“New Year, New Me”—or so we like to think around this time. When the clock strikes midnight on January 1st, it feels like a fresh start to achieve something great in the next 366 days you’ve been given (Happy Leap Year!). Whether it’s working out, eating healthy, or going on vacation more often, most everyone’s made a list and aimed to fulfill it at some point in their lives.
This year, we propose keeping your data in mind when considering any new year’s resolutions. Your data is filled with important memories from years past, treasured pictures, essential documents, and personal projects that you do not want to lose. With ransomware affecting increasing numbers of people, there are more reasons than ever before to write “protecting my data” on the top of your list for 2020.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a selection of best practices to get you started. Whether you do one of these or all, you will be taking great steps to protect your data!
Set Up Two Factor Authentication for Your Accounts
Two Factor Authentication (2FA) provides an extra layer of protection against being hacked by adding a second step to verify users. 2FA notifies you whenever someone tries to log in to your account and will not give them access until you enter the second identification code. You can choose from many different delivery options to receive the code, like an SMS text, voicemail, or using an application like Google Authenticator (we recommend the latter as it’s the most secure).
Have a 3, 2, 1 Backup Plan
A 3-2-1 backup strategy means having at least three total copies of your data, two of which are located locally but on different types of media (like an external hard drive), and at least one copy that is offsite. You can store your data offsite with Backblaze’s personal backup or B2 cloud storage options. This will protect you from accidental data loss as a result of natural disasters, malware, or plain old personal error.
Practice Restoring Your Data
We all dread it: a catastrophic drive failure or computer crash. At that moment, you are going to be stressed out and on edge. Preparing ahead of time for the disaster by practicing restores will keep you calm and confident during the crisis. Backblaze has 3 different options for when you need to restore your data: downloading a zip file, ordering a USB drive, or ordering a hard drive. You can also download individual files either at home, or on the go using Backblaze Mobile Apps. Knowing how the restore process works means that should disaster strike, you’ll be cool, calm, and collected.
Protect Your Passwords
Yes, we used the plural version of “password.” Reusing the same password for every account can cause all of them to be vulnerable. Malicious actors will take previously leaked account credentials and try them on different sites, hoping that they have been reused. And they’re often successful. You can use websites like Have I Been Pwned to keep an eye on whether your email addresses and the passwords associated with them have been compromised in the past. Going forward, we recommend using password managers like 1Password or DashLane to aid your use of multiple, different, complex passwords.
Anti-theft your device
Backblaze has a way to track your computer if it is lost or stolen. Our Locate My Computer feature has helped many of our customers out of sticky situations. By allowing users with this feature enabled to see a rough representation of where their computer was last located and the IP address associated with its last known transmission, we’ve helped them to find their beloved machines and recover them safely.
Report Any Suspicious (Phishing) Messages
We’ve all received too many spam calls, texts, and emails at this point. One of the ways we can stop them from happening is reporting unwanted and suspicious emails, texts, and voicemails to the correct sites. The Federal Trade Commission is a great resource to find where to report these attempts and prevent future incidents from happening.
These are some of the things we recommend you do this year to protect your accounts. Do you have a specific way that you protect your data? Let us know in the comments below!
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).
It’s come to our attention here at Backblaze that there’s a movie coming out later this week that some of you are excited about. A few of us around the office might be looking forward to it, too, and it just so happens that we have some special insight into key plot elements.
For instance, did you know that George Lucas was actually a data backup and cloud storage enthusiast? It’s true, and once you start to look, you can see it everywhere in the Star Wars storyline. If you aren’t yet aware of this deeper narrative thread, we’d encourage you to consider the following lessons to ensure you don’t suffer the same disruptions that Darth Sidious (AKA the Emperor, AKA Sheev Palpatine) and the Skywalkers have struggled with over the past 60 years of their adventures.
Because, whether you run a small business, an enterprise, the First Order, or the Rebel Alliance, your data—how you work with it, secure it, and back it up—can be the difference between galactic domination and having your precious battle station scattered into a million pieces across the cold, dark void of space.
Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen any of the movies we’ll reference below, well, you’ve got some work to do: about 22 hours and 30 minutes of movies, somewhere around 75 hours of animated and live action series, a few video games, and more novels than we can list here (don’t even start with the Canon and Legends division)… If you’d like to try, however, now is the time to close this tab.
Though we all know the old adage about “trying”…
Any good backup strategy begins with a solid approach to data security. If you have that in place, you significantly lower your chance of ever having to rely on your backups. Unfortunately, the simplest forms of security were often overlooked during the first eight installments of the Star Wars story…
“Lost a planet, Master Obi-Wan has. How embarrassing!” –Master Yoda
The history of the Jedi Council is rife with infosec issues, but possibly the most egregious is called out when Obi-Wan looks into the origins of a Kamino Saberdart. Looking for the location of the planet Kamino itself within the Jedi Archives, he finds nothing but empty space. Having evidently failed out of physics at the Jedi Academy, Master Kenobi needs Yoda to point out that, if there’s a gravity well suggesting the presence of a planet—the planet has likely been improperly deleted from the archives. And indeed that seems to have been the case.
How does the galactic peacekeeping force stand a chance against the Sith when they can’t even keep their own library safe?
Some might argue that, since the Force is required to manipulate the Jedi Archives, then Jedi training was a certain type of password protection. But there were thousands of trained Jedi in the galaxy at that time, not to mention the fact that their sworn enemies were force users. This would be like Google and Amazon corporate offices sharing the same keycards—not exactly secure! So, at their most powerful, the Jedi had weak password protection with no permissions management. And what happened to them? Well, as we now know, even the Younglings didn’t make it… That’s on the Jedi Archivists, who evidently thought they were too good for IT.
“Most unfortunate about the security breach on Jedha, Director Krennic.” —Grand Moff Tarkin
Of course, while the Jedi may have stumbled, the Empire certainly didn’t seem to learn from their mistakes. At first glance, the Imperial databank on Scarif was head-and-shoulders above the Jedi Archives. As we’ve noted before, that Shield Gate was one heck of a firewall! But Jyn Urso and Cassian Andor exploited a consistent issue in the Empire’s systems: Imperial Clearance Codes. I mean, did anyone in the galaxy not have a set of Clearance Codes on hand? It seems like every rebel ship had a few lying around. If only they had better password management, all of those contractors working on Death Star II might still be pulling in a solid paycheck.
To avoid bad actors poking around your archives or databanks, you should conduct regular reviews of your data security strategies to make sure you’re not leaving any glaring holes open for someone else to take advantage of. Regularly change passwords. Use two factor authentication. Use encryption. Here’s more on how we use encryption, and a little advice about ransomware.
But of course, we’ve seen that data security can fail, in huge ways. By our count, insufficient security management on both sides of this conflict has led to the destruction of 6 planets, the pretty brutal maiming of 2 others, a couple stars being sucked dry (which surely led to other planets’ destruction), and the obliteration of a handful of super weapons. There is a right way folks, and what we’re learning here is, they didn’t know it a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. But even when your security is set up perfectly, disaster can strike. That’s why backups are an essential accompaniment to any security.
The best approach is a 3-2-1 backup strategy: For every piece of data, you have the data itself (typically on your computer), a backup copy on site (in a NAS or simply an external hard drive), and you keep one copy in the cloud. It’s the most reasonable approach for most average use cases. Lets see how the Empire managed their use case, when the stakes (the fate of much of existence) couldn’t have been higher:
“I will take the designs with me to Coruscant. They will be much safer there with my master.”—Count Dooku
We first see the plans for the “super weapon based on Geonosian designs” when Count Dooku, before departing Geonosis, decides that they would be safer housed on Coruscant with Darth Sidious. How wrong he was! He was thinking about securing his files, but it seems he stumbled en route to actually doing so.
By the time Jynn Erso learns of the “Stardust” version of the plans for the Death Star, it seems that Scarif is the only place in the Galaxy, other than on the Death Star itself, presumably, that a person could find a copy of the plans… Seriously? Technically, the copy on Scarif functioned as the Empire’s “copy in the cloud,” but it’s not like the Death Star had an external hard drive trailing it through space with another copy of the plans.
If you only have one backup, it’s better than nothing—but not by much. When your use case involves even a remote chance that Grand Moff Tarkin might use your data center for target practice, you probably need to be extra careful about redundancy in your approach. If the Rebel Alliance, or just extremely competitive corporate leaders, are a potential threat to your business, definitely ensure that you follow 3-2-1, but also consider a multi-cloud approach with backups distributed in different geographic regions. (For the Empire, we’d recommend different planets…)
There’s being backed up, and then there’s being sure you have the right thing backed up. One thing we learn from the plans used to defeat the first Death Star is that the Empire didn’t manage version control very well. Take a close look at the Death Star schematic that Jyn and Cassian absconded with. Notice anything…off?
Yeah, that’s right. The focus lens for the superlaser is equatorial. Now, everyone knows that the Death Star’s superlaser is actually on the northern hemisphere. Which goes to show you that this backup was not even up to date! A good backup solution will run on a daily basis, or even more frequently depending on use cases. It’s clear that whatever backup strategy the Death Star team had, it had gone awry some time ago.
“The rebels managed to destroy the first Death Star. By rebuilding the Death Star, and using it as many times as necessary to restore order, we prove that their luck only goes so far. We prove that we are the only galactic authority and always will be.”―Lieutenant Nash Windrider
We can only imagine that the architects who were tasked with quickly recreating the Death Star immediately contacted the Records Department to obtain the most recent version of the original plans. Imagine their surprise when they learned that Tarkin had destroyed the databank and they needed to work from memory. Given the Empire’s legendarily bad personnel management strategies—force-choking is a rough approach to motivation, after all—it’s easy to assume that there were corners cut to get the job done on the Emperor’s schedule.
Of course, it’s not always the case that the most recent version of a file will be the most useful. This is where Version History comes into the picture. Version History allows users to maintain multiple versions of a file over extended periods of time (including forever). If the design team from the Empire had set up Version History before bringing Galen Erso back on board, they could have reverted to the pre-final plans that didn’t have a “Insert Proton Torpedo Here To Destroy” sign on them.
To their credit, the Death Star II designers did avoid the two-meter-wide thermal exhaust port exploited by Luke Skywalker at the Battle of Yavin. Instead, they incorporated millions of millimeter-sized heat-dispersion tubes. Great idea! And yet, someone seemed to think it was okay to incorporate Millenium Falcon-sized access tunnels to their shockingly fragile reactor core? This shocking oversight seems to be either a sign of an architectural team clearly stressed by the lack of reliable planning materials, or possibly it was their quiet protest at the number of their coworkers who Darth Vader tossed around during one of his emotional outbursts.
Cloud Storage Among the Power (Force) Users
At this point it is more than clear that the rank-and-file of pretty much every major power during this era of galactic strife was terrible at data security and backup. What about the authorities, though? How do they rank? And how does their approach to backup potentially affect what we’ll learn about the future of the Galaxy in the concluding chapter of the Star Wars saga, “The Rise of Skywalker”?
There are plenty of moderately talented Jedi out there, but only a few with the kind of power marshaled by Yoda, Obi-Wan, and Luke. Just so, there are some of us for whom computer backup is about the deepest we’ll ever dive into the technology that Backblaze offers. For the more ambitious, however, there’s B2 Cloud Storage. Bear with us here, but, is it possible that these Master Jedis could be similar to the sysadmins and developers who so masterfully manipulate B2 to create archives, backup, compute projects, and more, in the cloud? Have the Master Jedis manipulated the force in a similar way to use it as a sort of cloud storage for their consciousness?
“If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”—Obi-Wan Kenobi
Over many years, we’ve watched as force ghosts accumulate on the sidelines: First Obi-Wan, then Yoda, Anakin Skywalker, and, presumably, Luke Skywalker himself at the end of “The Last Jedi.” (Even Qui-Gon Jinn evidently figured it out after some post-mortem education.) If our base level theory that Star Wars is actually an extended metaphor for the importance of a good backup strategy, then who better to redeem the atrocious backup track record so far than the strongest Jedi the galaxy has ever known? In backing themselves up to the cloud, does “Team Force Ghost” actually present a viable recovery strategy from Darth Sidious’ unbalancing of the force? If so, we could be witnessing one of the greatest arguments for cloud storage and computing ever imagined!
“Long have I waited…”—Darth Sidious
Of course, there’s a flip-side to this argument. If our favorite Jedi Masters were expert practitioners of cloud storage solutions, then how the heck did someone as evil as Darth Sidious find himself alive after falling to his death in the second Death Star’s reactor core? Well, there is precedent for Sith Masters’ improbable survival after falling down lengthy access shafts. Darth Maul survived being tossed down a well and being cut in half by Obi-Wan when Darth Vader was just a glimmer in Anakin Skywalker’s eye. But that was clearly a case of conveniently cauterized wounds and some amazing triage work. No, given the Imperial Fleet’s response to Darth Sidious’ death, the man was not alive at the end of the Battle of Endor by any conventional definition.
One thing we do know, thanks to Qui-Gon’s conversations with Yoda after his death, is that Dark Siders can’t become force ghosts. In short, to make the transition, one has to give in to the will of the Force—something that practitioners of the Dark Side just can’t abide.
Most theories point to the idea that the Sith can bind themselves to objects or even people during death as a means of lingering among the living. And of course there is the scene in “Revenge of the Sith” wherein Darth Sidious (disguised as Sheev Palpatine) explains how Darth Plagueis the Wise learned to cheat death. How, exactly, this was achieved is unclear, but it’s possible that his method was similar to other Sith. This is why, many speculate, we see our intrepid heroes gathering at the wreckage of the second Death Star: Because Darth Sidious’ body is tied, somehow, to the wreckage. Classic! Leave it up to old Sidious to count on a simple physical backup, in the belief that he can’t trust the cloud…
You Are One With The Force, And The Force Is With You
Are we certain how the final battle of the Star Wars story will shape up? Will Light Side force wielders using Cloud Storage to restore their former power, aid Rey and the rest of our intrepid heroes, and defeat the Sith, who have foolishly relied on on-prem storage? No, we’re not, but from our perspective it seems likely that, when the torch was passed, George Lucas sat J.J. Abrams down and said, “J.J., let me tell you what Star Wars is really all about… data storage.”
We are certain, however, that data security and backup doesn’t need to be a battle. Develop a strategy that works for you, make sure your data is safe and sound, and check it once in awhile to make sure it’s up to date and complete. That way, just like the Force, your data will be with you, always.
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.
Everything that makes working at a creative agency exciting also makes it challenging. With each new client, creative teams are working on something different. One day they’re on site, shooting a video for a local business, the next they’re sifting through last year’s concert footage for highlights to promote this year’s event. When their juices are flowing, it’s as easy for them to lose track of the files they need as it is for them to lose track of time.
If you’re tasked with making sure a team’s content is protected every day, as well as ensuring that it’s organized and saved for the future, we have some tips to make your job easier. Because we know you’d rather be working on your own projects, not babysitting backups or fetching years-old content from a dusty archive closet.
Since we’re sure you’re not making obvious mistakes—like expecting creatives to manually archive their own content, or not having a 3-2-1 backup strategy—we’ll focus on the not-so-obvious tips. Many of these come straight from our own creative agency customers who learned the hard way, before they rolled out a cloud-based backup and archive solution.
Tip #1—Save everything when a client’s project is completed
For successful creative agencies, there’s no such thing as “former” clients, only clients that you haven’t worked with lately. That means your job managing client data isn’t over when the project is delivered. You need to properly archive everything: not just the finished videos, images or layouts, but all the individual assets created for the project and all the raw footage.
It’s not unusual for clients to request raw footage, even years after the project is complete. If you only saved master copies and can’t send them all of their source footage, your client may question how you manage their content, which could impact their trust in you for future projects.
The good news is that if you have an organized, accessible content archive, it’s easy to send a drive or even a download link to a client. It may even be possible for you to charge clients to retrieve and deliver their content to them.
Tip #2—Stop using external drives for backup or archive
If your agency uses external disk drives to back up or archive your projects, you’re not alone. Creative teams do it because it’s dead simple: you plug the drive in, copy project files to it, unplug the drive, and put it on a shelf or in a drawer. But there are some big problems with this.
First, since external drives are removable, they’re easily misplaced. It’s not unusual for someone to take a drive offsite to work on a project and forget to return it. Second, removable drives can fail over time after being damaged by physical impacts, water, magnetic fields, or even “bit rot” from just sitting on a shelf. Finally, locating client files in a stack of drives can be like finding a needle in a haystack, especially if the editor who worked on the project has left the agency.
Tip #3—Organize your archive for self-service access
Oh, the frustration of knowing you already have a clip that would be perfect for a new project, but… who knows where it is? With the right tools in place, a producer’s frustration doesn’t mean you’ll have to drop everything and join their search party. Even if you’re not sure you need a full-featured MAM, your time would be well-spent to find a solution that allows creatives to search and retrieve files from the archive on their own.
Look for software that lets them browse through thumbnails and proxies instead of file names, and allows them to search based on metadata. Your archive storage shouldn’t force you to be on site and instantly available to load LTO tapes and retrieve those clips the editor absolutely and positively has to have today.
Tip #4—Schedule regular tests for backup restores and archive retrievals
When you first set up your backup system, I’m sure you checked that the backups were firing off on schedule, and tested restoring files and folders. But have you done it lately? Since the last time you checked, any number of things could have changed that would break your backups.
Maybe you added another file share that wasn’t included in the initial set up. Perhaps your backup storage has reached capacity. Maybe an operating system upgrade on a workstation is incompatible with your backup software. Perhaps the automated bill payment for a backup vendor failed. Bad things can happen when you’re not looking, so it’s smart to schedule time at least once a month to test your backups and restores. Ditto for testing your archives.
Tip #5 – Plan for long-term archive media refresh
If your agency has been in business more than a handful of years, you probably have content stored on media that’s past its expiration date. (Raise your hand if you still have client content stored on Betacam.) Drive failures increase significantly after 4 years (see our data center’s latest hard drive stats), and tape starts to degrade around 15 years. Even if the media is intact, file formats and other technologies can become obsolete quicker than you can say LTO-8. The only way to ensure access to archived content is to migrate it to newer media and/or technologies. This unglamorous task sounds simple—reading the data off the old media and copying it to new media—but the devil is in the details.
Of course, if you backup or archive to Backblaze B2 cloud storage, we’ll migrate your data to newer disk drives for you as needed over time. It all happens behind the scenes so you don’t ever need to think about it. And it’s included free with our service.
Want to see how all these tips works together? Join our live webinar co-hosted with Archiware on Tuesday, December 10, and we’ll show you how Baron & Baron, the agency behind the world’s top luxury brands from Armani to Zara, solved their backup and archive challenges.
In this blog series, we explore how you can master the nomadic life — whether for a long weekend, an extended working vacation, or maybe even the rest of your career. We profile professionals we’ve met who are stretching the boundaries of what (and where) an office can be, and glean lessons along the way to help you to follow in their footsteps. In our first post in the series, we provided practical tips for working on the road. In this edition, we profile our very own Elliott Sims, Senior Sysadmin, who successfully completes his work for Backblaze while he and his wife and dog travel the country.
How does a Backblaze Senior Systems Administrator manage to look after Backblaze’s network and computer systems while working remotely? He does it by planning ahead to ensure a solid connection to our network at every destination and having multiple options to make sure he’s never without a connection.
As a Senior Sysadmin, Elliott is responsible for doing whatever it takes to keep Backblaze’s services up and running. That ranges from network and Ansible (an IT automation tool) configuration to working with engineering to triage problems or design future systems. Elliott describes his job as a mixture of fixing what’s broken and ensuring that things are less likely to break in the future.
Tenacious planning comes naturally to Elliott. It’s why he’s in his position: he enjoys technical challenges that might deter others, like fixing systems that fail in complicated and hard-to-track-down ways. Previous to Backblaze, Elliott worked for EDS/HP as a systems administrator and later for Facebook as a site reliability engineer and operations engineer. He made the move to Backblaze after he decided he wanted to work with a smaller team. The idea of working for a company that offered a useful service to people outside of the Silicon Valley bubble, where many companies only offer services to one another, was especially appealing.
Elliott and his wife, Robin, got the travel bug during their month-long honeymoon. They didn’t like dealing with unfamiliar hotel rooms and beds and the many places that don’t accept dogs (there was no way they were leaving Stitch behind), so they made the decision to bring their home with them on their travels. In July 2018, they purchased a 19′ Escape trailer RV.
Elliott admits that his choice of vehicles reflects his operations mentality: He wants to stay many steps ahead of what can go wrong in any situation. The Escape travel trailer is solidly built out of two pieces of molded fiberglass, which presents fewer seams where water could leak in. It also is equipped with lithium batteries that last longer and charge faster than other options, which is essential for someone who is using the RV as a mobile office.
Shortly after acquiring the Escape, Elliott and Robin made a commitment to live one year on the road. After six months, they realized that a year would not be long enough. Just one month in Washington, D.C. was clearly insufficient for them to get the know the area as well as they wanted. They changed their plans and resolved to stay on the road indefinitely.
How a Sysadmin Works Remotely
While most companies might not like the idea of a Senior Sysadmin working away from the office, Backblaze didn’t blink. And why would we? Through good planning, Elliott is rarely out of touch with the crew back in San Mateo and in our data centers, and at least once a quarter he visits us in San Mateo along with the rest of the remote Backblaze team. The rest of the time he’s on his own and makes it work despite the varying quality and availability of broadband he encounters on his travels.
Planning ahead means that Elliott knows what kind of broadband to expect at his next destination. It needs to be reliable and fast, as he’ll be working from that location for a number of days.
His first choice for a reliable broadband connection is Wi-Fi, but that’s not always available or sufficiently fast, so he has backup options that include multiple cellular plans and devices. When Wi-Fi doesn’t work for him, he can turn to one of his cellular routers or even tether his computer to his phone.
For Wi-Fi, Elliott uses a directional antenna on his Ubiquiti router to reach access points. He has learned that most of the time the limiting factor isn’t the range to the access point but the backhaul from the WiFi access point to the internet — frequently it just can’t handle the bandwidth required. He explains that public Wi-Fi in urban areas typically has a better backhaul, but unfortunately places like restaurants and cafes often block VPN and SSH, which makes using it for work difficult.
When he started out, Elliott had cellular plans with both AT&T and Verizon through resellers. But after a couple of weeks, the AT&T plan suddenly stopped working and Elliott couldn’t reach the reseller for help. His other plan on Verizon worked OK, but at the same time as AT&T quit on him, Verizon dropped from 4G down to 3G and stayed there. Unfortunately, 3G is being replaced with 4G in many areas, so that limited this options. To add insult to injury, it turned out that the Verizon plan was tied to a specific router, which Elliott had left at home in favor of a dual-SIM unit he was using. Topping it all off was the fact that all of this happened in the middle of nowhere along US-50 in Nevada.
There weren’t any local retail options Elliott could turn to for a fix. He made do for a time with the fair-to-poor RV park Wi-Fi and tethering his laptop to his phone, but cellular gets expensive and Wi-Fi goes downhill fast around 5 p.m. when all the RVers fire up their favorite movie streaming service. Elliott made the decision to turn to the only carrier he knew of with a viable and unlimited plan at that particular moment, T-Mobile. When he reached the next town he signed up for T-Mobile and added that SIM in the router.
Failure is Not an Option — Plan C
As we said earlier, Elliott’s job at Backblaze is making sure that essential data center systems are always working, no matter what. So, we can expect that just Wi-Fi and multiple cellular plans wouldn’t be enough to satisfy Elliott. That’s why he also has a Plan C in his connectivity toolbox. This plan involves tethering his laptop to his phone. It works, but is expensive at $10/GB and doesn’t have the coverage of Verizon or AT&T.
Plan C takes advantage of Google Fi, a MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) that can switch between cellular and Wi-Fi services depending on what’s available, even including less known cell service providers like Commnet, which Elliott encountered while visiting the Grand Canyon.
When he doesn’t have Wi-Fi and can’t make a cellular connection from his dual-SIM cellular router, Elliott can tether his laptop to his phone and use one of the carriers that aren’t Verizon or AT&T. Elliott says he hasn’t fallen back to tethering much due to the high cost, but he’s glad it’s there if everything else fails.
Elliott’s Mobile Office Setup
MacBook Pro laptop issued by Backblaze
Backup/emergency laptop in storage in the RV
Wired Apple keyboard
Logitech MX Ergo trackball
External USB3 monitor
Ubiquiti Nanostation Loco M2 wireless access point with directional Wi-Fi antenna
Pepwave MAX BR1 Mini cellular router
MoFi Network MOFI4500 router
Security and Backup
Living on the road can increase the risk of loss through accident or theft, so Elliott follows strict practices for keeping both his personal and business data safe. Unfortunately, RVs are made of lightweight materials and there’s little one can do to keep a determined thief out. Unlike a house, it’s possible for someone to just hitch the entire thing up and drive away with it. Consequently, Elliott has to rely primarily on digital security. His laptop is secured with full disk encryption using Apple’s FileVault. All communication he does for work is over VPN, SSL, or SSH, which ensures end-to-end encryption.
Being a Backblaze employee, Elliott is on top of keeping everything on his laptop backed up to the Backblaze cloud — especially important with all the uncertainties of traveling. He makes heavy use of both Backblaze Computer Backup and B2 Cloud Storage for securing work and his and Robin’s personal files while on the road.
Elliott also has to make the most of limited space in his 19′ RV. The ergonomics of the dinette table were a problem early on, but Elliott settled on using an Apple keyboard he could prop in his lap and a trackball that fits better on the table instead of his usual mouse. A cushion brings the trackball up to a comfortable height. Elliott has an external USB3 monitor, but the limited table space available makes it impractical to use regularly.
Elliott’s power setup for the RV is extensive — no surprise. He has solar panels on the RV roof, a charger/inverter, lithium batteries, and monitoring systems for the solar systems and the interior temperature.
These systems aren’t just to enable remote computing and living comfort. They want to be able to leave Stitch in the RV for a couple of hours while they shop or go to a movie and not have to worry about the heat. They also want to have the option to camp out in a friend’s driveway for a few days and run everything off a normal 15A outlet (which their inverter/charger’s hybrid mode is great for). The setup also comes in handy when Elliott has to spend the day working from a rest stop with no plugins, or on occasions when the RV campground’s electrical systems strain to keep up with air conditioners running in unusually hot weather.
The two 180W solar panels are the maximum that Elliott could fit on the roof of their small, 19′ trailer. He says that solar tech has improved since then, and he could bump the panels up to 2x200W, but much more than that would be challenging. It’s plenty of power most of the time according to Elliott, but on high-power-usage days or during overcast winter days, it’s not quite enough. He says he’d probably double it if he could.
The 5x100Ah lithium iron phosphate batteries were chosen because they are significantly more power-dense than lead-acids, and basically it was the only way he could cram enough energy capacity into the small space that was available. They’re pretty expensive, though. In theory, the much longer cycle life should make up for it over time, Elliott believes.
Elliott likes his Victron MultiPlus inverter/charger. It’s a high-power true sine wave inverter and high-current charger in one, but the current limiting and hybrid modes are where it really stands out. He can tell it to limit the amount of power it’s pulling from the power hookup by not charging the batteries, or even set it to pull supplemental power from the batteries when needed. This lets him do things like run a long extension cord to a shared 15A outlet and pull only 9A max while still running an air conditioner. Elliott says that will eat into the battery charge a little on really hot days, but usually the A/C cycles off enough that it can keep pace or close to it. The solar setup also helps a little bit in those situations.
Elliott’s battery monitor and solar controller are also from Victron, and he can keep an eye on them from his phone via Bluetooth with their app.
Elliott rigged a nice little system to monitor the temperature for when Stitch is left in the RV. It’s a Raspberry Pi Zero W with a small temperature sensor that’s hardwired in with a 12V->5V converter and reports data to Amazon Cloudwatch via the hardwired mobile router. He has graphing set up on a free Grafana account. The total monthly cost? — $0. He was hoping to also report data from the Victron gear via Bluetooth, but it turns out that although Victron uses standardized protocols for the wired stuff, their Bluetooth communication is proprietary.
Elliott’s Power Setup
2x180W solar panels
5x100Ah lithium iron phosphate batteries
Victron MultiPlus 12/3000/120 inverter/charger
Victron battery monitor
Victron solar controller
Raspberry Pi Zero W DIY temperature monitor
The Adventure Continues
So far, Ariel, Robin, and Stitch have traveled about 8,600 miles and visited 22 U.S. states. Along the way, they’ve especially enjoyed Washington, D.C., the Rockies, and Tahoe. While in Phoenix, they made a stop in the parking lot of Backblaze’s data center, where Elliott was able to work for a while in the data center office, which let him spread out a little bit from the RV’s dining table.
After traveling back and forth across the country, Robin and Elliott decided that the 19′ Escape trailer is just not big enough, so they’re planning to upgrade to a 25′ Bigfoot trailer. That will give them not just more interior room, but a separate shower instead of a shower/toilet combination they currently have to endure. They’ll also gain the ability to walk around the bed, and the trailer will have bigger water and waste tanks. The bigger tanks will provide more flexibility for where they stay as they won’t have to find tank dump facilities as frequently.
The traveling trio are currently in California, not that far from Backblaze’s main office in San Mateo. They won’t stay put for long, however. Future travel plans include heading for the Denver area to visit Robin’s family. Robin will continue to handle a lot of the long haul driving, while Elliott gets the urban driving duties. They definitely want to see more of the Washington, D.C. area, and plan to visit Banff in the Canadian province of Alberta, and maybe Mexico sometime in the future.
Wherever they are, they’ll always be in close touch with Backblaze and we’re glad of that, because we depend on Elliott’s skills in keeping our systems running smoothly 24/7.
We’d Love to Hear Your Digital Nomad Stories
If you consider yourself a digital nomad and have an interesting story about using Backblaze Cloud Backup or B2 Cloud Storage from the road (or wherever), we’d love to hear about it, and perhaps feature your story on the blog. Tell us what you’ve been doing on the road at email@example.com.
You can view all the posts in this series on the Digital Nomads page in our Blog Archives.
The open road has always held an allure of adventure and rebellion. Whether perched on an Indian or Harley-Davidson motorcycle, laid back in an old Chevy truck or a VW van, or sailing a sloop downwind to French Polynesia, who hasn’t daydreamed about breaking away from the daily slog?
Escaping the rat race used to mean separating from traditional employment as well as communication with the rest of the world. There were few jobs, other than those based on special skills and alternative lifestyles, that allowed for a road warrior lifestyle lived far from a business office or a city.
The New Era of Digital Nomads
That’s all changed. With the abundance of internet broadband available through Wi-Fi or cellular connections, most of the populated world can now travel almost anywhere and have access to family, clients, banking, shopping, cloud data, and the other digital services required just to get by in today’s society.
Programming, writing, photography, videography, and piece-work consulting are all naturally suited to a new, peripatetic lifestyle, and many in those fields are models of what a working nomad can do away from traditional work environments. But technologies like 5G and X Reality (XR) are opening the door to intricate tasks that in the past could only be performed in person. Procedures as demanding as remote surgery are now possible using telepresence technology. Who knows what skills and jobs will be able to done from thousands (or even millions of miles) away in the future? After all, today the Mars Rover can be driven by an operator in Pasadena, California.
Combine these new technologies with people’s imagination and creativity, and we can expect the number of people who live and work on the road to explode in coming years.
Our Series on Digital Nomads
In this blog series we’ll explore how you can master the nomadic life — whether for a long weekend, an extended working vacation, or maybe even the rest of your career. We’ll profile some professionals we’ve met who are stretching the boundaries of what (and where) an office can be, and glean lessons along the way to help you to follow in their footsteps.
We’ll be concentrating on those nomads whose needs include heavy data usage, such as videographers and other media and entertainment producers, IT professionals, and anyone else who needs the internet for more than just checking their email and social media and uploading photos from their travels.
Tell Us Your Story of Staying Connected on the Road
If you have a story you’d like to tell about working from the road (or water, air, or wherever you might be), or useful tips about how you make that lifestyle work, we’d love to hear from you. See our invitation at the bottom of this post for how to contact us.
Practical Tips for Digital Nomads
Before we launch into profiles, we’d like to offer a quick selection of tips for any of you considering this lifestyle for yourself. These are just the basics, and we hope you’ll offer your own suggestions in the comments. We’ll update this post with your ideas.
Staying Connected on the Road or Water
Internet connectivity is of course near the top of the list of required utilities for digital nomads. Just four years ago, Backblaze’s CEO Gleb Budman wrote a post about working on the road and gave some tips for how to do it. Many of Gleb’s recommendations are evergreen, but given how far the technology has progressed in four years, we should review the essentials for how to stay connected.
Tip #1 — Plan Ahead to Have the Services You Need
Planning ahead is probably our most important tip. While there are usually plenty of ways to stay connected en route, you’re going to want to be certain to find a reliable connection at your next stop, and you should know in advance where you’re likely to find it. Take advantage of books, articles, and online guides that direct you to the best places to find Wi-Fi and good cellular service.
Coffee shops, libraries, and restaurants can be good bets for connecting, but the bandwidth is likely to be limited and not usable for large uploads. They sometimes don’t allow VPNs and block anything other than web browsing. Paid internet cafes usually provide better bandwidth at a price. If you use the Wi-Fi guides we mention in this post, you’ll be prepared to go directly to the location best suited to your needs.
Next on our tip list is being sure you have a varied toolbox of tech options and service plans that will give you flexibility and increase your chances of finding a spot to connect no matter where you are. You can’t rely on just one cellular plan or a weak Wi-Fi transceiver and the small antenna in your phone to ensure connectivity.
Use network gear that can handle multiple networks and/or devices. You’ll increase your chances of making a connection to a Wi-Fi access point if you have a router or network device that brings more power to the game and can ensure that your device can reach a distant Wi-Fi antenna.
You can use a home router just about anywhere, but consider a device like those from Ubiquiti, Cisco Meraki, or Mikrotik that are a step above home consumer devices and give you more ways to handle multiple networks and distant access points.
Even better in many cases than more power is using a directional antenna to connect with a Wi-Fi access point. Omni-directional antennas work like a lamp, communicating in all directions from the device. Directional antennas work like a flashlight, concentrating their power in the direction you need it to go. The higher the gain of the directional antenna, the narrower the working angle and the longer the range. They’re great if you know exactly where the access point is and you can point your directional antenna right at it from your vehicle or your boat. Here’s an introductory video on using directional antennas.
Have multiple cellular carrier options through plans, devices, or SIM cards (the smart card inside a mobile phone carrying an identification number unique to the owner) to be certain to have coverage wherever you are.
If you have an unlocked, GSM, quad band mobile phone, you can use varied SIM cards from different providers, which is especially valuable when you are out of the country. You can take advantage of any affordable local data plans, make local phone calls, and locals can even call you. SIM cards are available in most countries around the world. You can find them at convenience stores, post offices, and often at grocery stores. Be sure to ask for a local SIM card with data (some SIM cards are for calls only).
Consider a solution like Google Fi that can connect to multiple carriers and switch between cellular and Wi-Fi services depending on what’s available where you are. Google Fi is now available for both Android and Apple smart devices.
Backing up is important for everyone, but it’s especially important to keep files safe when traveling. The possibilities of theft, accidents, and loss all increase while traveling.
Make backup copies of all your valuable files. This can be done with a USB thumbdrive, external drive, or even a NAS in your vehicle or boat. Copy your most recent photos, memos, and other files off your smartphone, camera, or other device to your laptop or external drive that is in turn backed up locally or to the cloud.
Keep a backup copy in the cloud. If you use an automatic backup product, such as from Backblaze, anytime you’re connected to the internet, your files will be copied to the cloud for safekeeping. Storing that copy away from your vehicle or boat adds an excellent layer of protection in cases of catastrophic loss.
Schedule strategically. A popular approach when dealing with limited bandwidth in some locations is to schedule the automatic backup to the cloud during the night while you’re somewhere with connectivity. You’ll start each day knowing that the previous days’ files have been safely backed up to the cloud.
Set up your backup before you head out on the road. Whether it’s on a local drive or in the cloud, you want to be sure your data will be safe before you expose yourself and your work to the rigors of the road.
Data Security Tips:
Change your password. Before you take off on your travels, change the passwords on the accounts you plan to use. Don’t use the same password on different accounts or reuse a password you’ve used previously. Password managers, such as BitWarden, 1Password, or LastPass make handling your passwords easy.
Encrypt your data. Your data is vulnerable, and a small computer, hard drive, or USB drive is easily stolen. Encrypt your drives using an OS or third-party utility. If you use a cloud service, you can encrypt the data so it’s protected during transmission and in the cloud.
Maintain a security wall. You’ll be using a lot of unfamiliar Wi-Fi connections, so be sure to use a connection that is private and secure.
Turn off automatic connection to open Wi-Fi networks.
Don’t use the web to access your bank, financial institutions, or other important sites if you’re not 100% confident in the security of your internet connection.
If you do access a financial, shopping, or other high risk site, make sure your connection is protected with Secure Socket Layer (SSL), which is indicated with a lock icon and the HTTPS prefix in the URL. When you browse over HTTPS, people on the same Wi-Fi network as you can’t snoop on the data that travels between you and the server of the website you’re connecting to. Sites that ask for payment or confidential information should use SSL. If they don’t, stay away.
Turn off sharing on your devices to prevent anyone obtaining access to your device.
Set up a virtual private network (VPN) to protect your connection. A VPN routes your traffic through a secure network even on public Wi-Fi, giving you all the protection of your private network while still having the freedom of public Wi-Fi. Here are some tips for choosing a VPN.
Tip #4 — Connect with the Experts
There is a lot of collective knowledge on the internet for how to work and stay connected on the road. They’ve been there and you can benefit from their experiences.
For those on the water, #boatlife is the hashtag to follow. YouTube has thousands of videos made by people who are living in vehicles or aboard sail, engine, and human-powered boats. These videos have a lot of great and practical information and can help you learn from others’ experiences doing what you want to do. Some search terms to try on YouTube are vanlife, boatlife, digital nomad, and sailing.
There’s a lot of good information from fellow nomads and journalists following the movement both online and in print. Here are a few to follow:
In future posts, we’ll write about people who are making it work living as digital nomads. If you have an interesting story about using Backblaze backup or cloud storage from the road (or air, or water), we’d love to hear about it, and perhaps feature your story on the blog.
Send Us Your Digital Nomad Stories and Tips
Tell us your story at firstname.lastname@example.org. We also welcome suggestions at our email address or in the comments to this post.
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)
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.
We’re very sorry to interrupt your time enjoying the beach, pool, and other fun outdoor and urban places.
We’ve got some important advice you need to hear so that you can be responsible students when you go back to school this fall.
Now that all the students have stopped listening and likely it’s just us now, I’d like to address the parents of students who are starting or about to return to school in the fall.
You’re likely spending a large amount of money on your children’s education. That money is well spent as it will help your child succeed and be good adults and citizens in the future. We’d like to help by highlighting something you can do to protect your investment, and that is to ensure the safety of your students’ data.
Our Lives Are Digital Now — Students’ Especially
We don’t have to tell you how everything in our lives has become digital. That’s true as well of schools and universities. Students now take notes, write papers, read, communicate, and record everything on digital devices.
You don’t want data damage or loss to happen to the important school or university files and records your child (and possible future U.S. president) has on his or her digital device.
Think about it.
Has your child ever forgotten a digital device in a vehicle, restaurant, or friend’s house?
We thought so.
How about water damage?
Yes, us too.
Did you ever figure out what that substance was clogging the laptop keyboard?
We’ve learned that parenting is full of unanswered questions, as well.
Maybe your student is ahead of the game and already has a plan for backing up their data while at school. That’s great, and a good sign that your student will succeed in life and maybe even solve some of the many challenges we’re leaving to their generation.
Parents Can Help
If not, you can be an exceptional parent by giving your student the gift of automatic and unlimited backup. Before they start school, you can install Backblaze Computer Backup on their Windows or Mac computer. It takes just a couple of minutes. Once that’s done, every time they’re connected to the internet all their important data will be automatically backed up to the cloud.
If anything happens to the computer, that file is safe and ready to be restored. It also could prevent that late night frantic call asking you to somehow magically find their lost data. Who needs that?
Let’s Hear From the Students Themselves
You don’t have to take our word for it. We asked two bona fide high school students who interned at Backblaze this summer for the advice they’d give to their fellow students.
My friends do not normally back up their data other than a few of them putting their important school work on Microsoft’s OneDrive.
With college essays, applications, important school projects and documents, there is little I am willing to lose.
I will be backing up my data when I get home for sure. Next year I will ensure that all of my data is backed up in two places.
After spending a week at Backblaze, I realized how important it is to keep your data safe.
Always save multiple copies of your data. Accidents happen and data gets lost, but it is much easier to recover if there is another copy saved somewhere reliable. Backblaze helps with this by keeping a regularly updated copy of your files in one of their secure data centers.
When backing up data, use programs that make sense and are easy to follow. Stress runs high when files are lost. Having a program like Backblaze that is simple and has live support certainly makes the recovery process more enjoyable.
Relax! The pressures of performing well at school are high. Knowing your files are safe and secure can take a little bit of the weight off your shoulders during such a stressful time.
I definitely plan on using Backblaze in the future and I think all students should.
We couldn’t have said it better. Having a solid backup plan is a great idea for both parents and students. We suggest using Backblaze Personal Backup, but the important thing is to have a backup plan for your data and act on it no matter what solution you’re using.
Learning to Back Up is a Good Life Lesson
Students have a lot to think about these days, and with all the responsibilities and new challenges they’re going to face in school, it’s easy for them to forget some of the basics. We hope this light reminder will be just enough to set them on the right backup track.
Have a great school year everyone!
P.S. If you know a student or the parent of a student going to school in the fall, why not share this post with them? You can use the Email or other sharing buttons to the left or at the bottom of this post.
There are many uses for the cloud, and many services that provide storage drives, sync, backup, and sharing. It’s hard for computer users to know which service is best for which use.
Every spring for the past twelve years we’ve commissioned an online survey conducted by The Harris Poll to help us understand if and how computer users are backing up. We’ve asked the same question, “How often do you backup all the data on your computer?” every year. We just published the results of the latest poll, which showed that more surveyed computer owners are backing up in 2019 than when we conducted our first poll in 2008. We’re heartened that more people are protecting their valuable files, photos, financial records, and personal documents.
This year we decided to ask a second question that would help us understand how the cloud compares to other backup destinations, such as external drives and NAS, and which cloud services are being used for backing up.
This was the question we asked:
What is the primary method you use to backup all of the data on your computer?
1 Cloud backup (e.g., Backblaze, Carbonite, iDrive) 2 Cloud drive (e.g., Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive) 3 Cloud sync (e.g., Dropbox, iCloud) 4 External hard drive (e.g., Time Machine, Windows Backup and Restore) 5 Network Attached Storage (NAS) (e.g., QNAP, Synology) 6 Other 7 Not sure
Where Computer Users are Backing Up
More than half of those who have ever backed up all the data on their computer (58 percent) indicated that they are using the cloud as one of the primary methods to back up all of the data on their computer. Nearly two in five (38 percent) use an external hard drive, and just 5 percent use network attached storage (NAS). (The total is greater than 100 percent because respondents were able to select multiple destinations.)
Backup Destinations (Among Those Who Have Ever Backed Up All Data on Their Computer)
What Type of Cloud is Being Used?
The survey results tell us that the cloud has become a popular destination for backing up data. Among those who have ever backed up all data on their computer, the following indicated what type of cloud service they used:
38 percent are using cloud drive (such as Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive)
21 percent are using cloud sync (such as Dropbox or Apple iCloud)
11 percent are using cloud backup (such as Backblaze Computer Backup)
Cloud Destinations (Among Those Who Have Ever Backed Up All Data on Their Computer)
Choosing the Best Cloud for Backups
Backblaze customers or regular readers of this blog will immediately recognize the issue in these responses. There’s a big difference in what type of cloud service you select for cloud backup. Both cloud drive and cloud sync services can store data in the cloud, but they’re not the same as having a real backup. We’ve written about these differences in our blog post, What’s the Diff: Sync vs Backup vs Storage, and in our guide, Online Storage vs. Online Backup.
Put simply, those who use cloud drive or cloud sync are missing the benefits of real cloud backup. These benefits can include automatic backup of all data on your computer, not being limited to just special folders or directories that can be backed up, going back to earlier versions of files, and not having files lost when syncing, such as when a shared folder gets deleted by someone else.
Cloud backup is specifically designed to protect your files, while the purpose of cloud drives and sync is to make it easy to access your files from different computers and share them when desired. While there is overlap in what these services offer and how they can be used, obtaining the best results requires selecting the right cloud service for your needs. If your goal is to back up your files, you want the service to seamlessly protect your files and make sure they’re available when and if you need to restore them due to data loss on your computer.
As users have more time and experience with their selected cloud service(s), it will be interesting in future polls to discover how happy they are with the various services and how well their needs are being met. We plan to cover this topic in our future polls.
• • •
Survey Method This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Backblaze from June 6-10, 2019 among 2,010 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, among whom 1,858 own a computer and 1,484 have ever backed up all data on their computer. This online survey is 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.
For the past twelve years we’ve conducted an annual 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.
How We Are Doing
The good news from this year’s poll is that more computer owners than we’ve ever surveyed (four out of five) have backed up all the data on their computer. That’s up 4 percent from last year and up 15 percent from our first poll in 2008.
The fact that 20 percent of those who own a computer have never backed up all the data on the computer is still alarming, however, 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.
The trend is positive however, as according to the poll, most people back up more frequently now (whether yearly, monthly, weekly, or daily) than they did in 2008.
Key Takeaways From Our Latest Poll
Four in five Americans who own a computer (80 percent) have ever backed up all the data on their computer, which is up from roughly three-quarters (76 percent) in 2018.
9 percent who own a computer back up their computer once a day or more often.
Among those who have ever backed up all data on their computer, nearly three in five (58 percent) use the cloud as the primary method to back up all of the data on their computer, 38 percent use an external hard drive, and just 5 percent use network-attached storage (NAS).
Here’s a detailed look at the numbers from our surveys in 2008 through 2019.
How We Can Improve
Every year after the poll 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, income, and whether they own a computer or not (kinda important, we think, for this poll).
What stood out for us is that more people in 2019 backed up more frequently than in 2008, and we wondered why.
There are a lot of things that get in the way of backing up: managing a household, job(s), taking care of children, travel, and social activities. The fact that more people are backing up more often tells us that they have found a way to make backing up easier and a part of their regular lives.
Our Backing Up Action Plan
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 used 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!
You can 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 and can even refer them to Backblaze using our Refer-a-Friend program. If you’re not a Backblaze customer, consider signing up for a trial, and help us ensure that no one ever loses data again.
• • •
Survey Method 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 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.
12 Power Tips for Business Users of Backblaze Business Backup and B2
1 Manage All Users of Backblaze Business Backup or B2
Backblaze Groups can be used for both Backblaze Business Backup and B2 to manage accounts and users. See the status of all accounts and produce reports using the admin console.
2 Restore For Free via Web or USB
Admins can restore data from endpoints using the web-based admin console. USB drives can be shipped worldwide to facilitate the management of a remote workforce.
3 Back Up Your VMs
Backblaze Business Backup can handle virtual machines, such as those created by Parallels, VMware Fusion, and VirtualBox; and B2 integrates with StarWind, OpenDedupe, and CloudBerry to back up enterprise-level VMs.
4 Mass Deploy Backblaze Remotely to Many Computers
Companies, organizations, schools, non-profits, and others can use the Backblaze Business Backup MSI installer, Jamf, Munki, and other tools to deploy Backblaze computer backup remotely across all their computers without any end-user interaction.
5 Save Money with Free Data Exchange with B2’s Compute Partners
Spin up compute applications with high speed and no egress charges using our partners Packet and Server Central.
6 Speed up Access to Your Content With Free Egress to Cloudflare
You can use Backblaze’s Fireball hard disk array to load large volumes of data without saturating your network. We ship a Fireball to you and once you load your data onto it, you ship it back to us and we load it directly into your B2 account.
8 Use Single Sign-On (SSO) and Two Factor Verification for Enhanced Security
Single sign-on (Google and Microsoft) improves security and speeds signing into your Backblaze account for authorized users. With Backblaze Business Backup, all data is automatically encrypted client-side prior to upload, protected during transfer, and stored encrypted in our secure data centers. Adding Two Factor Verification augments account safety with another layer of security.
9 Get Quick Answers to Your Backing Up Questions
Refer to an extensive library of FAQs, how-tos, and help articles for Business Backup and B2 in our online help library.
10 Application Keys Enable Controlled Sharing of Data for Users and Apps
11 Manage Your Server Backups with CloudBerry MBS and B2
Automate and centrally manage server backups using CloudBerry Managed Backup Service (MBS) and B2. It’s easy to set up and once configured, you have a true set-it-and-forget-it backup solution in place.
12 Protect your NAS Data Using Built-in Sync Applications and B2
Does this sound familiar? An employee walks over with panic and confusion written all over their face. They approach holding their laptop and say that they’re not sure what happened. You open their computer to find that there is a single message displayed:
You want your files? Your computer has been infected with ransomware and you will need to pay us to get them back.
They may not know what just happened, but the sinking feeling in your stomach has a name you know well. Your company has been hit with ransomware, which is, unfortunately, a growing trend. The business of ransomware is a booming one, bringing productivity and growth to a dead stop.
As ransomware attacks increase on businesses of all sizes, ransomware may prove to be the single biggest destructive force for business data, surpassing even hard drive failures as the leader of data loss.
When Ransomware Strikes
It’s a situation that most IT Managers will face at some point in their career. Per Security Magazine, “Eighty-six percent Small to Medium Business (SMB) clients were recently victimized by ransomware.” In fact, it happened to us at Backblaze. Cybersecurity company Ice Cybersecurity published that ransomware attacks occur every 40 seconds (that’s over 2,000 times per day!). Coveware’s Ransomware Marketplace Report says that the average ransom cost has increased by 89% to $12,762, as compared to $6,733 in Q4 of 2018. The downtime resulting from ransomware is also on the rise. The average number of days a ransomware incident lasts amounts to just over a week at 7.3 days, which should be factored in when calculating the true cost of ransomware. The estimated downtime costs per ransomware attack per company averaged $65,645. The increasing financial impact on businesses of all sizes has proven that the business of ransomware is booming, with no signs of slowing down.
How Has Ransomware Grown So Quickly?
Ransomware has taken advantage of multiple developments in technology, similar to other high-growth industries. The first attacks occurred in 1989 with floppy desks distributed across organizations, purporting to raise money to fund AIDS research. At the time, the users were asked to pay $189 to get their files back.
Since then, ransomware has grown significantly due to the advent of multiple facilitators. Sophisticated RSA encryption with increasing key sizes make encrypted files more difficult to decrypt. Per the Carbon Black report, ransomware kits are now relatively easy to access on the dark web and only cost $10, on average. With cryptocurrency in place, payment is both virtually untraceable and irreversible. As recovery becomes more difficult, the cost to business rises alongside it. Per the Atlantic, ransomware now costs businesses more than $75 billion per year.
If Your Job is Protecting Company Data, What Happens After Your Ransomware Attack?
Isolate, Assess, Restore
Your first thought will probably be that you need to isolate any infected computers and get them off the network. Next, you may begin to assess the damage by determining the origins of the infected file and locating others that were affected. You can check our guide for recovering from ransomware or call in a specialized team to assist you. Once you prevent the malware from spreading, your thoughts will surely turn to the backup strategy you have in place. If you have used either a backup or sync solution to get your data offsite, you are more prepared than most. Unfortunately, even for this Eagle Scout level of preparedness, too often the backup solution hasn’t been tested against the exact scenario it’s needed for.
Both backup and sync solutions help get your data offsite. However, sync solutions vary greatly in their process for backup. Some require saving data to a specific folder. Others provide versions of files. Most offer varying pricing tiers for storage space. Backup solutions also have a multitude of features, some of which prove vital at the time of restore.
If you are in IT, you are constantly looking for points of failure. When it comes time to restore your data after a ransomware attack, three weak points immediately come to mind:
1. Your Security Breach Has Affected Your Backups
Redundancy is key in workflows. However, if you are syncing your data and get hit with ransomware on your local machine, your newly infected files will automatically sync to the cloud and thereby, infect your backup set.
This can be mitigated with backup software that offers multiple versions of your files. Backup software, such as Backblaze Business Backup, saves your original file as is and creates a new backup file with every change made. If you accidentally delete a file or if your files are encrypted by ransomware and you are backed up with Backblaze Business Backup, you can simply restore a prior version of a file — one that has not been encrypted by the ransomware. The capability of your backup software to restore a prior version is the difference between usable and unusable data.
2. Restoring Data will be Cumbersome and Time-Consuming
Depending on the size of your dataset, restoring from the cloud can be a drawn out process. Moreover, for those that need to restore gigabytes of data, the restore process may not only prove to be lengthy, but also tedious.
Snapshots allow you to restore all of your data from a specific point in time. When dealing with ransomware, this capability is crucial. Without this functionality, each file needs to be rolled back individually to a prior version and downloaded one at a time. At Backblaze, you can easily create a snapshot of your data and archive those snapshots into cloud storage to give you the appropriate amount of time to recover.
You can download the files that your employees need immediately and request the rest of their data to be shipped to you overnight on a USB drive. You can then either keep the drive or send it back for a full refund.
3. All Critical Data Didn’t Get Backed Up
Unfortunately, human error is the second leading cause of data loss. As humans, we all make mistakes and some of those may have a large impact on company data. Although there is no way to prevent employees from spilling drinks on computers or leaving laptops on planes, others are easier to avoid. Some solutions require users to save their data to a specific folder to enable backups. When thinking about the files on your average employees’ desktops, are there any that may prove critical to your business? If so, they need to be backed up. Relying on those employees to change their work habits and begin saving files to specific, backed-up locations is certainly not the easiest nor reliable method of data protection.
In fact, it is the responsibility of the backup solution to protect business data, regardless of where the end user saves it. To that end, Backblaze backs up all user-generated data by default. The most effective backup solutions are ones that are easiest for the end users and require the least amount of user intervention.
Are you interested in assessing the risk to your business? Would you like to learn how to protect your business from ransomware? To better understand innovative ways that you can protect business data, we invite you to attend our Ransomware: Prevention and Survival webinar on July 17th. Join Steven Rahseparian, Chief Technical Officer at Ice CyberSecurity and industry expert on cybersecurity, to hear stories of ransomware and to learn how to take a proactive approach to protect your business data.
If you’re like me, you can hardly wait for summer to be here. Summer is the time to get outdoors, go swimming, hang out with friends, and enjoy the weather. For many, it’s also a time for graduations, weddings, vacations, visiting family, and grilling in the backyard.
We’re likely to take more photos and go places we haven’t been before. And we take along all our portable gadgets, especially our cameras, phones, and digital music devices.
Unfortunately, being on the move means that the data on our digital devices is more susceptible to loss. We’re often not as careful backing up that data or even keeping track of the devices themselves. Perhaps you’ve had the sad experience of getting back home after a family reunion, company picnic, or vacation and discovering that your phone or camera didn’t make it all the way home with you.
With just a little planning and a few simple practices, you can be certain that your digital memories will last far beyond summer.
Keep All Those Summer Memories Safe
We don’t want you to miss out on all the great summer memories you’re going to create this year. Before summer is actually here, it’s good to review some tips to make sure that all those great memories you create will be with you for years to come.
Summer Data Backup Tips
Even if your devices are lost or stolen, you’ll be able to recover what was on them if you back them up during your trip. Don’t wait until you get home — do it regularly no matter where you are. It’s not hard to make sure your devices are backed up; you just need to take a few minutes to make a plan on how and when you’re going to back up your devices.
Have somewhere to put your backup data, either in the cloud or on a backup device that you can keep safe, give to someone else, or ship home
If You Have Access to Wi-Fi
If your devices are internet-ready, you can back them up to the cloud directly whenever you’re connected.
If you don’t have access to Wi-Fi, you can back up your devices to a laptop computer and then back up that computer to the cloud.
Note: See Safety Tips for Using Wi-Fi on the Go, below.
If You Don’t Have Access to Wi-Fi
If you don’t have access to Wi-Fi, you can back up your devices to a USB thumb drive and carry that with you. If you put it in luggage, put it in a piece of luggage different than where you carry your devices, or give it to a family member to put in their bag or luggage. To be extra safe, it’s easy and inexpensive to mail a thumb drive to yourself when you’re away from home. Some hotels will even do that for you.
Make Sure Your Devices Get Home With You
You want to be careful with your devices when you travel.
Use covers for your phone and cameras. It helps protects them from physical damage and also discourages robbers who are attracted to shiny things. In any case, don’t flash around your nice mobile phone or expensive digital camera. Keep them out of sight when you’re not using them.
Don’t leave any of your digital devices unprotected in an airport security line, at a hotel, on a cafe or restaurant table, beside the pool, or in a handbag on the floor or hanging from a chair.
Be aware of your surroundings. Be especially cautious of anyone getting close to you in a crowd.
It seems silly to say, but keep your devices away from all forms of liquid.
If available, you can use a hotel room or front desk safe to protect your devices when you’re not using them.
Water and Tech Don’t Mix
I love being near or in the water, but did you know that water damage is the most common cause of damage to digital devices? We should be more careful around water, but it’s easy for accidents to happen. And in the summer they tend to happen even more.
Safety Tips for Using Wi-Fi on the Go
Public Wi-Fi networks are notorious for being places where nefarious individuals snoop on other computers to steal passwords and account information. You can avoid that possibility by following some easy tips.
Before you travel, change the passwords on the accounts you plan to use. Change them again when you get home. Don’t use the same password on different accounts or reuse a password you’ve used previously. Password managers, such as 1Password, LastPass, or BitWarden, make handling your password easy.
Turn off sharing on your devices to prevent anyone obtaining access to your device.
Turn off automatic connection to open Wi-Fi networks.
Don’t use the web to access your bank, financial institutions, or other important sites if you’re not 100% confident in the security of your internet connection.
If you do access a financial, shopping, or other high risk site, make sure your connection is protected with Secure Socket Layer (SSL), which is indicated with the HTTPS prefix in the URL. When you browse over HTTPS, people on the same Wi-Fi network as you can’t snoop on the data that travels between you and the server of the website you’re connecting to. Most sites that ask for payment or confidential information use SSL. If they don’t, stay away.
If you can, set up a virtual private network (VPN) to protect your connection. A VPN routes your traffic through a secure network even on public Wi-Fi, giving you all the protection of your private network while still having the freedom of public Wi-Fi. This is something you should look into and set up before you go on a trip. Here are some tips for choosing a VPN.
Share the Knowledge About Keeping Data Safe
You might be savvy about all the above, but undoubtedly you have family members or friends who aren’t as knowledgeable. Why not share this post with someone you know who might benefit from these tips? To email this post to a friend, just click on the email social sharing icon to the left or at the bottom of this post. Or, you can just send an email containing this post’s URL, https://www.backblaze.com/blog/protecting-your-data-when-traveling.
An alert from PagerDuty sets off alarm bells for anyone in IT. Alerts might signify that a disk is nearly full or has failed entirely. Although unpleasant and imminently critical, hard drive failures come as no surprise to IT Managers. They are prepared for those alerts and have likely seen such incidents and failures before. Experience has shown them that it is not a question of if hard drives will fail, but when.
In fact, from the moment they are hired, IT Managers begin protecting company data and assessing points of failure. On that first day, the threat of data loss may inadvertently come from internal mistakes.
When my execs are on the road, what happens if they lose their laptop? How can I get them the latest version of their files, no matter where they are?
Although execs may be the ones losing their laptops, they will surely turn to IT Managers to recover data right away.
Questions continue to build up when thinking about company growth and the impact on IT.
We just hired another five people and the server is almost full. When will I have both time and budget to spin up another one?
IT Managers are typically not lacking in projects; they are often short on time. Budgets certainly matter but time management is also a problem — there already isn’t enough time in the day.
Many of these IT issues can be mitigated if they are tackled early on. The right backup solution is simple, silent, and affordable. A low-touch solution can give IT Managers back two precious resources, time and budget. They can move on to other projects while their backups run automatically in the background, not interrupting their users. The best plan is something that scales as the company grows from its first IT manager through IPO.
A good example of a company that future-proofed their backups is PagerDuty. At the time of their first IT hire, they accurately assessed their current and future backup needs. Here is their story.
Case Study: How PagerDuty Future Proofed Backups
The first thing Matt Spring, IT Manager, noticed when he joined PagerDuty was that they worked in the cloud. While everyone carried around a laptop or perhaps had a desktop system, there were no file servers, no database servers, no mail servers, no servers of any kind located in the office. At first glance, it seemed everyone simply connected to the internet and used cloud-based applications, but as Matt soon discovered many people were also using Mac-based applications as well. Matt instinctively knew he had a backup problem and he had to act to ensure the organization would not lose important data.
The backup problem that Matt faced is one encountered by companies that use both cloud-based and PC/Mac-based applications in their environment. For example, a company might use a cloud-based HR system, but Office applications on their laptops and desktops. While Matt had some confidence the cloud-based data was backed up, the local data on the company’s laptops and desktops was not being backed up.
As Matt was building a list of backup vendors to consider, he included Backblaze. He was familiar with Backblaze because he had been following their Hard Drive Stats blog posts. He appreciated the company’s transparency and included them in the list. His primary criteria for selecting a backup service were:
Able to be installed with little or no user involvement
Automatically back up all the data on a laptop or desktop with no user intervention
As PagerDuty grew, so did the number of laptops and desktops, and Matt and his team ensured that Backblaze was installed on all of them. This was especially important to PagerDuty as some of the newly hired employees worked in locations across the globe. Matt could send them a system provisioned with Backblaze and from the moment the new employee started working, they were being backed up to the Backblaze cloud.
One of the features that Matt likes is how Backblaze scans the users’ system looking for data to back up versus having to pick and choose folders and files. He points out how he once restored an Office autorecovery file from Backblaze when a user forgot to save several hours of work before their system crashed. He commented that, “no other cloud backup system that I know of would have automatically backed up that file.”
Over the years that PagerDuty has been a Backblaze Business Backup customer, they’ve had several instances where they needed to restore data. Every restore has been successful.
As a bonus, most users find the restore process easy enough so they can restore their own files, but Matt and his team have from time to time done complete system restores to replace a failed or lost system.
“No other cloud backup system that I know of would have automatically backed up that file.”
— Matt Spring, PagerDuty
Recently, Matt and his team upgraded for free to the most recent release of Backblaze Business Backup. This release included Business Groups. This feature allows administrators to organize users into groups for billing and management purposes. For example, groups might be created for administrators, executives, and staff. Groups can also be managed or unmanaged. Contractors and interns could be in a managed group where IT controls the restore process, while company employees could be in one or more unmanaged groups, as desired.
Matt Appreciates the Flexibility That Business Groups Provides
As PagerDuty continues to grow, Matt expects the organization to be more and more dispersed, with even more employees and contractors spread out internationally. While this presents many challenges for IT, one thing Matt already has covered is having the data sitting on the company’s laptops and desktops automatically and securely backed up to the Backblaze cloud.
Whether you’re a hobbyist or a professional photographer or videographer, employing a 3-2-1 backup strategy for your valuable photos and videos is critical. A good backup strategy can protect you from accidental or incidental data loss and make sure your working or archived files are available when you need them.
Most photographers and videographers are aware of the necessity to back up their data, but like a lot of things that are good for us, like eating kale and exercising regularly, putting good habits into practice can be challenging. Maybe you’re currently using the cloud as part of your backup or archive strategy, or perhaps you’re still juggling hard disk drives between your workstations, a storage closet, and an offsite location.
If you’re not yet using the cloud, or are still getting familiar with the cloud for data backup and archiving, I’d like to go over some ways in which the cloud can make managing your data easier and provide you with a number of benefits you might not currently enjoy.
A 3-2-1 strategy means having at least three total copies of your data, two of which are local but on different media, and at least one copy that is offsite.
A Typical 3-2-1 Scenario
Let’s use landscape.cr2 as an example file for this scenario. Landscape.cr2 lives on your primary computer. That’s one copy of the data file. You also have an external hard drive or Network-Attached Storage (NAS) that you use for backing up your computer. Your backup program runs on a regular schedule, or whenever a file is added to your system, and backs up landscape.cr2 to your external drive(s). That’s a second copy on a different device or medium. In addition to that external hard drive, you also have an online backup solution that makes another copy of your data. The backup program continuously scans your computer and uploads your data to a data center (aka the cloud). Landscape.cr2 is included in this upload, and that becomes the third copy of your data.
Why Two Onsite Copies and One Offsite Copy?
Whichever kind of computer you are using, an onsite backup is a simple way of having quick access to your data should anything happen to your computer. If your laptop or desktop’s hard drive crashes, and you have been regularly backing up to an external hard drive or NAS, you can quickly get the majority of your data back (or use the external drive on another computer while yours gets fixed or replaced). If you use an automatic backup program, the exposure for data loss is fairly minimal.
Having an onsite backup is a great start, but having an offsite backup is a key component to completing a backup strategy. Onsite backups are easy to set up, but unfortunately having a backup near the device that it’s backing up (for example, having a desktop PC or Mac and an external hard drive on the same desk), means that both of those copies of your data are susceptible to loss in case of fire, theft, water damage, or other unforeseen occurrences.
Most often, if the two devices you have as your local copies are close together, they’ll both be affected if the unfortunate should happen. A continuously updated copy of your data that’s not in the same physical location as the other two is paramount in protecting your files. Even the United States Government recommends this approach. In a 2012 paper for US-CERT (United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team), Carnegie Mellon recommended the 3-2-1 method in their publication titled: Data Backup Options.
The Cloud as Part of 3-2-1
The cloud can make fulfilling the 3-2-1 strategy much easier. And, with recent advances in technology and cost competition, the cloud brings other advantages:
Broadband speed and coverage — Broadband bandwidth has increased and is more widely available while the reach of cellular data service has made many remote locations accessible. It’s possible to upload data to the cloud from home, office, and even when traveling to remote locations. For example, the summit of Mt. Everest now has mobile network service.
If you’re already using 3-2-1, then you’ve made a great start in keeping your data safe. If you’re not yet using the cloud as part of your backup strategy, then you might consider the following advantages of adding it to your data security plans.
Convenience The two offsite copies of your data required by 3-2-1 can be anywhere that’s geographically separated from your primary location. That can be convenient for some, such as for a photographer friend who takes a backup hard disk to leave at his mother’s house during their regular Sunday dinner. It’s not so easy for others, who have to transport or ship disks to other locations to fulfill the diverse location requirement. The cloud handles this without any extra effort.
Durability Cloud data centers are designed to protect data against outages, service interruptions, hardware failures, and natural disasters. Backblaze claims 99.999999999% (11 9s) annual durability for its customers’ data.
Sharing & Collaboration Having data in the cloud can make sharing much easier. Users can control who has access and to what data. Backblaze Backup and B2 Cloud Storage support sharing links that can be sent to anyone who needs permanent or temporary access to stored data. This is ideal if you’re working with second shooters on a project or relaying final deliverables to a client.
Data Ingest/Seeding As digital resolutions increase, media files grow larger and larger. Forty-five megapixel images and 8K digital videos can quickly fill up any storage media and put demands on the time and bandwidth required to transfer data. Some cloud services provide seeding services that enable physical transfer of data directly to the cloud. An example is the Backblaze B2 Fireball, which is a 70 TB hard disk array with 1 GB connectivity that enables the customer to load and ship data securely to Backblaze’s data centers.
Challenges of the Cloud
For some, there are real challenges using the cloud for backing up or archiving data, especially when they have a lot of data, as many photographers and videographers do. As services expand and new technologies are adopted, transfer speeds will continue to increase and should help overcome that hurdle.
In the meantime, here are some tips for meeting these challenges:
Schedule your data uploads for off hours when the network load is light and the transfers won’t impede other data traffic.
Take advantage of data ingest options to seed data to the cloud. It’s definitely faster and can even be more economical compared to other data transfer options.
Be patient. Once you get your initial files uploaded or seeded to the cloud, it becomes much easier to upload incremental updates. In the near-future we will see 5G mobile networks and higher broadband speeds that will make data transfers even faster.
Are you Using the Cloud to Best Advantage?
Backups are great for your active projects, but how do you handle your archives? We recently wrote about the difference between backing up and archiving, and knowing the difference will improve your data management strategy.
Many photographers and videographers are using a backup or even a sync solution for their data when archiving is the approach that better suits their needs. Briefly, a data backup is for recovery from hardware failure or recent data corruption or loss, and an archive is for space management and long term retention. If you’re using a data backup or sync service to store data that you wish to keep permanently or long-term, you’re trying to fit a round peg into a square hole.
What’s the Best Use for Backup?
Working files currently being edited, or in a live project.
Documents, correspondence, application settings, and other transient system information.
What’s the Best Use for Archive?
Finished projects for which you wish to retain all or just the primary data files used.
Photos and videos that you might use again at some time in the future.
Media that has value to your business for possible future sales.
Making the Most of the Cloud
If you’re following a 3-2-1 backup strategy that includes the cloud, you’ll be ahead of 90% of your peers. The cloud is becoming more useful and more economical every day. When you add the security of the cloud, collaboration with clients and peers, and proven durability to that list, the cloud is an unbeatable choice for upping your game in data backup and archiving.
When you open the door to the internet, you have absolutely no idea what is going to come through. That is especially true for Reddit — the front page of the internet and one of the world’s most popular websites. Since Backblaze prides itself on the transparent way we do business, the decision to participate in an IAmA on Reddit was an easy one. It was an exciting opportunity to give people insight into Backblaze and start a conversation with anybody in the world that could lead pretty much anywhere.
If you’re not familiar with a Reddit IAmA (I Am a), it’s a subreddit (/r/IAmA) for question-and-answer interactive interviews. Redditors can ask the subject(s) whatever they wish, which is the reason it is called an AMA, short for “Ask Me Anything.” The resulting comment thread is preserved on Reddit. Backblaze did our first AMA in 2012, so we thought it was time for a second one.
World Backup Day was similarly started when a Reddit user lost their hard drive and wished someone had reminded them to back it up. A small group within the Reddit community realized the importance of backing up and the rising trend of data loss. In an effort to raise awareness, they created World Backup Day. With our goals aligned, in partnership with World Backup Day and Reddit, Backblaze decided to do an IAmA.
In 2012, Backblaze was a smaller company with only 25 petabytes of data under management and fifteen employees. Most of us participated in the IAmA that year. At the time, people wanted to know about the future of Backblaze and the possibility of our company going out of business. Our CTO, Brian Wilson, responded with:
“We’re not going anywhere. We’re happy and profitable.”
Seven years later, both of those statements still hold true.
Of course, in almost a decade since, a lot has changed. We store over 750 PB of customer data from customers in 150+ countries. Our 15 person team has grown to almost 100. But, some things still stay the same — less than 6% of computer owners back up their data once a day or more. So, Backblaze decided to return to Reddit to promote World Backup Day and check in with the internet.
Once again, the most upvoted comment came from our CTO, Brian. When asked why Backblaze forced users to back up their C drive, Brian explained that he wrote the client that way “to solve a very real problem.”
Originally, Backblaze allowed users to de-select their main drive. And a horrible problem appeared almost immediately. Customers began de-selecting their drive, either because they were unaware that the C drive contained data that they might need or simply by mistake. They would then contact our support and find that they were unable to restore their data. This included photos of children that had passed away already (we had two cases of that exact situation), and other irreplaceable data now gone forever.
At that point, Brian re-wrote the client to force the inclusion of the main drive. It was a decision that some didn’t like. However, per Brian, “the fix worked spectacularly well” and we no longer have any customers accidentally losing data because they de-select their drive. Based on the numerous responses from people working in IT, Brian got it right. “Software has to be written for the end user”, one IT guy replied. “All the best and most popular software (and hardware) is simple and easy to learn.”
What Were Some Other Questions?
While we had originally scheduled two hours for the IAmA, we ended up going for five (our social guy, Yev, may still be on there right now).
Among the questions were a couple of requests to show off our Storage Pods. We talked podcast sponsorships, clarified our process for ordering hard drives, and answered hundreds of questions and comments. As of the publication of this blog post, we had over 1,300 comments.
Of interest was how Backblaze continues to provide a truly unlimited computer backup solution. Our industry has seen almost all unlimited solutions vanish from the market. But Backblaze has doubled down on it over the past few years. That begs the question of how we continue to sustainably support the product line. We currently have one customer backing up 430 terabytes for $6 a month. At that price, we are clearly losing money on that customer. However, most of our customers have much less data. So, while we are losing money on that one customer, we are profitable on average. There are other reasons to support the outliers — those customers demonstrate that we are truly unlimited. No service that was throttling or selectively backing up files would enable 430 TB to get backed up. Yes, that ends up being a business cost, but those outlier customers become big evangelists as well. You don’t get that much data without being somewhat of a storage enthusiast. Our CTO, Brian, brought up another great reason: when the product works for the really big outliers, then “it will work really smoothly for the average customer.”
If you are interested in reading more of our IAmA conversation, you can do so on Reddit. Or, if you would like to back up all of your end users’ data in the most simple, reliable way possible, we invite you to try out Backblaze Business Backup.
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