Top 10 lists! You know them. You read them! You love them? As 2020 comes to an end and we look longingly at the new year ahead of us, I wanted to take a moment and look back at what you, our blog readers, have found amusing, entertaining, and informative over this past year.
To do that, we looked at our analytics and picked out the top 10 most-viewed stories that we published in 2020. The results may not shock you, but they may entertain you, especially if you missed any of these the first time around. Without further ado, let’s jump into the results!
Top 10 Backblaze Blog Posts From 2020
1. 2019 Hard Drive Stats. It’s not surprising to see a year-end hard drive stats post in the first position. Readers show up for these posts in a big way and this one took a look at the entirety of 2019 as a year-end wrap up.2. The Complete Guide to Ransomware. With huge organizations like Foxconn, Kmart, many K-12 school districts, and hospitals being targeted by ransomware in recent years—and those attacks increasing—it’s no wonder that people are seeking to understand how to protect themselves.
3. & 4. Q1 2020 Hard Drive Stats and Q2 2020 Hard Drive Stats. The quarterly drive stats set the stage for our popular yearly reviews and provide a “heartbeat” of how our spinning disks are doing throughout the year.5. A Beginner’s Guide to External Hard Drives. We took a look at some best practices for folks looking to increase their on-site storage capacity and how to make sure all that data is safe, as well. It would appear a lot of readers were onboarding new hard drives in 2020.6. Synology Backup Guide. Other readers already have a series of external hard drives connected to their PC, meaning the natural progression is getting a NAS system like Synology in place and making sure that it, too, is backed up.7. Q3 2020 Hard Drive Stats. Looking at how the stats are progressing, we find that even when some drive models have over 4,029 failures, their annualized failure rate can be below 3%—that’s scale!
8. Backing Up Google Drive. Far be it from us to claim that we saw the future, but when we published this post in June it was a touch ahead of its time. A few months later, Google announced the end of their unlimited storage plan and as people looked for alternatives, this resource on downloading and backing up Google Drive information became invaluable.9. Backblaze S3 Compatible APIs. One of our biggest Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage releases for 2020 was the Backblaze S3 Compatible APIs suite. This launch cleared the way for a ton of new partner integrations, use cases, and happy cloud storage customers.10. Cloud Sync Is Not Backing Up. A common misconception is that someone is backed up if they only use iCloud, Google Drive, or Dropbox. Nothing could be further from the truth. In this post, we dig into the differences between cloud backup and cloud sync, why they’re both useful, and how to leverage both for maximum efficiency.
The “Up-and-coming” Top Ten
Looking at the top 10 list for 2020, we see a lot of series and subjects that are popular every year. This got us thinking, what about the stories that broke new ground? Posts that aren’t hard drive stats and yet still drew an admirable number of readers? When we removed the big hitters we found an alternative top ten that will appeal to anyone looking for some more in-depth solutions, some nice news, and answers to a few evergreen questions!
1. What Is an Exabyte? What the heck is an exabyte anyway? We take a look at how much data that really is, and how it compares, on a cosmic level, to a gigabyte.2. Object vs. File vs. Block—A Cloud Storage Guide. The word “cloud” can sometimes feel amorphous. For readers just starting to look cloudwards, this post aims to help put a finer point on clouds! We take a look at the different types of cloud storage and how to most effectively use each.3. Duplicati + Backblaze. We love when B2 Cloud Storage gets integrated into popular apps, and Duplicati makes backing up data securely and easily from pretty much any system a piece of cake. No wonder it pairs so well with Backblaze B2!4. Metadata: Your File’s Hidden DNA. Metadata surrounds pretty much every digital thing we do on a day to day basis, but a lot of people don’t fully understand what it is or how it works. This post defines metadata and looks at how it helps programs keep track of the information about files for both humans and computers.
5. Free Cloud Storage? What’s the Catch? There are a lot of “free” offers in the cloud storage marketplace positioned to help entrepreneurs get their application or website off the ground. In this post we go into some of the pitfalls that might come about when you take cloud storage providers up on an offer that might seem too good to be true.6. Computer Backup Version 7.0.1. We took some time at the beginning of the year to make some adjustments to our cloud backup software, improving performance and enhancing our Inherit Backup State feature to help folks avoid reuploading data if they switch computers!7. Exabyte Unlocked. In March, Backblaze crossed a data storage threshold that few other companies have achieved, storing over an exabyte of data for our customers, and we couldn’t be prouder.
8. How to Wipe a Mac Hard Drive. As people get new computers and sell off their old hardware, sometimes they want to make sure that all of their data has been deleted from their computer (just make sure you have a backup first).9. Upgrading to an SSD. Once readers finish wiping their old drives, they often want something a bit more speedy. SSDs are dropping in price and getting more common, so this post gives you a few things to consider when upgrading.10. RAM vs. Storage. This post takes a look at one of the most commonly asked questions when people talk about gigabytes—“Do they mean RAM, or do they mean storage size?”—and what’s the difference between the two anyway?
We love writing about the ins and outs of our industry, infrastructure, and the business in general, so it’s always fun to look back at what resonated with you over the past year. Was your favorite blog post not listed? Let us know in the comments below what resonated with you this year!
The gift giving-est time of year is almost here and at Backblaze, we’re always on the lookout for cool gizmos and gadgets to get our friends and family. (Or if we’re honest, ones that we’ve been eyeing ourselves but just can’t bring ourselves to buy.)
Since this year has been so…unique, I polled my team members and asked what tools and toys they’ve been using or would love to receive. This year’s crop of gift ideas runs the gamut from egg cookers to firepits, but since we’re all spending more time at home, it’s no wonder that cooking gadgets, games, and smart home accessories were top of mind. Let’s dive in!
You have a ton of gadgets already, but what if you could cook things…instantly. Or, near instantly. I personally have been eyeing one of these for months, but need to use my slow cooker a few more times before finally expediting the process!
Stay active! If you have a backyard or reasonable downstairs neighbors we recommend the DribbleUp Smart Soccer Ball or Smart Basketball! These Smart Balls link to your smartphone and give you telemetry into how you’re progressing in developing your skills.
Stuck at home with your significant other and are bored playing War? Enjoy the prospect of outsmarting and besting your partner in a board game? Duel is designed specifically for two players. Have at ‘em!
Smart plugs are a great way to turn on the lights in your house when you walk through the door and don’t like looking at pitch darkness. These tie in to your existing smart home devices, or use the app to control your plugs!
Now that winter is upon us (at least here in the U.S.), treat yourself to an electric mattress pad and stay toasty and cozy no matter what’s going on outside. This one’s also compatible with your smart home and plugs!
After working out you might feel a little sore. Massage guns are all the rage right now and they do a heck of a job getting all of your knots loosened up. The myriad of attachments will help you get into all your nooks and crannies!
Buy local! If you have a favorite local shop, be sure to show them some love this holiday season! If you want to support some from around the country, here’s a great spice shop in Oakland, California—and their gift boxes are the cutest.
And, of course… Backblaze.
You know it. You love it. You can gift it!
We wish you a healthy, happy, and hopeful new year! Maybe this list helped you on your gifting journey, or maybe it just added more items to your own wish list. What are you looking forward to gifting and receiving this year? Let us know in the comments below!
The new operating system from Apple, MacOS 11.0 Big Sur (a reference to a lovely stretch of California’s central coast, if you’ve never been) releases on November 12, 2020. We’ve been preparing for this release for quite some time and are glad to report that the Backblaze Computer Backup client is “Big Sur-ready.” As always, a couple of notes to keep in mind before updating to a new OS: make sure you have a good and up-to-date backup in place, and that you are running the latest Backblaze version.
If you’re already running the Big Sur beta, or are planning to upgrade to the latest MacOS version on day one, please make sure you are running the latest Backblaze client version. You can download and install the latest build by doing the following:
Perform a Check for Updates (right-click on the Backblaze icon in the Mac menu bar)
Or download the latest from www.backblaze.com/update.htm
Note, if You Are on MacOS 10.9 Mavericks or older: And you want to update your client before upgrading your macOS, you will need to download the latest version of Backblaze here.
Catblaze. It started as an April Fools’ joke four years ago, but it stuck around as part of our website ever since. A few intrepid website perusers even found their way to the page and signed up for our backup service there. To be clear: There’s no actual difference between the two products except the landing page. If you bought Backblaze on Catblaze, it’s Backblaze. You received the same great service as everyone else, just with a nice cat-themed wrapper. Got it? Great!
It’s been a while since we’ve done anything with Catblaze though, and so I got to thinking… If the page is still functional, how can we make use of it again? Well, why not redirect some traffic there and see how it affects conversions?! A lot of people love cats, maybe that love could be translated to loving backing up, too?
So, that’s exactly what we did! A few weeks ago, for one day, we diverted some traffic from backblaze.com/cloud-backup.html to backblaze.com/catblaze.html to see how they performed against each other. Did anyone even notice? And if they did, did they sign up anyway? Read on to find out! The results may shock you! And other clickbait hyperbole!
Why are we doing this? Well, along with everyone else who has had to shift to remote office-ing during the pandemic, we’ve been working hard to maintain high spirits and morale here at Backblaze. While we made a lot of changes to help our team be as productive as possible while working remotely, we thought, why not get a little silly, engage in a little charitable fundraising, and also buoy the spirits of our community at large: You!
With a lot of people spending more time at home, animal adoption in urban areas increasing, and “Tiger King” being so popular on Netflix, I spent some time chatting with a friend of mine who works for the Humane Society of the United States, and asked if there were any shelters that were looking for aid. He told me that the Peninsula Humane Society—the same branch that the models for the original “Catblaze Cats” came from—could use some donations. So, as part of this experiment, we’ll be contributing to them in honor of the kittens that helped make this experiment possible!
Wow, who would have known that diverting 50% of our hard-earned traffic to an April Fools’ landing page was an interesting idea? The results may or may not surprise you, but here’s the bottom line: Sending traffic to catblaze.com resulted in a decrease in trial conversions (folks coming to our site and creating a trial account) by 15%. Which, admittedly, is better than some of us had guessed!
Let’s dive into more of those numbers, shall we? (Assuming we’re comparing Catblaze to our regular Backblaze Computer Backup landing page.)
Days of experiment: One.
Traffic diverted: 50%.
Percent change in conversion rate from visit to trial: 15% reduction.
Percent change in conversion rate from visit to purchase (skip trial): 41% reduction.
69.96% (A palindrome!) of people were less likely to purchase directly from Catblaze—that’s how many fewer folks went to the “buy” page next.
Percent change in bounce rate: 15% improvement.
Percent change in visits going to the home page from Catblaze: 118%.
Tweets asking us what is going on: Zero.
Support tickets asking us, “Why the cats?”: Zero.
Donation to the Peninsula Humane Society: $2,000.
While we probably shouldn’t update our onboarding messaging to include a picture of our Catblaze friends, it may be worth going a bit more kitten-friendly in future illustrations and designs for our website. The fact that there was a 15% improvement in bounce rate (and 20% reduction in exit rate) meant that people were sticking around and looking at that awesome cat content, or they were very confused. The cat content was at best amusing, but at worst confusing (which is usually not what you want your customers to be feeling), and you can see that was the case because we saw the number of people going back to our homepage increase by 118%. So, while we kept people on our website, their confusion was visible in how they navigated our website.
Perhaps the most entertaining thing is that no one asked about the Catblaze website. We received no Tweets or support tickets asking us why everything was cat-themed on our website. Based on our daily traffic, and the seemingly minor reasons that people write in with support tickets, I would have sworn up and down that I’d be on social media answering questions all day—though, if I responded to folks asking about it, that may have affected the experiment—so, it’s great that it went unnoticed.
Will we be doing this again? I doubt it. The Finance department is already sending me eye roll emojis, but it was definitely an interesting experiment and taught me one important lesson: While people definitely noticed the cats, they certainly didn’t seem to mind them.
We recently released an update for Backblaze Computer Backup: version 7.0.2! This release comes with improvements to our Safety Freeze feature, and some enhancements to the Mac and Windows applications. Enjoy!
What’s New for Windows & Macintosh:
Improvement: Safety Freeze
Safety Freezes exist to protect your data from corruption, but lately, they’ve been a touch over-cautious. This improvement updates Safety Freeze to reduce the amount of false-positives users experience.
Bug fix: Multiple hard drives listed
Some users experienced duplicate volume listings in the application, which led to confusion. This release addresses that issue.
Minor improvements to logging.
What’s New for Macintosh:
Bug fix: Location Services
This feature has been reworked to reduce the amount of pop-ups received when Locate My Computer is enabled on more recent macOS versions. This also fixed an issue where disabling Locate My Computer on the web would still result in a pop-up asking for Location Services permission.
Release Version Number:
Mac — 126.96.36.1994
PC — 188.8.131.523
Free for Backblaze Computer Backup consumer and business customers and active trial users.
Immediately when performing a “Check for Updates” (right-click on the Backblaze icon and then select “Check for Updates”).
For the past twelve years we’ve commissioned an annual poll conducted by The Harris Poll asking people the simple question, “How often do you backup all the data on your computer?” and published the results here on the blog. In 2009 we decided to make this an annual event and declared June to be Backup Awareness Month.
Entering this June, we’re curious to see how the changes we’ve seen in the world since the beginning of this year have affected our behavior when it comes to backing up. This year we also asked if people understood the difference between cloud backup and cloud storage—spoiler alert: many don’t. Let’s dig into the numbers!
Are We Backing Up?
There’s good news in this year’s report! Among those who own a computer the percentage who state that they “never” back up all the data on their computer continues to decrease. Even better, the number of people backing up once a year or more frequently is increasing. Even with all that good news though, there’s still work to be done. Roughly one fifth of those who own a computer (19%) say they have “never” backed up all their data. If you add that to those who back up all the data on their computer less than once a year, that number balloons to one in three (33%).
The fact that almost one in five of those who own a computer have never backed up all the data on the computer is still alarming, as they are vulnerable to losing important documents, photos, and other files. We still have work to do to reach all those people to convince them how easy and economical it is to protect their data through regular backups.
But let’s look more closely at the data:
We love seeing that “daily” and “weekly” number increasing. Those are positive trends and more proof that simple backup solutions are causing more people to take action and protect their data.
You can see that the number of people who are backing up frequently has increased substantially over the years. As the “daily,” “weekly,” “monthly,” and “yearly” categories increase, we’d expect to see the “never” category decrease, and that’s a great sign of awareness.
Here’s a detailed look at the numbers from our surveys in 2008 through 2019.
Key Takeaways and Fun with Numbers
Every year after the poll is conducted, we sift through the poll data to see what conclusions we can draw from the results. Our pollster gives us demographics about the subjects surveyed such as the region of the U.S. where they live, level of education, household income, and whether they own a computer or not (kind of important, we think, for this poll). Here’s what stood out:
Almost one in five (19%) of those who own a computer have never backed up all the data on their computer. We’re making some progress, but with almost 50% of people losing data each year, we want to get that number down much further!
10% of those who own a computer say they back up all the data on their computer once a day or more. That’s the highest daily backup percentage we’ve ever recorded.
There’s still a lot of cloud confusion out there with 41% of Americans saying they do not understand the difference between cloud backup and cloud storage. (And for even more nuance: cloud backup vs. cloud sync.)
The age group with the highest rate of daily or more backup was the 35-44 year old group at 15%—a mix between Gen X and Millennials. (Who’d of thunk it?)
The Northeast region of the United States has a high rate of daily backup or more with 15% vs. 9% in the Midwest and only 8% in the West.
A few years back, seniors (65+) were the best at backing up, but now as a group they’ve slid back. 30% have never backed up their computer and only 8% back up once a day or more.
It seems the folks in the Midwest who own a computer are the most at risk to lose data, with 26% having never backed up all the data on their computer versus 18% each in the Northeast and West, and 17% in the South.
Want to back up more often? Think outside the box and have children. Those who are not parents of children under 18 are more likely than those who are to have never backed up all the data on their computer (23% vs. 12%). It would seem that backing up is necessary with children running around…
The best way to succeed at a task that’s sometimes neglected is to make it so easy that it gets done. Fortunately, computers are good at automation and backing up can be configured to happen quietly and automatically in the background.
We believe that the reason more people are successful at backing up is that they have discovered automated backup solutions such as Backblaze Personal Backup.
Backblaze Personal Backup can be installed on a Mac or PC and in less than a couple of minutes will be on the job continuously backing up your data. In many situations, the default settings are fine so there’s nothing else to do.
If more people use solutions like Backblaze Personal Backup and automate their backups, the poll results will continue to improve, but more importantly, people will be less likely to lose their valuable photos, messages, financial records, and other important files and documents.
It will be interesting to see whether the poll results next year show even more people backing up. We hope so.
How You Can Help!
One of the things we’re trying to do is educate people on the different types of cloud services and storage options available. The links above are a great way to learn the differences so that you can choose the right solution for you. Those solutions are important considering that almost 20% of people still don’t back up their computers. We need to get that number down as far as we can!
You can also help improve the results for next year’s survey. If you’re already a Backblaze customer, you can let your friends and family know that backing up is important. You can even refer them to Backblaze using our Refer a Friend feature which allows you to invite your friends to an extended free trial of Backblaze Personal Backup. It’s perfect because they get peace of mind knowing that Backblaze is backing up their computers, and you’ll get a free month of service if they sign up with us! If you’re not a Backblaze customer, consider signing up for a free trial, and help us ensure that no one ever loses data again.
• • •
These surveys were conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of Backblaze among U.S.
adults ages 18+ who own a computer in June 1-3, 2020 (n=1,913), June 6-10, 2019 (n=1,858),
June 5-7, 2018 (n=1,871), May 19-23, 2017 (n=1,954), May 13-17, 2016 (n=1,920), May 15-19,
2015 (n=2,009), June 2-4, 2014 (n=1,991), June 13–17, 2013 (n=1,952), May 31–June 4, 2012
(n=2,176), June 28–30, 2011 (n=2,209), June 3–7, 2010 (n=2,051), May 13–14, 2009
(n=2,154), and May 27–29, 2008 (n=2,723). These online surveys were not based on a
probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact Backblaze.
Has been rewritten to increase the upper thresholds for inheriting a backup state. In the past, some edge-cases existed where log files were too large to be inherited, resulting in a failure. This has now been fixed.
The process has also been cleaned up to remove unnecessary older files, which should result in better performance and less system resource usage.
Fixed a bug which sometimes showed duplicate volume listings in the apps, which led to confusion.
Fixed a bug with .Bzvol which resulted in no files appearing to be selected in some cases.
Minor security enhancements and improvements to logging.
Release Version Number:
Mac — 7.0.1
PC — 7.0.1
April 9th, 2020
Free for Backblaze Cloud Backup consumer and business customers and active trial users.
Immediately when performing a “Check for Updates” (right-click on the Backblaze icon and then select “Check for Updates”).
Every year around this time, the marketing department gets together to plan a strategy for April Fools—we say “strategy” because we take it seriously. And every year, some questionable ideas inevitably arise (someone invariably brings up illogical data center locations and has to be shot down). Patrick’s wife has been going on about a Cloud-Enabled Pizza Delivery joke (thanks to Lebron James’s pizza exploits at “Blaze Pizza”—nice name by the way). We’ve kindly had to let her down as well.
But this year, obviously, is different. And, given that there’s already more than enough confusion going on in the news when it comes to COVID-19, we all agreed that it was not the best time to add any more by making you wonder, “Did they really replace their Fireball service with cats?” No, this isn’t the time for April Fools posts and shenanigans, but that doesn’t mean you, our faithful blog readers, can’t have a little fun at our expense.
We’re completely focused on ensuring that our services deliver for you all, and part of that effort involves keeping up morale across our team and among you, our community.
We hope you and yours are doing well, and in lieu of spending a lot of time creating something new to help folks chuckle, we wanted to share some of our April Fools posts from years past—which we hope will help you crack a smile in case you missed them.
One of the first things Andy did when he joined Backblaze was come up with an excuse to put on his Blues Brothers outfit and hum a few bars. He didn’t think this video was still online; we want to assure him that it is.
Following in Andy’s tradition, I sometimes like to vocalize, though, unless you follow Critical Role (a live streamed DnD campaign), the context of my song will likely be lost upon you. But how could I promote Andy’s singing without subjecting you to my own?
Sure, cat data storage writes itself, but how do you migrate cat storage? What if you have too many feline photos on your computer and need to upload them quickly? Why not send us a Furball to expedite that cloud storage!
Sometimes people think our service is too inexpensive. We welcome them to try Bling 2 Cloud Storage. It’s the same thing as Backblaze B2, but brings the pricing in line with our competition at four times our usual price—perfection!
It’s a face-off we’re asked about a lot. But from our perspective, the “versus” should really be a “plus,” as the two are complimentary.
Having the right tool for the right job is something any contractor will tell you is imperative, and the same guiding principles apply to computer usage. Sync or backup, which to use? As it happens, using both sync (Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, etc…) and backup (Backblaze Computer Backup) services for your Macs and PCs is now a computing best practice. But there’s still confusion about what these services do, and that leaves some users in a vulnerable state.
We’ve been keeping track of trends and use-cases over the last few years and these misunderstandings about how to leverage the “cloud” for personal use appear to be on the rise. One common quip that often comes up in conversation is “I don’t need a backup, I’m using Dropbox.” Our usual reply is, “Oh, what tier are you paying for?” The response is almost always “No, I just use the free tier.” Which means, while they may not need to back up the data they keep inside their syncing service, the rest of the data on their computer is completely at-risk. And odds are, if you are using the free-tier of a syncing service, you have a lot of data that’s not syncing.
Since we’re in the business of protecting people from data loss, we wanted to offer a little more information about the differences and similarities of Sync and Backup, so that you can make the best, most informed decision about how to adequately protect your data using either or both service types!
What is the Cloud? Sync and Backup
The cloud is still a term that causes a lot of confusion, both about what it is and how services utilize it. Put simply, the cloud is a set of computers that someone else is managing on the customer’s behalf. These computers (typically called servers, or in Backblaze’s case, Storage Pods) typically live in large buildings known as data centers, where they are fed a constant supply of power, are kept in environmentally controlled rooms, and are connected to each other with incredibly fast networking equipment. That networking equipment also connects these data centers to the outside world, where customers can interact with the service providers inside the data centers.
The cloud is perfect for Sync and Backup services, because they both require a lot of space (in the form of servers) to store the data that is being synced or backed up, and a lot of bandwidth (all of that networking equipment) to make sure that data flows to and from the services rapidly. But, while both types of services require similar infrastructure, they are very different in how they function. Let’s take a closer look below!
When considering sync and sharing services like Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or the slew of other options, people often assume they act as a backup solution as well. The word “cloud” only adds to this confusion, leading people to believe that all “cloud” services are doing the same thing. To help sort this out, we’ll define Sync and Backup below, as they apply to a traditional computer setup—a Mac or PC—with a bunch of apps installed and data on the hard drive.
These services sync (short for “synchronize”) folders on your computer or mobile device to folders on other machines or into the cloud, allowing users to access a file, folder, or directory across different devices. What this means is that you can access a file via a sync service on your computer at home in the morning, make changes, then head to work or a friend’s house and access the same file with all those changes that were made on the other computer. You can also share that file with another user and they can make changes from their computer, which will in turn appear on yours. In either scenario the file is always synced no matter where you access it from. It’s important to note that only the files, folders, or directories you put into the sync service are synced. The rest of the data on the computer is not.
Typically these services have tiered pricing, meaning you pay for the amount of data you store with the service, or for tiers of data that you are allowed to use. If there is data loss (let’s say you share a file with someone and they simply delete it), it may be lost forever. Sometimes these services have a version history feature, meaning you’re able to recover an earlier version of your work (before your friend or coworker deleted it). Of course, only files that are in the synced folders are available to be recovered.
In some cases, relying on a syncing service as a backup can be detrimental. A recent ZDNet article—”Ransomware Victims Thought Their Backups Were Safe, They Were Wrong“—made clear that some people, who thought they were protected by their syncing service, where shocked to discover that the ransomware encrypting their computers also encrypted all of their synced files. With a backup solution (discussed below) with longer version history, these people could’ve simply rolled back to earlier backups, from before the encryptions occurred, and been back up and running with a quick restore. Where sync services ensure that a certain set of data is the same across multiple devices, backup ensures that all or most of the data on one device is backed up elsewhere. In this case “elsewhere” is the cloud.
Backup services typically work automatically and in the background of a person’s computer, backing up new or changed data that is on your computer to another location. For the majority of backup services there is not much configuration involved and there is usually a fixed price (no tiering) for the service. In the event of a computer crash or data loss, all backed up files are available for recovery.
For the most part, backup services catalog and save the most recent version of all data, but many cloud backup services now offer features like extended version history, which helps recover files from past points in time. If you happen to accidentally delete or overwrite files without noticing it, or realize that an earlier version of a file is more useful than the currently saved version, you can recover that older work.
A Note on Backups: Before the cloud became an available and popular destination, the most common way to back up was primarily to a tape, a CD, or an external hard drive. As the cloud became more readily available and affordable, it quickly became the most popular offsite storage medium because it eliminated the need for manual backups by automating the process. Automation makes backing up much easier and more reliable.
Which Backup Service is Right For You?
Backblaze strongly believes in a 3-2-1 Backup Strategy. A 3-2-1 strategy means having at least three total copies of your data, two of which are local (or quickly accessible) but on different mediums (e.g. an external hard drive in addition to your computer’s local drive), and at least one copy offsite. A good way to think about this is a setup where you have data (files) on your computer, a copy of that data on a hard drive that resides somewhere not inside your computer (commonly on your desk), and another copy with a cloud backup provider.
What is the Difference Between Cloud Sync and Backup?
Sometimes it helps to have a real-world example, so let’s take a look at some sync setups that we see fairly frequently.
Example 1. Users have one folder on their computer that is designated for Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or a similar sync tool. Users save or place data into that folder when they want the data to appear on other devices. Often, they are using the free tier of the syncing and sharing services and only have a few gigabytes of data uploaded in them. This is the most common example that we see and works great for people who simply want to have a little bit of data accessible across many of their devices.
Example 2. Users pay for a higher tier of Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, etc., and essentially use those services as their ‘Documents folder,’ meaning they primarily work out of that one folder. Files in that folder are available across devices, however, files outside of that folder (i.e. living on the computer’s desktop or anywhere else) are not synced or stored by those syncing and sharing services.
What both examples are missing is the backing up of any photos, movies, videos, or anything else among the rest of the data on their computer. That’s where cloud backup providers shine. They automatically back up user data with little or no setup, and no need for the dragging-and-dropping of files.
If Backblaze Computer Backup is added to this example, its application scans the hard drive(s) to find all the user’s data, regardless of where it might be stored. This means that all the user’s data is kept as a backup in the Backblaze cloud, including the data synced by sync services like Dropbox, iCloud Drive, Google Drive, or OneDrive, as long as that data resides on the computer.
Beyond just where and how your data is stored, it’s important to consider how easy it is to get your data back from all of these services. With sync and share services, retrieving a lot of data, especially if you are in a high-data tier, can be cumbersome.
Generally, the sync and share services only allow customers to download files over the internet. If you are trying to download more than a couple gigabytes of data, this process can take time and can be fraught with errors. If the process of downloading from your sync and share service will take three days, one thing to consider is having to keep the computer online the entire time or risk an error if the download were to get interrupted. One thing to be wary of with syncing and sharing services is that if you are sharing your folders or directories with others, if they add or remove files from shared directories, they will also be added or removed from your computer as well.
Cloud backup services enable you to download files over the internet too and can also suffer from long download times. At Backblaze, we never want our customers to feel like we’re holding their data hostage. That is one of the reasons why we have a lot of restore options, including our Restore Return Refund policy, which allows people to restore their data via a USB hard drive and then return that drive to us for a refund. Cloud sync providers typically do not provide this capability.
One popular data recovery use case we’ve seen when a person has a lot of data to restore is for that user to download just the files that are needed immediately, and then order a USB hard drive restore for the remaining files that are not as time sensitive. The user gets all their files back in a few days and their network is spared the download charges.
50,000,000,000—that’s a large number. It also happens to be the milestone that we crossed (on February 5th, 2020 at 14:47 UTC) for files restored from our Computer Backup service! Back in 2016, Backblaze hit 20 Billion files restored for our customers. It took us almost 9 years to get to that number, and only another 4 years to more than double it (and that’s not even including all the Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage files that get accessed and downloaded every day).
50 Billion is a giant number, but it’s not just a number to us. It’s baby pictures, first step videos, PhD theses, long lost tax forms from years past, powerpoint presentations, digitized family albums, art projects, documents and writing, manuscripts, book outlines, and all manner of memories. We love that we’ve built a sustainable business around restoring people’s files which they may have thought were lost forever.
The last time we wrote about a restore milestone we went in and took a look at a typical month in the life of our restore system. Lets revisit that and take a look at the stats for January 2020, with a few new ones thrown in:
January 2020 Stats:
28,841 Total Restores
1,119,500,858 (1.1 Billion) Total Files Restored
2.17 Petabytes of Data Restored
3 Terabytes per hour—equivalent to a good sized external hard drive
48 Gigabytes per minute—about one 4K UHD Blu-Ray movie
810 Megabytes per second—just over one CD’s worth of data
Restores By Operating System:
49.08% were Mac
50.92% were Windows
Of all January 2020 restores:
97.82% were Zip
1.63% were USB HD
0.54% were USB Flash Drive
The Average Amount of Files Per Restore:
29,927 files – Zip
518,756.23 – USB HD
232,711.93 files – USB Flash Drive
The Average Size Of a Restore:
42.16 GB – Zip
2,081.42 GB – USB HD
131.95 GB – USB Flash Drive
Total Data Restored:
Based on ZIP restores:
Range in GB
% of Restores
1 – 10
10 – 25
25 – 50
50 – 75
75 – 100
100 – 200
200 – 300
300 – 400
400 – 500
We started Backblaze with a goal of preventing data loss, and we’re now recovering over 2 Petabytes of data per month, which is a stat that we are, to say the least, very proud of. To put that into perspective, it took us 2 ½ years to reach 2 Petabytes of customer data under management. Now we’re helping our customers restore that amount of data on a monthly basis.
We want to thank our Backblaze customers, and remind folks of how easy it is to restore data with us. You can download it for free via the web, recover your files via a USB Hard Drive or Flash Key, and use our Mobile apps to access your data on iOS and Android! To learn more, visit our restore webpage. If you want to test a restore, try this easy web guide:
Do you have a great story of Backblaze helping you recover data? We’d love to hear it and possibly highlight it in a future blog post. Just comment below with the story of how Backblaze helped you get your data back! Need an example? Here’s a great one.
Regular Hard Drive Stats readers will recall that our blog post about Q3 2019 explained that we planned to take a closer look at some drive failures we were seeing at the time and report back when we knew more. Well, we’ve been monitoring the situation since then and wanted to update you on where things stand. Despite the fact that Hard Drive Stats for 2019 are just around the corner, we decided to share this information with you as soon as we could, rather than waiting for the next post. In summary, this year (and going into the next year) we expect to see higher failure rates in some of our hard drives and we will be migrating some drives to newer models. Below, we’ll discuss what’s going on, what we’re doing about it, and why customers shouldn’t worry.
So What’s Up?
In a recent blog post, we interviewed our Director of Supply Chain, Ariel Ellis, about how we purchase and qualify hard drives to be deployed in our data centers. The TL/DR is that our qualification process is robust. Nevertheless, for all providers of scale in the cloud storage industry, trends that are hard to project during testing can emerge over time after drives are used in production batches of dozens of petabytes, or more, at a time.
What we’re seeing in our fleet right now is a higher-than-typical failure rate among some of our 12TB Seagate drives. It’s customary for hard drive manufacturers like Seagate, when working with data centers and cloud service providers, to ensure successful deployment of large-scale drive fleets, and as such we’re working closely with them to analyze the drives and their performance. This analysis usually includes things like testing new drive platforms in real workload environments, providing telemetry tools to predict failures, performing ongoing custom adjustments, and employing firmware development and replacement units (RMAs). Customer data durability is paramount for both Backblaze and Seagate, so as we analyze root causes and implications we’re also working together on a migration effort to replace these particular drives in our data centers. In the short term, failure rates for a subset of our drives may increase, but we have processes in place to adjust for that fluctuation.
Running a cloud business is complex, so it’s very helpful to have a partner like Seagate who can help us to react quickly and bring their expertise in drive deployment to bear in aiding our migration efforts. It’s worth noting that situations like this are not uncommon in our industry and often go unnoticed by the end-users of the services, as most cloud providers do not inform customers or the public when they experience issues like what we’re describing. Backblaze, on the other hand, is a bit more open than most companies in the industry.
We’re in a unique position because of the Hard Drive Stats that we publish, which is why we felt it was important to let folks know about the upcoming changes ahead of time. At the end of the day, we think this openness is helpful for everyone, especially our customers.
In the near term, we expect to see moderately increased failure rates for this specific subset of 12TB drives, but as we complete the drive migration, we project our fleet’s failure rates will restore to historical norms. Meanwhile, it will be business as usual. We’ll continue to provide the most reliable, affordable, and easy-to-use cloud storage and computer backup available, and we’ll continue to provide our Hard Drive Stats for you every quarter.
2019 was a great year at Backblaze and we want to thank all of our friends, family, customers, and blog readers (why aren’t you customers yet?) for making it one to remember! If you’re worried you missed anything good or you’re just looking for some reading material over your break, we’ve got your back: read below to catch up on the good, the better, and the ridiculous here at Backblaze.
We were hard at work and thrilled to get a lot of interesting updates and features out the door this year, including:
Backblaze Version 6.0: Our “Larger Longer Faster Better” release saw the introduction of larger recovery hard drives, the ability to save backed up data directly to B2 Cloud Storage, a “keep restores longer” functionality that allowed already created restores to be archived into B2, network management and speed improvements for the Backblaze App for Mac and PC, a mobile app overhaul for iOS and Android, and the introduction of SSO with Google. Phew!
The Blog Itself: We’d been hard at work on a blog redesign through the beginning of the year, and were ready to unveil the final product in April. This post covered everything that was new (faster load times, archives, post suggestions, better tagging, etc…) and gave a nice breakdown of all the changes.
B2 Copy File APIs: One of the more requested features for B2 Cloud Storage launched in May of this year. This new API allowed people to copy files, which unlocked the ability to rename and re-organize those files inside of their B2 buckets.
EU Data Center: We launched our first data center outside of the United States, firing up an EU Region based out of Amsterdam.
Backblaze Version 7.0: Version history and beyond! One of our most anticipated releases, extended Version History allowed computer backup users to upgrade the retention period of their backups and alleviated the need to continuously plug in external drives—a pain point we heard about a lot before this release!
Behind The Scenes
Taking a page from last year’s post, we wanted to highlight some of the articles where we took a look at ourselves in the mirror and dove deep into some of the internal goings on at Backblaze:
Storage Pod Museum: One of the things we’re most proud of is our storage pods, which enable us to store your data affordably, and pass the savings on. This post looks back at all of our different designs throughout the years.
Reddit AmA: Fielding questions from strangers can be pretty nerve-wracking, but we embraced the chaos and took some questions on Reddit. We highlight some of the questions that were asked and go over how we found ourselves on reddit to begin with.
Who We Are & What We Do: A short post highlighting a video we made to help us continue hiring some of the best minds in their fields.
Raising Prices Is Hard: Not all news is good, and in this post we discuss how we approached our first-ever price increase, and why we had to put it off for over a year at the last minute.
Last year we hired 34 people, and this year we’ve outdone ourselves and hired 48! Please help us welcome: Amanda, Brad, Crystal, Shaneika, Mark, Dan, Keith, Nirmal, Malay, Toren, Robert, Zach, Allen, Vincent, Michael H., Julie, Anu, Kim, Nicole, Christine, Queenie, Alex G., Art, Lisa, Cody, Patrick, Fabian, Elton, Matthew, Gloria, Dash, Griffin, Udara, Pavi, Sutton, Jeremy, Michael F., Jordan, Robert, Madeline, Eric, Kerry, Judith, Jonathan, John, Alex Z., Angelica, Foone, and Anna!
If you want to join our team, don’t worry – we still have a lot of openings, and more on the horizon! Keep up to date on our careers page!
Not everything has to be serious—we know how to have a good time!
No, Thank You!: We take a look at some of the nice notes that we’ve received from satisfied customers over the years.
Interview From Storage Pod Pickup Day: While the actual giveaway process turned out to be much more complicated than expected, the pickup day itself went well, and we got to meet lots of fans—one even brought us cookies!
Backing Up The Death Star: We take a look at the back up philosophies of the Jedi Counsel, Empire, and First Order and what might have been…(minor spoilers for the films leading up to Rise of Skywalker).
There’s always a ton of numbers swirling around and here’s a few that we thought were interesting!
9% – The number of people who were backing up their files at least once a day according to our annual backup survey. In 2018, that number was 6%—we love seeing that trending upwards!
48,300,000,000+ – The number of files that Backblaze has recovered for our customers (both Personal Backup and Business Backup) since we started counting in 2011 (we only started keeping track 3 years after launching the service).
1,038,333,133 – The number of files that Backblaze restored in November of 2019 for our Personal and Business Backup customers. And that’s not including the amount of files that were transacted in B2 Cloud Storage. That’s purely the number of files that we’ve recovered on the back up side of our business. And that number makes us feel good!
115,151 – Spinning hard drives in our data center (boot drives included).
We’re updating our iOS and Android apps! Starting today, B2 users will be able to access data stored in B2 Cloud Storage through Backblaze Mobile. For years, our mobile apps have allowed our personal users to access all of their backed up data on the go. With version 5.0, we’re now enabling the same access for B2 users to do the same!
What’s New in Backblaze Mobile 5.0
B2 Cloud Storage support has been added. If you have B2 enabled on your Backblaze account, you can now access your B2 buckets, browse files inside the buckets, and download them to your mobile device. Once downloaded, you can view, work with, and share them like you would any other file on your mobile device or tablet.
Whether it’s a video that you want to show off, or a large presentation—you can now download it to your device without worrying about most file sizes. The only things to keep in mind are the available space on your device and your mobile data charges if you’re not on a WiFi connection! The file size limits have been bumped up to 5GB for your Personal Backup data, and uncapped if you are downloading B2 Cloud Storage files.
We’ve improved the apps, making them more performant and efficient—whether you’re using a brand new phone or a hand-me-down. We’ve also updated the apps to provide a better experience on tablets and larger devices—including updating the preview screen to make things even easier.
To get the latest and greatest Backblaze Mobile experience, update your apps or download them from your local app stores today on Google Play or the App Store.
Gift giving time is rapidly approaching and we at Backblaze are always interested to see what cool new things we can give our loved ones. This year we’ve rounded up a ton of games, watches, and streaming devices. Whether you’re planning for countless family gatherings over the coming months, or are just participating in the Reddit Gift exchange—these are sure to delight!
HDD Watch (A blast from the past…)
This was in our 2014 holiday gift guide, but we wanted to revisit it because it’s left the crowd-funding space and is now readily available for purchase. We love this watch for obvious reasons.
We have a lot of athletes at the Backblaze office and this watch is becoming a favorite of theirs. If you want smart-watch capabilities, but with a fitness-first approach, this is a great watch to get started with. It’s ambidextrous, so both iOS and Android users can enjoy it.
Apple Watch 5
It’s hard to mention watches without talking about the Apple Watch 5. The latest version of the Apple Watch is feature-rich and the go-to for Apple fans. It’s faster, it has more storage space, but the most revolutionary improvement from this version? It actually functions as a watch with the new always-on display. Crazy.
This is the watch for everyone out there who misses their Pebble. I had each iteration of the Pebble and this looks like something that could have been the “next step”—but with analog watch hands. The cool thing is, they move away when you’re reading messages, which is pretty slick!
If you don’t have a backyard but want to flex your green thumb, this is a great way to start your own indoor garden. This is perfect for folks in dense urban areas (like the Bay) with tiny apartments!
Do you travel a lot? Need to zip through airports quickly? This luggage-scooter combo has you covered. We can’t speak for the quality, but the idea of watching someone zip along on their luggage makes us giggle.
Scooting too much work? Ride it!
If you can’t be bothered to scoot yourself forward, you can even get a riding piece of luggage. Granted this is still being crowd-funded so your mileage may vary, but this luggage can also follow you around like a well-known bassinet in a popular Disney+ show!
Smarten Up Your TV
The Chromecast Ultra is a great way to get 4K content from your phone, tablet, or computer onto your TV. All you need is the Chrome browser and this dongle, and you’re good to go. A side-benefit of this is that you can have party guests queue up their own favorite music. Though, that might be a downside as well…
Roku Ultra 4K
A great benefit of the Roku is that you can plug your headphones (3.5mm) into the remote and watch TV all night long without bothering your partner.
Fire Stick 4K
This is the easiest way to bring Smart TV capabilities with you when you’re on the go. A few years ago when I traveled more often, I would toss one of these into my suitcase to make hotel-room viewing less of a drag.
Board Games (bored games)
Tip: Go to your local game store for these!
The Backblaze folks play this game at least once a week in the office. It’s one of the better designed games we’ve had a chance to play in recent memory—we highly recommend it! Don’t miss the expansions offered, they add a lot to the game. We highly recommend playing with the Prelude and Colonies expansions!
We haven’t had a chance to dive into this game as frequently as we’d like, but we have it in the office and it’s on standby for when we’re done Terraforming Mars. Early indicators are that it’s a very well designed game and we are excited to dive deeper into it. The spice must flow!
Family trips are made better by having a deck of cards or an easily transportable card game in your suitcase. Dutch Blitz is easy to learn and fun to play, though it does require some lightning quick reflexes from time to time!
Fluxx is a game that’s been around for a while, and we have both Math Fluxx and Firefly Fluxx in the office, both of which we enjoy playing from time to time. The rules are simple, but ever-changing, which makes for some dynamic game-play that can range from 5 to 25 minutes!
Similar to Dutch Blitz, this is a great card game to bring with you when you’re traveling. It’s simple, has the same elements of Monopoly that you know and love, but only takes about 20 minutes instead of the table-flipping 4-hour Monopoly marathons that you grew up with.
Dungeons and Dragons
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention D&D! It’s never too early to start or teach your children how to play. D&D is having a bit of a resurgence and it’s an incredible way to teach creativity, problem solving, math, and interpersonal skills. If you’re just starting out and the thought of creating your own adventure is too daunting, check out Dungeon Masters Guild for some smaller modules that you can use to dip your toes in! If you do buy the handbooks, we recommend showing your local game store some love and purchasing it there!
For That One Friend
What do you get the person who has everything? The ability to make their own stuff! The Prusa Mini should keep them occupied for a while—and might result in them making some gifts for you as a thanks!
And, of course… Backblaze
You know it. You love it. Now gift it!
We hope that some of these ideas spark a little joy or creativity in your gift buying this season. We wish you the best! What are you most looking forward to your loved ones (or enemies?) unwrapping this year?
In order to increase system-wide performance, we’ve undertaken a journey to upgrade some of our core infrastructure. We are scheduling maintenance between 5:00 p.m. — 7:00 p.m. Pacific Time on Monday, October 21st, and likely during the same time period on Monday, October 28th.
Creating Backup restores and B2 Cloud Storage Snapshots
Starting to download newly created restores (restores already downloading should continue)
Uploading to Computer Backup (Personal and Business) will pause (data will continue to be scanned and uploads will resume automatically after the maintenance)
Accessing and downloading data via the Backblaze Mobile Apps
B2 Cloud Storage users may not be able to upload files or authorize accounts (if upload authorization was already given, those uploads will continue)
B2 Cloud Storage users may not be able to create, delete, or update buckets during the maintenance window
Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage will continue to serve files. Not all Backblaze customers will be affected during the following maintenance window, but if you are experiencing issues, you are likely in the subset of users affected.
All Backblaze services are expected to resume once maintenance is complete.
We will be updating this post with information as we go through the system maintenance, as well as updating our Twitter feed for more information.
Announcing Backblaze Cloud Backup 7.0: The Version History and Beyond Release!
This release for consumers and businesses adds one of our most requested enhancements for our Backblaze Cloud Backup service: the ability to keep updated, changed, and even deleted files in your backups forever by extending version history. In addition, we’ve made our Windows and Mac apps even better, updated our Single Sign-on (SSO) support, added more account security options, became Catalina-ready, and increased the functionality of our iOS and Android mobile apps. These changes are awesome and we’re sure you’ll love them!
Extended Version History
Have you ever deleted a file by mistake or accidentally saved over an important bit of work? Backblaze has always kept a 30-day version history of your backed up files to help in situations like these, but today we’re giving you the option to extend your version history to one year or forever. This new functionality is available on the Overview page for Computer Backup, and the Groups Management page if you are using Backblaze Groups! Backblaze v7.0 is required to use Version History. Learn more about versions and extending Version History.
30-Day Version History
All Backblaze computer backup accounts have 30-Day Version History included with their backup license. That means you can go back in time for 30 days and retrieve old versions of your files or even files that you’ve deleted.
1-Year Version History
Extending your Version History from 30 days to one year means that all versions of your files that are backed up — whether you’ve updated, changed, or fully deleted them from your computer — will remain in your Backblaze backup for one year after being modified or deleted from your device. Extending your Version History to one year is an additional $2 per month and is charged based on your license type (monthly, yearly, or 2-year). As always, any charges will be prorated to match up with your license renewal date.
Forever Version History
Extending your Version History from 30 days or one year to forever means that Backblaze will never remove files from your Backblaze backup whether you’ve updated, changed, or fully deleted them from your computer, or not. Extending Version History to forever is similar to one year, at an additional $2 per month (prorated to your license plan type) plus $0.005/GB/month for versions modified on your computer more than one year ago.
This is a great new feature for people who want increased peace of mind. To learn more about Version History, pricing, and examples of how to restore, please visit the Version History FAQ.
MacOS and Windows Application Updates
More Efficient Performance For Uploads
We’ve changed the way that Backblaze transmits large files on your machine by reworking how we group and break apart files for upload. The maximum packet size has increased from 30 MB to 100 MB. This allows the app to transmit data more efficiently by better leveraging threading, which also smoothes out upload performance, reduces sensitivity to latency, and leads to smaller data structures.
Single Sign-On Updates for Backblaze Groups
We added support for Microsoft’s Office 365 in Backblaze Groups, and have made SSO updates to the Inherit Backup State feature so that it supports SSO-enabled accounts. This means that you can now sign into Backblaze using your Office 365 credentials, similar to using Google’s SSO.
Higher Resolution For Easier Viewing of Information
We updated the way our installers and applications looked on higher-resolution displays, making for a more delightful viewer experience!
An OpenSSL issue was causing problems on Intel’s Apollo Lake chipset, but we’ve developed a workaround. Apollo Lake is a lower-end chipset, so not many customers were seeing issues, but now computers using Apollo Lake will work as intended.
We’ve added support for MacOS Catalina and improved some MacOS system messages. MacOS provides some great new features for the Mac and we’ve changed some of our apps’ behavior to better fit Catalina. In Catalina, Apple is now requiring apps to ask for permission more frequently, and since Backblaze is a backup application, we require a lot of permissions. Thus you may notice more system messages when installing Backblaze on the new OS.
Of Note: Backblaze Restores
In order to implement the Version History features, we had to change the way our restore page handled dates. This may not seem like a big deal, but we had a date drop-down menu where you could select the time frames you wanted to restore from. Well, if you have 1-Year or Forever Version History, you can’t have an infinitely scrolling drop-down menu, so we implemented a datepicker to help with selection. You can now more easily choose the dates and times that you’d like to restore your files from.
Backblaze 7.0 Available: October 8th, 2019
We will be slowly auto updating all users in the coming weeks. To update now:
Perform a Check for Updates (right-click on the Backblaze icon)
Want to Learn More? Join Us on October 15th, 2019 at 11 a.m. PT
Want to learn more? Join Yev on a webinar where he’ll go over version 7.0 features and answer viewer questions. The webinar will be available on BrightTalk (registration is required) and you can sign up by visiting the Backblaze BrightTALK channel.
The new operating system from Apple, Mac OS 10.15 Catalina (named after a California island), is releasing any day now and we’ll be ready for it when it does. We’ve had a beta build released for over a month to help us test and make sure that we’re working properly with the new operating system (OS), and we’re seeing positive results from the field! As always, when you are updating to a new OS, make sure you have a good and up-to-date backup in place.
Things to Note With Catalina
You can expect to see more system messages and permission requests from Catalina. As a backup service, Backblaze requires quite a few of them. So, if you are installing Backblaze on Catalina, you may experience more “would you like to give access” messages than you’ve been used to. This is normal behavior in the new OS and in order for Backblaze to perform properly: please allow us those permissions.
Also, we’ve noticed an issue with dark mode (where your apps default to a darker color scheme) in our testing. For the most part, everything looks OK, but in some cases when dark mode is enabled, our app will still appear with the light mode color scheme when launched. We’re working with Apple on this and hoping to get that hammered out soon.
If you’re already running the Catalina beta or are considering getting it on day one, please make sure you are using a Backblaze client that supports it. You can download and install the latest build by doing the following:
Perform a Check for Updates (right-click on the Backblaze icon in the Mac menu bar)
Everyone is faced with the decision to raise prices at some point. It sucks, but in some cases you have to do it. Most companies, especially SaaS businesses, will look at their revenue forecasts, see a dip, run a calculation predicting the difference between the revenue increase and how many customers might leave, and then raise prices if the math looks favorable. Backblaze is not most companies — here’s how we did it.
In February of 2019, we made the announcement that one month later, our prices for our Personal Backup and Business Backup services would be going up by $1: our first price increase for our Computer Backup service since launching the service over a decade ago. What was announced in February 2019 actually started in December 2016, more than two years before the actual price increase would take effect. Why the long wait? We wanted to make sure that we did it right, not just mechanically (there’s a lot of billing code that has to change), but also in how we communicated to our customers and and took them through the process. Oh, and a big reason for the delay was our main competitor leaving the consumer space, but more on that later.
In this post I’ll dive in to our process for how we wanted the price increase to go, why we decided to build the extension program for existing customers, what went in to our communication strategy, and what the reactions were to the price increase, including looking at churn numbers.
Is Raising Prices a Smart Move?
Raising prices, especially on a SaaS product where you’ve built a following, is never an easy decision. There are a ton of factors that come into play when considering what, if any, is the best course of action. Each factor needs to be considered individually and then as a whole to determine whether the price increase will actually benefit the business long term.
Why Raise Prices?
There are many reasons why companies raise prices. Typically it’s to either increase revenue or adjust to the market costs (the total cost associated with providing goods or services) in their sector. In our case it was the latter. In the price increase announcement, we discussed our reasoning in-depth, but it boiled down to two things: 1) adjusting to the market cost of storage (it was no longer decreasing at the rate it was when we first launched the product), and 2) we had spent years enhancing the service and making it easier for people to store more and more data with us, thereby increasing our costs.
One of the core values of Backblaze is to make backup astonishingly easy and affordable. Maintaining a service that is easy to use, has predictable pricing, and takes care of the heavy lifting for our customers was and is very important to us. When we started considering increasing prices we knew that we were going to be messing with the affordable part of that equation, but it was time for us to adjust to the market.
How to Raise Prices?
Most companies say that they love their customers, and many actually do. When we first started discussing exactly how we were going to raise prices we rejected the easiest path, which was to create a pricing table, update the website, and flip a switch. That was the easy way, but it was important for us to do something for the customers who have trusted us with their important files and memories throughout the years. We would still need to build out the pricing table (fun fact: from 2008 to 2017 our prices were hard-coded) but we started thinking about creating an extension program for our existing customers and fans.
The Extension Program
The extension program was a way for existing Backblaze users to prepay for one year of service, essentially delaying their price increase. They would buy 12 months of backup credits for $50 for each computer on their account, and after those credits were used up, the new prices would go into effect on their next renewal. It was a way to say thank you to our existing customers, but there was just one problem — it didn’t exist.
Building the extension program became a six month project in and of itself. First we needed to build a crediting system. Then, we needed to build the mechanism for our customers to actually buy that block of credits and have them applied to their account. Afterwards, we’d need FAQs, confirmation emails, and website changes to help explain the program to our customers. This became a full-time job for a handful of our most senior engineers, and resulted in a six month project before we were ready to put it through our QA testing. The long development time of the project was a large point of consideration, but there were also financial implications that we had to consider.
The extension program was great for customers, but good/bad for Backblaze. Why? By allowing folks to sign up for an extension we were essentially delaying their price increase, therefore delaying our ability to collect the additional revenue. While that was not ideal, the extension program brought in additional revenue from people purchasing those extensions, which was good. However, since those purchases were for credits, that additional revenue was deferred, and we still had to provide the service. So, while good from a cash flow perspective (we moved up about $2M in cash), we had to be very careful about how we accounted for and earmarked that money.
Continuing to Provide Value
Extensions were only part of the puzzle. We didn’t want customers to feel like we were simply raising prices to line our pockets. Our goal is to continue making backup easy and affordable, and we wanted to show our fans that we were still actively developing the service. The simplest way to show forward progress is to make…forward progress. We decided that before the announcement date we needed to have a product release that substantially improved the backup service, and that’s when we started to plan Backblaze Version 5.0, what we dubbed the Rapid Access Release.
Adding to the development time of creating extensions were the projects to speed up both the backup and restore functions of the Backblaze app (those changes were good for customers, but actually increased our cost of providing the service). In addition, customers could now preview, access, and share backed up files by leveraging our B2 Cloud Storage product. To top it off we strengthened our security by adding ToTP as a two-factor verification method. All those features were rolled up into the 5.0 release and were released a few weeks before we were set to announce our price increase, which was scheduled to be announced on August 22nd, 2017.
Another of our core values is open communication, which we equate to being as open as possible. If you have followed Backblaze over the years, you know that we’ve open sourced our storage pod design, shared our hard drive failure statistics, and have told entertaining stories about how we survived the Thailand drive crisis, and the time we were almost acquired. Most companies would never talk about topics like these, but we don’t shy away from hard conversations. In keeping with that tradition, we made the decision to be honest in our announcement about why we were raising prices (market costs and our own enhancements). We also made the decision to not mention one valid reason: inflation.
Our price back in 2008 was $5/month. With the inflation rate, in 2019 that would be around $5.96, so our price increase to $6 was right in-line with the inflation rate. So why not talk about it? We wanted the conversation to be about our business and the benefits that we’re providing for our customers in building a service that they feel is a good value. Bringing up global economics seemed like an odd tactic, considering that we weren’t even keeping up with inflation and ultimately customers got there on their own.
Lol, you guys kill me. A $1 price increase over 10 years? You aren’t even keeping up with inflation
When reading @backblaze blog post justifying their price increase you would think they were changing dramatically, an increase of $1 / month since 2008 barely exceeds inflation for a service that keeps getting better!
We started down the increase path in 2016. In 2017, we designed and released version 5.0, we built and tested our extension program, we lined up our blog post, we wrote up FAQs, and we created customer service emails to let people know what was happening. After all that, we were ready to announce the following month’s price increase at 10am Pacific Time on August 22nd, 2017.
On August 22nd, at 8am, we pulled the plug and cancelled the announcement.
Early that morning news broke that our main competitor, Crashplan, was leaving the consumer backup space. You may be saying: Wait a minute, a main competitor is leaving the market and you have a mechanism to increase your prices in place — that sounds like the perfect day to raise prices! Nope. Another one of our values, is to be fair and good. Raising prices on a day when consumers found out that there were fewer choices in the market felt predatory and ultimately gross. Once we saw the news, we got in a room, quickly decided that we couldn’t raise prices for at least 6 months, and instead we would write a quick blog post inviting orphaned customers to give us a try.
The year following Crashplan’s announcement we saw a huge increase in customers, which is simultaneously good and bad. It was good because of the increased revenue from our newfound customers, but less ideal from an operations perspective, as we were not anticipating an influx of customers. In fact, we were anticipating an increase in churn coinciding with our cancelled price increase announcement. That meant we had to scramble to deploy enough storage to house all of the new incoming data.
We wouldn’t revisit the price increase until a year after the Crashplan announcement.
That decision was not without financial repercussions. Put simply, we gave up $10 per customer per year. And, the decision affected not only our existing customers on August 22nd, but also all of those we would gain over the coming months and years. While this doesn’t factor in potential churn and other variables, when the size of our customer base is fully accounted for, the revenue left on the table was significant. In purely financial terms, raising prices on the day when the industry started having fewer options would have been the right financial decision, but not the right Backblaze decision.
Hindsight Is 20/20
Looking back, releasing version 5.0 earlier that month was a happy accident. What originally was intended to show forward progress to our existing customers was now being looked at by a lot of new customers and prospects as well. The speed increase that we built into the app as part of the release made it possible for people exiting Crashplan’s service to transition to us and get fully backed up more quickly. Because these were people who understood the importance of keeping a backup, having no downtime in their coverage was a huge benefit.
Picking Up Where We Left Off — The Price Increase
Around August of 2018, we decided that enough time had passed and we were comfortable dusting off our price increase playbook. The process proved harder than we thought as we uncovered edge-cases that we had missed the first time around — another happy accident.
The Problem With Long Development Gaps
The new plan was to announce the price increase in December and raise prices in January 2019. When we started unpacking our playbook and going over the plan, we realized that the simple decisions we had made over a year ago were either flawed or outdated. A good example of this was how we would treat two-year licenses. At one point in the original project spec, we decided that we were simply going to slide the renewal date by one year for anyone with a two-year license that purchased an extension, pushing their actual renewal date out a year. Upon thinking about it again, we realized this would cause a lot of customer issues and had to re-do the entire plan for two-year customers, a large part of our install base.
While we did have project sheets and spec documents, we also realized that we had lost a lot of the in the moment knowledge that comes in project development. We found ourselves constantly saying things like, “why did we make this choice,” and “are we sure that’s what we meant here?” The long gap between the original project start date and the day we picked it back up meant that the ramp-up time for the extension program was a lot longer than we expected. We realized that we wouldn’t be able to announce the price increase in December, with prices going up at the start of the year: we needed more time, both to QA the extension program and create version 6.0.
Part of the original playbook was to provide value for customers by releasing version 5.0, and we wanted to stick to the original plan. We started thinking about what it would take to have another meaningful release and version 6.0, the Larger Longer Faster Better release was born.
First, we doubled the size of physical media restores, allowing people to get back more of their data more quickly and affordably (this was an oft-requested change, and one that is an example of a good-for-the-customer feature that incurs Backblaze extra costs). We leveraged B2 Cloud Storage again and built in functionality that would allow people to save their backed up data to B2, building off of the previous year’s preview and share capabilities. We made the service more efficient, increased backup speeds again, and also added network management tools. Looking past the Mac and PC apps, we also revamped our mobile offerings by refreshing our iOS and Android apps. All of that added development time again, and our new time table for the price increase was a February 2019 announcement, with the price increase going into effect in March.
Wait a Minute…
You might be saying, you released version 5.0 in a run-up to a price increase, then scrapped it, and then released version 6.0 in a run-up to a price increase. Does that mean that every new version number increase will be followed by a price increase? Absolutely not. The first five versions of Backblaze didn’t precipitate a price increase, and we’re already hard at work on version 7.0 with no planned price increases on the horizon.
Price Increase Announcement
We’ve all been subjected to price increases that were clandestine, then abruptly announced and put into effect the same day, or were not well explained. That never feels great and we really wanted to give customers one month of warning before the prices actually increased. That would give people time to buy the extensions that we worked so hard to build. Conversely, if people were on monthly licenses, or had a renewal date coming up after the price increase went into effect, it would give them an opportunity to cancel their service ahead of the increase. Of course we didn’t want anyone to leave, but realized that any change in our subscription plans would cause a stir and people who were more price-sensitive would likely have second thoughts about renewing.
Another goal was to be as communicative as possible. We wanted our customers to know exactly what we were doing, why we were doing it, and we didn’t want anyone to fall through the cracks of not knowing that this was happening. That meant writing a blog post, creating emails for all Personal Backup customers and Group administrators, and even briefing some members of the press and reviews sites who’d need to update their pricing tables. It might seem silly to pitch the press on a price increase (something that is usually a negative event), but we’ve had some wonderful relationships develop with journalists over the years and it felt like the right thing to do to let them know ahead of time.
Once all of those things were in back in place, it was time to press go, this time for real. The price increase was announced on February 12th and went into effect March 12th.
The Reaction & Churn Analysis
Customer Reaction — Plan for the Worst, Hope for the Best
We didn’t expect the response to be positive. Planning is great, but you never know exactly what’s going to happen until it’s actually happening. We were ready with support responses, FAQs, and a communications plan in case the response was overwhelmingly negative, but were lucky and that didn’t turn out to be the case.
Customers wrote to us and said, finally. Some people went out of their way to express how relieved they were that we were finally going to raise prices, concerned that we had been burning cash over the years. Other sentiments made it clear that we communicated the necessity for the increase and priced it correctly, saying that a $1 increase after 12 years is more than fair.
@GlebBudman Thanks for explaining so clearly and respectfully to your customers online. I am OK with the price increase. A healthy @backblaze means a healthy location for my backups. Well worth the price.
@GlebBudman As a @backblaze customer since May, 2015, I received the notice today of the product price increase by $1 per month to $6. A very fair price adjustment for the service your company provides. No worries. Thank you for such an excellent product. – David | Boston, MA
When the press picked up the story, they had similar sentiments. Yes, it was news that Backblaze was increasing prices, but the reports were positive and very fair. One of the press members that we sent the news to early responded with: “Seems reasonable…”
There were of course some people who were angry and annoyed, and while some of our customers did come to our defense, we did see an increase in churn.
Churn Rate Analysis
Over the next few months we monitored churn carefully to see the true impact on our existing customers from the price increase.
Every time a person leaves Backblaze we send one final email thanking them for their time with us, wishing them well, and asking if they have any feedback. Those emails go directly into our ticketing system where I read all of them every month to get a picture of why people are leaving Backblaze. Sometimes they are reasons we cannot address, but if we can, they go on our roadmap. After the price increase we’ve seen about a 30 percent increase in people saying that they are leaving for billing reasons. It makes sense that more people are citing the price increase as they leave Backblaze, but we’ve had a lot of positive feedback as well from the issues we addressed in versions 5.0 and 6.0.
What about the people who didn’t necessarily write back to our email? We dove deep into the analytics and found that our typical consumer backup service churn rate six months before announcing the price increase was about 5.38 percent. The six months after announcement saw a churn rate of 5.75 percent, which indicates an increase in churn of about 7 percent. In our estimates we anticipated that number being a bit higher for the first year and then coming back down to historical averages after the bulk of our customers had their first renewal at the new price.
New Customer Acquisition
People leaving the service after you increase prices is only half of the equation. The other half lies in your new customer acquisition. Due to the market having competition, raising prices can cause prospective customers to look elsewhere when comparing products. This number was a bit hard for us to calculate since the year prior our biggest competitor for our consumer service went out of business. The best comparable we had was to look at 2017 versus. 2019. We went back to 2017 to look at the historical data and found that even with the increase, and six months afterwards, two year growth rate of our Personal Backup service was a healthy 42 percent.
Lessons Learned From Raising Prices
We learned a lot during this whole process. One of the most important lessons is treating your customers well and not taking them for granted. At the outset we’d sometimes say things like, “it’s only a dollar, who is going to care,” and we’d quickly nip those remarks in the bud and take the process seriously. A dollar may not seem like much, but to a lot of people and our global customers, it was an increase that they felt and that was evidenced in the churn going up by 7 percent.
Some might think, well a 7 percent increase in churn isn’t so bad, you could have raised prices even more, but that’s the wrong lesson to take away. Any changes to the plan we had in place could have yielded very different results.
The extension program was a hit for our existing customers and a welcome option for many. Taking the time to build it resulted in over 30,000 Backblaze Personal Backup accounts buying extensions, which resulted in about $1.8M in revenue. There is a flip-side to this. If those 30,000 accounts had simply renewed at the increased price, we would have made $2.2M, resulting in $366,000 of lost revenue. But that’s only if you assume that all of those customers would have renewed. Some may have churned, and by buying an extension they signaled to us that they were willing to stay with us, even after the price increase goes into effect for them.
As a customer, def happy with the way you handled this. Appreciated the opportunity to buy an extension at the old pricing, comms was clear & direct, and the increase is reasonable. Cheers!
Having a good foundation of community and an open dialog with your customers is helpful. When we made the announcement, we weren’t met with the anger that we were somewhat anticipating. In large part this was due to our customers trusting us, and knowing that this was not something we were doing because we simply wanted to make a few extra bucks.
When your community trusts you, they are willing to hear you out even when the news is not great. Build a good rapport with your customers and it will hopefully buy you the benefit of the doubt once or twice, but be careful not to abuse that privilege.
Similar to having a good community relationship, explaining the why of what is happening helps educate customers and continues to strengthen your connection with them. When I was on reddit and in the blog post comments discussing the price increase, the people on reddit and on our blog who have grown accustomed to our answering questions were comfortable asking some pretty hard ones, and appreciated when we would respond with thoughtful and long-form answers. I cannot stress enough how much we enjoy the conversations we have on these platforms. We learn a lot about who is using Backblaze, what their pain points are, and if there’s something we can do to help them. These conversations really do affect how we create and consider our product roadmap.
So many companies raise their prices chasing profits, keeping it on the low, so it was refreshing to get an email from @backblaze explaining why they have decided to increase theirs for the first time ever – transparent, decent, fair https://t.co/TDG5mknSLp#howbusinessshouldbe
Rarely does anyone want to increase their prices — especially when it affects customers who have been with them for a decade. Many companies don’t want to discuss their decision making process or playbooks, but there are a lot of organizations that face the need to raise prices. Unfortunately, there are few resources to help them thread the needle between something they have to do, and something that their current and future customers will understand and accept.
I wanted to share our journey through our price increase process in hopes that people find it both informative and interesting. Thinking about your customers first may sound like a trope, but if you spend the time to really sit back and consider their reactions and what you can do as a way to thank your existing customers or clients, you can be successful, or at the very least mitigate some of the downside.
If you’ve ever raised prices at your company, or have examples of companies that have done a great job (or a bad job), we’d love to hear those examples in the comments below!
I first met Laura D’Antoni when we were shooting B2 Cloud Storage customer videos for Youngevity and Austin City Limits. I enjoyed talking about her filmmaking background and was fascinated by her journey as a director, editor, and all around filmmaker. When she came to the Backblaze office to shoot our Who We Are and What We Do video, I floated the idea of doing an interview with her to highlight her journey and educate our blog readers who may be starting out or are already established in the filmmaking world. We’ve finally gotten around to doing the interview, and I hope you enjoy the Q&A with Laura below!
Q: How did you get involved in visual storytelling?
My interest in directing films began when I was 10 years old. Back then I used my father’s Hi8 camera to make short films in my backyard using my friends as actors. My passion for filmmaking continued through my teens and I ended up studying film and television at New York University.
Q: Do you have a specialty or favorite subject area for your films?
I’ve always been drawn to dramatic films, especially those based on real life events. My latest short is a glimpse into a difficult time in my childhood, told in reverse Memento-style from a little girl’s perspective.
Most of my filmmaking career I actually spent in the documentary world. I’ve directed a few feature documentaries about social justice and many more short docs for non-profit organizations like the SPCA.
Q: Who are you visual storyteller inspirations? What motivates you to tell your stories?
The film that inspired me the most when I was just starting out was The Godfather: Part II. The visuals and the performances are incredible, and probably my father being from Sicily really drew me in (the culture, not the Mafia, ha!). Lately I’ve been fascinated by the look of The Handmaid’s Tale, and tried to create a similar feel for my film on a much, much tinier budget.
As far as what motivates me, it’s the love for directing. Collaborating with a team to make your vision on paper a reality is an incredible feeling. It’s a ton of work that involves a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, but in the end you’ve made a movie! And that’s pretty cool.
Q: What kind of equipment do you take on shoots? Favorite camera, favorite lens?
For shoots I bring lights, cameras, tripods, a slider and my gimbal. I use my Panasonic EVA-1 as my main camera and also just purchased the Panasonic GH5 as B-cam to match. Most of my lenses are Canon photo lenses; the L-glass is fantastic quality and I like the look of them. My favorite lens is the Canon 70-200mm f2.8.
Q: How much data per day does a typical shoot create?
If I’m shooting in 4K, around 150GB.
Q: How do you back up your daily shoots? Copy to a disk? Bunch of disks?
I bring a portable hard drive and transfer all of the footage from the cards to that drive.
Q: Tell us a bit about your workflow from shooting to editing.
Generally, if the whole project fits onto a drive, I’ll use that drive to transfer the footage and then edit from it as well. If I’ve shot in 4K then the first step before editing is creating proxies in Adobe Premiere Pro of all of the video files so it’s not so taxing on my computer. Once that’s done I can start the edit!
Q: How do you maintain your data?
If it’s a personal project, I have two copies of everything on separate hard drives. For clients, they usually have a backup of the footage on a drive at their office. The data doesn’t really get maintained, it just stays on the drive and may or may not get used again.
Q: What are some best practices for keeping track of all your videos and assets?
I think having a Google Docs spreadsheet and numbering your drives is helpful so you know what footage/project is where.
Q: How has having a good backup and archive strategy helped in your filmmaking?
Well, I learned the hard way to always back up your footage. Years ago while editing a feature doc, I had an unfortunate incident with PluralEyes software and it ate the audio of one of my interview subjects. We ended up having to use the bad camera audio and nobody was happy. Now I know. I think the best possible strategy really is to have it backed up in the cloud. Hard drives fail, and if you didn’t back that drive up, you’re in trouble. I learned about a great cloud storage solution called Backblaze when I created a few videos for them. For the price it’s absolutely the best option and I plan on dusting off my ancient drives and getting them into the cloud, where they can rest safely until someday someone wants to watch a few of my very first black and white films!
Q: What advice do you have for filmmakers and videographers just starting out?
Know what you want to specialize in early on so you can focus on just that instead of many different specialties, and then market yourself as just that.
It also seems that the easiest way into the film world (unless you’re related to Steven Spielberg or any other famous person in Hollywood) is to start from the bottom and work your way up.
Also, remember to always be nice to the people you work with, because in this industry that PA you worked with might be a big time producer before you know it.
Q: What might our readers find surprising about challenges you face in your work?
In terms of my directing career, the most challenging thing is to simply be seen. There is so much competition, even among women directors, and getting your film in front of the right person that could bring your career to the next level is nearly impossible. Hollywood is all about who you know, not what you know, unfortunately. So I just keep on making my films and refuse to give up on my dream of winning an Academy Award for best director!
Q: How has your workflow changed since you started working with video?
I only worked with film during my college years. It definitely teaches you to take your time and set up that shot perfectly before you hit record,; or triple check where you’re going to cut your film before it ends up on the floor and you have to crawl around and find it to splice it back in. Nowadays that’s all gone. A simple command- z shortcut and you can go back several edits on your timeline, or you can record countless hours on your video camera because you don’t have to pay to have it developed. My workflow is much easier, but I definitely miss the look of film.
There’s a saying about good deeds and punishment. What started out as an interesting idea to give away decommissioned Storage Pods to some of our blog readers and fans turned into a mad logistical scramble to get ready for caravans that were forming across the Western US! We get into the details of how this all came together along with some entertaining pictures from the day below, but first, a quick apology! As the person running this madness, I should have done a better job at making sure we were prepared for the amount of interest we’d receive – I apologize and hope that we get a chance to do this again sometime so we can do a better job. Now, back to the fun!
How did this whole thing start?
We have a lot of equipment. A lot. Sometimes that equipment enters the end of its useful life for us. When that happens, we decommission it and the parts get recycled (or fed to robots). This time we decided to remove the data components and give away the entire chassis along with most of the internals. The hope was that these pods, which had performed so dutifully for us at Backblaze, would find a happy home somewhere and bring joy to others in their second life. It turns out that a lot of people were interested in fostering the pods, and we had a lot more demand than we had storage pods. We had about 200 to give away, and it became very clear that we needed to create an RSVP system to make sure people didn’t drive to Sacramento and leave empty-handed. After a few false starts we had a plan, and a great day of pickups!
We enjoyed meeting all of our fans, and were floored by how many different types of people had different use-cases for these pods. We had a lot of people drive in from out of state, from as far as Washington, and one person even flew in from Florida to pick up and ship a few pods home (we can’t quite figure that one out since the cost of the flight and shipping the pod home would have eclipsed the cost of the pod – so if you’re out there Florida Man, please let us know how the trip went!).
We took some pictures and recorded some videos while we were there. We hope you enjoy them and can join us if we ever get to do this again!
We Interviewed Some of the Recipients To See How They Would Use Our Storage Pods
The Backblaze Teams Gets Ready to Hand Out The Pods
Lugging Storage Pods Around Is Hard Work
Some Fans Showed Their Appreciation With Cookies
A Timelapse Video of the Action Throughout The Day
Thanks to everyone that could join us, and we hope to do this again sometime!
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