole thing got started when a former boss asked if Michael would be interested in buying the assets of his shuttered computer repair business. Michael ended up with an inventory of parts which he’s successfully scavenged into the beginning of his 390 TB digital empire.

He’s augmented and improved that over time, evolving his digital library over six distinct storage systems that he’s used to maintaining all of his family’s personal data. He keeps an eye out wherever he can for good deals.

“There are a few IT support and service places I pass by on my daily commute to work,” he said. He stops in periodically to check if they’re blowing out inventory. Ebay and other online auction sites are great places for him to find deals.

“I just bought 100 1 TB drives from a guy on eBay for $4 each,” he said.

Miscellaneous parts

Michael has outgrown and retired a bunch of devices over the years as his storage empire has grown, but he keeps an orderly collection of parts and supplies for when he has to make some repairs.

How To Manage Large Directories: Keep It Simple

“I thoroughly enjoy data archiving and organizing,” Michael said. Perhaps a massive understatement. While he’s looked at Digital Asset Management (DAM) software and other tools to manage his ever-growing library, Michael prefers a more straightforward approach to figuring out what’s where. His focus is on a simplified directory structure.

“I would have to say I spend about 2 hours a week just going through files and sorting things out but it’s fun for me,” Michael said. “There are essentially five top-level directories.”

Documents, installs, disk images, music, and a general storage directory comprise the highest hierarchy. “I don’t put files in folders with other folders,” he explained. “The problem I run into is figuring out where to go for old archives that are spread across multiple machines.”

How To Back Up That Much Data

Even though he has a high-speed fiber optic connection to the Internet, Michael doesn’t want to use it all for backup. So much of his local backup and duplication is done using cloning and Windows’ built-in Xcopy tool, which he manages using home-grown batch files.

Michael also relies on Backblaze Personal Backup for mission-critical data on his family’s personal systems. “I recommend it to everyone I talk to,” he said.

In addition to loads of available local storage for backups, three of his Michael’s personal computers back up to Backblaze. He makes them accessible to family members who want the peace of mind of cloud-based backup. He’s also set up Backblaze for his father in law’s business and his mother’s personal computer.

“I let Backblaze do all the heavy lifting,” he said. “If you ever have a failure, Backblaze will have a copy we can restore.”

Thanks from all of us at Backblaze for spreading the love, Michael!

What’s Next?

The 390 TB is spread across six systems, which has led to some logistical difficulties for Michael, like remembering to power up the right one to get what he needs (he doesn’t typically run everything all the time to help conserve electricity).

Command Central

“Sometimes I have to sit there and think, ‘Where did I store my drone footage,’” Michael said.

To simplify things, Michael is trying to consolidate his setup. And to that end, he recently acquired a decommissioned Storage Pod from Backblaze. He said he plans to populate the 45-bay Pod with as large hard drives as he can afford, which will hopefully make it simpler, easier and more efficient to store all that data.

Well, as soon as he can find a great deal on 8 TB and 10 TB drives, anyway. Keep checking eBay, Michael, and stay in touch! We can’t wait to see what your Storage Pod will look like in action!

The post Confessions Of A Digital Pack Rat: Almost Half A Petabyte And Still Growing appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Deleted or Changed A File You Need Back? Backblaze Can Help

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/how-to-restore-deleted-files/

How to Restore Lost Files

Sometimes we like to spotlight some of our most-used functionality. This particular feature of Backblaze’s Personal Backup can get you out of a bind: Suddenly find yourself looking for a missing file? Or have you opened a file only to find out that it’s changed?

Having a local backup can get you recover quickly. If you have a Time Machine backup for your Mac, Windows Backup for your PC, hard disk clone or another backup, now’s the time to put it into action. But what if that backup isn’t working or has gone missing?

How it came to this is much less important than how to get back what’s gone. Fortunately, Backblaze users have a secret weapon at their fingertips which can erase up to a month’s worth of mistakes! Backblaze helps you recover a file from a point before it was changed or deleted, going back 30 days. Here’s how.

To restore a deleted or changed file using Backblaze

  1. Sign in to your account on Backblaze.com.
  2. Click on My Account.
  3. Click on View/Restore Files under Overview.
  4. Scroll down the screen to view your current backup.
  5. At the top of your backup directory, specify the date range of the backup files. Leave the “from:” menu set to “Beginning of Time.” Set the “to:” menu to a date or time before the document was deleted or changed. If you’re not sure when the file was changed, go back to the earliest instance you can find.
  6. Once you’ve located the disk, file, or folder you’d like to restore, click the checkbox next to its name.
  7. Click the “Continue with Restore” button.

Enormous file and directory restores can take a while, especially if you have limited Internet bandwidth. If you have a very large file or directory to recover – 500 GB or more – you can use our Restore Return Refund program.

Restore Return Refund sends your backup on disk to make for an easy, straightforward restoration. Select the file or directories you want to restore. Then order them to be sent to you either on USB thumbdrive (for restores up to 128 GB) or USB hard disk drive (for restores up to 4 TB). We restore your files safely and securely from our data center onto that device, which FedEx delivers to your door. You can keep the drive if you wish, or return it to us within 30 days, and we’ll refund the price – $99 for the USB thumb drive, $189 for the 4 TB drive.

With Backblaze keeping track of your files, rest more comfortably knowing that you can undo mistakes and tragedies before they become full-blown crises.

The post Deleted or Changed A File You Need Back? Backblaze Can Help appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

A History of Removable Computer Storage

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/history-removable-computer-storage/

A History of Removable Storage

Almost from the start we’ve had a problem with computers: They create and consume more data than we can economically store. Hundreds of companies have been created around the need for more computer storage. These days if we need space we can turn to cloud services like our own B2 Cloud Storage, but it hasn’t always been that way. The history of removable computer storage is like the history of hard drives: A fascinating look into the ever-evolving technology of data storage.

The Birth of Removable Storage

Punch Cards

punch card

Before electronic computers existed, there were electrical, mechanical computing devices. Herman Hollerith, a U.S. census worker interested in simplifying the laborious process of tabulating census data, made a device that read information from rectangular cards with holes punched in particular locations to indicate information like marital status and age.

Hollerith’s cards long outlasted him and his machine. With the advent of electronic computers in the 1950s, punch cards became the de facto method of data input. The conventions introduced with punch cards, such as an 80 column width, affected everything from the way we’d make computer monitors to the format of text files for decades.

Open-Reel Tapes and Magnetic Cartridges

IBM 100 tape drive

Magnetic tape drives were standard issue for the mainframes and minicomputers used by businesses and other organizations from the advent of the computer industry in the 1950s up until the 1980s.

Tape drives started out on 10 1/2-inch reels. A thin metal strip recorded data magnetically. Watch any television program of this era and the scene with a computer will show you a device like this. The nine-track tapes developed by IBM for its computers could store up to 175 MB per tape. At the time, that was a tremendous amount of data, suitable for archiving days or weeks’ worth of data. These days 175 MBs might be enough to store a few dozen photos from your smartphone. Times have changed!

Eventually the big reel to reel systems would be replaced with much more portable, easier-to-use, and higher density magnetic tape cartridges. Mag tapes for data backup found their way into PCs in the 80s and 90s, though they, too, would be replaced by other removable media systems like CD-R burners.

Linear Tape-Open (LTO) made its debut in the late 1990s. These digital tape cartridges could store 100 GB each, making them ideal for backing up servers and archiving big projects. Since then capacity has improved to 6.0 TB per tape. There’s still a demand for LTO data archival systems today. However, tape drives are nearing their end of usefulness as better cloud options takeover the backup and archival markets. Our own B2 Cloud Storage is rapidly making LTO a thing of the past.

Burning LTO

Winchester Drives

IBM 3340 Winchester drive

Spinning hard disk drives started out as huge refrigerator-sized boxes attached to mainframe computers. As more businesses found uses for computers, the need for storage increased, but allowable floor space did not. IBM’s solution for this problem came in the early 1970s: the IBM 3340, popular known as a Winchester.

The 3340 sported removable data modules that contained hard drive platters which could store up to 70 MB. Instead of having to buy a whole new cabinet, companies leasing equipment from IBM could buy additional data modules to increase their storage capabilities.

From the start, the 3340 was a smashing success (okay, maybe smashing isn’t the best adjective to use when describing a hard drive, but you get the point). You could find these and their descendants connected to mainframes and minicomputers in corporate data centers throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s.

The Birth of the PC Brings New Storage Solutions

Cassette Recorder

TRS-80 w cassette drive

The 1970s saw another massive evolution of computers with the introduction of first generation personal computers. The first PCs lacked any built-in permanent storage. Hard disk drives were still very expensive. Even floppy disk drives were rare at the time. When you turned the computer off, you’d lose your data, unless you had something to store it on.

The solution that the first PC makers came up was to use a cassette recorder. Microcassettes exploded in the consumer electronic market as a convenient and inexpensive way for people to record and listen to music and use for voice dictation. At a time that long-distance phone calls were an expensive luxury, it was the original FaceTime for some of us, too: I remember as a preschooler, recording and playing cassettes to stay in touch with my grandparents on the other side of the country.

So using a cassette recorder to store computer data made sense. The devices were already commonplace and relatively inexpensive. Type in a save command, and the computer played tones through a cable connected to the tape drive to differentiate binary 0s and 1s. Type in a load command, and you could play back the tape to read the program into memory. It was very slow. But it was better than nothing.

Floppy Disk

Commodore 1541

The 1970s saw the rise of the floppy disk, the portable storage format that ultimately reigned supreme for decades. The earliest models of floppy disks were eight inches in diameter and could hold about 80 KB. Eight-inch drives were more common in corporate computing, but when floppies came to personal computers, the smaller 5 1/4-inch design caught on like wildfire.

Floppy disks became commonplace alongside the Apples and Commodores of the day. You could squeeze about 120 KB onto one of those puppies. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but it was plenty of space for Apple DOS and Lode Runner.

Apple popularized the 3 1/2-inch size when it introduced the Macintosh in 1984. By the late 1980s the smaller floppy disk size – which would ultimately store 1.44 MB per disk – was the dominant removable storage medium of the day. And so it would remain for decades.

The Bernoulli Box

Bernoulli Box

In the early 1980s, a new product called the Bernoulli Box would offer the convenience of removable cartridges like Winchester drives but in a much smaller, more portable format. It was called the Bernoulli Box. The Bernoulli box was an important removable storage device for businesses who had transitioned from expensive mainframes and minicomputers to desktops.

Bernoulli cartridges worked on the same principle as floppies but were larger and in a much more shielded enclosure. The cartridges sported larger capacities than floppy disks, too. You could store 10 MB or 20 MB instead of the 1.44 MB limit on a floppy disk. Capacities would increase over time to 230 MB. Bernoulli Boxes and the cartridges were expensive, which kept them in the realm of business storage. Iomega, the Bernoulli Box’s creator, turned its attention to an enormously popular removable storage system you’ll read about later: the Zip drive.

SyQuest Disks

SyQuest drive

In the 1990s another removable storage device made its mark in the computer industry. SyQuest developed a removable storage system that used 44 MB (and later 88 MB) hard disk platters. SyQuest drives were mainstays of creative digital markets – I saw them on almost any I could find a Mac doing graphic design work, desktop publishing, music, or video work.

SyQuest would be a footnote by the late 90s as Zip disks, recordable CDs and other storage media overtook them. Speaking of Zip disks…

The Click of Death

Zip Drive

The 1990s were a transitionary period for personal computing (well, when isn’t, it really). Information density was increasing rapidly. We were still years away from USB thumb drives and ubiquitous high-speed Wi-Fi, so “sneakernet” – physically transporting information from one computer to another – was still the preferred way to get big projects back and forth. Floppy drives were too small, hard disks weren’t portable, and rewritable CDs were expensive.

Iomega came along with the Zip Drive, a removable storage system that used disks shaped like heavier-duty floppies, each capable of storing up to 100 MB on them. A high-density floppy could store 1.4 MB or so, so it was orders of magnitude more of portable storage. Zip Disks quickly became popular, but Iomega eventually redesigned them to lower the cost of manufacturing. The redesign came with a price: The drives failed more frequently and could damage the disk in the process.

The phenomenon became known as the Click of Death: The sound the actuator (the part with the read/write head) would make as it reset after hitting a damaged sector on the disk. Iomega would eventually settle a class-action lawsuit over the issue, but consumers were already moving away from the format.

Iomega developed a successor to the Zip drive: The Jaz drive. When it first came out, it could store 1 GB on a removable cartridge. Inside the cartridge was a spinning hard disk mechanism; it wasn’t unlike the SyQuest drives that had been popular a few years before, but in a smaller size you could easily fit into a jacket pocket. Unfortunately, the Jaz drive developed reliability problems of its own – disks would get jammed in the drives, drives overheated, and some had vibration problems.

Recordable CDs and DVDs

Apple SuperDrive

As a storage medium, Compact Discs had been around since the 1980s, mainly popular as a music listening format. CD burners connected from the beginning, but they were ridiculously huge and expensive: The size of a washing machine and tens of thousands of dollars. By the late 1990s technology improved, prices lowered and recordable CD burners – CD-Rs – became commonplace.

With our ever-increasing need for more storage, we moved on to DVD-R and DVD-RW systems within a few years, upping the total you could store per disc to 4.3 GB (eventually up to 8 GB per disc once dual-layer media and burners were introduced).

Blu-Ray Disc offers even greater storage capacity and is popular for its use in the home entertainment market, so some PCs have added recordable Blu-Ray drives. Blu-ray sports capacities from 25 to 128 GB per disc depending on format. Increasingly, even optical drives have become optional accessories as we’ve slimmed down our laptop computers to improve portability.

Magneto-Optical

Magneto-optical disk

Another optical format, Magneto-Optical (MO), was used on some computer systems in the 80s and 90s. It would also find its way into consumer products. The cartridges could store 650 MB. Initial systems were only able to write once to a disc, but later ones were rewriteable.

NeXT, the other computer maker founded by Steve Jobs besides Apple, was the earliest desktop system to feature a MO drive as standard issue. Magneto-optical drives were available in 5 1/4-inch and 3-inch physical sizes with capacities up to 9 GB per disc. The most popular consumer incarnation of magneto-optical is Sony’s MiniDisc.

Removeable Storage Moves Beyond Computers

SD Cards

SD Cards

The most recent removable media format to see widespread adoption on personal computers is the Secure Digital (SD) Card. SD cards have become the industry standard most popular with many smartphones, still cameras, and video cameras. They can serve up data securely thanks to password protection, smartSD protocol and Near Field Communication (NFC) support available in some variations.

With no moving parts and non-volatile flash memory inside, SD cards are reliable, quiet and relatively fast methods of transporting and archiving data. What’s more, they come in different physical sizes to suit different device applications – everything from postage stamp-sized cards found in digital cameras to fingernail-sized micro cards found in phones.

Even compared to 5 1/4-inch media like Blu-ray Discs, SD card capacities are remarkable. 128 GB and 256 GB cards are commonplace now. What’s more, the SDXC spec maxes out at 2 TB, with support for 8K video transfer speeds possible. So there’s some headroom both for performance and capacity.

The More Things Change

As computer hardware continues to improve and as we continue to demand higher performance and greater portability and convenience, portable media will change. But as we’ve found ourselves with ubiquitous, high-speed Internet connectivity, the very need for removable local storage has diminished. Now instead of archiving data on an external cartridge, disc or card, we can just upload it to the cloud and access it anywhere.

That doesn’t obviate the need for a good backup strategy, of course. It’s vital to keep your important files safe with a local archive or backup. For that, removable media like SD cards and rewritable DVDs and even external hard drives can continue to fill an important role. Remember to store your info offsite too, preferably with a continuous, secure and reliable backup method like Backblaze Cloud Backup: Unlimited, unthrottled and easy to use.

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Back Up Your Tax Data To Keep Your Records Safe

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/backup-tax-data/

 filling out your tax forms

Just filing taxes can be stressful enough. The last thing you need is a hassle with the IRS or your state’s Department of Revenue because you’ve lost or misplaced necessary paperwork.

So how long should you keep your tax records? The IRS recommends you keep records for up to 7 years. Don’t let data insecurity add to your tax season stress: make sure your digital tax files and any supporting documentation are well-protected with these tips.

Prepare Backups From Your Tax Prep Software

If you’re using TurboTax or another app to prepare this year’s taxes, make sure to save a copy of your tax data file on your device. And to be extra safe, export it to a universal format. A read-only format like PDF will do the job. The important thing is that you can look at the information you’ve submitted without needing proprietary software.

Intuit offers instructions on its web site to perform a TurboTax file backup. TaxAct also offers instructions for TaxAct file backup. If you’re using another tax prep software package, make sure to check the Help files or online support documentation for instructions on saving and exporting your tax data files.

The same goes for any accompanying files you’ve used as supporting documentation: scanned receipts, bank statements, 1099s, real estate tax, mortgage statements, insurance receipts, and any other records you’ve accounted for on your tax forms. Digital copies — file formats like JPG, GIF or PDF — are fine with the IRS, as long as they’re legible.

Put them all of your records in a “Taxes Year ####” folder that’s stored prominently in your Documents folder, or wherever you keep the digital records that are most important to you.

Back Up Your Tax Returns Locally and Offsite

Once you’ve got all your tax return files in a single location, back them up. Start by saving your data locally using Time Machine, Windows Backup, cloning software, or whichever method you prefer. Don’t rest on your laurels with that, though: you need offsite backup, too, to make sure that your data is safe no matter what happens.

Backblaze customer? Rest assured that Backblaze backs up that folder you created safely and securely. Backblaze backs up all your important files.

You can (and should) verify your files are being backed up from time to time. You should also test your backup periodically to make sure everything’s working as you expect.

Encrypt your tax records when transmitting and storing them in the cloud. Encryption is built-in to Backblaze. The same can’t be said for all cloud services, so check with other services to make they protect your data. Password-protecting individual files and folders adds another layer of protection.

If you’re not ready to come up with a complete backup strategy and are just looking for a quick fix, start with Backblaze and a USB thumbstick. Copy your files to the thumbstick and store it somewhere safe. If you’re not already backing up your computer, we can help. We’ve published guidelines for you in our Computer Backup Guide.

Don’t Depend On Just Any Cloud

Intuit used to offer a Backup to Cloud service for Turbotax customers. They later canceled the service the following year. Intuit gave only a short period to save the data before deleting it. That was a critical reminder for anyone to keep multiple copies of important documents.

You wouldn’t want what happened to Myspace files to happen to your tax documents. Myspace lost millions of users’ uploaded music files, videos, and photos due to a botched server migration. If MySpace was the only place those customers kept those files, they lost everything.

It may sound odd coming from us (as a cloud storage company), but we wouldn’t depend alone on iCloud or any other cloud storage or sync solution. Keep a local backup and a cloud backup — that way you’ll be able to restore no matter what happens.

Some people like to add an extra layer of redundancy by printing out paper records of their tax returns too — a truly universal file format. If you have the space to do it and can store them safely, it couldn’t hurt. Mark them for deletion no less than 3-7 years from your filing date.

Give Copies To Someone (or Something) You Trust

For an extra layer of redundancy, pass along copies of your tax documents to someone you trust for safekeeping. A spouse or close family member, accountant, attorney — whomever you think can be trusted to keep the documents safe. It’s the real-life equivalent to our 3-2-1 Backup Strategy because the goal here is to keep a copy offsite for safekeeping with a trusted third party (like Backblaze). Perhaps exchange thumbsticks with a family member or friend, so you both have offsite copies. If you wish, you can encrypt your thumbdrive for privacy. We suggest FileVault for Mac and Bitlocker for Windows to encrypt the USB thumbdrive.

Don’t Let Backing Up Be Taxing

It has been said that it’s impossible to be sure of anything but death and taxes. We can’t help you with the former, but hopefully we’ve given you some good ideas on how to make the latter less stressful by making sure all your tax data is available, secure, and safely archived. That way, if and when you eventually need it, it’ll be no more than a few taps or clicks away. If you have other ideas for good tax backup solutions, sound off in the comments — we want to hear from you.

•  •  •

Note:  This post was updated from April 6, 2017.

The post Back Up Your Tax Data To Keep Your Records Safe appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Don’t Get Trapped in iCloud

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/dont-get-trapped-icloud/

Don't Get Trapped in iCloud

Let me preface this with a bit of history: I’ve been using Macs for more than 30 years. I’ve seen an enormous amount of changes at Apple, and I’ve been using their online services since the AppleLink days (it was a pre-Internet dial-up service for Apple dealers and service people).

Over the past few years Apple’s made a lot of changes to iCloud. They’ve added some great additions to make it a world-class cloud service. But there are drawbacks. In the course of selling, supporting and writing about these devices, I consistently see people make the same mistakes. So with that background let’s get to my central point: I think it’s a big mistake to trust Apple alone with your data. Let me tell you why.

Apple aggressively promotes iCloud to its customers as a way to securely store information, photos and other vital data, leading to a false sense of security that all of your data is safe from harm. It isn’t. Let’s talk about some of the biggest mistakes you can make with iCloud.

iCloud Sync Does Not = Backing Up

Even if the picture of your puppy’s first bath time is on your iPhone and your iPad, it isn’t backed up. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to assume that since your photos, contacts, and calendar sync between devices, they’re backed up. There’s a big difference between syncing and backing up.

Repeat after me:
Syncing Is Not Backing Up
Syncing Is Not Backing Up
Syncing Is Not Backing Up

iCloud helps you sync content between devices. Add an event to the calendar app on your phone and iCloud pushes that change to the calendar on your Mac too. Take a photo with the iPhone and find it in your Mac’s Photos library without having to connect the phone to the computer. That’s convenient. I use that functionality all the time.

Syncing can be confusing, though. iCloud Photo Library is what Apple calls iCloud’s ability to sync photos between Apple devices seamlessly. But it’s a two-way street. If you delete a photo from your Mac, it gets removed from your iPhone too, because it’s all in iCloud, there is no backup copy anywhere else.

Recently my wife decided that she didn’t want to have the same photos on her Mac and iPhone. Extricating herself from that means shutting off iCloud Photo Library and manually syncing the iPhone and Mac. That adds extra steps to back everything up! Now the phone has to be connected to the Mac, and my wife has to remember to do it. Bottom line: Syncs between the computer and phone happen less frequently when they are manual, which means there’s more opportunity for pictures to get lost. But with Apple’s syncing enabled, my wife runs the risk of deleting photos that are important not just on one device but everywhere.

Relying on any of these features without having a solid backup strategy means you’re leaving it to Apple and iCloud to keep your pictures and other info safe. If the complex and intricate ecosystem that keeps that stuff working goes awry – and as Murphy’s Law demands, stuff always goes wrong – you can find yourself without pictures, music, and important files.

Better to be safe than sorry. Backing up your data is the way to make sure your memories are safe. Most of the people I’ve helped over the years haven’t realized that iCloud is not backing them up. Some of them have found out the hard way.

iCloud Doesn’t Back Up Your Computer

Apple does have something called “iCloud Backup.” iCloud Backup backs up critical info on the iPhone and iPad to iCloud. But it’s only for mobile devices. The “stuff” on your computer is not backed up by iCloud Backup.

Making matters worse, it’s a “space permitting” solution. Apple gives you a scant 5 GB of free space with an iCloud account. To put that in context, the smallest iPhone 7 ships with 32 GB of space. So right off the bat, you have to pay extra to back up a new device. Many of us who use the free account don’t want to pay for more, so we get messages telling us that our devices can’t be backed up.

More importantly, iCloud doesn’t back up your Mac. So while data may be synced between devices in iCloud, most of the content on your Mac isn’t getting backed up directly.

Be Wary of “Store In iCloud” and “Optimize Storage”

macOS X 10.12 “Sierra” introduced new remote storage functions for iCloud including “Store in iCloud” and “Optimize Storage.” Both of these features move information from your Mac to the cloud. The Mac leaves frequently accessed files locally, but files you don’t use regularly get moved to iCloud and purged from the hard drive.

Your data is yours.

Macs, with their high-performance hard drives, can run chronically short of local storage space. These new storage optimization features can offset that problem by moving what you’re not using to iCloud. As long as you stay connected to iCloud. If iCloud isn’t available, neither are your files.

Your data is yours. It should always be in your possession. Ideally, you’d have a local backup of your data (time machine, extra hard drive, etc) AND an offsite copy… not OR. We call that 3-2-1 Backup Strategy. That way you’re not dependent on Apple and a stable Internet connection to get your files when you want them.

iCloud Drive Isn’t a Backup Either

iCloud Drive is another iCloud feature that can lull you into a false sense of security. It’s a Dropbox-style sync repository – files put in iCloud Drive appear on the Mac, iPhone, and iPad. However, any files you don’t choose to add to iCloud Drive are only available locally and are not backed up.

iCloud Drive has limits, too. You can’t upload a file larger than 15 GB. And you can only store as much as you’ve paid for – hit your limit, and you’ll have to pay more. But only up to 2 TB, which will cost you $19.99/month.

Trust But Verify (and Back Up Yourself)

I’ve used iCloud from the start and I continue to do so. iCloud is an excellent sync service. It makes the Apple ecosystem of hardware and software easier to use. But it isn’t infallible. I’ve had problems with calendar syncing, contacts disappearing, and my music getting messed up by iTunes In the Cloud.

That was a real painful lesson for me. I synced thousands of tracks of music I’d had for many years, ripped from the original CDs I owned and had long since put in storage. iTunes In the Cloud synced my music library so I could share it with all my Apple devices. To save space and bandwidth, the service doesn’t upload your library when it can replace tracks with what it thinks are matches in iTunes’ own library. I didn’t want Apple’s versions – I wanted mine, because I’d customized them with album art and spent a lot of time crafting them. Apple’s versions sometimes looked and sounded differently than mine.

If I hadn’t kept a backup copy locally, I’d be stuck with Apple’s versions. That wasn’t what I wanted. My data is mine.

The prospect of downloading thousands of files, and all the time that would take is daunting. That’s why we created the Restore Return Refund program – you can get your backed up files delivered by FedEx on a USB thumbdrive or hard disk drive. You can’t do that with iCloud.

It’s experiences like that which explain why I think it’s so important to understand iCloud’s inherent shortcomings as a backup service. Having your data sync across your devices is a great feature and one I use all the time. However, as a sole backup solution, it’s a recipe for disaster.

Like all sync services if you accidently delete a file on one device it’s gone on all of your devices as soon as the next sync happens. Unfortunately “user error” is an all too common problem and when it comes to your data, it’s not one you want to take for granted.

Which brings us to the last point I want to make. It’s easy to get complacent with one company’s ecosystem, but circumstances change. What happens when you get rid of that Mac or that iPhone and get something that doesn’t integrate as easily with the Apple world? Extricating yourself from any company’s ecosystem can, quite frankly, be an intimidating experience, with lots of opportunities to overlook or lose important files. You can avoid such data insecurity by having your info backed up.

With a family that uses lots of Apple products, I pay for Apple’s iCloud and other Apple services. With a Mac and iPhone, iCloud’s ability to sync content means that my workflow is seamless from mobile to desktop and back. I spend less time fiddling with my devices and more time getting work done. The data on iCloud makes up my digital life. Like anything valuable, it’s common sense to keep my info close and well protected. That’s why I keep a local backup, with offsite backup through Backblaze, of course.

The safety, security, and integrity of your data are paramount. Do whatever you can to make sure it’s safe. Back up your files locally and offsite away from iCloud. Backblaze is here to help. If you need more advice for backing up your Mac, check out our complete Mac Backup Guide for details.

The post Don’t Get Trapped in iCloud appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Four Things To Do On World Backup Day

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/four-things-to-do-on-world-backup-day/

World Backup Day 2017

Happy World Backup Day! Are you backed up? If not, you should be! And if you are backing up, now’s the time to check to make sure your backup is doing what it’s supposed to. On this day, we thought we’d offer a few backup pointers to make sure you’re on the right track.

World Backup Day was thought up a few years ago to help remind us that backing up your data is important. While we at Backblaze didn’t have anything to do with its creation, it’s an idea that we certainly support. Because *every* day is World Backup Day at Backblaze.

1. Be Wary Of New Threats

Even if you regularly back up your computer, problems can stop you in your tracks. Malware and ransomware are prominent issues. Anti-virus and anti-malware software apps don’t always detect new exploits in a timely fashion.

Malware infection symptoms range from the annoying – browser redirects, crashes and slowdowns – to the downright extortionate, like our own Elli’s experience with ransomware.

Elli was protected with a Backblaze backup. The alternative would have been to either lose data or pay off ransomware hackers – either way, not a pretty picture.

2. Keep Your Backups Close

Don’t make your backup strategy dependent on a single point of failure. Hedge your bets by having more than one backup to restore from in the event of an emergency.

One solution is to keep a local backup copy on hand and another one offsite. Backblaze makes it easy with our unlimited, unthrottled cloud backup service available for one low price – just $5 per month.

Keep a local backup copy on hand and another one offsite.

Apple’s Time Machine, Microsoft’s Windows Backup, and many other apps let you create a local backup copy you can restore from quickly and easily. If anything goes wrong with that backup, or if you need to access your backup files when you’re away from your computer, you can restore from your cloud backup.

It’s part of the 3-2-1 Backup Strategy, which we think is a good start to make sure your data is safe.

3. Check Your Backup

If you already back up your computer, terrific. World Backup Day is just one day a year, but hopefully your backups happen more frequently. Take some time today to check your backup. Make sure the files you need are where they’re supposed to be.

Testing your backups should be an essential part of your overall backup strategy. Make sure you’re backing up what you need to. Also make sure the backups themselves work as they’re supposed to, by restoring files and checking them. A practical benefit of doing this is to gain familiarity with the process. That way, you’ll be experienced with what to do when it matters.

With Backblaze, it takes only a few mouse clicks to confirm your files are backed up.

Need more guidance to test your backups? We have you covered: Read up on
How To Test Your Backup.

4. Keep Up To Date on Backup Best Practices

Don’t be an April Fool. Despite the ubiquity of digital devices in our life, we’re complacent about the safety of our data. About a third of us have never backed up our computer.

Testing your backups should be an essential part of your overall backup strategy.

If you’re in that group, there are ways to keep your Mac or PC data safe. Visit our Computer Backup Guide to learn more. We’ll help you break down the why, what and how of computer backups.

If you already use Backblaze, make sure to catch up on our best practices, like testing the Backblaze backup service, using appropriate security measures, and restoring data to test integrity.

If you have ideas about backup practices or questions you’d like help with, join the discussion!

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How To Back Up Your Flickr Library

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/how-to-backup-your-flickr-library/

Flickr and cloud backup image

UPDATE May 17, 2018:  On April 20, Flickr announced that is being acquired by the image hosting and sharing service SmugMug. At that time, Flickr users were told that they have until May 25, 2018, to either accept the new terms of service from SmugMug or download their photo files from Flickr and close their accounts. Here is an excerpt from the email that was sent to Flickr users:

We think you are going to love Flickr under SmugMug ownership, but you can choose to not have your Flickr account and data transferred to SmugMug until May 25, 2018. If you want to keep your Flickr account and data from being transferred, you must go to your Flickr account to download the photos and videos you want to keep, then delete your account from your Account Settings by May 25, 2018.

If you do not delete your account by May 25, 2018, your Flickr account and data will transfer to SmugMug and will be governed by SmugMug’s Terms and Privacy Policy.

We wanted to let our readers know of this change, and also help them download their photos if they wish to do so. To that end, we’ve updated a post we published a little over a year ago with instructions on how to download your photos from Flickr. It’s a good idea to have a backup of your photos on Flickr whether or not you plan to continue with the service.

To read more:

You can read Peter’s updated post from March 21, 2017, How to Back Up Your Flickr Library, below.

— Editor

Flickr is a popular photo blogging service used by pro and amateur photographers alike. Flickr helps you archive your photos in the cloud and share them publicly with others. What happens when Flickr is the only place you can find your photos, though?

I hadn’t thought that much of that contingency. I’ve been a Flickr user since the pre-Yahoo days — 2004. I recently took stock of all the photos I’d uploaded to Flickr and realized something unsettling: I didn’t have some of these images on my Mac. It’s been 13 years and probably half a dozen computers since then, so I wasn’t surprised that some photos had fallen through the cracks.

I decided to be better safe than sorry. I set out to backup my entire Flickr library to make sure I had everything. And I’m here to pass along what I learned.

Flickr’s Camera Roll and Album Download Options

Most of Flickr’s workflow — and most of their supported apps — focus on getting images into Flickr, not out of Flickr. That doesn’t mean you can’t download images from Flickr, but it isn’t straightforward.

You can download photos directly from Flickr using their Camera Roll view, which organizes all your photos by the date they were taken. This is Flickr’s file-management interface, letting you select photos for whichever use you wish. Once you’ve selected the photos you want using the check boxes, Flickr will create a ZIP file that you can download. You are limited to 500 photos at a time, so this could take a number of repetitions if you have a lot of photos.

Flickr Camera Roll View screenshot

The download UI once you’ve met your photo selections:

Flickr Camera Roll options

You also can download Flickr Albums. Like the limit for the camera roll, you are limited to the number of photos you can download. In the case of albums, the limit is 5,000 files from albums at a time.

Flickr’s download albums selection dialog:

Flickr download albums

Guidelines from Flickr’s download help page:

screenshot of Flickr's download options

Third-party apps

Some third-party app makers have tapped into Flickr’s API to create various import and export services and apps.

Bulkr is one such app. The app, free to download, lets you download images from your Flickr library with the touch of a button. It’s dependent on Adobe Flash and requires Adobe AIR. Some features are unavailable unless you pay for the “Pro” version ($29).

Bulkr screenshot

Flickr downloadr is another free app that lets you download your Flickr library. It also works on Mac, Windows and Linux systems. No license encumbrances to download extra content — it’s released as open source.

Flickr Downloadr screenshot

I’ve tried them both on my library of over 8,000 images. In either case, I just set up the apps and let them run — they took a while, a couple of hours to grab everything. So if you’re working with a large archive of Flickr images, I’d recommend setting aside some time when you can leave your computer running.

What To Do With Your Flickr Images

You’ve downloaded the images to your local hard drive. What next? Catalog what you have. Both Macs and PCs include such software. The apps for each platform are both called “Photos.” They have the benefit of being free, built-in, and well-supported using existing tools and workflows.

If the Photos apps included with your computer don’t suit you, there are other commercial app options. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is one of the more popular options that work with both Macs and Windows PCs. It’s included with Adobe’s $9.99 per month Creative Cloud Photography subscription (bundled with Photoshop), or you can buy it separately for $149.

Archive Your Backup

Now that you’ve downloaded all of your Flickr images, make sure they’re safe by backing them up. Back them up locally using Time Machine (on the Mac), Windows Backup or whatever means you prefer.

Even though you’ve gotten the images from the cloud by downloading them from Flickr, it’d be a good idea to store a backup copy offsite just in case. That’s keeping with the guidelines of the 3-2-1 Backup Strategy — a solid way to make sure that nothing bad can happen to your data.

Backblaze Backup and Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage are both great options, of course, for backing up and archiving your media, but the main thing is to make sure your photos are safe and sound. If anything happens to your computer or your local backup, you’ll still have a copy of those precious memories stored securely.

Need more tips on how to back up your computer? Check out our Computer Backup Guide for more details.

The post How To Back Up Your Flickr Library appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

How to securely recycle or dispose of your SSD

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/how-to-securely-recycle-or-dispose-of-your-ssd/

Solid State Drives (SSDs) are fast and efficient. More new computers than ever come with them, and many of us have upgraded our existing PCs and Macs to them to get better performance or to replace dead or dying spinning hard drives.

With prices dropping on larger SSDs, those of us who have outgrown our current models are ready to upgrade. What’s more, SSDs die and need to be replaced just like everything else. When it comes time to hand down, recycle or get rid of your SSD, what do you do? Read on for details.

Don’t Bother Degaussing, Drilling Holes or “Zeroing out” an SSD

First, let’s focus on some “dont’s.” These are tried and true methods used to make sure that your data is unrecoverable from spinning hard disk drives. But these don’t carry over to the SSD world.

Degaussing — applying a very strong magnet — has been an accepted method for erasing data off of magnetic media like spinning hard drives for decades. But it doesn’t work on SSDs. SSDs don’t store data magnetically, so applying a strong magnetic field won’t do anything.

Spinning hard drives are also susceptible to physical damage, so some folks take a hammer and nail or even a drill to the hard drive and pound holes through the top. That’s an almost surefire way to make sure your data won’t be read by anyone else. But inside an SSD chassis that looks like a 2.5-inch hard disk drive is actually just a series of memory chips. Drilling holes into the case may not do much, or may only damage a few of the chips. So that’s off the table too.

Erasing free space or reformatting a drive by rewriting it zeroes is an effective way to clear data off on a hard drive, but not so much on an SSD. In fact, in a recent update to its Mac Disk Utility, Apple removed the secure erase feature altogether because they say it isn’t necessary. So what’s the best way to make sure your data is unrecoverable?

Lock It Up and Throw Away the (Encryption) Key

Hopefully your SSD isn’t dead yet or hasn’t been pulled because this takes a bit of advanced planning. But as the old expression goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

The easiest way to make sure the data on your SSD is unrecoverable is not to erase at all, but to encrypt it. Without having the passphrase or encryption key to recover from, any data on that drive is useless to anyone that finds it.

Apple’s FileVault is encryption software included with macOS. Microsoft’s built-in encryption software for Windows is called BitLocker. Both systems are full-disk encryption methods, so anything you’ve stored on your hard disk is safe from prying eyes unless you type in a passphrase or key to decrypt the data.

Reformat the drive and you should be safe — any data on there is unrecoverable without that encryption key. If you want to rest even easier, re-encrypt the drive after the format, then reformat again.

Check the SSD Maker’s Web Site

If you’ve upgraded your computer with a third-party SSD, visit the manufacturer’s web site. Intel, Samsung and others make free SSD utilities designed to work with their own devices. Many of these utilities include re-formatting and erasing tools, including some secure erase options that will help give you additional peace of mind.

Shred It

Physically destroying the SSD by shredding it into small particles is the absolutely safest, most foolproof method for safe and secure disposal. Unfortunately, it’s also the most expensive.

Prices on devices designed for SSD shredding start in the thousands. This isn’t something to buy on a whim for home use. And the sort of shredder that you might use to get rid of old tax documents or CDs won’t work — an SSD will jam them up.

If your business has the budget, a number of companies make shredding devices especially designed to physically destroy SSDs. Security Engineered Machinery, Phiston and Garner are popular SSD shredder makers.

It’s important to check the specs of any potential shredder to make sure the shred size is small enough to actually destroy the memory chips on your SSD, however. The shred width should be 1/2 inch or less if you want to make sure the chips get properly mashed up.

No, a woodchipper like the one from the movie Fargo does not have a suitable shred width for secure SSD disposal.

If your SSD looks like a hard disk drive, you should be able to take it apart with the right tools (usually the small screwdrivers included with a computer repair kit are all you need). Inside you’ll find the SATA memory chips where data is actually stored; you can remove them and destroy them however you see fit, whether it’s by a shredder or some other destructive means.

One of the folks in the office found this video if you’d like to see the process in action. We’re not affiliated with any of the products shown here.

Integrated SSDs

Some computers — most notable recent-model Macs from Apple — include factory-installed SSDs that are integrated directly onto the motherboard and may not be removable. Sure, you might be able to run the whole main logic board through a shredder, but that seems…well, excessive.

In those cases, physically destroying the SSD becomes a lot harder. Which makes it doubly important to have another way to make sure your data is safe, like encrypting the drive, for example.

Find a new use for it

Upgrading an SSD that’s still working? If you want to hang on to it, there are plenty of options. If it’s in a SATA enclosure, you can pop that SSD into an external USB hard disk drive enclosure and use it as a backup drive or as additional storage for whatever you might need. Some companies including Transcend and Other World Computing make external enclosures for the removable, upgradeable SSD cards you’ll find in late-model Macs, too.

You can also hand down or sell the SSD to a friend or family member who could use the upgrade, too. Assuming you want to be on the hook for the inevitable family tech support to follow.

One way or the other, it’s a good idea to encrypt and reformat the SSD before handing it off to anyone else.

More About SSDs

If you’re interested in upgrading your computer with an SSD or you have questions about an SSD configuration you’re having some problems with, we’ve published a few blog posts you might be interested in. Let us know if you have other questions!

The post How to securely recycle or dispose of your SSD appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

The Cloud’s Software: A Look Inside Backblaze

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/the-clouds-software-a-look-inside-backblaze/

When most of us think about “the cloud,” we have an abstract idea that it’s computers in a data center somewhere — racks of blinking lights and lots of loud fans. There’s truth to that. Have a look inside our datacenter to get an idea. But besides the impressive hardware — and the skilled techs needed to keep it running — there’s software involved. Let’s take a look at a few of the software tools that keep our operation working.

Our data center is populated with Storage Pods, the servers that hold the data you entrust to us if you’re a Backblaze customer or you use B2 Cloud Storage. Inside each Storage Pod are dozens of 3.5-inch spinning hard disk drives — the same kind you’ll find inside a desktop PC. Storage Pods are mounted on racks inside the data center. Those Storage Pods work together in Vaults.

Vault Software

The Vault software that keeps those Storage Pods humming is one the backbones of our operation. It’s what makes it possible for us to scale our services to meet your needs and with durability, scalability and fast performance.

The Vault software distributes data across 20 different Storage Pods, with the data spread evenly across all 20 pods. Drives in the same position inside each Storage Pod are grouped together in software in what we call a “tome.” When a file gets uploaded to Backblaze, it’s split into pieces we call “shards” and distributed across all 20 drives.

Each file is stored as 20 shards: 17 data shards and three parity shards. As the name implies, the data shards comprise the information in the files you upload to Backblaze. Parity shards add redundancy so that a file can be completely restored from a Vault even if some of the pieces are not available.

Because those shards are distributed across 20 Storage Pods in 20 cabinets, a Storage Pod can go down and the Vault will still operate unimpeded. An entire cabinet can lose power and the Vault will still work fine.

Files can be written to the Vault even if a Storage Pod is down with two parity shards to protect the data. Even in the extreme — and unlikely — case where three Storage Pods in a Vault are offline, the files in the vault are still available because they can be reconstructed from the 17 available pieces.

Reed-Solomon Erasure Coding

Erasure coding makes it possible to rebuild a data file even if parts of the original are lost. Having effective erasure coding is vital in a distributed environment like a Backblaze Vault. It helps us keep your data safe even when the hardware that the data is stored on needs to be serviced.

We use Reed-Solomon erasure encoding. It’s a proven technique used in Linux RAID systems, by Microsoft in its Azure cloud storage, and by Facebook too. The Backblaze Vault Architecture is capable of delivering 99.99999% annual durability thanks in part to our Reed-Solomon erasure coding implementation.

Here’s our own Brian Beach with an explanation of how Reed-Solomon encoding works:

We threw out the Linux RAID software we had been using prior to the implementation of the Vaults and wrote our own Reed-Solomon implementation from scratch. We’re very proud of it. So much so that we’ve released it as open source that you can use in your own projects, if you wish.

We developed our Reed-Solomon implementation as a Java library. Why? When we first started this project, we assumed that we would need to write it in C to make it run as fast as we needed. It turns out that modern Java virtual machines working on our servers are great, and just-in-time compilers produces code that runs pretty quick.

All the work we’ve done to build a reliable, scalable, affordable solution for storing data in a “cloud” led to the creation of B2 Cloud Storage. B2 lets you store your data in the cloud for a fraction of what you’d spend elsewhere — 1/4 the price of Amazon S3, for example.

Using Our Storage

Having over 300 Petabytes of data storage available isn’t very useful unless we can store data and reliably restore it too. We offer two ways to store data with Backblaze: via a client application or via direct access. Our client application, Backblaze Computer Backup, is installed on your Mac or Windows system and basically does everything related to automatically backing up your computer. We locate the files that are new or changed and back them up. We manage versions, deduplicate files, and more. The Backblaze app does all the work behind the scenes.

The other way to use our storage is via direct access. You can use a Web GUI, a Command Line Interface (CLI) or an Application Programming Interface (API). With any of these methods, you are in charge of what gets stored in the Backblaze cloud. This is what Backblaze B2 is all about. You can log into B2 and use the Web GUI to drag and drop files that are stored in the Backblaze cloud. You decide what gets added and deleted, and how many versions of a file you want to keep. Think of B2 as your very own bucket in the cloud where you can store your files.

We also have mobile apps for iOS and Android devices to help you view and share any backed up files you have on the go. You can download them, play back or view media files, and share them as you need.

We focused on creating a native, integrated experience for you when you use our software. We didn’t take a shortcut to create a Java app for the desktop. On the Mac our app is built using Xcode and on the PC it was built using C. The app is designed for lightweight, unobtrusive performance. If you do need to adjust its performance, we give you that ability. You have control over throttling the backup rate. You can even adjust the number of CPU threads dedicated to Backblaze, if you choose.

When we first released the software almost a decade ago we had no idea that we’d iterate it more than 1,000 times. That’s the threshold we reached late last year, however! We released version 4.3.0 in December. We’re still plugging away at it and have plans for the future, too.

Our Philosophy: Keep It Simple

“Keep It Simple” is the philosophy that underlies all of the technology that powers our hardware. It makes it possible for you to affordably, reliably back up your computers and store data in the cloud.

We’re not interested in creating elaborate, difficult-to-implement solutions or pricing schemes that confuse and confound you. Our backup service is unlimited and unthrottled for one low price. We offer cloud storage for 1/4th the competition. And we make it easy to access with desktop, mobile and web interfaces, command line tools and APIs.

Hopefully we’ve shed some light on the software that lets our cloud services operate. Have questions? Join the discussion and let us know.

The post The Cloud’s Software: A Look Inside Backblaze appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

What’s the Diff: Hot and Cold Data Storage

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/whats-the-diff-hot-and-cold-data-storage/

Temperature Cold - Data Delay: Seconds to Hours vs. Temperature Hot - Data Delay: None

It’s been common to use temperature terminology, specifically a range from cold to hot, to describe the levels of tiered service available to data storage customers. The levels have been differentiated according to how crucial to current business the stored data is and how frequently it will be accessed. These terms likely originated according to where the data was historically stored: hot data was close to the heat of the spinning drives and the CPUs, and cold data was on tape or a drive far away from the data center floor.

There are no standard industry definitions of what hot and cold mean when applied to data storage, so you’ll find them used in different ways, which makes comparing services challenging. Generally, though, hot data requires the fastest and most expensive storage because it’s accessed more frequently and cold (or cooler) data that is accessed less frequently can be stored on slower, and consequently, less expensive media.

The terms are still used by the major storage vendors to describe their tiered storage plans. Below, we’ll get into why these terms have become less useful for anticipating both storage cost and performance thanks to the advent of less expensive and more efficient storage offerings, such as hot cloud storage, that effectively offer hot storage performance at cold storage prices.

Defining Hot Storage

Hot storage is data that needs to be accessed right away. If the stored information is business-critical and you can’t wait for it when you need it, that’s a candidate for hot storage.

To obtain the fast data access required for hot data storage, the data is commonly stored in hybrid or tiered storage environments. The hotter the service, the more likely that it will use the latest drives, fastest transport protocols, and be located near to the client or in multiple regions as needed.

Cloud data storage providers charge a premium for hot data storage because it’s resource-intensive. Microsoft’s Azure Hot Blobs and Amazon AWS services don’t come cheap.

Data stored in the hottest tier might use solid-state drives, which are optimized for lower latency and higher transactional rates compared to traditional hard drives. In other cases, hard disk drives are more suitable for environments where the drive is heavily accessed due to their higher durability standing up to intensive read/write cycles.

No matter the storage media used, the workloads in hot data storage require fast and consistent response times. Some examples of the uses for this type of storage would be interactive video editing, web content, online transactions and the like. Hot storage services also are tailored for workloads with many small transactions, such as capturing telemetry data, messaging, and data transformation.

Defining Cold Storage

On the other end of the thermometer, cold (or cooler) data is data that is accessed less frequently and also doesn’t require the fast access of warmer data. That includes data that is no longer in active use and might not be needed for months, years, decades, or maybe never. Practical examples of data suitable for cold storage include old projects, records needed to be maintained for financial, legal, HR, or other business record keeping requirements, or anything else that’s of value but not needed anytime soon.

Cold data is usually stored on lower performing and less expensive storage environments in-house or in the cloud. Tape has been a popular storage medium for cold data. LTO, Linear Tape-Open, was originally developed in the late 1990s as a low-cost storage option. To review data from LTO, the tapes must be physically retrieved from storage racks and mounted in a tape reading machine, making it one of the slowest, therefore coldest, methods of storing data.

Data retrieval and response time for cold cloud storage systems are typically much slower than services designed for active data manipulation. Practical examples of cold cloud storage include services like Amazon Glacier and Google Coldline.

Storage prices for cold cloud storage systems are typically lower than warm or hot storage, but cold storage often incur higher per-operation costs than other kinds of cloud storage. Access to the data typically requires patience and planning.

Today, cold storage also can be used to describe purely offline storage — that is, data that’s not stored in the cloud at all, so sometimes when you hear about cold storage it is the old definition of cold storage: data that is archived on some sort of durable medium and stored in a secure offsite facility without a connection to a network. This could be data that needs to be quarantined from the internet altogether (also called air-gapped) — for example, cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. (See our post, Securing Your Cryptocurrency, for more information on this topic.)

Traditional Views of Cold and Hot Data Storage
ColdHot
Cold cloud storageHot cloud storage
Access SpeedSlowFast
Access FrequencySeldom or NeverFrequent
Data VolumeLowHigh
Storage MediaSlower drives, SAN, tape, LTO, offlineFaster drives, durable drives, SSDs
CostLowerHigher

What is Hot Cloud Storage?

With the advent of storage services that combine high speed, availability, and low cost, differentiating between cold and hot storage has become more difficult. While structuring cloud data storage by temperature has been commonly used by the big, established cloud storage providers to describe their tiered storage services and set pricing accordingly, today there are other choices, including hot cloud storage, that cross the old boundaries to provide storage that is at the same time fast, available, and inexpensive.

The big providers of cloud storage — Amazon, Microsoft, Google — have been challenged by new players in data storage, who, through innovation and efficiency, are able to offer cloud storage at the cost of cold storage, but with the performance and availability of hot storage.

Services like our own B2 Cloud Storage fall into this category. They can compete on price with LTO and other traditionally cold storage services, but can be used for applications that are usually reserved for hot storage, such as media management, workflow collaboration, websites, and data retrieval.

The new model is so effective and efficient that customers have found it economical to migrate away altogether to cloud storage from slow and inconvenient cold storage and archival systems. This trend is continuing, so it will be interesting to see what happens to the traditional temperature terms as the boundaries between hot and cold blur due to new efficiencies, technologies, and services.

What Temperature Is Your Cloud Storage?

Organizations will vary in their needs so they’ll have different approaches to the question of where to store their data. It’s imperative to an organization’s bottom line that they don’t pay for more than what they need.

Have a different idea of what hot and cold storage are? Have questions that aren’t answered here? Join the discussion in the comments.

•  •  •

If you’d like to experience the latest in hot cloud storage at cold storage prices, you can give B2 a try. Get started today and you’ll get the first 10GB free!

Note: This post was updated from March 7, 2017. — Editor

The post What’s the Diff: Hot and Cold Data Storage appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

All About Backblaze’s USB Hard Drive Restore

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/usb-hard-drive-restore/

When you use Backblaze Computer Backup to back up your data to Backblaze it is first encrypted on your PC or Mac, transmitted using encryption, and stored encrypted in the Backblaze cloud. When the time comes for you to restore those files you may decide you don’t want to do that online. After all, it could take a while to download the hundreds of gigabytes of data you have stored with Backblaze. That’s why we offer the ability to securely restore your data using a USB hard drive or USB flash drive instead. Here’s more about the service and how to use it.

Restore By Mail

Backblaze offers the Restore By Mail service for any customer who wants to restore their files by using a USB drive. For restores up to 110 GB we offer a USB flash drive. For larger restores up to 3.5 TB we offer a USB-based hard disk drive instead (we’re currently using WD My Passport Ultra drives). The flash drive costs $99; the hard drive costs $189. Both prices include shipping and handling. You select which method you’d like to use (web, USB hard drive or USB flash drive) at the beginning of the restore process.

We send the drive to you by FedEx. You restore the files at your convenience. What’s more, our Restore Return Refund service saves you money. After your restore is done, send the drive back to us within 30 days. We refund your purchase price in full. We’re not interested in turning hard drive restores into a big profit center. We just want to make it as convenient as possible for you to get your files.

Secure In Transit

Your files are safe even though we’re sending them via a delivery service. If the drive gets intercepted en route, whoever got it can’t to do anything with it. That’s because we encrypt the data on the USB drive before we send it to you. We take the safety and security of your data very seriously at Backblaze.

You’re given a Drive Unlock Code when you order a USB drive from us. View the code by logging into your account page on the Backblaze Web site. Without that Drive Unlock Code, no one can access the data on your drive.

Hard drive encryption used to be optional. A while back we made it the standard operating procedure for any USB flash drive or USB hard drive we send out the door.

How To Restore Your Files Using A USB Hard Drive

Here is a step-by-step guide to recovering your data once you have received your USB hard drive from Backblaze:

  1. To access your data, you will need your personalized drive unlock code. After logging into Backblaze, the drive unlock code can be found on the bottom right of the My Restores page.My Restores
  2. Next, remove the WD My Passport Ultra hard drive from the box and connect it to your computer via the accompanying cable.
  3. Once the hard drive is connected, you will be prompted to enter the unlock code. Copy and paste your drive unlock code from step one into the password field.Unlock My Passport
  4. Now the hard drive will be unlocked and fully accessible to you. You can retrieve all your restored files.

You can send back the USB Hard Drive to us within 30 days, and we’ll refund your purchase price: $189.00 for USB hard drive or $99.00 for USB flash drives. Of course you can keep the USB drive and we’ll keep your money and that’s OK too. We just want to make sure you can get your data back as quickly, conveniently, and securely as possible.

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Four Tips To Help Photographers and Videographers Get The Most From B2

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/four-b2-tips-photographers-videographers/

B2 for Photographers and Videographers

Photographers and videographers regularly push the limit of data storage and archiving solutions, especially as camera makers constantly increase megapixel sensor density. Network Attached Storage (NAS) systems are indispensable to help store these large amounts of data, whether it’s 20-50 megapixel stills or 1080p, 4K or 8K video footage. Data creep is inevitable. What can you do to get the most out of your NAS and future backup strategy? Enter B2 Cloud Storage.

B2 Cloud Storage can help you make sure your archived photos and videos are safe for as long as you need them in a secure offsite location. B2 is reliable cloud storage available for a fraction of the price of other cloud storage services: One-quarter what you’d pay Amazon. It’s easy to use thanks to a powerful web GUI, an open API and even a CLI.

Here are some tips to get the most out of B2.

1. B2 Integrates With Popular NAS Systems

Synology is one of the most popular vendors of NAS systems currently in use in small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) like like many photography and video businesses. If you’re currently using a Synology NAS, you can begin backing up and syncing to B2 right away. Synology’s Cloud Sync app – available as part of Synology’s DiskStation Manager (DSM) software – supports B2.

CloudBerry is an enormously popular app for backing up Windows Server systems, and it supports B2. CloudBerry makes a version of its software to support Synology and makes apps for other platforms too.

2. A Complete Backup Strategy Will Save Your Bacon

“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” At this point, if you’re like many of us, you may not even think about backing up your NAS because it has built-in redundancy. If one drive dies, you can rebuild the NAS by replacing it.

But that doesn’t tell the whole story. What happens in the NAS hardware itself bites the bullet? What happens if there’s a natural disaster like a flood, fire or other calamity that claims the NAS?

To that end, it’s important to avoid relying on any single system, because that makes you dependent on a single point of failure. Make sure your NAS is backed up, and back it up locally before you back it up to the cloud (it’s what we call the 3-2-1 Backup Strategy and it’s worked pretty well for us and our customers over the years).

3. Store What You Need Online

Taking a hybrid approach to data archival and storage can be a smart way to spread the risk and provide alternate access to your work when in a pinch. Hybrid cloud storage offloads some of what you’ve archived to the cloud. You can leave what you need or what you think you might need immediately in local storage. Offload what you don’t need right away to the cloud.

Cloud access can be a time (and life) saver when you unexpectedly need to access archived projects. You don’t have to hunt for optical media such as CDs or DVDs. And if you’re storing archived content offsite, factor in the cost and time needed to deliver such media. Using a B2 cloud repository simplifies and speeds the process greatly. You’ll spend less time finding and restoring projects and more time getting work done.

Worried about backups and archives taking up huge amounts of cloud storage space? Don’t be. B2 supports Lifecycle Rules to make it easier to automatically hide and delete older versions of files. Using B2’s powerful web interface, you can specify whether to keep all versions of a file, keep only the last version of a file, keep prior versions for a specific number of days, or based on other criteria you specify. Lifecycle Rules can be applied to any bucket you create. (A bucket is a B2 file repository, the topmost organizational structure of data stored on B2.)

If you’re interested in a pre-built hybrid cloud solution that works with B2, check out OpenIO.

4. Use B2 To Share Files

With B2, you can create public content to share with others with a web-friendly URL. You can share proofs, rough cuts or other content you’d like to make available to your clients. That means you don’t have to host it locally. So you’re not consuming your own network bandwidth and you aren’t compromising the security of your network to outside users.

Safely contain what you want to share in a public or private bucket. B2 supports your ability to manage content sharing as you see fit. You can change buckets from public to private with a single click from our web interface.

Our web interface is an easy way to upload content to share with others. We also support many third-party apps including Cyberduck and DropShare. More details are available in our help section: How Can I Upload to B2.

If you’re concerned about overrunning your cloud storage budget, take comfort that B2 provides you with data cap and alert management features, so you’ll never be hit with a surprise bill.

Hopefully we’ve given you some ideas of how you can integrate B2 into your own workflow to help ease your archiving burden and make it easier for you to share files securely and safely. Are you a photo or video pro using B2? What are your biggest data storage challenges? Let us know in the comments, and feel free to share other tips and techniques!

The post Four Tips To Help Photographers and Videographers Get The Most From B2 appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Four Ways Groups Makes Business Backups Easy

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/four-ways-groups-makes-business-backups-easy/

We recently introduced the new Backblaze for Business featuring Groups. If backup management for your business is part of your job description, Groups can make your work a lot easier.

What is a Group? Groups centrally manage billing by an administrator. Admins can also (optionally) keep track of the Group member’s backup statuses, B2 Cloud Storage usage, and any alerts that members may have on their Backblaze accounts.

Here are some tips on getting the most out of Groups as part of your business backup strategy. If you’re a home user interested in setting up a Group of your own, we have some tips for you too.

1. Consolidate Your Billing

If your users already have Backblaze accounts, Groups lets you gather those accounts under common one billing umbrella. That way you don’t have to manage multiple transactions. You can buy licenses as you need them.

You can create as many Groups as you need, so you can adopt whatever organizational model makes the most sense: By department, for example, or by business unit, or by geographical location. The choice is yours.

By the way, the billing will change but the backup won’t: Users in your new Group don’t have to reupload their backups. What’s more, being in a Group is voluntary — they can leave (or you can reassign or remove them) at any point.

Member management for your Group is flexible. You can email invitations to members. Or provide them with a unique invitation link generated by Backblaze and send it by instant message or any other medium you prefer. You can even configure your Group to accept anyone from a specific domain. There’s an option to auto-accept anyone with a valid invitation link. We leave it to you to figure out what’s best for you and your members.

Groups doesn’t change your members’ backup process. If they’re already using Backblaze, they don’t need to reupload their backup and restart. All that changes is how the account is billed, and optionally, whether you’re able to centrally manage their backups and restores. Let’s take a look at what that means.

2. Centralize Your Backup Management

Your CEO is about to present to investors when he realizes he’s deleted his presentation. With a managed Group, you can help. Just login to Backblaze, access his backup and create a ZIP-compressed restore file to get him what he needs in a few minutes. It doesn’t matter where he is or where you are. Everything is managed through the Backblaze web interface, or through our easy to use mobile app.

Group management is optional — you specify whether you want to manage the Group when you first set it up. Administrators in managed Groups can browse backup data on individual user accounts, create restores for them, and update account information for users.

Logging in and out of multiple Backblaze accounts to handle restores or other account issues? Or worse, using a single account with a shared login and password? Groups helps to fix those problems. You, as the administrator, have access to the restore data and account information you need, and your Group members continue to have unfettered access to their backups as well.

It’s worth noting that managed Groups are “opt-in.” Group members acknowledge the administrator’s rights to access backup and account data when they join a Managed Group.

3. Use Affordable, Reliable Backup

Backblaze For Business is priced at $50 per year, per computer. That’s our unlimited backup service, with no caps and no throttling. You can backup as many members as you need at a predictable budget that’s not going to surprise or shock you when there are lots of backups or recoveries.

We can even send the data right to your door to make large restores go more smoothly. Our Restore Return Refund program sends a Flash drive or 4TB hard drive by FedEx. The data on that drive is encrypted, so it arrives safe and sound. Your Group member can use it as a local backup drive or for additional storage, but if you return the drive to us within 30 days, we’ll refund the price in full.

4. Use B2 Cloud Storage for NAS Backups and More

Have Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices that need offsite backup? If so, we offer B2 Cloud Storage. B2 integrates with Synology, CloudBerry and other software. B2 Cloud Storage is priced at a fraction of the rate of other cloud storage services – for example, B2 is one-quarter the price of Amazon S3.

We publish an API for B2 that you can use in your own tools. You can also use B2 from a command line interface. The web interface is very powerful and easy to use, as well.

B2 is fully integrated into our Business Backup platform. You can give your Group members access to B2 if they need inexpensive, reliable cloud storage. It’s for more than just NAS or server backups — use B2 Cloud Storage however you might need it.

Be More Productive With Groups

Backing up your users’ most important business data is a vital part of your job, but it shouldn’t have to be the entirety of your job. With Groups, you can organize your business backups more easily. Centrally manage billing, backups, restores and handle member account changes. Groups make it possible for you to do more for your users in less time. Start improving your productivity with Groups today!

If you’re already a Backblaze for Business customer and would like to enable the new Groups functionality for yourself and your users, please take a look at our Migrating Your Existing Backblaze for Business FAQ.

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What Rogue One Teaches About Data Backup

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/rogue-one-teaches-data-backup/

I finally got a chance to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story recently (I know, I’m late to the game, but I was off my feet for a few weeks around the holidays). It got me thinking about data backups and data security. Whether you’re in a small business, an enterprise, the Imperial Forces, or just backing up a home computer, the same rules apply.

Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen Rogue One and don’t want any plot details leaked, skip this blog post if you want to stay in the dark.

Test Your Security

The Imperial databank on Scarif is an impressive facility with only one way on and off the planet. That Shield Gate is one heck of a firewall. But Jyn Urso and Cassian Andor prove that Imperial security is fallible. No matter how good you think your data defense is, it can probably be better.

Conduct regular reviews of your backup and data security strategies to make sure you’re not leaving any glaring holes open that someone can take advantage of. Regularly change passwords. Use encryption. Here’s more on how we use encryption.

Backup Redundantly

Scarif is the only place in the Galaxy the Empire is keeping a copy of the plans. If you only have one backup, it’s better than nothing – but not by much. Especially when Governor Tarkin decides to test his new toy on your planet. Better to backup in at least two places.

We recommend a two-step approach. In addition to the live data on your computer, you should keep a local backup copy on site in case you need to do a quick restore. Another copy in the cloud (not Cloud City) will make sure that no matter what happens, you have a copy you can recover from (that’s what we’re here for).

If you don’t already have a backup strategy in place, make sure to check out our Computer Backup Guide for lots of information about how to get started.

Check Your Backups

One other thing we learn from the Death Star plans – the Empire didn’t manage version control very well. Take a close look at the Death Star schematic that Jyn and Cassian absconded with. Notice anything…off?

Yeah, that’s right. The focus lens for the superlaser is equatorial. Now, everyone knows that the Death Star’s superlaser is actually on the northern hemisphere. Which goes to show you that Jyn and Cassian made off with a previous backup, not the current data.

It’s important to test your backups periodically to make sure that the files that are important to you are safe and sound. Don’t just set a backup system and forget it – verify periodically that the data you actually need is being backed up. Also verify that all the data you need is accounted for.

Restoring your data shouldn’t be as hard as massing a rebel assault on Scarif. There’s another practical reason to test your backup and restore process periodically — so you’ll be familiar with the workflow when it matters. Catastrophes that require data recovery are fraught with enough peril. Don’t make it worse by learning how to use software on the fly, otherwise you might end up like an X-Wing hitting the Shield Gate.

You’re One With The Force And The Force Is With You

Data security and backup doesn’t need to be a battle. Develop a strategy that works for you, make sure your data is safe and sound, and check it once in awhile to make sure it’s up to date and complete. That way, just like the Force, your data will be with you, always.

The post What Rogue One Teaches About Data Backup appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

How To Back Up Your NAS with B2 and CloudBerry

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/how-to-back-up-your-nas-with-b2-and-cloudberry/

NAS Backup with CloudBerry and B2

If you are using a Synology Network Attached Storage (NAS) device in your home or office, you’ve already discovered the value of centralizing all your files into one device. The next challenge is creating and maintaining an offsite copy of the files stored on your local NAS device.

If you’re using a Windows PC, CloudBerry Lab makes it possible to back up your Synology NAS device to Backblaze B2. Assuming your NAS is configured to shared with your Windows devices, the data from your local systems can be stored on the Synology NAS and then automatically synced to B2 by CloudBerry.

We summarized the steps below on how to setup CloudBerry and B2 and if you need more information CloudBerry has detailed instruction on their website.

Backing Up a Synology NAS to B2 using Windows

  • Launch the CloudBerry app then click Files to create a backup plan. The Backup Plan Wizard will step you through the process.
  • When you’re prompted to select cloud storage, add B2 Cloud Storage from the list of supported services. You’ll need your B2 account ID, application key and bucket name to proceed. All of this info is available from your Backblaze account info if you’ve activated B2.
  • Name your backup plan and select the options you prefer. Click Next to continue.
  • Next navigate to the networked NAS volume you’d like to back up. You will need a valid user name and password on the NAS to continue. You can edit your network path and click the Test button to make sure everything is working OK.

  • CloudBerry lets you specify file types to back up or to skip with advanced filtering features. You can specify file types to include and exclude, skip directories, backup or skip files based on modification dates and more.
  • CloudBerry also supports encryption and compression. Make sure to record the password you use to encrypt files, or you won’t be able to restore your backup.
  • Configure retention policies: You can make CloudBerry back up only the most recent version of files, keep all versions, or delete backups older than a specific number of days — helpful for managing backup storage and bandwidth.

  • Schedule your backup when it’s convenient for you. Develop a recurring schedule that’s not going to interfere with other operations.
  • You can also configure CloudBerry to email you to let you know when the backup is done.
  • Once you’ve created the backup, click the Run Now button to get it started.

Restoring Your NAS Using CloudBerry for Windows

The first step to restoring with CloudBerry is to create and execute a restore plan.

  • To get started, click the Restore Plans tab, give your plan a name and click Next.
  • Specify the files or folders you want to restore, then click Next.

  • Choose which version you’d like to restore — the latest backup or the backup from a specific point in time.
  • Specify where you’d like your backup to restore to. You can restore files to their original location — helpful if you’re recovering deleted files — or another location.

  • If you’ve protected your backup with encryption, you’ll need to enter your password to decrypt the backup.
  • You can notify yourself with an email when the recovery is complete.
  • Click Run Now to get started with the restore.

Together, B2 and CloudBerry make it easy for you to back up your Synology NAS to the cloud. CloudBerry is available as a free trial download if you’d like to give it a shot.

The post How To Back Up Your NAS with B2 and CloudBerry appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

B2 for Beginners: Inside the B2 Web interface

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/b2-for-beginners-inside-the-b2-web-interface/

B2 for Beginners

B2 for Beginners: Inside the B2 Web interface

B2 Cloud Storage enables you to store data in the cloud at a fraction of what you’ll pay other services. For instance, we’re one-fourth of the price of Amazon’s S3. We’ve made it easy to access thanks to a web interface, API and command line interface. Let’s get to know the web interface a bit better, because it’s the easiest way to get around B2 and it’s a good way to get a handle on the fundamentals of B2 use.

Anyone with a Backblaze account can set up B2 access by visiting My Settings. Look for Enabled Products and check B2 Cloud Storage.

B2 is accessed the same way as your Backblaze Computer Backup. The sidebar on the left side of your My Account window shows you all the Backblaze services you use, including B2. Let’s go through the individual links under B2 Cloud Storage to get a sense of what they are and what they do.

Buckets

Data in B2 is stored in buckets. Think of a bucket as a top-level folder or directory. You can create as many buckets as you want. What’s more, you can put in as many files as you want. Buckets can contain files of any type or size.

Buckets

Third-party applications and services can integrate with B2, and many already do. The Buckets screen is where you can get your Account ID information and create an application key – a unique identifier your apps will use to securely connect to B2. If you’re using a third-party app that needs access to your bucket, such as a NAS backup app or a file sync tool, this is where you’ll find the info you need to connect. (We’ll have more info about how to backup your NAS to B2 very soon!)

The Buckets window lists the buckets you’ve created and provides basic information including creation date, ID, public or private type, lifecycle information, number of files, size and snapshots.

Click the Bucket Settings link to adjust each bucket’s individual settings. You can specify if files in the bucket are public or private. Private files can’t be shared, while public ones can be.

You can also tag your bucket with customized information encoded in JSON format. Custom info can contain letters, numbers, “-” and “_”.

Browse Files

Click the Upload/Download button to see a directory of each bucket. Alternately, click the Browse Files link on the left side of the B2 interface.

Browse Files

You can create a new subdirectory by clicking the New Folder button, or begin to upload files by clicking the Upload button. You can drag and drop files you’d like to upload and Backblaze will handle that for you. Alternately, clicking on the dialog box that appears will enable you to select the files on your computer you’d like to upload.

Info Button

Next to each individual file is an information button. Click it for details about the file, including name, location, kind, size and other details. You’ll also see a “Friendly URL” link. If the bucket is public and you’d like to share this file with others, you may copy that Friendly URL and paste it into an email or message to let people know where to find it.

Download

You can download the contents of your buckets by clicking the checkbox next to the filename and clicking the Download button. You can also delete files and create snapshots. Snapshots are helpful if you want to preserve copies of your files in their present state for some future download or recovery. You can also create a snapshot of the full bucket. If you have a large snapshot, you can order it as a hard drive instead of downloading it. We’ll get more into snapshots in a future blog post.

Lifecycle Settings

We recently introduced Lifecycle Settings to keep your buckets from getting cluttered with too many versions of files. Our web interface lets you manage these settings for each individual bucket.

Lifecycle Rules

By default, the bucket’s lifecycle setting is to keep all versions of files you upload. The web interface lets you adjust that so B2 only keeps the last file version, keeps the last file for a specific number of days, or keeps files based on your own custom rule. You can determine the file path, the number of days until the file is hidden, and the number of days until the file is deleted.

Lifecycle Rules

Reports

Backblaze updates your account daily with details on what’s happening with your B2 files. These reports are accessible through the B2 interface under the Reports tab. Clicking on reports will reveal an easy to understand visual charge showing you the average number of GB stored, total GB downloaded and total number of transactions for the month.

Reports

Look further down the page for a breakdown of monthly transactions by type, along with charts that help you track average GB stored, GB downloaded and count of average stored files for the month.

Caps and Alerts

One of our goals with B2 was to take the surprise out cloud storage fees. The B2 web GUI sports a Caps & Alerts section to help you control how much you spend on B2.

Caps & Alerts

This is where you can see – and limit – daily storage caps, daily downloads, and daily transactions. “Transactions” are interactions with your account like creating a new bucket, listing the contents of a bucket, or downloading a file.

You can make sure to send those alerts to your cell phone and email, so you’ll never be hit with an unwelcome surprise in the form of an unexpected bill. The first 10 GB of storage is free, with unlimited free uploads and 1 GB of free downloads each day.

Edit Caps

Click the Edit Caps button to enter dollar amount limits for storage, download bandwidth, Class B and Class C transactions separately (or specify No Cap if you don’t want to be encumbered). This way, you maintain control over how much you spend with B2.

And There’s More

That’s an overview of the B2 web GUI to help you get started using B2 Cloud Storage. If you’re more technical and are interested in connecting to B2 using our API instead, make sure to check out our B2 Starter Guide for a comprehensive overview of what’s under the hood.

Still have questions about the B2 web GUI, or ideas for how we can make it better? Fire away in the comments, we want to hear from you!

The post B2 for Beginners: Inside the B2 Web interface appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Troubleshooting Tips for SSDs

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/ssd-troubleshooting/

Need help troubleshooting a problematic SSD (Solid State Drive)? Here’s a list of problems SSD users commonly run into, along with some suggestions on how to fix them.

SSD Failure

Let’s go over some of the warning signs of a potential SSD failure. Any of these could be indications that an SSD is on its way out.

  • Files can’t be read from or written to the drive.
  • The computer runs excessively slow.
  • The computer won’t boot, you get a flashing question mark (on Mac) or “No boot device” error (on Windows).
  • Frequent Blue Screen of Death/Black Screen of Death errors.
  • Apps freeze or crash.
  • Your drive becomes read-only.

Troubleshooting Your Solid State Drive

The following issues can explain some of these failures, so feel free to use this as a troubleshooting guide to help isolate and correct the problem.

Hardware Issues

Let’s start with the basics: Turn the computer off then turn it back on again. If you can directly observe the SSD (if, for example, it’s a replacement for a spinning hard drive), look for any sign of activity, such as a data transfer or power LED. If the SSD is powering up, the problem may be with a software misconfiguration or a setup issue. Let’s assume for the moment that there’s no sign of activity. What should you do next?

Power down the computer and unplug it. If it’s a laptop, remove the battery if possible. An SSD replacement for a spinning hard drive uses the same physical connections for data and power. Check those cables to make sure they’re in place.

Also consider peripheral connections. Have problems cropped up since installing a new external device? It’s possible an external device might be contributing to the issue, so remove any peripheral that isn’t necessary to the computer’s basic operation and see if that fixes the problem.

Software and File System Issues

It may not be the hardware to blame at all – instead, a rogue app may be to blame. To troubleshoot, restart the computer in Safe Mode and see if the problems continue. Safe Mode operates with minimal drivers, and can be a useful way to see if software is making your computer malfunction.

To enable Safe Mode on the Mac
Restart holding down either Shift key on the keyboard.
To enable Safe Mode on a Windows PC
Press F4 while starting the computer.

Make sure the core operating system, mission-critical software and drivers are up to date. Run your computer’s built-in system software update tools. That’s done through the Mac App Store on Mac computers, or through Windows Update on Windows PCs.

File system damage or corruption can also contribute to storage system instability. Run your favorite disk utility software to assess the health of the file system installed on that SSD and see if it picks up any problems that need to be addressed.

The third piece of the software puzzle is the operating system itself. You can try reinstalling the OS through its built-in restore and recovery tools to see if that fixes your SSD instability.

SMART Failures

SMART stands for Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology; It’s self-diagnosis technology built into hard drives and SSDs which can be used to identify potential problems. SMART status is reported by SSDs as well. That information can be collected by disk utilities and operating systems, which will report SMART issues when they arise.

Just like with spinning hard drives, having an SSD throw a SMART failure isn’t a surefire indication that it’s about to die. It’s all about understanding which particular error is being reported and what that means. For example, has the drive simply exceeded a threshold operational value? Is it a consistently repeatable problem?

Reading and interpreting SMART status information from a drive can be tricky, because the information reported from one device to another varies. How various disk utilities interpret that information is also important. Regardless, repeated warnings certainly merit further analysis.

Find out more about how Backblaze uses SMART stats to troubleshoot the tens of thousands of hard drives we use our own Storage Pods in this analysis.

Out of date SSD firmware or motherboard BIOS

Cursor freezing? Getting the Blue Screen of Death on Windows, or the Black Screen of Death on the Mac? It’s possible the SSD is acting up because its firmware is out of date. Firmware problems on SSDs often mimic outright hardware failures.

If you’ve installed a third-party SSD in your computer, check with the SSD maker to make sure your firmware is up to date. Intel, Samsung, SanDisk and others make updater apps available for download from their web site. Apple distributes firmware updates to its own factory-installed SSDs through the Mac App Store, but check with individual SSD makers if you’ve upgraded your Mac with an aftermarket model. If an update is available, make sure to install it, restart your computer, and see if that fixes the problem.

While you’re at it, if you’re troubleshooting a PC with an SSD, make sure its main logic board BIOS or EFI firmware is up to date. There’s no one-size-fits-all method for checking, so follow the manufacturer’s instructions. And proceed with extreme caution. Applying the wrong BIOS firmware or doing it incorrectly can brick your computer.

Call In The Calvary

If these tips haven’t helped you diagnose or solve your SSD issues, don’t panic. The next step is to have someone else take a look. Bring your computer to a technician or service you trust and have them try to troubleshoot the problem. With the growth in solid state drives over the past few years finding an experienced tech to help you shouldn’t be a problem.

If you’re interested in upgrading oyur computer with an SSD, read this SSD Upgrade Guide for more details.

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Groups Helps You Manage Family Backup

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/groups-speeds-family-backup/

Being responsible for your family’s IT needs can feel burdensome. We’ve made it easier for you to manage all of your family’s backups in one place. Presenting Groups, a new feature that works with two computers or 200 (or 1,000…what you’re doing with 1,000 computers is an issue for a different post).

Groups helps you pay for the backups your family uses without having to log in and out of individual accounts. This makes it simple to keep track of everyone in one place. All the backup accounts are linked to the same credit card, and you can even keep track of backups and create restores quickly and easily with managed Groups. Need to help a family member with a computer emergency? Log in, access their most recent backup and restore the files they need via a downloadable ZIP or use our Restore By Mail service to have a complete backup sent on a USB hard drive.

You can already manage multiple computers on a single Backblaze account. So why use Groups instead? Because each user has individual access to, and control of, their account. You – as Group Administrator – manage billing and, optionally, data recovery. This is a more secure and safer method than sharing the same account credentials among several computers used by different people.

This post focuses on managing family backups, but ultimately, a Group works equally well for business users and personal users alike. In fact, you’ll see it referred to as “Business Groups” in Backblaze’s settings. But you don’t have to be a business to work with a Group.

Set Up Groups

As the Group Administrator, you have total control over who’s included as part of your Group. You can send out email invitations so they join your Group. You also have the option of using a unique Group Invitation link – anyone that you send it to can click and join. A good addition to your monthly family newsletter, perhaps. You can set your Groups up to pay for the services you choose, and you can create as many Groups as you need to make sure you’re covered.

Being in a Group is entirely voluntary. Any member of a Group can leave any time they want. The Groups feature makes it easier to take care of the accounts you need to keep track of. Group Administrators are also free to remove anyone from a Group at any time – that person then gets to choose whether or not they want to continue backing up with Backblaze, by putting down their own payment method. Which is perfect for when it’s time to wean the kiddos off of your shared accounts. Whether they like it or not.

As Group Administrator, when creating your Group, you can set your administrative privileges. If you choose to manage user accounts, you can help prepare their Backblaze backups for restoration, so users in your Group don’t need to sign in and do the job themselves (they still retain full control over their own account). Managed or unmanaged, you can still keep track of their backup status and billing management falls in the Group Administrator’s lap.

Invite Members

Now that you have created a Group you can invite members to join it. Copy the Group Invite Link Backblaze generates automatically for you. Give to friends and family via instant message or any other means you’d like. Click the Send Invite Emails button to invite them by email. That way you can keep track of who you’ve sent invites to and who’s requesting membership, right from within the Group Management window. You can retain control over who can and can’t join.

When the person you’ve invited clicks on the link, they’ll be asked to either create a Backblaze account (if they don’t have one) or sign in to their existing one (if they do). Once that’s done, they’ll be prompted to download Backblaze. There’s no need to reinstall Backblaze if they already use it. They’re now part of your Group. If they’re new to Backblaze, they can download and install the client and begin their initial backup. And if you’re managing the Group, you’ll be able to keep track of their backups.

Save Money, Plan Ahead

Each computer you’re backing up is billed the same simple way: $5 per computer, per month. You can save money by buying yearly licenses ($50) or two-year licenses ($95).

Inviting users who already have Backblaze accounts? No problem. Once they’ve joined your Group, their existing credit card will automatically get a prorated refund for the remaining part of the existing Backblaze license. They (and you) don’t need to worry about reuploading data – the backup is already safe and sound in our Data Center.

We know it’s a pain to be “The Tech Person” for your circle of family and friends. We hope that Groups makes it just that much easier for you to help out your people in need.

Have questions about Groups? We want to hear from you – let us know what you think. Also make sure to read up more about Groups in our recent announcement.

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Backblaze Begins: Celebrating A Very Special Anniversary

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/backblaze-begins/

2017 is a milestone year for us at Backblaze: This year is our tenth anniversary. Our official birthday – based on our papers of incorporation – places that date in April. But January 15th was another important date: It’s when the work on what would become Backblaze first started in earnest.

Brian Wilson, our intrepid CTO and CFO, began coding Backblaze full-time on January 15, 2007, in a corner of his living room. Brian had already been coding for a couple of decades, and like our other founders is a serial entrepreneur. But Backblaze was a bit more personal.

Our guiding philosophy is that backups should be easy, automatic, and affordable.

Brian is known by family and friends to have a pretty elaborate and extensive – some might even say a bit insane – backup regimen. That expertise would occasionally lead to questions about data backup and recovery. That’s when Jeanine’s computer crashed. She begged Brian for help to recover her files. But without a backup to restore from, Brian couldn’t help.

While Brian felt bad for Jeanine, he quickly realized that this was just the beginning as photos, movies, and personal and work documents were all going digital. Purely digital. And like Jeanine, most people were not backing up their computers. The amount of data that was at risk of being lost was staggering.

Why were so few people backing up their computers? Managing backups can be difficult, especially for people who don’t live on their computers all the time, but still rely on them. And while there were already online backup services, they were confusing, expensive and required you to select the files you wanted to backup.

So we started Backblaze to solve that impending disaster. Our guiding philosophy is that backups should be easy, automatic, and affordable.

Backblaze caught fire very quickly, if you’ll pardon the pun. By early February we had already begun stringing together a Gigabit Ethernet network (in Brian’s home) to connect the servers and other gear we’d need to get Backblaze up and running. By early April we had working code. That’s when we called the lawyers and got the letters of incorporation rolling, which is why our “official” birthday is in April. April 20th, 2007 in fact.

So why did we call this new venture Backblaze? Back in 2001, Brian had incorporated “Codeblaze” for his consulting business. “Backblaze” was a nod to that previous effort, with an acknowledgment that this new project would focus on backups. April 20th is our official birthday.

4/20 is familiar to marijuana enthusiasts everywhere. and our birthday is a source of occasional mirth and merriment to those in the know. Sorry to be a buzzkill, but it’s totally coincidental: The great state of Delaware decided on our incorporation date.

It’s interesting how one great idea can lead to another. When Backblaze was still coming together, we thought we’d store backup data using an existing cloud storage service. So we went to Amazon S3. We found that S3 was way too expensive for us. Heck, it’s still too expensive, years later.

So we decided to roll our own storage instead. We called it the Storage Pod. We really liked the idea – so much that we decided to open-source the design so you can build your own if you want to. We’ve iterated it many times since then, most recently with our Storage Pod 6.0. We’re now putting 60 drives in each rack-mounted chassis in our data center, for a total of 480 Terabytes of storage in each one.

As our work with Storage Pods continued and as we built out our data center, we realized that we could offer cloud storage to our customers for 1/4 the price that Amazon does. And that’s what led us to start B2 Cloud Storage. You’ve enthusiastically adopted B2, along with a growing cadre of integration partners.

Ten years later, we’re astonished, humbled and thrilled with what we’ve accomplished. We’ve restored more than 20 billion files and the Storage Pods in our data center now keep more than 300 Petabytes of data. The future is bright and the sky’s the limit. We can’t wait to see what the next ten years have in store.

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CES 2017: Trends For the Tech Savvy To Watch

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/ces-2017-trends-tech-savvy-watch/

This year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) just wrapped up in Las Vegas. The usual parade of cool tech toys created a lot of headlines this year, but there were some genuine trends to keep an eye on too. If you’re like us, you’re probably one of the first people around to adopt promising new technologies when they emerge. As early adopters we can sometimes lose the forest through the trees when it comes to understanding what this means for everyone else, so we’re going to look at it through that prism.

Alexa everywhere

2017 promises to be a big year for voice-activated “smart home” devices. The final landscape for this is still to be determined – all the expected players have their foot in it right now. Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, even some smaller players.

Amazon deserves props after a holiday season that saw its Echo and Echo Dot devices in high demand. The company’s published an API that is Alexa is picking up plenty of support from third party manufacturers. Alexa’s testing for far beyond Echo, it seems.

Electronics giant LG is building Alexa into a line of robots designed for domestic duties and a refrigerator that also sports interior fridge cams, for example. Ford is integrating Alexa support into its Sync 3 automotive interface. Televisions, lighting devices, and home security products are among the many devices to feature Alexa integration.

Alexa is the new hotness, but the real trend here is in voice-assisted connectivity around the home. Even if Alexa runs out of steam, this tech is here to stay. The Internet of Things and voice activated interfaces are converging quickly, though that day isn’t today. It’s tantalizingly close. It’s still a niche, though, where it will stay for as long as consumers have to piece different things together to get it to work. That means there’s still room for disruption.

There’s especially ripe opportunity in underserved verticals. Take the home health market, for example: Natural language interfaces have huge implications for elderly and disabled care and assistance. Finding and developing solutions for those sorts of vertical markets is an awesome opportunity for the right players.

Of course, with great power comes great responsibility. A family of a six-year-old recently got stuck with a $160 bill after she told Alexa to order her cookies and a dollhouse. The family ended up donating the accidental order to charity. For what it’s worth, that problem can be avoided by activating a confirmation code feature in the Alexa software.

The Electric Vehicle (EV) Market Heats Up

One of the trickiest things to unpack from CES is hype from substance. Nowhere was that more apparent last week than the unveiling of Faraday Future’s FF91, a new Electric Vehicle (EV) positioned to go toe-to-toe with Tesla’s EV fleet.

The FF91 EV can purportedly go 378 miles on a single charge and also possesses autonomous driving capabilities (although its vaunted self-parking abilities didn’t demo as well as planned). When or if it’ll make it into production is still a head-scratcher, however. Faraday Future says it’ll be out next year, assuming that the company is beyond the production and manufacturing woes that have plagued it up until now.

While new vehicles and vehicle concepts are still largely the domain of auto shows, some auto manufacturers used CES to float new concepts ahead of the Detroit Auto Show, which happens this week. Toyota, for example, showed off its Concept-i, a car with artificial intelligence and natural language processing (like Siri or Alexa) designed to learn from you and adapt.

As we mentioned, Alexa is integrated into Ford’s Sync 3 platform, too. Already you can buy new cars with CarPlay and Android Auto, which makes it a lot easier to just talk with your mobile device to stay connected, get directions and entertain yourself on the morning commute simply by talking to your car instead of touching buttons. That’s a smart user interface change, but it’s still a potentially dangerous distraction for the driver. For this technology to succeed, it’s imperative that natural language interface designers make the experience as frictionless as possible.

Chrysler is making a play for future millennial families. We’re not making this up – they used “millennial” to describe the target market for this several times. The Portal concept is an electric minivan of sorts that’s chock-full of buzzwords: Facial recognition, Wi-Fi, media sharing, ten charging ports, semi-autonomous driving abilities and more).

2017 marks a pivot for car makers in this respect. For years the conventional wisdom that millennials were a lost cause for auto makers – Uber and Zipcar was all they needed. It turns out that was totally wrong. Economic pressures and diverse lifestyles may have delayed millennials’ trek toward auto ownership, but they’re turning out now in big numbers to buy wheels. Millennial families will need transportation just like generations before them back to the station wagon, which is why Chrysler says this “fifth-generation” family car will go into production sometime after 2018.

Volkswagen showed off its new I.D. concept car, a Golf-looking EV that also has all the requisite buzzwords. Speaking of buzzwords, what really excited us was the I.D. Buzz. This new EV resurrects the styling of the Hippy-era Microbus, with mood lighting, autonomous driving capabilities and a retractable steering wheel.

Rumors have persisted for years that VW was on the cusp of introducing a refreshed Microbus, but those rumors have never come to pass. And unfortunately, VW has no concrete plans to actually produce this – it seems to be a marketing effort to draw on nostalgic Boomer appeal, more than anything..

Both Buzz and Chrysler’s Portal do give us some insight about where auto makers are going when it comes to future generations of minivans: Electric, autonomous, customizable and more social than ever. If we are headed towards a future where vehicles drive themselves, family transportation will look very different than it is today.

Laptops At Both Extremes

CES saw the rollout of several new PC laptop models and concepts that will be hitting store shelves over the next several months.

Gamers looking for more real estate – a lot more real estate – were interested in Razer’s latest concept, Project Valerie. The laptop sports not one but three 4K displays which fold out on hinges. That’s 12K pixels of horizontal image space, mated to an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 graphics processor. A unibody aluminum chassis keeps it relatively thin (1.5 inches) when closed, but the entire rig weighs more than 12 pounds. Razer doesn’t have any immediate production plans, which may explain why their prototype was stolen before the end of the show.

Unlike Razer, Acer has production plans – immediate plans – for its gargantuan 21-inch Predator 21X laptop, priced at $8,999 and headed to store shelves next month. It was announced last year, but Acer finally offered launch details last week. A 17-inch model is also coming soon.

Big gaming laptops make for pretty pictures and certainly have their place in the PC ecosystem, but they’re niche devices. After a ramp up on 2-in-1s and low-powered laptops, Intel’s Kaby Lake processors are finally ready for the premium and mid-range laptop market. Kaby Lake efficiency improvements are helping PC makers build thinner and lighter laptops with better battery life, 4K video processing, faster solid state storage and more.

HP, Asus, MSI, Dell (and its gaming arm Alienware) were among the many companies with sleek new Kaby Lake-equipped models.

Gaming in the cloud with Nvidia

Nvidia, makers of premium graphics processors, offers GeForce Now cloud gaming to users of its Shield, an Android-based gaming handheld. That service is expanding to Windows and Mac in March.

Gaming as a Service, if you will, isn’t a new idea. OnLive pioneered the concept more than a decade ago. Gaikai followed, then was acquired by Sony in 2012. Nvidia’s had limited success with GeForce Now, but it’s been a single-platform offering up until now.

Nvidia has robust data centers to handle the processing and traffic, so best of luck to them as they scale up to meet demand. Gaming is very sensitive to network disruption – no gamer appreciates lag – so it’ll be interesting to see how GeForce Now scales to accommodate the new devices.

Mesh Networking

Mesh networking delivers more consistent, stronger network reception and performance than a conventional Wi-Fi router. Some of us have set up routers and extenders to fix dead spots – mesh networking works differently through smart traffic and better radio management between multiple network bases.

Eero, Ubiquiti, and even Google (with Google Wifi) are already offering mesh networking products, and this market segment looks to expand big in 2017. Netgear, Linksys, Asus, TP-Link and others are among those with new mesh networking setups. Mesh networking gear is still hampered by a higher price than plain old routers. That means the value isn’t there for some of us who have networking gear that gets the job done, even with shortcomings like dead zones or slow zones. But prices are coming down fast as more companies get into the market. If you have an 802.11ac router you’re happy with, stick with it for now, and move to a mesh networking setup for your next Wi-Fi upgrade.

Getting Your Feet Into VR

Our award for wackiest CES product has to go to Cerevo Taclim. Tactile feedback shoes and wireless hand controllers that help you “feel” the surface you’re walking on. Crunching snow underfoot, splashing through water. At an expected $1,000-$1,500 a pop, these probably won’t be next year’s Hatchimals, but it’s fun to imagine what game devs can do with the technology. Strap these to your feet then break out your best Hadouken in Street Fighter VR!

CES isn’t the real world. Only a fraction of what’s shown off ever sees the light of day, but it’s always interesting to see the trend-focused consumer electronics market shift and change from year to year. At the end of the year we hope to look back and see how much of this stuff ended up resonating with the actual consumer the show is named for.

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