All posts by Peter Cohen

2016: The Year In Tech, And A Sneak Peek Of What’s To Come

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/2016-year-tech-sneak-peek-whats-come/

2016 is safely in our rear-view mirrors. It’s time to take a look back at the year that was and see what technology had the biggest impact on consumers and businesses alike. We also have an eye to 2017 to see what the future holds.

AI and machine learning in the cloud

Truly sentient computers and robots are still the stuff of science fiction (and the premise of one of 2016’s most promising new SF TV series, HBO’s Westworld). Neural networks are nothing new, but 2016 saw huge strides in artificial intelligence and machine learning, especially in the cloud.

Google, Amazon, Apple, IBM, Microsoft and others are developing cloud computing infrastructures designed especially for AI work. It’s this technology that’s underpinning advances in image recognition technology, pattern recognition in cybersecurity, speech recognition, natural language interpretation and other advances.

Microsoft’s newly-formed AI and Research Group is finding ways to get artificial intelligence into Microsoft products like its Bing search engine and Cortana natural language assistant. Some of these efforts, while well-meaning, still need refinement: Early in 2016 Microsoft launched Tay, an AI chatbot designed to mimic the natural language characteristics of a teenage girl and learn from interacting with Twitter users. Microsoft had to shut Tay down after Twitter users exploited vulnerabilities that caused Tay to begin spewing really inappropriate responses. But it paves the way for future efforts that blur the line between man and machine.

Finance, energy, climatology – anywhere you find big data sets you’re going to find uses for machine learning. On the consumer end it can help your grocery app guess what you might want or need based on your spending habits. Financial firms use machine learning to help predict customer credit scores by analyzing profile information. One of the most intriguing uses of machine learning is in security: Pattern recognition helps systems predict malicious intent and figure out where exploits will come from.

Meanwhile we’re still waiting for Rosie the Robot from the Jetsons. And flying cars. So if Elon Musk has any spare time in 2017, maybe he can get on that.

AR Games

Augmented Reality (AR) games have been around for a good long time – ever since smartphone makers put cameras on them, game makers have been toying with the mix of real life and games.

AR games took a giant step forward with a game released in 2016 that you couldn’t get away from, at least for a little while. We’re talking about Pokémon GO, of course. Niantic, makers of another AR game called Ingress, used the framework they built for that game to power Pokémon GO. Kids, parents, young, old, it seemed like everyone with an iPhone that could run the game caught wild Pokémon, hatched eggs by walking, and battled each other in Pokémon gyms.

For a few weeks, anyway.

Technical glitches, problems with scale and limited gameplay value ultimately hurt Pokémon GO’s longevity. Today the game only garners a fraction of the public interest it did at peak. It continues to be successful, albeit not at the stratospheric pace it first set.

Niantic, the game’s developer, was able to tie together several factors to bring such an explosive and – if you’ll pardon the overused euphemism – disruptive – game to bear. One was its previous work with a game called Ingress, another AR-enhanced game that uses geomap data. In fact, Pokémon GO uses the same geomap data as Ingress, so Niantic had already done a huge amount of legwork needed to get Pokémon GO up and running. Niantic cleverly used Google Maps data to form the basis of both games, relying on already-identified public landmarks and other locations tagged by Ingress players (Ingress has been around since 2011).

Then, of course, there’s the Pokémon connection – an intensely meaningful gaming property that’s been popular with generations of video games and cartoon watchers since the 1990s. The dearth of Pokémon-branded games on smartphones meant an instant explosion of popularity upon Pokémon GO’s release.

2016 also saw the introduction of several new virtual reality (VR) headsets designed for home and mobile use. Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream View made a splash. As these products continue to make consumer inroads, we’ll see more games push the envelope of what you can achieve with VR and AR.

Hybrid Cloud

Hybrid Cloud services combine public cloud storage (like B2 Cloud Storage) or public compute (like Amazon Web Services) with a private cloud platform. Specialized content and file management software glues it all together, making the experience seamless for the user.

Businesses get the instant access and speed they need to get work done, with the ability to fall back on on-demand cloud-based resources when scale is needed. B2’s hybrid cloud integrations include OpenIO, which helps businesses maintain data storage on-premise until it’s designated for archive and stored in the B2 cloud.

The cost of entry and usage of Hybrid Cloud services have continued to fall. For example, small and medium-sized organizations in the post production industry are finding Hybrid Cloud storage is now a viable strategy in managing the large amounts of information they use on a daily basis. This strategy is enabled by the low cost of B2 Cloud Storage that provides ready access to cloud-stored data.

There are practical deployment and scale issues that have kept Hybrid Cloud services from being used widespread in the largest enterprise environments. Small to medium businesses and vertical markets like Media & Entertainment have found promising, economical opportunities to use it, which bodes well for the future.

Inexpensive 3D printers

3D printing, once a rarified technology, has become increasingly commoditized over the past several years. That’s been in part thanks to the “Maker Movement:” Thousands of folks all around the world who love to tinker and build. XYZprinting is out in front of makers and others with its line of inexpensive desktop da Vinci printers.

The da Vinci Mini is a tabletop model aimed at home users which starts at under $300. You can download and tweak thousands of 3D models to build toys, games, art projects and educational items. They’re built using spools of biodegradable, non-toxic plastics derived from corn starch which dispense sort of like the bobbin on a sewing machine. The da Vinci Mini works with Macs and PCs and can connect via USB or Wi-Fi.

DIY Drones

Quadcopter drones have been fun tech toys for a while now, but the new trend we saw in 2016 was “do it yourself” models. The result was Flybrix, which combines lightweight drone motors with LEGO building toys. Flybrix was so successful that they blew out of inventory for the 2016 holiday season and are backlogged with orders into the new year.

Each Flybrix kit comes with the motors, LEGO building blocks, cables and gear you need to build your own quad, hex or octocopter drone (as well as a cheerful-looking LEGO pilot to command the new vessel). A downloadable app for iOS or Android lets you control your creation. A deluxe kit includes a handheld controller so you don’t have to tie up your phone.

If you already own a 3D printer like the da Vinci Mini, you’ll find plenty of model files available for download and modification so you can print your own parts, though you’ll probably need help from one of the many maker sites to know what else you’ll need to aerial flight and control.

5D Glass Storage

Research at the University of Southampton may yield the next big leap in optical storage technology meant for long-term archival. The boffins at the Optoelectronics Research Centre have developed a new data storage technique that embeds information in glass “nanostructures” on a storage disc the size of a U.S. quarter.

A Blu-Ray Disc can hold 50 GB, but one of the new 5D glass storage discs – only the size of a U.S. quarter – can hold 360 TB – 7200 times more. It’s like a super-stable supercharged version of a CD. Not only is the data inscribed on much smaller structures within the glass, but reflected at multiple angles, hence “5D.”

An upside to this is an absence of bit rot: The glass medium is extremely stable, with a shelf life predicted in billions of years. The downside is that this is still a write-once medium, so it’s intended for long term storage.

This tech is still years away from practical use, but it took a big step forward in 2016 when the University announced the development of a practical information encoding scheme to use with it.

Smart Home Tech

Are you ready to talk to your house to tell it to do things? If you’re not already, you probably will be soon. Google’s Google Home is a $129 voice-activated speaker powered by the Google Assistant. You can use it for everything from streaming music and video to a nearby TV to reading your calendar or to do list. You can also tell it to operate other supported devices like the Nest smart thermostat and Philips Hue lights.

Amazon has its own similar wireless speaker product called the Echo, powered by Amazon’s Alexa information assistant. Amazon has differentiated its Echo offerings by making the Dot – a hockey puck-sized device that connects to a speaker you already own. So Amazon customers can begin to outfit their connected homes for less than $50.

Apple’s HomeKit software kit isn’t a speaker like Amazon Echo or Google Home. It’s software. You use the Home app on your iOS 10-equipped iPhone or iPad to connect and configure supported devices. Use Siri, Apple’s own intelligent assistant, on any supported Apple device. HomeKit turns on lights, turns up the thermostat, operates switches and more.

Smart home tech has been coming in fits and starts for a while – the Nest smart thermostat is already in its third generation, for example. But 2016 was the year we finally saw the “Internet of things” coalescing into a smart home that we can control through voice and gestures in a … well, smart way.

Welcome To The Future

It’s 2017, welcome to our brave new world. While it’s anyone’s guess what the future holds, there are at least a few tech trends that are pretty safe to bet on. They include:

  • Internet of Things: More smart-connected devices are coming online in the home and at work every day, and this trend will accelerate in 2017 with more and more devices requiring some form of Internet connectivity to work. Expect to see a lot more appliances, devices, and accessories that make use of the API’s promoted by Google, Amazon, and Apple to help let you control everything in your life just using your voice and a smart speaker setup.
  • Blockchain security: Blockchain is the digital ledger security technology that makes Bitcoin work. Its distribution methodology and validation system help you make certain that no one’s tampered with the records, which make it well-suited for applications besides cryptocurrency, like make sure your smart thermostat (see above) hasn’t been hacked). Expect 2017 to be the year we see more mainstream acceptance, use, and development of blockchain technology from financial institutions, the creation of new private blockchain networks, and improved usability aimed at making blockchain easier for regular consumers to use. Blockchain-based voting is here too. It also wouldn’t surprise us, given all this movement, to see government regulators take a much deeper interest in blockchain, either.
  • 5G: Verizon is field-testing 5G on its wireless network, which it says deliver speeds 30-50 times faster than 4G LTE. We’ll be hearing a lot more about 5G from Verizon and other wireless players in 2017. In fairness, we’re still a few years away from widescale 5G deployment, but field-testing has already started.

Your Predictions?

Enough of our bloviation. Let’s open the floor to you. What do you think were the biggest technology trends in 2016? What’s coming in 2017 that has you the most excited? Let us know in the comments!

The post 2016: The Year In Tech, And A Sneak Peek Of What’s To Come appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Data Storage Disasters SMBs Should Avoid

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/data-storage-disasters-smbs-avoid/

Avoid Data Disasters

No one wants to get caught off guard when disaster strikes. And disasters are kind of inevitable, typically when you least expect them. Forewarned is forearmed. Here are five data storage disasters just waiting to happen to small to medium-sized businesses. We also offer some practical advice for how to avoid them.

Not Knowing Where Your Data Is

Data scatter is a big problem even in small organizations. Some data may be stored in the cloud, some may be on local machines, some may be on servers. Two-thirds of all corporate data exists outside the traditional data center. Make sure you know where your data is and how to protect it.

Conduct a data assessment to find out where your data lives. That includes customer records, financial and compliance data, application and server software, anything else necessary to keep your doors open. Know how data is used. Identify high-priority and high-value data to your organization.

Also understand that not everything is necessary to keep on-hand. Having redundancy and systems in place to retrieve every single bit of data is costly. Be wary of implementation issues that can create headaches, like time to restore. Separate out what’s absolutely necessary from that which would be nice to have, and that which is redundant and rebuildable.

Not Protecting Against Malware

Data breaches caused by malware infestations – especially ransomware – are on the rise. Ransomware encrypts an infected computer’s hard drive, locking you out. Unless you pay up using a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, you’re locked out of your data with no way to restore it (with a backup).

Some organizations have paid hackers tens of thousands of dollars to unlock systems that have been taken down by ransomware. Even we at Backblaze have been affected by ransomware (having a recent backup got us out of that pickle). Even plain old malware which hijacks web browser search fields or injects advertisements causes problems that cost you time and money to fix.

Sure, you can disinfect individually affected machines, but when it happens to an entire organization it can be crippling. What’s more, any way you slice it, it wastes employee productivity, time and resources.

Use a multi-point strategy to combat malware that combines user education with best security practices. Help users discriminate between legitimate inbound emails and phishing attempts, for example. Make them wary of connecting Wi-Fi enabled devices on unsecured networks (or disable that capability altogether). Force periodic password changes. Use Mobile Device Management (MDM) tools to update remote machines and disable them if they’re stolen or lost.

Installing good anti-malware software is crucial, but endpoint security on user computers shouldn’t be the only proactive defense. If you take care of more than a handful of computers, save time and resources by using apps that centralize anti-malware software updates and malware definition file distribution.

Besides users, servers also need to be protected from malware. Also, update network gear with firmware updates to help maintain security. Make sure that passwords on those devices are changed periodically, as well.

Not Having A Disaster Recovery Plan

As we said at the outset, forewarned is forearmed. Create a written disaster recovery plan (stored safely if you need to retrieve it) that covers all possible contingencies. Think through the threats your business faces: Human error, malfeasance, natural disasters, theft, fire, device or component failure may be some of the things you should be thinking about.

Once you’ve assessed the threats, try to evaluate the actual risks. Being attacked by an angry grizzly bear is certainly a threat, but unless you’re in the Kodiak wilderness, it’s not a plausible risk. Conversely, if your business is located on a floodplain, it might be good to have a contingency in place for the next time the river nearby crests its banks.

Is your IT disaster recovery plan focused just specifically on one part of your business operations, like your server room or data center? What’s your plan for the laptop and desktop computers, handheld devices and other gear used by your employees? Do you have system images in place to quickly restore computers? Can you run some systems as virtual machines in a pinch?

Once you have plans in place, the important thing is to test them periodically. It’ll help you work out implementation problems beforehand, so when disaster strikes, your organization can still move like a well-oiled machine.

Not Using Encryption

Data theft is such a pernicious problem these days, you need to use every safeguard you can manage to protect the integrity of your data and its safety.

Someone could hack into your systems and steal information, or a careless employee can leave an unguarded laptop on the table at Starbucks. Any time your data is exposed or could be exposed to outside threats, there should be some inherent safeguard to protect it. Encryption can help.

macOS, Windows, and modern Linux distributions support full-disk encryption. It’s FileVault on the Mac, and BitLocker in Windows. Traveling executives, salespeople with laptops, field technicians or anyone else who takes sensitive data offsite are good encryption candidates. Anyone in-house who handles customer records or sensitive business intelligence should also use encryption wherever practical. Make sure that you keep a (secure) record of the encryption keys needed to decrypt any protected systems to avoid data recovery problems down the road.

Encrypting endpoint data is important, but so is encrypting data in transit. If you’re regularly backing up to the cloud or using online file sync services, make sure they support encryption to protect your data (all Backblaze backup products support encryption).

Not Having A Recent Backup

Having a good backup strategy in place is crucial to being able to keep your business running. Develop a backup strategy that protects all of your critical data, and automates it as much as possible to run on a schedule.

The 3-2-1 Backup Strategy is a good place to start: Three copies of data – live, backup and offsite. User systems with important data should be backed up, as should servers and any other computers needed to run the business. One backup should be stored locally for easy recovery, and one copy of the backup should be stored offsite. This is where a cloud service (like Backblaze for Business, or for server and NAS systems, B2 Cloud Storage) can come in really handy. Just make sure to observe safe data handling procedures (like encryption, as mentioned above) to keep everything in your control.

This is a good starting point for a discussion within your organization about how to protect yourselves from data loss. If you have questions or comments, please let us know!

The post Data Storage Disasters SMBs Should Avoid appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

SSD 101: How to Upgrade Your Computer With an SSD

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

SanDisk Solid State Drive

Adding or upgrading an SSD is, along with adding memory, the most popular DIY computer upgrade. SSDs are changing rapidly, however, so we updated this post by Peter Cohen from December of 2016 with the latest information to help you take advantage of SSDs. We hope you enjoy it.

— Editor

Is your computer performing slower than you like, or are you looking for a way to boost performance? If your computer is more than a couple of years old, replacing the hard drive with an solid-state drive (SSD) is one of the most cost-effective changes you can make. It will completely change your computing experience. That said, there are some practical challenges you’ll need to consider before you do, so let’s look further into SSD drives.

What Is an SSD?

Historically, most computers have used spinning hard disk drives for permanent data storage. Conceptually, hard drives work a bit like old-fashioned record players. They contain spinning platters. A part called the actuator moves a tiny arm that floats a miniscule distance above the surface of the disk platters. The read/write head on that arm magnetically reads and writes binary data concentrically on the disk.

HDD internals

Those disks spin at high rates of speed (thousands of revolutions per minute), so there are a lot of moving parts inside a hard disk drive. They’re built to last, but they do eventually wear down and wear out. Hard drives can also be noisy and use a fair amount of power — reasons to consider switching to an SSD especially if you’re a laptop user. Spinning hard drives are also more delicate and prone to failure if they’re dropped too hard.

By comparison, SSDs contain a form of non-volatile computer memory. In other words, the information stays put on memory chips once it’s been written. That’s different than the regular RAM in your computer, which is reset when you turn off or restart the computer. Compared to HDDs, SSDs are more shock resistant and are not affected by magnetic fields.

SSD internals

For more about the difference between hard disk drives and SSDs, check out Hard Disk Drive vs. Solid State Drive: What’s the Diff? or our two-part series, HDD vs SSD: What Does the Future for Storage Hold?

Why Upgrade to an SSD?

The biggest difference is performance for most people between HDDs and SSD is performance. Replacing a hard drive with an SSD is one of the best things you can do to dramatically improve the performance of your older computer.

Samsung SSD

Samsung 850 SSD

Without any moving parts, SSDs operate more quietly, more efficiently, and with fewer parts to break than hard drives that have spinning platters. Read and write speeds for SSDs are much better than hard drives.

For you that means less time waiting for stuff to happen. An SSD is worth looking into if you’re frequently seeing a spinning wheel cursor on your computer screen. Modern operating systems increasingly depend on virtual memory management, which pages out temporary swap files to disk. The faster your drive, the less performance impact you’ll experience from this overhead.

If you have just one drive in your laptop or desktop, you could replace an HDD or small SSD with a one terabyte SSD for less than $150. If you’re a computer user with a great deal of data, replacing just the drive that holds your operating system and applications could provide a significant speed boost. Put your working data on additional internal or external hard drives, and you’re ready to tackle a mountain of photos, videos, or supersized databases. Just be sure to implement a backup plan to make sure you keep a copy of that data safe on additional local drives, network-attached drives, or the cloud.

Any Reasons Not to Upgrade to an SSD?

If SSDs are so much better than hard drives, why aren’t all drives SSDs? The two biggest reasons are cost and capacity. SSDs are more expensive than hard drives. A good 1 TB SSD might cost you $135. A comparable hard disk drive with twice the capacity will cost you about half that. SSDs aren’t yet available with the capacity of the largest hard disk drives, though they are getting bigger all the time. To store a great deal of data, hard drives are still the best solution.

Having said that, prices on SSDs have fallen sharply in the past few years and will continue to do so. But hard drive makers aren’t sitting still. They improve their technology every year. Basically, there’s an arms race going on that benefits you.

Whether your computer can use an SSD is another question. It all depends on the computer’s age and how it was designed. Let’s take a look at that question next.

How Do You Upgrade To An SSD?

Does your computer uses a regular off the shelf SATA (Serial ATA) hard disk drive? If so, you can upgrade it with an SSD. SSDs are compatible with both Macs and PCs. All current Mac laptops come with SSDs. Both iMac and Mac Pro come with SSD, as well. The iMacs are available with HDDs, SSDs, or Apple’s Fusion Drive, which combines an SSD with a hard disk drive.

Even if your computer already has an SSD, you may be able to upgrade it with a larger, faster SSD model. Besides SATA-based hard drive replacements, some later model PCs can be upgraded with M.2 SSDs, which look more like RAM chips than hard drives. Some Apple laptops made before 2016 that already shipped with SSDs can be upgraded with larger ones. However you will need to upgrade to a Mac specific SSD. Check Other World Computing and Transcend to find ones designed to work. The latest Mac laptop models have SSDs soldered to the motherboard, so you’re stuck with what you have.

M.2 SSD

M.2 SSD

Comfortable taking your computer apart? Upgrading it with an SSD is a pretty common do-it-yourself operation. Many companies now make plug-and-play SSD replacements for hard disk drives. Open up a new browser tab to Amazon.com or Newegg.com and you’ll have an embarrassment of riches. The choice is yours: Samsung, SanDisk, Crucial, and Toshiba are all popular SSD makers. There are many others too.

That said, if you don’t know what you’re doing it may not make sense to learn how. SSD upgrades are such a common aftermarket improvement most independent computer repair and service specialists will take on the task if you’re willing to pay them. Some throw in a data transfer if you’re lucky or a skilled negotiator. Ask your friends and colleagues for recommendation. You can also hit up services like, Angie’s List or Amazon.com to find someone.

If you are DIY inclined, YouTube has tons of walkthroughs like this one for desktop PCs, this one for laptops, and this one aimed at Mac users.

SSD Drive Adapter

HDD/SSD to 3.5″ Drive Bay Adapter

Many SSDs replace 2.5-inch hard disk drives. Those are the same drives you find in laptop computers and even small desktop models. Have a desktop computer that uses a 3.5-inch hard drive? You may need to use a 2.5 inch-to-3.5 inch mounting adapter.

How to Migrate to an SSD

Buying a replacement SSD is the first step. Moving your data onto the SSD is the next step. To that end, you need two things: cloning software and an external drive case or drive sled or enclosure, which lets you connect the SSD to your computer through its USB port or another data transfer interface. The videos I pointed you to in the previous section go into some detail there.

Cloning software makes a bit-for-bit copy of your internal hard drive’s data. Once the data is transferred to the SSD, transplant the new drive into your computer and you should be good to go. I prefer to clone a hard drive onto an SSD whenever possible. If it’s done right, a cloned SSD is bootable, so it’s literally a plug-and-play experience. Just copying files between the two drives instead may not copy all the data you need to get the computer to boot with the new drive.

A new SSD, or even a new hard drive, is unlikely to come pre-populated with the operating system your computer needs. Cloning your existing hard drive fixes that. That may not be possible all the time, however. For example, maybe you’ve installed the SSD in a computer that previously had a bad hard drive. If so, you can do what’s called a clean install and start fresh. Each OS maker has different instructions. Here’s a link to Microsoft’s clean install procedure, and Apple’s Mac clean install instructions.

As we said at the outset, SSDs cost more per gigabyte than hard drives. You may not be able to afford as large an SSD as your current drive, so make sure your data will fit on your new drive. If it won’t, you might have to pare down first. Give yourself some wiggle room, too. The last thing you want to do is immediately max out your new, fast drive.

You’ve cloned your drive and moved the SSD into your computer. What do you do with the old drive? If it’s still working okay, consider reusing that external drive chassis that you bought to do the migration. Keep it as an external drive by itself or in a disk array such as a NAS. You can use it for local backup — something we strongly recommend doing in addition to using cloud backup like Backblaze. Or just use it for additional storage, like for your photos or music. We have detailed tips in blog posts for both Windows and Macintosh.

Make Sure To Back Up!

SSD upgrades are commonplace, but that doesn’t mean things don’t go wrong that can stop you dead in your tracks. If your computer is working fine before the SSD upgrade, make sure you have a complete backup of your computer to restore from in the event something goes wrong. Visit our Backup Guide for more help and info.

SSD can add pep to a computer that’s been gathering dust because it’s too slow and make it feel like brand new machine. Install an SSD and a fresh copy of the operating system, then download or order a restore from us, and you’ll feel a world of difference. Too bad they don’t make rejuvenators for people that work as well as SSDs!

The post SSD 101: How to Upgrade Your Computer With an SSD appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Tips To Survive Family Tech Support

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/tips-survive-family-tech-support/

Family Tech Support

This is the time of year when a lot of us travel home for the holidays. If you’re the most technical person in the room – heck, even if you’re just the only one who knows how to turn on a computer – some of your less technically-minded relatives might depend on you for help with their gear. If you’re on the hook to help, here are a few tips to make things go more smoothly. Spend less time fixing gear and more time enjoying holiday cheer!

Be Patient

Take a deep breath. Take a stiff drink if it’ll help. Remember that getting frustrated or angry with your family member is bound just to create a bigger problem. It might not be natural for you to to listen to what’s going on without rolling your eyes, interjecting, making sarcastic remarks or giving off body language “tells” that show your frustration.

Remember, they’re coming to you because they need help. So be kind, and remember the Golden Rule: Treat others as you’d like to be treated.

Take Time To Understand The Problem

Articulating the exact nature of your technical problem can be hard even when you know what you’re doing. Add inexperience to the mix and it’s a recipe for confusion, both for the person afflicted with the problem but the person trying to help.

So when your relative says to you, “My iPhone isn’t working,” find out what that means before you troubleshoot. If you go off to fix something without knowing exactly what you’re trying to fix, you can make things worse.

Try Not To Overexplain The Fix

Remember that the person you’re helping doesn’t necessarily think like you, and that they’re reaching out to you because they believe you have a different set of skills.

To that end, try to keep your explanations simple and clear. Don’t make assumptions about their level of knowledge. And if their eyes glaze over, try to make it easier for them by using simple analogies or metaphors that might make it easier to understand.

Install Remote Control Software

It’s one thing to help a relative in person when their gear is in your lap or in your hands, but it’s another thing entirely if they need your help when you’re not around. And if the questions pop up around the holiday dinner table, chances are you’re not going to get everything fixed right then.

That’s why using remote control software can come in really handy – apps that will enable you to take control of their computer from yours, so you can quickly and easily make changes without having to tell them step-by-step what to do.

TeamViewer, LogMeIn, Microsoft Remote Desktop, even old-fashioned VNC all get the job done, so use whatever tool you prefer.

Don’t Be Afraid To Say No

You may be perfectly comfortable putting a new air filter in your car, but there’s a big difference between that and rebuilding a transmission. Likewise, there are some problems with computers and smartphones that might be totally beyond the scope of your ability to fix. Whether it’s physically taking something apart of a software problem that’s really gnarly, you may very well hit a brick wall without any obvious solution.

The important thing is not to get in over your head and make things worse, because that’s not going to help anyone, and it’s just going to create more frustration and aggravation. At that point, it’s not only safe but suggestible to tell your relative to bring the gear to a trained pro in order to fix.

Make Sure They’re Backed Up

Get ’em Backblaze. Let’s face it, accidents happen all the time. An accidental tip of the eggnog cup, some rough handling by the security folks at the airport, or just a slip of the laptop off the bed and all of a sudden you, Mom, Dad or Aunt Jeanine are looking at an expensive and costly repair.

Without a backup, the data on that device is lost forever. Thanks to Backblaze, that data can be restored from anywhere, anytime. $5 per month is all it costs for unlimited backup from any Mac or PC. Set it up the next time you’re home. When something goes wrong, you’ll be able to help your relatives recover their vacation photos, that Excel spreadsheet or anything else they might need.

Give a little, get a little!

‘Tis better to give than to receive. What’s even better than that? When you get something out of the deal too. With Backblaze’s Refer A Friend program, you can refer family members and friends who will get a free month of Backblaze to try out the service for themselves. When they buy Backblaze, you’ll get a free month too. You can receive an unlimited number of free months.

The post Tips To Survive Family Tech Support appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

How To Reclaim Lost Hard Disk Space

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/free-up-disk-space/

hard-drive-full

Running out of disk space? You’re not the only one. We’ve all been there. You try to save a file or install a new app and get a message telling you there isn’t enough space. Here are five common mistakes that cost us extra hard drive space we don’t need to waste – and what to do about them.

Runaway Caches

Apps and the operating system often write data to temporary files which aren’t always cleaned up in the most efficient manner. To fix the problem, often all you have to do is to restart the computer. I’ve done this before and all of a sudden found a few extra gigabytes available. Enough to figure out what else is taking up space so I can remove it.

Disk Cleanup

If restarting doesn’t fix it, there are various techniques you can use to flush cache files. It depends on what OS is installed. In macOS, for example, you can navigate to the /Library directory, then empty the Caches subdirectory manually. Windows users can use the Disk Cleanup app, which is built in. There are also third-party utilities that can help, such as CleanMyMac 3 from MacPaw and CCleaner for Windows from Piriform.

Too Many Duplicate Files

Before you get started, make sure you have a full and complete backup of your hard drive!

If you routinely copy files between directories you may inadvertently be leaving duplicate files that can choke your hard disk. Make sure to compare the files to make sure you’re not deleting a later version that may contain essential revisions.

This is another area where having a good utility can save the day. In addition to the ones I just mentioned, there’s Duplicate Cleaner for Windows and Gemini for Mac from MacPaw.

Unused Apps

How many times have you installed an app that you don’t end up using? Individual apps – and the many files needed to get them to work properly – can occupy hundreds of megabytes, even gigabytes. That’s space you can use for more important stuff.

Take a close look at your Applications folder and see if there’s unused junk you can safely delete. If the app comes from a service like the Windows Store or Mac App Store, you should be able to download it again for free if and when you actually need it. Apps you’ve acquired through other means – DVD installers or from third-party stores whose policies may differ – may need their own archive. Make sure that you have a backup in case you need to restore. Also make sure you have registration or activation data stored in a safe place. You’ll need it if you reinstall the app.

Games are particularly egregious hard disk space waste offenders. Some games will grab dozens of gigabytes of space, especially if they have lots of levels or high-res artwork. What’s more, game management applications like Steam hide the game files from view. That can make it difficult to figure out how much space is used.

Dragging the app icon into the Trash may not delete all of the app. Many apps include an uninstaller utility, which you should use when given the choice. Some app developers offer custom uninstallers you can download from their website. Apps can leave a trail of supporting files and caches in hidden spots on your hard drive. These files can be hard to track down without an uninstaller tool. Some app makers also include step-by-step instructions for removing their app.

DaisyDisk disk measurement

Again, disk maintenance utilities can come in handy here. As a Mac user, I’ve found a utility called DaisyDisk to be particularly helpful when it comes down to tracking disk space waste.

A Full Trash Can/Recycle Bin

Is your Trash Can or Recycle Bin overflowing? Maybe it’s time to empty it! You might be surprised how many files you “delete” only to find out that they aren’t deleted at all. Putting a file in the trash marks it for deletion, but unless you have your system set to automatically empty the trash when it hits a certain size threshold or when the files inside reach a certain age, it’s possible to waste gigabytes on files you simply don’t need anymore.

Full Trash on computer

This also applies to applications that may queue up content for deletion without actually deleting the files. Some apps will move files marked for deletion to an in-app trash folder until they reach a size or age threshold. Depending on the app, these files can add up quick. So fire up your most used apps and see if they’re taking up space you could reclaim!

A Chunky Downloads Folder

If your computer is set to automatically download files to a specific folder, check that folder. You might be surprised by how much stuff is in there. This is especially true if you’ve downloaded app or utility installers that you’ve forgotten about, like Adobe Flash updates.

Before You Make Any Changes, Back Up!

Before you get started, make sure you have a full and complete backup of your hard drive! The last thing you want to do is to erase something in a momentary fit of pique only to discover that it’s your only copy.

To that end, we’re big believers in the “triple backup” – have three copies of your data, the “live” version on your computer’s hard disk, a local backup copy, and an offsite copy (using Backblaze, or another cloud service).

That way, no matter what changes you make, you’ll be able to restore files in a jiffy if you need to.

Have questions I didn’t cover? Fire ’em off in the comments!

The post How To Reclaim Lost Hard Disk Space appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Backup 101: iCloud Sync and Backblaze Backup

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/icloud-sync-online-backup/

iCloud and Backblaze

Apple’s iCloud gives Mac and iPhone users an easy way to sync data between devices. Now more than ever Apple is blurring the line between sync and backup, but don’t mistake iCloud for a true backup solution like Backblaze.

Let me say at the outset that this isn’t a warning against using iCloud. I use it and so do some of my colleagues at Backblaze. Many of us with iCloud accounts just assume all our data is backed up. Some of us only find out too late that it isn’t, and lose precious information as a result. Let me save you that fate by exploring what iCloud is and is not.

What is iCloud?

iCloud syncs calendars, contacts, mail, Safari bookmarks, notes and more. You’re always up-to-date regardless of whether you’re working on the Mac, iPhone or iPad, or even just signing in on the web.

Having all your files synced among your devices is convenient, but it’s not the same as a backup.

iCloud also serves as a repository for photos and videos and lets you store files. iCloud Family Sharing lets you share iTunes music, movies, apps and iBooks purchases with other family members. You can even use iCloud to locate missing devices. You can also backup your iOS devices to iCloud.

iCloud Drive is Apple’s alternative to Dropbox. It lets you sync files and folders between devices. Apple’s most recent Mac operating system update, Sierra, also allows you to upload the contents of your Desktop and Documents folders to the cloud.

Store In iCloud

Sierra can also automatically clear space off of your hard drive by “purging” old files and uploading them to iCloud Drive. Here’s a big problem: You’re trusting Apple with those files alone, which is counter to the triple backup best practice. Even if you’re using Backblaze, our software can’t backup what’s not there.

How iCloud Works

iCloud is linked to your Apple ID. Most of us use the same Apple ID to download apps and purchase music in iTunes. Your Apple ID is the key to the Apple realm. One of the first things you’ll be asked when you set up a new Apple device is your Apple ID.

You certainly don’t have to use iCloud, but it makes syncing and sharing files easier. Apple gives each iCloud account 5 GB for free. That’s not that much. That’s about 1,000 songs, 2,000 photos, or less than half an hour of HD video: Not really very much, given the capacity of modern devices. To get more storage space, you need to pay.

While iCloud is an Apple service that’s become a differentiator for Apple products like the iPhone and Mac, it’s not exclusive to them – you can access your iCloud account, and much of your iCloud data, from the web (by logging in to iCloud.com using your Apple ID), or on a Windows PC (using optional software you can download from Apple).

iCloud is linked on both the Mac or PC and the iPhone, and much of it is “under the hood” – that is to say, it’s syncing specific types of shared data, like your Contacts database, your Calendar files, Mail accounts, and photos.

Cloud Sync vs. Cloud Backup

Having all your files synced among your devices is convenient, but it’s not the same as a backup. A backup provides you with a robust way to recover your data in the event of a catastrophic failure. That’s not really what iCloud is designed to do.

That’s why it’s good to complement iCloud with an unlimited cloud backup service like Backblaze.

  • There’s a big difference between syncing, which is what iCloud does for the most part, and backup, which is what Backblaze does. Syncing lets you use the same files or data on more than one device, which is great, provided nothing goes wrong with that data. Backblaze lets you restore multiple versions (we keep up to 30 days’ worth), so if anything goes wrong with your iCloud data, you can recover using Backblaze.
  • iCloud can sync the contents of your desktop and Documents folder, but it doesn’t copy any files outside of those two locations. Backblaze will seamlessly back up all your data so you don’t need to worry about making sure to drag things into the “right” folder.
  • iCloud can back up iOS devices to Apple’s servers but doesn’t offer that same feature for Macs. If you’re using a Mac or a Windows PC), you need something else for backup altogether. If you’re backing up your iPhone or iPad to your Mac or PC using iTunes, we’ll backup that data for you too.
  • To get the latest iCloud capabilities, you need to be using the latest software on both your iPhone and your Mac. If they can’t run the newest software, they won’t be able to take advantage of all the new features. Backblaze supports Macs back to those running 10.6 “Snow Leopard.”
  • Apple charges you more for anything greater than 5 GB of space. Even the smallest iPhone these days has 32 GB of storage or more, and the smallest Mac is 128 GB. It’s very easy to run out of space in iCloud and have to pay more. Backblaze is unlimited – $5 per machine, per month, no muss and no fuss and no additional fee.

iCloud makes it easy to share and sync essential files between your Mac, iPhone, iPad and other Apple devices. Backblaze makes it simple and affordable to backup all your data on any Mac or PC and access it from anywhere. Together they provide you with the ability to share and access your data easily with the peace of mind to know that your data is automatically and safely backed up.

Have questions about iCloud or Backblaze backup that I didn’t address here? Fire me off a question in the comments below!

The post Backup 101: iCloud Sync and Backblaze Backup appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

A History of Hard Drives

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/history-hard-drives/

history-of-hard-drive
2016 marks the 60th anniversary of the venerable Hard Disk Drive (HDD). While new computers increasingly turn to Solid State Disks (SSDs) for main storage, HDDs remain the champions of low-cost, high-capacity data storage. That’s a big reason why we still use them in our Storage Pods. Let’s take a spin the Wayback Machine and take a look at the history of hard drives. Let’s also think about what the future might hold.

It Started With RAMAC

brl61-ibm_305_ramac

IBM made the first commercial hard disk drive-based computer and called it RAMAC – short for “Random Access Method of Accounting And Control.” Its storage system was called the IBM 350. RAMAC was big – it required an entire room to operate. The hard disk drive storage system alone was about the size of two refrigerators. Inside were stacked 50 24-inch platters.

For that, RAMAC customers ended up with less than 5 MB – that’s right, megabytes of storage. IBM’s marketing people didn’t want to make RAMAC store any more data than that. They had no idea how to convince customers they’d need more storage than that.

IBM customers forked over $3,200 for the privilege of accessing and storing that information. A MONTH. (IBM leased its systems.) That’s equivalent to almost $28,000 per month in 2016.

Sixty years ago, data storage cost $640 per megabyte, per month. At IBM’s 1956 rates for storage, a new iPhone 7 would cost you about $20.5 million a month. RAMAC was a lot harder to stick in your pocket, too.

Plug and Play

These days you can fit 2 TB onto an SD card the size of a postage stamp, but half a century ago, it was a very different story. IBM continued to refine early hard disk drive storage, but systems were still big and bulky.

By the early 1960s, IBM’s mainframe customers were hungry for more storage capacity, but they simply didn’t have the room to keep installing refrigerator-sized storage devices. So the smart folks at IBM came up with a solution: Removable storage.

The IBM 1311 Disk Storage Drive, introduced in 1962, gave rise to the use of IBM 1316 “Disk Packs” that let IBM’s mainframe customers expand their storage capacity as much as they needed (or could afford). IBM shrank the size of the disks dramatically, from 24 inches in diameter down to 14 inches. The 9-pound disk packs fit into a device about the size of a modern washing machine. Each pack could hold about 2 MB.

ibm_1311-1

For my part, I remember touring a data center as a kid in the mid-1970s and seeing removable IBM disk packs up close. They looked about the same size and dimensions that you’d use to carry a birthday cake: Large, sealed plastic containers with handles on the top.

Computers had pivoted from expensive curiosities in the business world to increasingly essential devices needed to get work done. IBM’s System/360 proved to be an enormously popular and influential mainframe computer. IBM created different models but needed flexible storage across the 360 product line. So IBM created a standard hard disk device interconnect. Other manufacturers adopted the technology, and a cottage industry was born: Third-party hard disk drive storage.

The PC Revolution

Up until the 1970s, computers were huge, expensive, very specialized devices only the biggest businesses, universities and government institutions could afford. The dropping price of electronic components, the increasing density of memory chips and other factors gave rise to a brand new industry: The personal computer.

Initially, personal computers had very limited, almost negligible storage capabilities. Some used perforated paper tape for storage. Others used audio cassettes. Eventually, personal computers would write data to floppy disk drives. And over time, the cost of hard disk drives fell enough that PC users could have one, too.

winchester-festplatte

In 1980, a young upstart company named Shugart Technology introduced a 5 MB hard disk drive designed to fit into personal computers of the day. It was a scant 5.25 inches in diameter. The drive cost $1,500. It would prove popular enough to become a de facto standard for PCs throughout the 1980s. Shugart changed its name to Seagate Technology. Yep. That Seagate.

In the space of 25 years, hard drive technology had shrunk from a device the size of a refrigerator to something less than 6 inches in diameter. And that would be nothing compared to what was to come in the next 25 years.

The Advent of RAID

An important chapter in Backblaze’s backstory appears in the late 1980s when three computer scientists from U.C. Berkeley coined the term “RAID” in a research paper presented at the SIGMOD conference, an annual event which still happens today.

RAID is an acronym that stands for “Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks.” The idea is that you can take several discrete storage devices – hard disk drives, in this case – and combine them into a single logical unit. Dividing the work of writing and reading data between multiple devices can make data move faster. It can also reduce the likelihood that you’ll lose data.

The Berkeley researchers weren’t the first to come up with the idea, which had bounced around since the 1970s. They did coin the acronym that we still use today.

blog_60_drives

RAID is vitally important for Backblaze. RAID is how we build our Storage Pods. Our latest Storage Pod design incorporates 60 individual hard drives assembled in 4 RAID arrays. Backblaze then took the concept a further by implementing our own Reed-Solomon erasure coding mechanism to work across our Backblaze Vaults.

With our latest Storage Pod design we’ve been able to squeeze 480 TB into a single chassis that occupies 4U of rack space, or about 7 inches of vertical height in an equipment rack. That’s a far cry from RAMAC’s 5 MB of refrigerator-sized storage. 96 million times more storage, in fact.

Bigger, Better, Faster, More

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, hard drive and PC makers innovated and changed the market irrevocably. 5.25-inch drives soon gave way to 3.5-inch drives (we at Backblaze still use 3.5-inch drives designed for modern desktop computers in our Storage Pods). When laptops gained in popularity, drives shrunk again to 2.5 inches. If you’re using a laptop that has a hard drive today, chances are it’s a 2.5-inch model.

The need for better, faster, more reliable and flexible storage also gave rise to different interfaces: IDE, SCSI, ATA, SATA, PCIe. Drive makers improved performance by increasing the spindle speed. the speed of the motor that turns the hard drive. 5,400 revolutions per minute (RPM) was standard, but 7,200 yielded better performance. Seagate, Western Digital, and others upped the ante by introducing 10,0000-RPM and eventually 15,000-RPM drives.

IBM pioneered the commercial hard drive and brought countless hard disk drive innovations to market over the decades. In 2003, IBM sold its storage division to Hitachi. The many Hitachi drives we use here at Backblaze can trace their lineage back to IBM.

Solid State Drives

Even as hard drives found a place in early computer systems, RAM-based storage systems were also being created. The prohibitively high cost of computer memory, its complexity, size, and requirement to stay powered to work prevented memory-based storage from catching on in any meaningful way. Though very specialized, expensive systems found use in the supercomputing and mainframe computer markets.

Eventually non-volatile RAM became fast, reliable and inexpensive enough that SSDs could be mass-produced, but it was still by degrees. They were incredibly expensive. By the early 1990s, you could buy a 20 MB SSD for a PC for $1,000, or about $50 per megabyte. By comparison, the cost of a spinning hard drive had dropped below $1 per megabyte, and would plummet even further.

blog-ssd-closeup

The real breakthrough happened with the introduction of flash-based SSDs. By the mid-2000s, Samsung, SanDisk and others brought to market flash SSDs that acted as drop-in replacements for hard disk drives. SSDs have gotten faster, smaller and more plentiful. Now PCs and Macs and smartphones all include flash storage of all shapes and sizes and will continue to move in that direction. SSDs provide better performance, better power efficiency, and enable thinner, lighter computer designs, so it’s little wonder.

The venerable spinning hard drive, now 60 years old, still rules the roost when it comes to cost per gigabyte. SSD makers are getting closer to parity with hard drives, but they’re still years away from hitting that point. An old fashioned spinning hard drive still gives you the best bang for your buck.

We can dream, though. Over the summer our Andy Klein got to wondering what Seagate’s new 60 TB SSD might look like in one of our Storage Pods. He had to guess at the price but based on current market estimates, an SSD-based 60-drive Storage Pod would cost Backblaze about $1.2 million.

Andy didn’t make any friends in Backblaze’s Accounting department with that news, so it’s probably not going to happen any time soon.

The Future

As computers and mobile devices have pivoted from hard drives to SSDs, it’s easy to discount the hard drive as a legacy technology that will soon be by the wayside. I’d encourage some circumspection, though. It seems every few years, someone declares the hard drive dead. Meanwhile hard drive makers keep finding ways to stay relevant.

There’s no question that the hard drive market is in a period of decline and transition. Hard disk drive sales are down year-over-year. Consumers switch to SSD or move away from Macs and PCs altogether and do more of their work on mobile devices.

Regardless, Innovation and development of hard drives continue apace. We’re populating our own Storage Pods with 8 TB hard drives. 10 TB hard drives are already shipping, and even higher-capacity 3.5-inch drives are on the horizon.

Hard drive makers constantly improve areal density – the amount of information you can physically cram onto a disk. They’ve also found ways to get more platters into a single drive mechanism then filling it with helium. This sadly does not make the drive float, dashing my fantasies of creating a Backblaze data center blimp.

So is SSD the only future for data storage? Not for a while. Seagate still firmly believes in the future of hard drives. Its CFO estimates that hard drives will be around for another 15-20 years. Researchers predict that hard drives coming to market over the next decade will store an order of magnitude more data than they do now – 100 TB or more.

Think it’s out of the question? Imagine handing a 10 TB hard drive to a RAMAC operator in 1956 and telling them that the 3.5-inch device in their hands holds two million times more data than that big box in front of them. They’d think you were nuts.

The post A History of Hard Drives appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Five Mistakes Everyone Makes With Cloud Backup

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/5-common-cloud-backup-mistakes/

cloud backup error

Cloud-based storage and file sync services are ubiquitous: Everywhere we turn new services pop up (and often shut down), promising free or low-cost storage of everything and anything on our computers and mobile devices.

When you depend on the cloud it’s very easy to get lulled into a false sense of security. Don’t. Here are five common mistakes all of us make with cloud backup and sync services. I’ve added suggestions for how to avoid these pitfalls.

Assuming the Cloud Is Backing Things Up

“I have iCloud or Google Drive, so everything’s backed up.”

Some cloud backup and file sync services make it really easy to put files online, but they may not be all the files you need. Don’t just assume the cloud services you use are doing a complete backup of your device – check to see what is actually being backed up. The services you use may only back up specific folders or directories on your computer’s hard drive.

Read this for more info on how Backblaze backs up.

There’s a big difference between file backup services and sync services, by the way. Which brings me to my next point:

Confusing Sync for Backup

“I don’t need backup. I’ve got my files synced.”

Sync service enables you to keep consistent contents between multiple devices – think Dropbox or iCloud Drive, for example. Make one change to the contents of that shared info, and the same thing happens across all devices, including file changes and deletions. Depending on how you have syncing and sharing set-up you can delete a file on one device and have it disappear on all the other shared devices.

I’ve also found it handy to have a backup service that enables you to restore multiple versions. In point of fact, Dropbox lets you restore previous versions. Apple’s Time Machine, built into the Mac, does this too. So does Backblaze (we keep track of multiple versions up to 30 days). Not to say you shouldn’t use Dropbox, we do! We wrote about how we are complimentary services.

Thinking One Backup Is Enough

“Hey, I’m backing up to the cloud. That’s better than nothing, right?”

It’s better than nothing but it’s not enough. You want a local backup too. That’s why I recommend a 3-2-1 Backup strategy. In addition to the “live” copy of the data on your hard drive, make sure you have a local backup, and use the cloud for offsite storage. Likewise, if you’re only storing data on a local backup, you’re putting all your eggs in that basket. Add offsite backup to complete your backup strategy. Conversely, if you only store your data in the cloud, you’re susceptible to those services being down as well. So having a local copy can keep you productive even if your favorite service is temporarily down.

Leaving Things Insecure

“I’m not backing up anything important enough for hackers to bother with.”

With identity theft on the rise, the security of all of your data online should be paramount. Strong encryption is important, so make sure it’s supported by the services you depend on.

Even if a bad actor doesn’t want your data, they still may want your computer for nefarious purposes, like driving a botnet used to launch a DDOS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack. That’s exactly what recently happened to Dyn, a company that provides core Internet services for other popular Internet services like Twitter and Spotify.

Make sure to protect your computer with strong passwords, practice safe surfing and keep your computer updated with the latest software. Also check periodically for malware and get rid of it when you find it.

Thinking That it’s Taken Care Of

“I have a backup strategy in place, so I don’t have to think about it anymore.”

I think it’s wise to observe an old aphorism: “Trust but verify.”

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with developing an automated backup strategy. But it’s vitally important to periodically test your backups to make sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to.

You should test your most important, mission-critical data first. Tax returns? Important legal documents? Irreplaceable baby pictures? Make sure the files that are important to you are retrievable and intact by actually trying to recover them. Find out more about how to test your backup.

Backblaze too. Test all your backups – we even recommend it in our Best Practices.

Got more cloud backup myths to bust? Share them with me in the comments!

 

The post Five Mistakes Everyone Makes With Cloud Backup appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

True Tales of Data Loss Horror

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/true-tales-data-loss-horror/

Data Loss Horror Tales

Just in time for Halloween: Spooky stories to give you a fright! Nothing scares us at Backblaze like stories about people losing data. Here are true tales of data loss horror straight from our customers’ own mouths!

“My wife had tons of pictures of our daughter when she was in the hospital and were kept on a old PC. Basically something happened when I restored my OS that corrupted my storage drives. I was forced to format the drives and tried for five hours using format recovery software but I ended up realizing that those memories were lost and there was nothing I could do about it.” – Jerry

“I’m a wedding photographer. I did a corporate job shooting a design firm’s office space and personnel, meetings and group photos. Somehow got lazy and didn’t copy the data off the Compact Flash card before the weekend’s wedding. As part of my routine, I formatted and stuck the memory card into my backup camera. After shooting a dozen frames at the wedding, I had a flash of panic and realized that I had just started overwriting my corporate photography. I swapped out the memory card then later recovered most of the files, but still had to email and ask to redo some of the photography.” – Sean

“I was using my store management software on a computer that was equipped with two hard-disk drives working like mirrors. The idea was that if one drive broke down the data would have been safe on the other one. The problem is that one drive became faulty and its mirror drive simply read the faults and duplicated them becoming faulty itself, years of accounting date were lost! It turned out that I had to get a new computer and imput all the data manually in it and it took me weeks. I wouldn’t wish this scary story to happen even to my competitors.” – Lorenzo

“One day, working on my computer and listening to my music, a storm began. A power outage burned my computer’s power supply, motherboard, modem and my hard drive with a project I has working on for ONE YEAR.” – George

“I was working at a coffee shop yesterday (my off-site office) on revising a print document and needed to get a PDF to the client for approval. I launched InDesign and soon realized that all of the linked images were on my external drive at home. There was a brief moment of panic, but then it dawned on me — I could restore (via Backblaze) and download! Five minutes later I was back in business.” – Tom

There’s a crucial point in almost every horror movie where you realize if the main character had just done one thing differently, none of the rest of the film’s events would have happened. In this case, Tom did the smart thing.

Don’t be the victim of your own horror story: Use Backblaze to back up your Mac or PC, and rest easy know your data is safe and secure. If you need other backup advice, make sure to check our handy Backup Guide for all the details.

Do you have your own data loss horror story? Share it with us!

The post True Tales of Data Loss Horror appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Tech to Track: Cloud computing and public utilities, new gear from MS and Apple and more

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/tech-to-track/

Tech To Track

Here’s another installment of Tech to Track, a list of cool technology links we’re interested in and thought we’d share with you.

What cloud computing and public utilities have in common

A Florida resident, David Gewirtz regularly weathers battering storm like the recent Hurricane Matthew. He makes an interesting comparison between public utilities and cloud computing platforms, and what happens when both stop working. Not to put too fine a point on it, but it’s one of the reasons why we’re so adamant about the 3-2-1 Backup Strategy. Go local with your backup, then go to the cloud (with Backblaze). That way you’re covered even if Internet connectivity goes down.

Weathering Hurricane Matthew: What public utilities can learn from cloud computing

Google Fiber punts expansion plans, but it’s not the end of the line

Google’s putting the brakes on new high-speed fiber optic network rollouts, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of this project — just a “review of strategy,” according to a new report. Google Fiber already operates in a handful of cities; Google is committed to building out other locations. But Google’s halted further expansion plans to Dallas, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, San Jose, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Portland, and Tampa. Google may instead focus on new and forthcoming high-speed wireless technology to help get massive bandwidth to customers.

How are your high-speed options? Are you lucky enough to be in a Google Fiber area? Do you have a fiber connection through another provider, cable, or something else? Tell us in the comments.

Google fiber puts expansion plans on hold to review strategy

Microsoft woos creative pros with Surface Studio

Microsoft wants to out-Apple Apple with its minimalist Surface Studio, a desktop computer with 28-inch LCD display. The Surface Studio works with Microsoft’s Surface Pen and a new Dial input device. There’s an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor inside with up to 32 GB RAM. It’s not for the faint-of-wallet, though: The new computer goes on sale this holiday season starting at just a skosh under $3,000. The good news is that it’s a Windows 10 device, so you can install Backblaze on it and be sure you’ve backed up all your new creative work! But maybe you should keep a whiteboard and some markers around just in case the occasional grumpy NFL coach shows up.

A look at Microsoft’s fancy Surface Studio

Apple reveals new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

Not to be outdone, Apple is revamping its venerable MacBook Pro line with a new model that’s faster, thinner and lighter than before, with Thunderbolt 3 ports, better Retina Display, and bigger trackpad. The centerpiece is a new Touch Bar OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) interface that replaces function keys: It’s software-programmable, so the interface changes depending on which app you’re using. Laptops with the new Touch Bar come in 13 and 15-inch sizes starting at about $1,800. You also get your color choice of silver or space gray. Some of the new innovations look cool, but what’s holding up Apple’s release of new desktop systems?

Ta Dah! Magic Toolbar the highlight of Apple’s newest MacBook Pro

The post Tech to Track: Cloud computing and public utilities, new gear from MS and Apple and more appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

How to Back Up Your Mac’s Photos Library

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/back-photos-library/

apple photos library screenshot

It’s July 4 holiday week, so we thought it appropriate that we revisit the topic of backing up your digital photos. Everyone at Backblaze wishes you a wonderful holiday.

— Editor

Your photos are precious memories that can’t be replaced so you should make sure that no matter what happens, your photo library is safe from disaster. The good news is that if you’re using Backblaze, we back up the Photos library for you. But forewarned is forearmed. Here’s how to make sure you’ve got all your photos backed up in one place, even if you aren’t using Backblaze yet.

How to Sync with iCloud Photo Library (If You Use It)

Apple’s iCloud Photo Library uploads and stores your photo library to iCloud. You can access photos and videos on every device connected using that Apple ID, or sign in to iCloud on the web to access your photo and video content.

iCloud Photo Library is limited by your available iCloud storage. Everyone gets 5GB for free. Any more than that, and you have to pay for it. That right there is enough for many of us not to use it, so if you don’t, feel free to skip to the next section. But if you do, here are a few salient points to consider:

There’s nothing permanent about iCloud Photo Library. Any change you make to your Photo Library on one device is propagated everywhere. Delete an image on your Mac, and that image will be removed from your iPhone, iPad or any other device connected via the same Apple ID, for example.

What’s more, if you find yourself offline for any reason, you might not have access to all your photos. The cloud might be the only place you have a full-resolution image, depending on how you’ve configured iCloud Photo Library settings in your Mac and iPhone.

iCloud Photo Library’s settings on Mac and iOS enable you to optimize downloaded files to avoid photos taking up too much space. So your first order of business should be to make sure that your Mac is set to capture all of your original photos.

    1. Open Photos
    2. Click the Photos menu.
    3. Select Preferences.
    4. Click the iCloud tab.
    5. Make sure iCloud Photo Library is checked.
    6. Click Download Originals to this Mac.

download original photos on this mac

Photos will store the original photos and videos on your Mac — make sure you have sufficient disk space to accept all the files. (Photos will warn you if your drive is too full to manage this.)

With all of your photos now stored locally on your Mac in their full splendor, you can back them up using whatever means you prefer.

How to Back Up Your Mac Photos Library

Using Time Machine? That’s Apple’s built-in backup software. If so, your Photo Library is being backed up already. And as we said, if you have Backblaze installed, we do that for you, too.

If you’d like to back up your Photos library manually, here’s how to find it:

  1. Open Photos.
  2. Click the Photos menu.
  3. Select Preferences.
  4. With the General tab selected, look for Library Location and click the Show in Finder button.

For most of us, the Photos Library is located in the Pictures folder on the Mac’s hard drive. You can make a copy of that by clicking and dragging it onto another disk. Use an external hard disk, Network Attached Storage (NAS) device (like one from Synology, QNAP, or Morro Data) or other means to copy the library.

photos library navigation screenshot

For extra redundancy, upload the Photos Library to a cloud sync service. Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, whatever you’d prefer. But it’s a good idea to have a local copy too.

Photos allows you to create multiple libraries. That’s handy if you take a lot of pictures, or if you want to compartmentalize the photos you’ve taken. If you’ve created multiple Photos Libraries, make sure to copy each one for safekeeping.

Protect Your Pictures

We’re shooting a lot more pictures than ever before. The days of sticking negatives in a shoebox are long behind us. Digital photography is by nature more ephemeral. So it’s much easier to lose track of your photos. Develop a workflow for backing up your photos that makes sense for you and stick with it. No matter what happens with the cloud or even with your computer or phone, your photos will be safe.

We’ve focused our attention on the Mac in this post, but if you have questions about how to backup your iPhone, make sure to check out our iPhone Backup Guide.

Have questions about Photos, iCloud Photo Library, or backing up your pictures that we didn’t answer? Let us know in the comments.


Note:  An earlier version of this post was published on October 17, 2016.

The post How to Back Up Your Mac’s Photos Library appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Tech To Track

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

Tech To Track

Welcome to a new Backblaze blog feature we’re calling “Tech To Track.” Each installment gives us a chance to round up links we think are particularly cool or interesting and present them here with a bit of commentary.

Unlimited cloud storage for your photos…if you have the right phone

Google’s new Pixel smartphone has Android fans excited. The sleek design, AMOLED screen and 12.3 megapixel camera (with an 8MP front-facing camera) are all tentpole features. The best part is that it doesn’t catch on fire like the Samsung Galaxy Note 7. But where to put all those pictures, especially when you can shoot 4K video? “Smart Storage” is Google’s answer. Google offers free storage for full-resolution photos and videos you shoot with the Pixel. Don’t let unlimited cloud storage make you complacent, though! Keep a local backup of those pictures, then back up that hard drive with Backblaze.

Google’s Pixel Smartphones come with free storage for full-res photos and videos

Google muscles into the Mesh Wi-Fi market

Finding spots in your home or office where your Wi-Fi doesn’t work? Does your internet connection slow way down or get unreliable in the bedroom or the family room? Wi-Fi “mesh” networks are an increasingly popular way to overcome such issues. Instead of one big Wi-Fi network router, smaller devices work together to broadcast a stronger network. Eero, Luma, Ubiquiti, and Linksys already play in this space. Now Google’s muscling in. Google Wifi comes with “Network Assist” technology to get you the best speed available. Better yet, it’s manageable through an Android and iOS smartphone app. Look for it to be available in the U.S. in time for the holidays starting at $199, with three packs for $299 – a lot cheaper than Eero’s offering.

Introducing a new kind of Wi-Fi system

Samsung marches on towards SSD/HD pricing parity

Spinning hard disk drives continue to be the price per gigabyte leaders, but don’t expect that to last forever. Solid state drives (SSDs) continue to plummet in price as more companies and consumers demand the storage technology. Samsung says that by 2020, it’ll offer 512GB SSDs that will cost the same as a 1TB hard drive. We’re looking forward to the day we can build out a Backblaze Storage Pod with SSDs and not break the bank.

Samsung expects 512GB SSDs to cost the same as a 1 TB HDD in 2020

CERN is running out of disk space for data from the LHC

The Large Hadron Collider is running out of disk space. The world’s biggest particle accelerator is operating more efficiently and with better reliability than CERN scientists expected. That means a lot more data to collect. CERN researchers have short-changed themselves on the amount of storage they need to store and analyze all that data. Hey, CERN, give us a call – we’re be happy to help with B2 Cloud Storage!

The Large Hadron Collider of all places is running out of disk space

What tech have you seen this week that you think is particularly interesting? Leave us a note in the comments!

The post Tech To Track appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

macOS 10.12 Sierra Upgrade Guide

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/macos-sierra-upgrade-guide/

macOS Sierra

Apple on Tuesday released macOS Sierra 10.12. It’s a free upgrade, and many Mac users around the world will rush to install it. If you plan to join the crowd, please make sure to back up your computer before you do. Your data should be safe no matter what happens. Backblaze is here to help with this upgrade guide!

With this release Apple rebranded the Mac operating system “macOS” instead of “OS X.” But the new name and number isn’t the only big change. There are lots of changes under the hood. These changes bring new system requirements. There’s always the possibility that stuff you depend on will stop working, at least until it’s updated. So there’s a lot to know before you get started.

Why Upgrade to Sierra?

Sierra’s tentpole features include Siri, Universal Clipboard, security unlock using your Apple Watch, better integration with iCloud Drive, Apple Pay support, optimized storage and more. We won’t get to all the new features, but here’s a rundown of some of the tentpole stuff:

Siri

For the first time, Apple’s intelligent assistant is available on the Mac. Siri’s been a feature of the iPhone and iPad for a while, but it’s never been on the Mac before. Now you can use Siri on the Mac to schedule appointments, play music, set up reminders, find files and do lots more.

Universal Clipboard

This new feature lets you copy on one device and paste on another. You can copy images, video and text from your iPhone or iPad and paste it on your Mac (or the reverse). That makes it easier than ever to do your work without worrying about what device you’re using.

Apple Watch Unlock

If you’re wearing an Apple Watch running watchOS 3, you can now unlock your Mac automatically once you start using it. No more typing in passwords when you wake your Mac from sleep or turn it on. A nice convenience feature!

iCloud Drive

iCloud Drive helps you share files between multiple Macs or iOS devices signed into the same iCloud account. iCloud Drive isn’t a cloud backup solution like Backblaze – it’s a great sync tool, however. Changes to iCloud Drive in Sierra include the ability to automatically sync the contents of both your Mac’s Desktop and its Documents folder, the two locations most of us keep most of our files. That makes it easier to find those files between devices.

Apple Pay

More merchants than ever accept Apple Pay, Apple’s contactless payment system, including many online stores. If you have an Apple Pay-compatible iPhone or Apple Watch, you can now use it with your Mac to complete online Apple Pay transactions.

Optimized Storage

Apple’s penchant for Solid State Drives – SSDs – in most Macs mean faster storage but far less of it than before, which means it’s easier to run out of space as you put more apps and data on your Mac. Now Sierra can automatically move infrequently-used files to iCloud instead, freeing up space on your Mac’s drive.

You can still find the file right where you left it. When you open it, Sierra downloads the original from iCloud so you can keep working. Sierra can also prompt you to remove duplicate files and remove clutter – app installers you don’t need, for example, or installer cache files. Things that can take up a lot of space, things you just don’t need.

Can My Mac Run macOS Sierra 10.12?

In general, any Mac built since late 2009 can run Sierra. That’s a bit more than El Capitan, which supported Macs built since 2008. You’ll need OS X 10.7.5 “Lion” or later installed, along with at least 2 GB RAM and 8.8 GB of available storage to manage the upgrade.

Some features of Sierra – Apple Pay and Apple Watch unlock, for example – require other compatible devices running up to date software. Siri needs an internal or external microphone and an Internet connection. Other features require new Mac models in order to work. You can check to see if your Mac is compatible with Sierra on Apple’s web site.

What Do I Do Before I Upgrade?

Back That Mac Up

Back up before you upgrade the operating system or make any other crucial changes to your Mac. Upgrading your OS is a major change to your computer, and this is where the rubber meets the road. If there’s going to be a problem, you’ll likely see it here.

We recommend the 3-2-1 Backup Strategy to make sure your data is safe. What does that mean? Have three copies of your data. There’s the “live” version on your Mac, a local backup (Time Machine, clone software, whatever you prefer), and an offsite backup (like Backblaze). No matter what happens to your computer, you’ll have a way to restore the files if anything goes wrong. Need help understanding how to back up your Mac? We have you covered with a handy Mac backup guide!

Check for App and Driver Updates

Avoid finding out crucial software or devices you need to do your job don’t work before it’s too late. Check first with app developers and vendors of any third-party products you rely on to make sure they’re ready for Sierra. Visit their web sites or use the “Check for Updates” feature built into most apps (often found in the File or Help menus).

If you’ve downloaded apps through the Mac App Store, make sure to open it and click on the Updates button to download the latest updates. Devs have had months to incorporate the changes Apple made in Sierra. Many apps and driver software have already been updated to work. But there are still a few holdouts.

We’ve taken care to ensure that Backblaze works with Sierra. Of course, we’ll watch Apple’s release carefully for any last minute surprises. We’ll officially offer support for Sierra once we’ve had a chance to thoroughly test the release version.

Updating can be hit or miss when you’ve installed apps which didn’t come from the Mac App Store. To make it easier, visit the MacUpdate web site. MacUpdate tracks changes to thousands of Mac apps. The site also makes a companion Mac updating app for subscribers.

Set Aside Time for the Upgrade

Depending on the speed of your Internet connection and your computer, upgrading to Sierra will take a few hours. You’ll be able to use your Mac straightaway after answering a few questions at the end of the upgrade process. If you notice fans are kicking on or if the Mac acts sluggish, give it some time to catch up with all the changes.

Where Do I get Sierra?

Like other Mac operating system releases, Apple offers macOS 10.12 Sierra for download from the Mac App Store, which is included on the Mac. As long as your Mac is supported and running OS X Lion 10.7.5 or later, you can download and run the installer. It’s free, too.

An Ounce of Prevention…

Back up your Mac before doing anything to it, and make Backblaze part of your 3-2-1 backup strategy. That way your data is secure. Even if you have to roll back after an upgrade or if you run into problems, you’ll know that you can restore to where you were before all the problems started.

Getting ready to install Sierra? Still have questions? Let me know in the comments.

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Bulletproof Backups for Any Budget

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/bulletproof-backups-budget/

Bulletproof Backups

Peace of mind comes from knowing your data is backed up. But how do you know your backup is safe? Step one is to have a strategy. Step two is to have storage that can stand up to abuse. Step three is to make sure the data is safely offsite. Combining a battle-ready hard drive with cloud storage like Backblaze makes your backup bulletproof.

Develop and test your backup strategy

The 3-2-1 Backup Strategy is a great way to stay protected. Make sure to keep your data in three spots. The first copy is your live version, on your computer’s hard drive. The second one is your local backup. For that you can use a hard drive connected to the computer or a file server or Network Attached Storage (NAS) device. The third is a copy kept safely offsite.

The 3-2-1 strategy means that if anything happens to your equipment or your facility or home, your data remains safe. Backblaze is a key part of that strategy because we store your data securely in the cloud. No matter what happens to your local gear, having a copy in the cloud means you’re able to recover.

Once you’ve developed a good cloud backup strategy, it’s also vitally important to test your backups. You want to make sure the data you’re sending to the cloud is actually what you want and what you need, and you want to do that before you have a problem. Get into the habit of periodically testing your backups to make sure they’re working right.

Use the right drive

There are lots of external drives out there. You can even build your own without too much trouble (heck, you can even build one of our Storage Pods if you’d like). The sky’s the limit. It’s really up to you based on your budget, your needs, and the technical requirements of the computer you’re backing up.

Sometimes you need extra insurance to make sure your gear still works no matter what happens. Here are some drives that are great for backing up that all sport extra durability features. Water, dust and dropping can all ruin a hard drive in an instant, but these hold up. Some of them can even withstand fire and direct submersion for long periods.

LaCie Rugged

LaCie Rugged Drive

If you’re looking for an external hard drive that’s portable and designed to take a beating, have a look at LaCie’s Rugged storage line. LaCie calls the drive “all-terrain protection.” The drive enclosure is water-resistant up to 2 meters, and it’s shock-mounted to protect the delicate hard drive mechanism (an SSD version is available if you want even faster performance with fewer moving parts). LaCie makes a RAID version and produces USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt variants, compatible with Windows and Mac. The orange color makes it hard to lose, even if it makes the drive look a bit like a whitewater raft. Expect to pay $100 or more depending on storage capacity and interface.

Adata HD710

Adata HD710M

Adata’s HD710 is a USB 3.0-equipped external portable drive sporting water and dust resistance. It’s IP68-certified, which means the drive can handle water up to 1.5 meters deep for up to 30 minutes. The tough silicone case is equipped with military-grade shock resistance and even comes in different colors. An integrated USB cable wraps around an exterior slot so there are no external cables to lose. It’s available in 500 GB, 1 TB and 2 TB capacities starting at about $60.

Transcend StoreJet M series

Transcend M3

Transcend’s StoreJet M series encases a 2.5-inch internal hard disk drive in a rubber case layered with a three-stage anti-shock protection system. It’s not waterproof or water-resistant, but it does offer military-grade drop proofing, so it can take a beating in your bag or backpack and still work. Transcend makes versions in USB 3 and USB-C, so you can hook it up to the newest devices from Apple and other computer makers. They also include software on there that helps manage file and folder encryption and one-touch backup. The M3 starts at under $70 for a 500 GB model.

G-Technology G-Drive ev ATC

G-Drive ev ATC

G-Technology builds a lot of great RAID storage solutions and other stuff; they’ve tapped into the “all-terrain” drive market with a line of external portable hard drives with the G-Drive ev ATC. These drives can handle a two-meter drop onto concrete and are water-resistant too (G-Tech says you can drop one into a foot of water for up to 30 seconds with no ill effects). A USB 3.0 drive with 1 TB of storage will set you back $130. G-Tech makes a version with Thunderbolt too.

ioSafe Rugged Portable

ioSafe Rugged Portable

If money is no object and you absolutely want to make sure your data stays protected, ioSafe’s Rugged Portable is the way to go. The Rugged Portable is billed as “an aircraft black box for mobile data,” and ioSafe isn’t joking: Drop it up to 20 feet, immerse it in up to 30 feet of water for three days, and drop a car on it – it’s protected from being crushed by to 5,000 pounds. ioSafe even offers data recovery services if something goes wrong (something you won’t need, of course, if you data is backed up offsite). Of course, you pay for this protection – dearly – with a 500 GB SSD-equipped drive starting at $650.

ioSafe NAS

ioSafe NAS

If you’re looking for a Network Attached Storage (NAS) setup that can go through hell and keep working, ioSafe’s 216 NAS is just the ticket. This thing is as close to actually bulletproof storage that I’ve been able to find.

Fireproof: Blast the 216 with up to 1550 degree (Fahrenheit) heat. Waterproof: Immerse it in fresh or salt water for up to three days, at a depth of 10 feet. What’s more, it’s a two-drive RAID system, so you can configure a mirrored RAID for maximum drive redundancy. You can populate it with your own drives for about $660; otherwise expect to drop about $900 for a 2 TB system with prices running up from there.

What’s more, The 216 is powered by Synology’s DSM software. As we reported over the summer, Synology supports our B2 cloud storage service. That means you can sync the contents of your ioSafe 216 in the cloud, and you can save money doing it compared to other cloud services too!

If the 216 seems like overkill or you’d like direct-attached USB storage that works with our original backup service, ioSafe offers the Solo G3 with very similar protection starting at $300.

Backup early and often

There are even ruggedized USB thumbsticks, if you’re looking for ultraportable solid state storage. So check around – you’ll find plenty of options to suit any budgetary requirement.

Just remember that no single storage system is infallible. A ruggedized hard drive makes sense if you’re working in extreme conditions, but it’s no substitute for a complete backup strategy that includes keeping your data offsite for safekeeping.

Have questions about any of these recommendations? Need more info? Have your own bulletproof backup recommendations? Share them with me in the comments.

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Backing Up for Small Business

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/backing-up-for-small-business/

blog-backup-small-business

There’s an old saying that business owners responsible for data backup fall into two categories — those who have lost data and those who will.

There are a lot of ways that data can be lost. Accidents happen, computers are damaged, employees turn over, and natural disasters often occur with little warning. Ransomware is continually in the news, with new strains entering businesses in clever new ways to encrypt and demand ransom for the hijacked files. It’s understandable that data backup planning is put off in businesses already stretched thin, but the modest amount of time needed to adopt an effective backup plan is tiny compared to the weeks and months needed to recover from a serious loss. A data backup plan has to part of the standard operating procedures for not just enterprises, but businesses of any size.

If you don’t have a data backup plan, or would like to review your current strategies for safeguarding your data, here’s some help to get you started.

The Basic Backup Strategy: 3-2-1

You should think about your company’s backup in two parts: a local, easily-accessible backup system and one that’s stored offsite. This is the idea behind the 3-2-1 backup strategy.

  • Copy #1 is your local copy. Users continue to rely on their local data as their primary access to their files.
  • Copy #2 is a local backup. A local backup gives you immediate, instant access on-site to whatever data you might need back, regardless of whether it’s deleted, overwritten, or lost.
  • Copy #3 is a copy stored securely offsite. That way, if anything happens to your location or the equipment at your location, your data is safe and sound. While some businesses still use disk or tape-based backups with offsite rotation, there are now cloud based solutions for offsite backup that are more economical and more convenient than keeping track of disks or tapes. The cloud has other advantages, as well, which we’ll go into below.

How to Back Up

A basic local data backup solution for a small business can be as simple as an external hard disk drive that you copy critical data to. Just bear in mind that hard drives eventually wear out, so don’t rely exclusively on just this one backup or one hard disk drive. Computers with faster connections (like USB 3.1, Thunderbolt 3, and eSATA) can use their fastest connections to help cut down backup time.

Sync is Not Backup

It’s important to note that we are talking about actual computer backup and not sync.

With sync services such as Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, OneDrive, or others, if you accidentally 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 occurrence and when it comes to your data, it’s one you want to be prepared for.

For more on the difference between backup and sync, you can read our blog post, Sync vs. Backup vs. Storage.

Built-in software on Macs and Windows PCs can back up your computer’s essential data, which makes recovering easier when problems happen. Backup clients for Macs and PCs are available from Backblaze for Business backup, and third-party backup software options abound for general purpose cloud storage such as Backblaze B2, depending on your budget and what you’re looking to do. More details are available in Backblaze’s complete guide to computer backups.

Backup software typically does a complete backup of your computer’s essential files, then updates periodically with incremental changes. This way, your external storage doesn’t fill up right away — it only fills up as files change.

While individual local backup drives can be effective for a small office, they are limited in their capacity and require oversight. A better solution for an SMB is to use Network Attached Storage (NAS) systems like those made by Synology, QNAP, Morro Data, TrueNAS, and other companies. NAS systems live on your network and provide pooled local storage that everyone on the network can use. Software either on the computer or on the NAS itself can be used to back up the computer to the NAS. That way everyone stays backed up and in sync when they’re connected to the network.

The NAS systems we listed above have an added advantage over just offering local data backup. They can automatically back up their local data copy to the Backblaze B2 Cloud as well.

Many NAS devices and even some large desktop drives incorporate RAID storage. RAID (“Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks”) systems distribute data across multiple hard drives. RAID systems are more tolerant to failure because a drive can stop working and can be replaced without the entire system needing to go offline.

Backblaze uses a similar approach in our data centers, Reed-Solomon Erasure Coding, where customer’s data is divided up and stored in such a way that data can be completely recovered even if a drive storing part of the data fails. The probability that your data will not be lost is known as “durability.” Backblaze calculates the durability of our cloud storage as 11 9’s, or 99.999999999% certainty that your data will not be lost. A hard drive in your office that is susceptible to theft, mishandling, environmental disaster, or other mishap is far below this level of durability. Statisticians will tell you that it’s much more likely that you’ll be hit by a meteor than lose data with 11 9’s of durability.

Groups Management

Backing up an organization of any size requires the ability to manage multiple computers and users. This includes, among other capabilities, centralized billing, reporting, and managing permissions for data access and recovery. Backblaze’s Groups Management provides all these capabilities for both Backblaze Cloud Backup and B2 Cloud Storage at no extra charge for businesses.

Backing Up vs Archiving

An important distinction to consider is whether you wish to back up data or archive data. Briefly, backing up is a strategy to protect data currently in use and to recover from hardware failure or recent data corruption or loss. Archiving is a strategy for on-site storage space management and long term data retention. The former is for data you’re actively using and the latter is for data that you’re no longer using but wish to retain for possible future reference or for record keeping. With a cloud-based archiving strategy, you also gain a critical new advantage; the ability to make the files in that archive sharable and usable by others. Choosing to back up or archive data determines your choice of storage service, as well as the approach to take when you need to restore or retrieve your data. For more on this, take a look our recent post, What’s the Diff: Backup vs Archive.

What to Back Up

Any data that’s essential to keeping your business running should be backed up. That includes financial records, customer records, tax records and forms, HR records, sales records, and any other critical information you can’t afford to be without. With unlimited backup plans, such as Backblaze Backup, you don’t have to think about picking and choosing what should be backed up, since there is no limit on the amount you back up. This simplifies the process dramatically and removes stress from the process.

With more and more small businesses running VMs and containers, having a backup plan for your virtual servers is essential, including strategizing a disaster recovery plan for how to get back up and running after a data loss.

It’s a good idea to use encryption to make sure that your business data stays safe, as well. If you’re using Backblaze to back up your business systems, rest assured that encryption is built in, so your data stays safe. Backblaze’s B2 Cloud Storage is general purpose storage, with the client of your choice providing the encryption. In that case, there are many options for clients that provide encryption among our integration partners.

Your SaaS Data Should be Backed Up, Too

Bear in mind that a lot of data these days exists first outside of your business. You might use SaaS (Software as a Service) applications from Microsoft, Google, or others for your word processing, spreadsheets, email, email marketing, and other applications. That data is on someone else’s servers. Having your business data only with a SaaS provider is a possible single point of failure. A surprising number of businesses forget to back up their SaaS-based data. As our 3-2-1 backup strategy says, keep data in (at least) three places. Just as data stored on one office computer or external disk is subject to loss in various ways, your SaaS data can be lost, too, through occurrences such as an employee accidentally or even intentionally deleting data. Consider using UpSafe or other service to make a backup of your SaaS-based data on Backblaze B2.

When to Back Up

Most backup systems work by backing up all of your data, then incrementally updating only what’s changed or new. Backblaze Computer Backup, for example, continuously monitors your Macs and PCs and backs up files when they change. Other applications, such as those used with Backblaze B2, can be configured to back up based on a range of options.

Some businesses make a point to rotate their backups periodically to make sure that even if one backup fails, another can take its place. This can be configured with many backup applications, or different physical media can be used with NAS or other devices. How much redundancy you want or need is dictated by how much time and money you’re willing to invest.

Advantages of the Cloud for Small Business Backup

The cloud has made off site storage convenient and useful. Here are just some of the advantages of using the cloud over trying to manage and transport disks or tapes:

  • Convenience — Using the cloud for offsite backup is far easier than filling disks and tapes locally and transporting them to another location. Software can be configured to back up data automatically based on time, file changes, file size, or other parameters.
  • Reliability — Once set up, the cloud just works. You don’t have to think about attaching devices, drivers, or tapes. Manual error doesn’t happen.
  • Unlimited storage — There’s no need to worry about filling up disks or tapes. The cloud can take as much data as you send to it!
  • Security — Data can be encrypted on the client before sending it to the cloud, which protects it during all stages of transfer and storage.

Backblaze Makes Backup and Archiving for SMBs Easy and Economical

These days, cloud-based storage is essential. That’s where Backblaze comes into play. We help businesses back up to the cloud safely and securely in our own data centers. We offer unlimited backup service for business, with continuous and automatic backups without data caps or surcharges. Our Backblaze Business Backup product is ideal for unlimited, economical, and easy backup of Windows and Macintosh computers. B2 Cloud Storage can be used for general purpose cloud storage, which includes archiving data for long term retention and backing up Linux, VMs, NAS, and other devices and data.

Still have questions? Have specific implementation issues? Give me a heads up in the comments.


Editor’s note: This is an update of an earlier post by Peter Cohen that was published on September 2, 2016.

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iOS 9.3.5 Fixes Malware Exploit: Install It, but Backup First!

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/install-ios-935-backup-first/

Update your iPhone or iPad

Apple this week posted important an update to iOS 9. Version 9.3.5 is ready for download from Apple’s servers. Experts advise you to upgrade right away, since it closes a malware security vulnerability. It’s good advice, even if the risk is small to most of us. Make sure to back up your iPhone or iPad first, though. Here’s info on what’s going on and how to protect yourself.

First of all, if there’s one takeaway from the story: Don’t click on a link unless you know what’s inside.

A human rights dissident named Ahmed Mansoor received a strange text message on his iPhone encouraging him to click a link. He didn’t. Instead Mansoor reported it to a security research firm. Researchers think that it was a sophisticated effort to take over Mansoor’s iPhone. The code belongs to a company that makes government spyware.

The security group alerted Apple and didn’t publicize the break until after Apple issued the patch.

What is a zero-day exploit?

The original report says that hackers have combined “zero-day” exploits in iOS to remotely jailbreak a targeted iPhone. “Zero-day” is security shorthand for “this problem hadn’t been patched by the software maker when it was found.” (“Jailbreaking” enables software to be installed on the iPhone that Apple doesn’t allow otherwise.)

The folks at Macworld have the skinny on what’s going on here:

When used together, the exploits allow someone to hijack an iOS device and control or monitor it remotely. Hijackers would have access to the device’s camera and microphone, and could capture audio calls even in otherwise end-to-end secured apps like WhatsApp. They could also grab stored images, tracking movements, and retrieve files.

It’s important to understand that according to the security experts who have examined the code, this particular exploit was targeted to be delivered to a specific person. It was only his general awareness and suspicion something was wrong that prevented the software from getting installed.

In other words, this isn’t like a phishing or a botnet scheme, where the goal is to get as many devices infected as possible. Instead, this was an effort by government actors to target a specific individual.

That means that the risk to you that you might be exploited by this particular problem is relatively low, unless you’re in the crosshairs of a government agency (or unless malware programmers figure out another way to exploit this particular threat for other reasons).

Risk, low. So don’t panic. But the threat is still there, which is why Apple’s pushed the 9.3.5 update and is recommending that everyone who’s running iOS 9 install it promptly.

Should I back up before I update?

Yes! Backup before you make any fundamental changes to your device. It’s a good idea to make sure any essential information is stored safely somewhere else.

You can backup your device using iTunes on the Mac or PC. Use the Lightning cable that came with your iOS device and connect it to an open USB port, then open iTunes to backup. You can also use iCloud Backup, Apple’s cloud-based backups ervice. Here’s a guide to backing up your iPhone or iPad with more details.

In general, we advocate the 3-2-1 Backup Strategy. Always have three copies of your data. One is your local copy (the data on your iPhone or iPad, for example). The second is a local backup (using iTunes on your Mac or PC, for example). The third is a copy stored safely offsite, in case anything happens – the cloud, for example.

iCloud Backup is one option for offsite backup. Backblaze will back up your computer’s iTunes files including that local backup. So if you backup to your computer, then use Backblaze, you’re all set.

How do I update my iPhone or iPad?

Follow these steps to make sure iOS 9.3.5 is installed on your device. First of all, make sure your device is charged and connected to a Wi-Fi network.

  1. Tap the iPhone or iPad’s Home button.
  2. Tap Settings.
  3. Tap General.
  4. Tap Software Update.
  5. The device will check for an update. Your device will automatically restart after it’s done.

How to Update to 9.3.5

What do I do now?

Breathe a sigh of relief now that you have iOS 9.3.5 installed. At least until the next security exploit pops up. Just make sure to backup early and often, to make sure your device and your data is safe.

The post iOS 9.3.5 Fixes Malware Exploit: Install It, but Backup First! appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Backing Up for Non-Profits

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/backing-up-for-non-profits/

Backing Up for Nonprofits

A lot of us dedicate our time and effort to causes we believe in. If you’re responsible for the data used by your non-profit, here are some guidelines to think about. Develop a backup plan of your own by answering these questions.

Backing up copies of crucial organizational information like financial and bank statements, donation lists and other material vital to your organization’s operation should be mandatory. But if you don’t have the budget to outlay for a lot of expensive hardware or software to throw at the backup problem, what do you do? Come up with a plan that works with your budget. Here’s how.

What are 3-2-1 backups?

Here at Backblaze, we like to talk about the 3-2-1 backup strategy: Keep three copies of your important data. Why three?

The first one is your local copy – the one on your computer’s hard drive. The second one is a local backup – an external hard drive, network storage device or server. The third one goes in the cloud: that’s what Backblaze is for.

This strategy hedges your bet against data failure. You’ve got a “live” copy of the data you can work on with your computer. There’s a nearby backup if you need to restore or recover the file. Then there’s a copy on Backblaze’s secure servers just in case anything happens.

What backup media should I use?

External hard drives, burnable CDs and DVDs, USB thumbdrives. There are myriad local storage options, depending on your budget. Most of us are content to back up crucial data on an external hard disk drive using USB 2 or USB 3, depending on the speed of the computer.

If portability is your main concern, consider using a USB thumbdrive. USB thumbdrives can easily slip in your pocket for portability, with capacities of up to hundreds of gigabytes.

Hard disk drives come in much larger capacities. Some drives are big enough to store multiple computer backups, if you have more than one machine that needs backup.

Burnable CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray Discs are an option to consider if you’re interested in long-term archival. Hard drive contents can easily be changed, while optical discs are burnt and then put away. This makes optical media handy once you’ve finished a big project. If you want to preserve it in amber like the mosquitos in Jurassic Park, optical media is the way to go.

Whatever physical backup medium you use, just remember that things break and stop working. That’s why it’s a good idea to use more than one device for a backup. The old adage about not putting all your eggs in one basket may have come from the farm, but it still holds true in the 21st century.

What backup software should I use?

Macs and Windows PCs come with backup software built right in, so start with that. It may require you to make an investment in additional external USB-based storage, like a hard drive or thumb drive, but it’s the easiest and most effective way to get your stuff backed up.

Macs and PCs’s built-in backup software enable you to archive and duplicate the contents of your hard drive elsewhere. On the Mac it’s called Time Machine, and on the PC it’s in the “Update & security” settings. Since most operating systems have some sort of built-in backup software, it’s crazy not to use it. It’s simply an added layer of protection. While it may seem like an added encumbrance when you’re first setting it up, the payoff is in the peace of mind you’ll have knowing your data is safe.

What’s cloud storage?

Depending on how much information you have to back up, cloud-based services give you that third line of defense I’ve talked about. Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, iCloud Drive: You can’t go too far online without bumping into a cloud storage service. Backblaze backs up the contents of your computer’s hard drive to our own cloud storage safely and securely.

If you’re not using Backblaze, make sure to take appropriate security safeguards when it comes to sharing your files on any sort of network. Make sure that the cloud storage provider supports file encryption.

Of course, the major downside to any sort of Internet services is what happens when the Internet is not available. As long as you’re syncing a local directory, you will still be able to access your files. But it bears repeating that you should have your data locally and remotely, so you’re never susceptible to a single point of failure.

What do I back up, and how often?

At the outset I said that you should make sure your organization’s most essential data is safe. That includes financial records, any government forms and any other records you might need as a matter of compliance. It’s a good idea to backup contact and client databases, contracts, and any other records your organization might need later for accounting and record keeping.

In terms of frequency, the nice thing about using cloud-based backup like Backblaze is that it’s pretty much set-and-forget. As long as you have a persistent Internet connection, Backblaze will back up as quickly as it can.

A single local backup can be sufficient if you need to restore data in a hurry, but if you don’t want to take chances, consider adding a second local backup. Backup software like Apple’s Time Machine, built into the Mac, can manage multiple backup drives automatically once you’ve set them up. One way or the other, allow the backup software to do a complete backup, then store incremental backups to save time.

Hopefully I’ve given you a few ideas to get started. Still have questions? Have specific implementation issues? Give me a heads up in the comments.

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What’s the Diff: Megabits and Megabytes

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/megabits-vs-megabytes/

Megabits vs. Megabytes

What is the difference between a megabit and a megabyte? The answer is obvious to computer people – it’s “a factor of eight,” since there are eight bits in a single byte. But there’s a lot more to the answer, too, involving how data moves, is stored, and the history of computing.

What are Megabits?

“Megabit” is a term we use most often when talking about the speed of our Internet connection. Megabits per second, or Mbps, is a measurement of data transfer speed. 1 Mbps is 1 million bits per second.

Take Internet service providers, for example. My cable provider has upped my maximum download speed from 25 to 75 to 150 Mbps over the years. Fiber optic connections (Verizon’s FIOS, Google Fiber) can be much faster, where you can get the service.

What is a Megabyte?

“Megabyte” is a measurement most often used to describe both hard drive space and memory storage capacity, though the term of art we throw around most frequently these days is the next order of magnitude, the Gigabyte (GB). My computer has 8 GB of RAM, for example, and 512 GB of storage capacity.

How to Measure Megabits and Megabytes

A bit is a single piece of information, expressed at its most elementary in the computer as a binary 0 or 1. Bits are organized into units of data eight digits long – that is a byte. Kilobytes, megabytes, gigabytes, terabytes, petabytes – each unit of measurement is 1,000 times the size before it.

So why does network bandwidth get measured in megabits, while storage gets measured in megabytes? There are a lot of theories and expositions about why. I haven’t found a “hard” answer yet, but the most reasonable explanation I’ve heard from networking engineers is that it’s because a bit is the lowest common denominator, if you will – the smallest meaningful unit of measurement to understand network transfer speed. As in bits per second. It’s like measuring the flow rate of the plumbing in your house.

As to why data is assembled in bytes, Wikipedia cites the popularity of IBM’s System/360 as one likely reason: The computer used a then-novel eight-bit data format. IBM defined computing for a generation of engineers, so it’s the standard that moved forward. The old marketing adage was, “No one ever got fired for buying IBM.”

Plausible? Absolutely. Is it the only reason? Well, Wikipedia presents an authoritative case. You’ll find a lot of conjecture but few hard answers if you look elsewhere on the Internet.

Which means aliens are behind it all, as far as I’m concerned.

What Does It All Mean

Anyway, here we stand today, with the delineation clear: Bandwidth is measured in bits, storage capacity in bytes. Simple, but what can be confusing is when we mix the two. Let’s say your network upload speed is 8 Mbps (megabits per second), that means that the absolute most you can upload is 1 MB (megabyte) of data from your hard drive per second. Megabits versus Megabytes, remember to keep the distinction in your head as you see how fast data moves over your network or to the Internet.

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

How to backup your Windows Server with B2 and CloudBerry

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

B2 and Cloudberry

Windows servers can present all sorts of management complexities. However, backing up to the cloud doesn’t have to be one of them. Thanks to CloudBerry’s integration with Backblaze B2, you can backup your Windows server to the cloud safely, securely and for up to 75 percent less than Amazon S3 and similar services. Here’s how.

CloudBerry Backup

CloudBerry Lab has been doing cloud-based backup and file management since 2008. Their latest offering combines CloudBerry Backup for Windows Server and B2 Cloud Storage for seamless, low cost Windows server backup.

Cloudberry Backup works on Windows Server 2003 and up, and transfers data directly between your Windows Server and B2 – there are no third-party servers between your server and B2. CloudBerry supports 256-bit AES encryption to secure your data while stored in B2 and uses SSL to protect your data securely in transit.

How to Backup Your Windows Server with B2 and CloudBerry

Let’s assume you’ve already set up a B2 account and have CloudBerry’s Backup software running on your Windows Server. How do you configure it to use B2? First set up a bucket on B2 that you wish to use for your CloudBerry backup, then just follow these steps:

  1. Open CloudBerry Backup.
  2. Click Add New Account. Select B2 Cloud Storage from the list of available services.
  3. Enter a Display name. This name is used by the software to describe the backup, so make it something you’ll understand.
  4. Enter B2 Account ID, Application ID, and Bucket name from B2’s web interface.
  5. Click the OK button.cloudberry_b2_info

Now that you’ve created a connection between CloudBerry Backup and B2, you just have to follow the steps of the backup plan wizard to backup your server.

select_cloud_storage

CloudBerry has loads of options to help you customize what part of your Windows server you’re backing up, where it’s going and how it gets there. Backup selected folders, include and exclude specific file types, exclude files that are greater than a specific size – there’s a lot to drill down. You also have control over encryption, scheduling, and a host of other options to help tailor your Windows server backup.

inclusions-exclusions

CloudBerry’s robust support of cloud storage services makes it a natural integration for B2. Our API makes it easy for developers and integration partners to add support for B2.

With B2 you’ll pay pennies for storage compared with Amazon S3 and other cloud storage providers – we’re up to 75 percent less. B2 is just $0.005/GB a month for data storage and the first 10 GB are free on us.

B2 is powered by our Storage Pod – safe, scalable storage technology that enables us to provide petabytes of storage in a single standard data center rack. Our storage pods are made using off-the-shelf parts you can actually put together yourself, if you wanted – and we’ve released the design specs and parts list, so have at it! The Storage Pods we’ve built run safely and securely in a high-speed data center located in Northern California.

If you’re a CloudBerry customer and you still have questions about how to get started with B2, you can also check out this blog post over at CloudBerry Labs’ web site for even more details.

Look for more details about other exciting B2 integrations to come!

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