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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A hand holding hard drives up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

AT: Interesting. How did we learn from 2011?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seagate 12 TB hard drive

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

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

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

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

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

• • •

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

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

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

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

Protecting Your Business: Cloud Backup Vs. Cloud Sync

Post Syndicated from Amrit Singh original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/business-cloud-backup-vs-cloud-sync/

illustration of cloud backup, cloud sync, and cloud storage

With so many services out there that offer businesses a way to store and protect files online, they might all seem like the same service. When considering backup and sync strategies, owners often ask, “Can’t we just store all our files on Google Drive or Dropbox and call it a day?” The short answer is no, not if you want to properly protect your business from data loss.

While cloud-based sync services may seem to operate with backup-like functionality, they will not protect you from total data loss. For Pierre Chamberland—founder of NetGovern, an informational governance solution—making this distinction between sync and backup was a vital realization for his company’s information security.

Before rolling out a cloud backup solution for his business, Chamberland designated Microsoft OneDrive as the central source for storing his team’s files and projects. This served as an excellent tool for collaboration and quick and easy access to files. But when Chamberland suspected that not everyone was keeping copies of their data in OneDrive, he decided to conduct an audit. He found that only 20% of his staff had properly backed up their work.

“In the event of a catastrophe, we could lose hours to potentially weeks of work,” Chamberland explained. He needed a way to safely protect all of the company data, which he was able to do by rolling out a proper cloud backup.

Chamberland’s story ends well, but plenty of business owners only learn the difference between backup and sync services in the most painful circumstances: after data loss. This post aims to provide information to help you understand how to best use sync, backup, and cloud storage services together to ensure that your business’s data is stored both securely and in the most optimal way for productivity.

What’s the Difference Between Cloud Sync, Cloud Backup, and Cloud Storage?

It’s helpful to understand how cloud sync, cloud backup, and cloud storage services differ from each other, and how they complement one another. Each performs a unique, helpful service, but learning the differences will help you more effectively put them to work for your specific use case.

Cloud Sync

You’re probably familiar with services like OneDrive, Dropbox Business, or Google Drive. These services sync (short for “synchronize”) files or folders on your computer to your other devices running the same application, ensuring that the same and most up-to-date information is merged across each device.

Sync services allow multiple users across multiple devices to access the same file, making it incredibly useful for collaboration and for sharing information with others. But because these services are designed for syncing, if your coworker deletes a shared file, that change will be reflected across all devices, and you may lose access to that file forever. Though most sync services offer a limited way to restore changed or deleted file versions, they aren’t true backups and remain susceptible to major data loss.

Cloud Backup

A cloud backup tool takes all of the data on your computer and stores it safely somewhere remote from your work environment. It works similarly to a traditional backup which would catalog and save all of the files on your computer to an external hard drive or a storage server on your local network. Except, in this case, your data is stored in an off-site server—also known as “the cloud.”

Cloud backups are optimized to allow businesses to easily recover their data in case a computer is lost, stolen, or compromised. Backups offer various options for data recovery allowing users to quickly access files via web and mobile applications or have their data directly shipped to them via a USB hard drive. The point is, cloud backups ensure complete protection from data loss and are meant to help your business recover swiftly.

Cloud Storage

Cloud storage is what makes cloud sync and cloud backup possible. Cloud storage providers like Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage offer the backend infrastructure for the storage of data, which services like Dropbox or Backblaze Business Backup are built on top of. It is the physical location where backups are stored and syncing occurs.

And yet, while a simple definition of cloud storage is that it is the raw storage that these other services are built on top of, it is also true that you can utilize cloud storage to build a unique service or application.

Most cloud storage providers offer an application programming interface (API) that lets you directly connect to the cloud storage of your choice, giving you the ability to create a service that does exactly what your business needs it to do. Alternatively, you can choose an integration partner that pairs with the cloud storage provider giving you the same direct connection to the cloud without having to do any technical development.

Cloud Sync Is Not the Same as Cloud Backup

Sync services were not built with backup in mind. They often rely on the user having a folder on their computer that is designated for OneDrive, Google Drive, or Dropbox. Users place files into that folder when they want their data to appear on other devices via the sync service.

This is an excellent way to avoid having to email yourself or your team files that need to be shared or worked on together. However, it’s important to remember that files outside of your team’s designated folders, i.e. in Documents, Downloads, Photos, etc., will remain locally stored on your device, and not synced to the cloud.

Just as sync services aren’t the same as cloud backup services, the reverse is also true. Though backup services may allow you various options to remotely access your data and share individual files when you need to, they are not suitable for use as collaboration tools. Instead, cloud backups ensure that all data on one device is backed up safely elsewhere. Instead of having to manually drag and drop files into designated locations, a backup will typically work automatically and in the background of your computer, backing up any new or changed data on the device. In the event of a computer crash, data loss, or ransomware hijack these backed up files will be available for recovery.

When recovering files from a business cloud backup service, it’s important to understand the versioning options they provide. Say you accidentally delete a file, but don’t realize it until a few months later. You may be unable to access the file if versioning limits apply, or you may only have access to the most recent version of the lost file. However, many services now offer features like extended version history, which allows you to recover files from past points in time, so you can easily restore older work.

Here is a table that provides a quick overview and comparison of cloud sync, cloud backup, and cloud storage:

 Cloud SyncCloud BackupCloud Storage
FunctionEnsures that the same and most up-to-date information is merged across each device.All of the data on your computer is stored off-site and in the cloud.The infrastructure on top of which cloud sync and backup services are built.
Use CaseAllows multiple users to access the same file, or files, across multiple devices.Protects and recovers all of the files on your workstation in the event of data loss.Backs up servers or NAS devices, or allows you to build unique services and applications.
BenefitShare and collaborate on work files seamlessly amongst your team.Reliably protect all of the data on your computer automatically.Gain more control and functionality beyond what pre-built services offer.
DownsideIn the event of a major data loss, files that aren’t synced (or are outside of your sync folders) will not be recoverable.Not great for file sharing and collaborating, and some services may have data and bandwidth caps.May require additional resources if you plan to build out custom applications and services for your business.
Automatic or Manual?Manual. Sync services rely on users dropping the files they wish to keep into designated folders on their devices. Files outside of these folders will not be synced to the cloud.Automatic. With little to no configuration, a backup solution regularly and automatically backs up everything, even your designated sync folders.Depends how you choose to set it up. Cloud storage providers will often have integration partners that offer the functionality you’re looking for.
VersioningSync solutions may retain older or deleted versions of your files but these options vary from service to service.May come with features like extended version history which help to recover older files.Great for long-term data archiving and typically priced based on the amount of data stored.

Should My Business Use Cloud Storage?

It’s easy to understand how sync and backup services can help to foster collaboration and data protection in an enterprise because they deal with something we all do: manipulate, share, and save files and data. The question of whether cloud storage might serve a role in your tech stack is slightly more complex.

While cloud backups like Backblaze Business Backup are great for backing up the data on your Mac and PC laptops and computers—these often are not the only devices storing precious information. Some businesses require additional functionality to back up their on-premises server and NAS devices or create applications with unique functionality that serves their purpose. That’s when utilizing a cloud storage service is particularly useful.

Cloud storage providers supply data storage just as utility companies supply power, gas, and water. Cloud storage can be used for data backups, data archives, application data, media libraries, records, or any other type of data. They typically charge by a combination of data ingress, egress (in other words, the data coming and going), and the amount of data stored.

Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage supports integrations with NAS devices, as well as Windows, Mac, and Linux servers. We provide a complete solution for storing all types of data, in partnership with vendors who integrate various solutions into the Backblaze B2 ecosystem. These integration partners offer both hardware and software solutions that pair with B2 Cloud Storage, giving businesses several options when it comes to data storage and management.

Block Storage

What’s Next?

“Our business has a backup strategy in place, so I think we’re done here.”

If only it were that easy. Once your business has a backup plan and has an idea of how to properly utilize sync, backup, and storage, the next step is to routinely check-in and test your backups.

You should test your most important, mission-critical data first, such as tax returns, legal documents, and irreplaceable media. Ensure that the files that are important to you are recoverable and intact by actually trying to recover them.

Don’t wait until disaster strikes to test your restore process and recovery. Seriously. Data loss emergencies are incredibly stressful, and doubly so when you have no idea how to properly find and recover your data. Set a schedule to test your backups and restore processes regularly. If you have more questions about keeping your business data protected, drop a line in the comments below and our team will be happy to help!

The post Protecting Your Business: Cloud Backup Vs. Cloud Sync appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

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

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

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

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

Not Just Compatible, VERY Compatible

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

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

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

“Very Compatible” Means It Works with Your Workflows

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

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

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

What It Means for Our Customers

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

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

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

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

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

—Gavin Wade, Founder & CEO, CloudSpot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BYOD + Backups = A Secure Workforce

Post Syndicated from Amrit Singh original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/byod-and-backups-a-secure-workforce/

Any modern organization should have a backup plan at all times. But as your team grows, finding and implementing a suitable backup strategy can be challenging. As more teams and companies go remote and everyone is dispersed across a range of networks, working on unsanctioned devices, and in various time zones—rolling out a backup solution for your remote team isn’t the only thing on your to-do list. Even small to medium-sized IT teams are put to the test as resources are stretched thin and the challenge of keeping everyone backed up becomes greater.

Understanding the struggles of a strained IT team, Pierre Chamberland, founder & CEO of NetGovern—an information governance software company he founded—made it a top priority to relieve his team from the overhead and burden of managing employee devices. In a recent case study, we took a look at how Chamberland landed on Backblaze as a viable backup solution for his business, how he rolled it out company-wide, and how he and his team continue to practice data backup best practices. Read on for some of the key takeaways from NetGovern’s solution.

How Do You Effectively Back Up a Remote Team?

As a longtime Backblaze Personal Backup customer, Chamberland knew all too well the importance of keeping a proper backup of his data. It all started when he left his laptop on a plane. Sadly, the device was never located, but luckily for him, his data was with Backblaze. He was able to recover all of his files via a USB restore, and his new device was up and running by the time he returned from his trip. “I’ve been convinced of the utility ever since,” Chamberland professed. So when he decided to roll out an innovative device policy at NetGovern, he looked to our Backblaze Business Backup service to harden the plan’s resilience.

Back Up Everything by Default

Chamberland knew that effective protection for his team meant backing up everything by default. This minimizes the risk of losing important data that may otherwise be lost if employees are given the option of selecting what they feel are “critical” backup directories. This approach saves IT teams the hassle and time in making sure employees are properly backing up their data, and a “set it and forget it” client ensures that the least technical person on the team can stay successfully backed up.

In 2018, NetGovern introduced a “Bring Your Own Device,” or BYOD program, where employees choose the device they want within a given budget, and after six months, they own the device. Naturally, employees use this device for both work and personal use, but regardless, Chamberland keeps all of the data backed up. “We made no distinction between personal and business data. Fundamentally, we’re backing up the whole device,” he explained. If employees save locally for whatever reason—ease, habit, slow internet connections—everything on their computer will be recoverable.

Don’t Rely on Sync to Back Up Data

Sync services like Dropbox, iCloud, and Microsoft OneDrive are not true backup solutions. These services sync folders and files across your devices or in the cloud and allow you to access them across each device. These files can be easily shared with others via a unique URL, but changes made to the file will be reflected across all devices. That means if you delete a file from your synced folder, that file will no longer be accessible on your other devices. Sync services also rely on users placing files in designated locations or folders to achieve proper functionality.

Backups, on the other hand, ensure that all of the data on one device has a copy saved elsewhere. By “elsewhere,” we mean the cloud. Backup services typically work automatically and in the background of your computer, backing up new or changed data that is on your computer to another location. In the event of a computer crash or data loss, you’ll be able to recover all of your backed up files. For NetGovern, making the distinction between backups and sync was hugely important.

Before rolling out a full backup solution at NetGovern, Chamberland and his team were using OneDrive, which served as a great tool for collaboration and quick and easy file sharing. Their goal was to use OneDrive as central storage. However, skeptical about how much data was being backed up, Chamberland decided to audit the team. He figured there was work-related content on local devices that was not saved on OneDrive, and he was right. Only 20% of their employees backed up their devices. “In the event of a catastrophe, they could lose hours to potentially weeks of work,” Chamberland contended. They needed a way to safeguard company data without implementing high-touch security protocols.

Test Your Data Recovery and Restores

A backup is great but is only the first step in a complete data backup strategy. Successful data recovery or restoration is the final piece of the puzzle. However, the data recovery process is often overlooked since it isn’t usually an immediate need for most. But as Chamberland can confirm, a data loss emergency is incredibly stressful, and doubly so in a remote scenario. It’s important to set a schedule to test your backups and the restore process regularly. You never know when a hard drive will fail, so it’s best to know the drill before a real-life disaster scenario is underway.

For remote organizations, utilizing a tool like our Backblaze Groups functionality is an easy way to manage your team’s backups, restores, and billing in one place. Groups offers an admin console that allows organizations to employ a low-touch IT approach while still ensuring data security.

To protect their team’s privacy, NetGovern assigned their BYOD devices to an Unmanaged Group where the company only handled billing and payment. Then, they instituted a policy that required employee approval to restore the device. For server devices and shared workstations used by their development operations staff, they continued using a Managed Group to ensure that those key devices could be restored by the business at any time.

Backing Up a Remote Team’s Data Is Simple

Small to medium-sized IT teams don’t have time to troubleshoot or maintain complex solutions. Especially now, as more teams are working remotely, you want a solution that works “out of the box,” requires little to no interfacing with the end user (your employees), and is easy to deploy across your entire organization.

With Backblaze, the click of a button lets you invite the entire team to sign up, install the client, and begin backing up all of your team’s files—all within the same day. IT does not have to manually configure each device, nor be physically present to facilitate the rollout.

For Chamberland, not only is it important to have a backup solution that “just works,” but one that is affordable and scalable as his organization grows. At just $60 per year per device, Chamberland never questioned the decision. “It’s a small price to pay for the peace of mind of our employees. In terms of our HR benefits, it’s a rounding error. It’s way under our coffee budget. I can tell you that,” he remarked. Not only does Backblaze Business Backup allow NetGovern to employ a flexible, forward-thinking device policy that improves IT efficiency, but it also allows them to be certain of how it will affect their budget going forward.

Instilling a Culture of Resilience with Backblaze Business Backup

Read more about how NetGovern implemented Backblaze Business Backup to ensure that essential business data is being backed up and empower their employees with a security mindset.

The post BYOD + Backups = A Secure Workforce appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

The File Cabinet of Doom

Post Syndicated from Nicole Perry original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/the-file-cabinet-of-doom/

We all have that one overflowing file cabinet or possibly a closet we’ve been jamming full of files we think may be important to keep, whether because we might need them one day or they include too much personal information.

This year, with the income tax deadline extended to July 15th, I decided to try to sort through all the files I’ve put aside that I felt were important. I keep the current information I need for filing my taxes near me but the older documents I just throw in a box in my basement. With more time at home this year, I’ve realized that a lot has been “saved” over the years. Nonetheless, keeping the old records might come in handy if I need to produce them to file a claim for a tax refund, if someone steals any of my information, or if a creditor or an insurance company asks for specific records from longer than a few years ago.

After going through the process of sorting my old files and documents, I found that other people around me—family members or friends—also have a lot of important documents they want to digitize and back up, and might not know how to start. I want to help make that process a bit easier for other people and provide some peace of mind that all of your important documents stay safe and easy to access for years to come.

It’s important to note that not all of these files may be tax-related. You may be reading this post because you want to jump start documenting your family history or have old schoolwork that you want to save, and you came to this post to find a quick solution on how to save these paper documents on your computer. The information here can relate to many situations, so read on to learn more!

Things to Keep in Mind Before You Start

This is a great time to go through your documents and decide what’s worth keeping and what you should shred. The IRS recommends that you save your tax documents for three years and sometimes up to seven years depending on what kind of document it is.

Since 1997, the IRS will accept electronic records as long as they are legible and readable. Having your tax documents in a digital format allows you to get more organized with the way you keep them. When scanning your documents you’ll want to pay attention to what you are naming your files and the state that they are in. Make sure the new digital files are set up in a way that when you search later, you can easily find the information you’re looking for.

Getting the Paper Documents to Your Device

When picking a way to digitize the documents it’s all about what kind of device you feel most comfortable with using. If you don’t feel comfortable doing it at all, you can hire a professional to do it for you. Read on to learn more about both of these options.

Desktop Scanners

This is one of the most common methods of scanning. Whether you have a printer with a scanning function or a device only used for document scanning, this will get your documents on to your computer one scan at a time. There are many different kinds of scanners for different use cases so we recommend comparing reviews of scanners to think about the features that best fit your needs.

Using a desktop scanner will take you a while depending on the size of documents you need to scan but it is a good option for a long term project if you prefer to organize your files on your own.

Third-Party Apps for Your Phone

This option will speed up the scanning process a little more compared to using a scanner. These apps like Evernote Scannable or CamScanner will use your phone’s camera to scan printed documents, receipts, family reunion pictures, birth certificates, and more. Some may even have a function that will analyze the type of document and sort it into a folder for you. That means that all of your photo scans are saved in one folder, while scanned documents go in another. Depending on the third-party app that you chose, it could also have connections to sync services, like Dropbox or Google Drive.

Also, depending on the phone that you have, there may be first party apps available as well, like PhotoScan by Google. If you’re using an Apple device, iOS 11 includes a scanning feature built-in to the Notes app, while iOS 13 supports a scan and sync feature in the Files app.

Document Scanning Services

If you have a very large (closet size) amount of documents to save, then you may not feel comfortable doing it all by yourself. This is when a professional can help you with your project. You can send all your files to a company near you that offers document scanning services. They will work with you to digitize all your important documents and even sort them into folders (and possibly subfolders) to keep your paper documents organized and easy to find on your device. They also give you the option to shred documents you no longer need. This option will off-load the stress that may come with going through your big box of document doom.

One thing to note: These services are great for things like photos, but be aware that you will send them your personal, private, or confidential information, and that they will have access to that data.

Now Your Files Are Digital. What’s Next?

Now that you’ve had your documents digitized on to your computer or a hard drive, it’s important to make sure you protect that data from computer damage (spilled coffee can wreak havoc), viruses, and ransomware by backing up your device.

If you’re using a third-party app to scan and sync your tax documents, you’ll want to be sure you’re also backing them up. Using a sync service, like Google Drive or Dropbox, doesn’t guarantee that your data stays protected. (We go into the details of the differences between sync and backup in this post.) These things may sound very similar but the important difference is that a sync service lets you access the same files across devices, whereas a backup service saves a copy of the most recent version of your data on your computer to another location. More simply: Sync doesn’t protect your data from accidents or disasters.

If you are new to backing up your data, it’s good to make sure you have three copies of your data, the original and at least two backups: one local, on your desktop or on a hard drive, and one in the cloud. Having backups of your newly digitized data ensures that you will always have your important tax information whenever you may need it. We call this the 3-2-1 backup strategy, and you can read more about what it means, here.

It’s important to actively back up your old tax records (or any records) in case you may need to produce them one day. Digitizing and organizing your documents now will help if that situation ever occurs.

Do you have any tips on backing up paper documents that we didn’t mention above? Share them in the comments below!

The post The File Cabinet of Doom appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Welcome to the Digital Nomad Life

Post Syndicated from Lora Maslenitsyna original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/welcome-to-the-digital-nomad-life/

In early March of this year, Backblaze made the decision to require all employees who could work from home to do so. As various shelter-in-place orders were issued, the vast majority of the country quickly became a workforce working remotely. Now, with a couple of months of work from home behind us, and the indefinite future ahead, we’re all seeing that going to work will probably look a bit different for us for some time to come.

Many people have been working from home with the assumption that they’d be back in the office by fall. While some businesses move forward with reopening, many companies are beginning to consider allowing most of their employees to work remotely on a regular basis. There’s also the potential for future shelter-in-place orders that might require us to keep working from home. All this means that remote work is becoming a new norm rather than an unexpected but short-lived trend.

If you’re someone who has just been “making it work” from home, then you probably haven’t had a moment to think about creating a productive space for yourself. Now’s the time to adjust your setup to optimize your ability to work from home.

Practical Tips for Remote Work

Some of the previous posts in our Digital Nomads series highlight people who have already optimized their remote work setup. They’re experts in working from home or in very remote locations, but many other people aren’t yet. So, we’ve put together a few tips gathered from our remote team, including advice from professionals who already had experience working remotely prior to this year for improving your work from home setup.

Optimize Your Home Office

One of the first things you’ll want to consider is where you’re working. For many of us, our homes aren’t set up for productivity because we’re used to going into an office. At home, it might feel a bit more difficult to concentrate on work when distractions, space adjustments, and new routines need to be managed. Some people have room in their homes to build out a home office, while people with less space might want to focus on a few items that will help them feel more productive.

For many people, working means sitting at their desk for extended periods of time. That makes a comfortable chair particularly important for sustaining focus. If you liked the chair you used in your office, consider reaching out to your office administrator to find out the exact make or model. Aeron chairs are also a good option that provide ergonomic support and customizable options. Aeron chairs tend to be expensive, but Staples also offers quality chairs for a range of budgets.

You can also look at reviews of office chairs from Wirecutter to learn about the range in types of features to look for in a good chair, even if you end up picking one outside of their recommendations. For example, all you might need to make your desk chair feel most comfortable is a new set of wheels, like these SunnieDog ergonomic office chair wheels.

A chair may not be the only adjustment you might need to make to your home office. Standing desks are a good option for anyone who doesn’t want to do much sitting. The most popular standing desks among our team are Jarvis, Uplift, and IKEA Bekant. Jarvis and Uplift even offer custom options.

Minimize Distractions

Many people are experiencing a lot of distractions while working from home. In the office, we don’t usually have kids running around, or pets who want to go on walks, or roommates who also have to share the new living room-turned-conference room. It could make all the difference in your ability to productively work from home to adjust your environment in a way that minimizes distractions.

Our team and the Digital Nomads we’ve profiled all recommend developing a space for work. For some, that simply means clearing the kitchen table every morning to start the day…and “breaking down” the office to end the work day and unplug.

The important thing to remember is to be mindful of the space that makes you feel most productive. That could mean creating a separate space entirely for work, claiming a corner in a room of your home as a quiet zone, or growing a jungle of house plants in your living room—do what’s best for you! Set up your space in the best way for you to be able to focus on your work.

Keep Your Data Secure

Something that’s easy to take for granted at work is data security. We imagine that the files that we use at work stay at work. But nowadays, we’re taking our work outside of the office. Working remotely means that as individuals, we gain more responsibility for the security of those files.

If this has been the first time you’ve worked outside the office, you might still be getting used to using the same security guidelines at home as you would in the office. Being outside your office network may mean you have more passwords and logins to juggle than ever before. Using a password manager like BitWarden, 1Password, or LastPass can help to stay organized while protecting your work projects. You can also read our guide to preventing ransomware attacks that could compromise all of your work data.

Be Sure to Have a Backup Plan

Speaking of protecting your data, backing up is just as important for your work as it is with your personal files. And if you’re already using Backblaze to protect your personal data, why not ease your mind about your work files, too?

If you’re part of a team that works off of a shared drive or cloud sync service like Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive, then having a backup of your files is all the more important considering sync doesn’t secure them. (If you’re not sure about the difference between cloud sync vs. cloud backup, you can read our handy guide, here.) For distributed teams, Backblaze Business Backup extends our Computer Backup product and adds a number of Admin controls (and other features tailored for disrupted workflows). There is no incremental charge for the extra functionality. Here’s a primer on all of the different options available to you.

Communicate with Your Team

While working from home, it’s hard to communicate with team members you don’t see face-to-face every day. Remote work puts an emphasis on an individual environment, so it can make it more difficult to find time in busy schedules to schedule a meeting or a quick call about a project.

Thankfully, technology can bridge some of those gaps. In place of in-person meetings, most people now hold video calls. And while a comfortable setup for your home office is one thing, upgrading your video setup could make all the difference in connecting with your team over frequent video meetings. We put together a guide with expert advice from TV studio professionals to up your video conferencing game.

Many organizations also use direct messaging applications like Slack so that employees can reach each other quickly and casually without the need for email or a call. Connecting Slack with your calendar automatically shows co-workers whether you’re free to talk or busy in a meeting. It’s the virtual equivalent of seeing that someone’s stepped away from their desk.

Besides adapting to new methods of communication, we’re still dealing with some pre-existing opportunities to enhance productivity. Some of us on the Publishing team suffer from “browser tab proliferation” but we use bookmarking tools and browser extensions that help group and manage tabs. Pocket and Session Buddy are popular options that can help organize some of the content you access often or want to save for later.

Work From Anywhere

In a sense, we can all be Digital Nomads now given more opportunities to take our work remotely. In our previous posts in this series, we’ve interviewed professionals in our team, like Senior System Administrator Elliott, and professionals in other fields, like Chris, Producer and Director at Fin Films, to learn more about their experiences with working outside of a traditional office setting.

This year, a lot has changed, including the fact that there are even more people who are redefining the ways they do their jobs. We’d love to hear your best tips for working remotely in the comments below.

The post Welcome to the Digital Nomad Life appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Building Team Spirit While Working Remotely

Post Syndicated from Ramya Ramamoorthy original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/building-team-spirit-while-working-remotely/

This year, a lot changed about the way we interact socially, and especially at work. To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, we moved the majority of our employees to working from home in early March. Since then, we realized that maintaining and continuing to build the team during the COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders would be essential, and it would take extraordinary additional effort and planning.

Our leadership, HR team, and our “Fun Committee” have all invested in trying to maintain team spirit and culture (Fun Committee is a group dedicated to planning exciting events for the team). They planned online events and virtual hangouts in place of the in-person social gatherings we would normally have, and they asked questions to get people talking to each other more often online. Some things worked to get people to interact and see each other more often, while other things failed to get any response.

Now, as some businesses look to return to their offices, social distancing will still have an impact on gathering together for team building events like an after-work happy hour or a chat in the lunchroom. But with the possibility of additional quarantines in the future, we’re looking to the opportunity of virtual spaces to lift our team spirit. And we’re sure we’re not the only business looking for ways to build our sense of community while socially distant. So, we want to share what has worked and what hasn’t for team building during this strange moment in our history.

Switching Out In-Person Events for Video Calls

Early on, we realized that with shelter-in-place orders shutting down other businesses and ways for people to gather socially, working from home would mean that many people would probably struggle to feel connected to each other on a regular basis. That, and the fact that in the absence of a lunchroom or our office’s communal kitchens, employees no longer had a way to socialize with each other if they so desired. Nothing can replace the ability to connect with someone in person, but we decided to try using technology to our advantage while remaining socially distanced.

This took the form of regularly-scheduled video “hangouts” listed on our company-wide calendar. These meetings are scheduled on different days, at varying times, to accommodate teams’ differing schedules and to ensure that employees can take advantage of their most productive times of day without sacrificing their opportunity to socialize. Backblaze employees who were hired and onboarded after the shelter-in-place orders began can meet other people outside of their teams. Also, employees who have been remote pre-COVID have more opportunities for social interaction with their on-site peers.

Throughout hosting different video hangouts, we learned that it best worked for calls to represent a specific social interaction that would happen in the office.

Enjoying a “Brewtiful Morning” Online

Back in the office, many of us enjoyed chatting with each other while brewing our morning coffee. The coffee debates are fierce—Death Wish Coffee, Peet’s, Henry’s House of Coffee—all have loyalists. Now that the majority of the company works from home, our Office Administrator, Judith, hosts a “Brewtiful Mornings” coffee break on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings that lasts for about half an hour.

Attendance is usually small, which might seem as if the events aren’t popular. Actually, our team says that the small group of people on a call allows them to connect more directly in conversation. As anyone can join the calls, the group changes and people are able to connect with someone new each day.

We also learned that keeping an event going that might only serve a few employees at a time still has great benefits, as some employees prefer to only interact with a few people at a time. While the low attendance at the event might have felt like a failure to bring our team together at first, we realized that it’s an accommodating space for our employees with different communication styles.

Brian’s Office Hours

Backblaze Co-founder and CTO, Brian, hosts weekly office hours on Wednesday afternoons, as do several other members of the Engineering team. However, while other Engineering office hours may cover more technical topics, Brian’s office hours cover a range of topics from why dogs aren’t allowed in our data centers to his opinions on building a business with venture capital vs. bootstrapping and the cutest cat videos ever seen on the internet.

The format ranges from a group discussion to an informational presentation from Brian, but his openness, transparency, and willingness to answer almost any question has made his office hours both educational and entertaining for the employees that attend.

Maintaining Wellness

When quarantine began, Judith implemented virtual yoga and meditation sessions, led by a local instructor, twice a week. Unfortunately, after about a month into quarantine, these sessions were canceled because of low attendance.

The main reason these sessions did not get much participation was because shelter-in-place had just begun at the time and people were still adjusting to their new lifestyles. Between kids and work, it was difficult at first for employees to adjust time for self-care into their schedules. It was also hard to accommodate remote employees’ schedules since they live in different timezones.

Because of this experience, we learned to give our employees some time to adjust to their new schedules before initiating classes or social events. It’s also important to check in with employees to learn more about how their self-care priorities might change over time and create events that they’d like to attend. Finally, we recommend having these classes at different times throughout the week in order to accommodate different schedules.

Keeping the Conversation Going on Slack

Another way we’ve looked to boost team spirit while away from the office is by facilitating ongoing conversations through different Slack channels. We have several Slack channels catering to different interests (cooking, gaming, exercising, you name it!) to help maintain team morale during shelter-in-place. Most channels were created by Judith, but any employee can create one if they’d like. Slack channels work great because people can participate when they have the extra time to do so without having to plan their entire day around an event.

At the start of working from home, employees were quick to share tips about home office setups and their reactions to the shift in their daily routines. Then as time went on, less people seemed to ask questions or spontaneously message the different social channels. Judith’s method of re-engaging everyone in conversation was to act as the main facilitator. She’s always posting something, whether it’s about the news or a reaction to what someone else posted. By being engaged, she encourages others to also get involved.

She also recommends knowing your audience—if your employees love to talk about current events, then it may be worth taking the time out of your mornings to read the news so that you can initiate interesting conversations.

Taking Advantage of Online Opportunities and Flexible Schedules

Since the start of shelter-in-place, our team created a bunch of new Slack channels to stay virtually connected. Although we can no longer casually run into coworkers at the water cooler and chat with them, we’ve shifted those conversations to a channel called #virtualwatercooler.

People don’t see each other throughout the day anymore so they don’t always know what’s new in their coworkers’ daily lives. That’s why Judith initiated a few ongoing trends to make it easier for people to update each other about their day. One of the fun versions of these updates is when employees share pictures of their “co-workers”—this can be their pet, their roommates, or their kids. While many of us wish for a pre-pandemic world, it’s provided us the opportunity to get to know our colleagues in different ways without being intrusive.

In a similar channel called #wfh-help, employees can talk directly about the changes that remote work has brought to their daily routine. They use this channel to share helpful resources like productivity tools and tips on working from home with kids. Everyone’s experience of working from home looks a bit different, but here they can ask advice for advice or connect with someone else who’s experiencing a similar situation.

Adjusting to a Virtual Community

Throughout shelter-in-place, some existing Slack channels had to modify their purpose because they were used to plan in-person team events (like game nights). Instead of going completely silent, employees found ways to invite new members and turn to online spaces for new possibilities.

Prior to shelter-in-place orders, a channel was used to schedule “Terraforming Mars” sessions after work. Nowadays, members can no longer play board games together in person like they used to, but that doesn’t stop them from playing together online.

Now, some employees play “Terraforming Mars” virtually on their computers after work. Others play “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” and a few play “Stellaris.” One of our team members is an avid Twitch streamer, so group members use the Slack channel to notify when their co-worker is going live. Many employees from the channel join in on the fun and hang out virtually.

Dan, our Senior Support Technician and passionate gamer, recommends incorporating a diverse range of games into the mix. Our group at Backblaze plays easier short games like “Fluxx” to longer, more competitive games like “Terraforming Mars.” This helps gamers at all levels feel included.

Special Events

Something we noticed that we’re sure many other organizations are also experiencing is that engagement through ongoing Slack channel conversations and regular video hangouts seems to drop over time. One explanation for this decrease in participation might be an overall sense of fatigue that comes with not being able to interact with people in person for an extended amount of time. While we can’t organize in-person events, we can try new things with our virtual hangouts to get people interested, again.

In addition to our regularly-scheduled digital “programming,” we have also hosted several one-off events, generated by staff ideas and usually hosted by Judith or our Events Marketing Coordinator, Caitlin. These events have featured special guests, or sometimes, our very own team members have shown off their talents. From singing and playing piano to hosting a baking master class, these events have been a great, low pressure way for team members to share the things they’re passionate about. These events also help to provide additional opportunities for employees to engage, and often also have welcomed family members, especially children!

Princess Storytime with Elsa

Thanks to Wish Upon a Star Princess Parties, we were able to invite Queen Elsa of Arendelle to host two special story time sessions with many of our employees’ families, telling the stories of “Frozen” and “Frozen 2.” Each session was about 30 minutes long and included story time, sing-alongs, and time for questions and answers with Elsa.

If you plan to do something like this for your employees, we strongly recommend encouraging parents to join with their kids to help facilitate muting/unmuting to ensure everyone gets a chance to hear and be heard. We heard from many parents after our first story time with Elsa that their kids loved the event, so we took character requests and are working on bringing in “Star Wars” characters, superheroes, and other Disney favorites for future story time sessions!

Sanctuary Tour

One week, a mysterious happy hour event appeared on the company calendar, promising a special “surprise guest.” Those who joined the meeting that day learned that the special guest was none other than Paco the llama, one of the animal ambassadors at Sweet Farm Sanctuary!

Sweet Farm is a local nonprofit that promotes sustainable farming and factory-farm animal rescue. After meeting Paco, we were taken on a virtual tour to meet other animals including cows, pigs, and sheep, and learned more about the farm’s operations and mission.

Several employees shared that they had previously visited Sweet Farm (One had attended a painting class at the farm and had painted a still-life of Paco the llama!), and others expressed interest in visiting once they were able to safely do so, again. Many farms and animal rescues are offering similar opportunities to have an animal “join” your company meeting; if you are interested in doing something like this, we encourage you to choose a local organization, if possible.

Virtual Events Bring Our Teams Together During Shelter-in-Place

Our virtual events and Slack channels have helped us tremendously in maintaining our culture during shelter-in-place. Working from home can be difficult, but as team members, we are there to support one another whether that’s through a quick coffee chat in the morning, a story time with Elsa to keep the kids busy, or fitness challenges to maintain a healthy lifestyle. We’d love to hear more about some of the things your organization has done to build team spirit during shelter-in-place. Share some of the ways your team stays connected while working from home in the comments below.

The post Building Team Spirit While Working Remotely appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Daily Backups Hit an All Time High

Post Syndicated from Yev original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/daily-backups-hit-an-all-time-high/

For the past twelve years we’ve commissioned an annual poll conducted by The Harris Poll asking people the simple question, “How often do you backup all the data on your computer?” and published the results here on the blog. In 2009 we decided to make this an annual event and declared June to be Backup Awareness Month.

Entering this June, we’re curious to see how the changes we’ve seen in the world since the beginning of this year have affected our behavior when it comes to backing up. This year we also asked if people understood the difference between cloud backup and cloud storage—spoiler alert: many don’t. Let’s dig into the numbers!

Are We Backing Up?

There’s good news in this year’s report! Among those who own a computer the percentage who state that they “never” back up all the data on their computer continues to decrease. Even better, the number of people backing up once a year or more frequently is increasing. Even with all that good news though, there’s still work to be done. Roughly one fifth of those who own a computer (19%) say they have “never” backed up all their data. If you add that to those who back up all the data on their computer less than once a year, that number balloons to one in three (33%).

The fact that almost one in five of those who own a computer have never backed up all the data on the computer is still alarming, as they are vulnerable to losing important documents, photos, and other files. We still have work to do to reach all those people to convince them how easy and economical it is to protect their data through regular backups.

But let’s look more closely at the data:

We love seeing that “daily” and “weekly” number increasing. Those are positive trends and more proof that simple backup solutions are causing more people to take action and protect their data.

Trending Upwards

You can see that the number of people who are backing up frequently has increased substantially over the years. As the “daily,” “weekly,” “monthly,” and “yearly” categories increase, we’d expect to see the “never” category decrease, and that’s a great sign of awareness.

Here’s a detailed look at the numbers from our surveys in 2008 through 2019.

Key Takeaways and Fun with Numbers

Every year after the poll is conducted, we sift through the poll data to see what conclusions we can draw from the results. Our pollster gives us demographics about the subjects surveyed such as the region of the U.S. where they live, level of education, household income, and whether they own a computer or not (kind of important, we think, for this poll). Here’s what stood out:

  • Almost one in five (19%) of those who own a computer have never backed up all the data on their computer. We’re making some progress, but with almost 50% of people losing data each year, we want to get that number down much further!
  • 10% of those who own a computer say they back up all the data on their computer once a day or more. That’s the highest daily backup percentage we’ve ever recorded.
  • There’s still a lot of cloud confusion out there with 41% of Americans saying they do not understand the difference between cloud backup and cloud storage. (And for even more nuance: cloud backup vs. cloud sync.)
    The age group with the highest rate of daily or more backup was the 35-44 year old group at 15%—a mix between Gen X and Millennials. (Who’d of thunk it?)
  • The Northeast region of the United States has a high rate of daily backup or more with 15% vs. 9% in the Midwest and only 8% in the West.
  • A few years back, seniors (65+) were the best at backing up, but now as a group they’ve slid back. 30% have never backed up their computer and only 8% back up once a day or more.
  • It seems the folks in the Midwest who own a computer are the most at risk to lose data, with 26% having never backed up all the data on their computer versus 18% each in the Northeast and West, and 17% in the South.
  • Want to back up more often? Think outside the box and have children. Those who are not parents of children under 18 are more likely than those who are to have never backed up all the data on their computer (23% vs. 12%). It would seem that backing up is necessary with children running around…

Past Surveys and Findings

Here are links to our previous blog posts on our annual Backup Awareness Survey:
2019 – More People Than Ever Are Backing Up
2018 – Computer Backup Awareness in 2018: Getting Better and Getting Worse
2017 – Backup Awareness Survey, Our 10th Year
2016 – Data Backup: Are You a Hero or a Zero?
2015 – Computer Backup: Pick a Card, Any Card
2014 – Seniors are the Kings of Data Backup
2013 – The Survey Says: Apathy is Winning
2012 – 10% now back up daily, 90% to go!
2011 – 94% of computer users still risk data loss
2010 – Backup Awareness Month – June 2010
2009 – June is Backup Awareness Month
2008 – In 2008 we did the survey, but did not write a blog post.

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 use solutions like Backblaze Personal Backup and automate their backups, the poll results will continue to improve, but more importantly, people will be less likely to lose their valuable photos, messages, financial records, and other important files and documents.

It will be interesting to see whether the poll results next year show even more people backing up. We hope so.

How You Can Help!

One of the things we’re trying to do is educate people on the different types of cloud services and storage options available. The links above are a great way to learn the differences so that you can choose the right solution for you. Those solutions are important considering that almost 20% of people still don’t back up their computers. We need to get that number down as far as we can!

You can also help improve the results for next year’s survey. If you’re already a Backblaze customer, you can let your friends and family know that backing up is important. You can even refer them to Backblaze using our Refer a Friend feature which allows you to invite your friends to an extended free trial of Backblaze Personal Backup. It’s perfect because they get peace of mind knowing that Backblaze is backing up their computers, and you’ll get a free month of service if they sign up with us! If you’re not a Backblaze customer, consider signing up for a free trial, and help us ensure that no one ever loses data again.

• • •

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 1-3, 2020 (n=1,913), June 6-10, 2019 (n=1,858),
June 5-7, 2018 (n=1,871), May 19-23, 2017 (n=1,954), May 13-17, 2016 (n=1,920), May 15-19,
2015 (n=2,009), June 2-4, 2014 (n=1,991), June 13–17, 2013 (n=1,952), May 31–June 4, 2012
(n=2,176), June 28–30, 2011 (n=2,209), June 3–7, 2010 (n=2,051), May 13–14, 2009
(n=2,154), and May 27–29, 2008 (n=2,723). These online surveys were not based on a
probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact Backblaze.

The post Daily Backups Hit an All Time High appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Cloud Storage for a Perfect “Good Eats” Recipe

Post Syndicated from Lora Maslenitsyna original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/cloud-storage-for-a-perfect-good-eats-recipe/

If you’ve ever wondered about the science behind some of your favorite recipes, then you may have come across Alton Brown and his cooking show, “Good Eats.” Equal parts smart and sardonic, “Good Eats” showed its viewers how to whip up an excellent dish all while teaching about the history and science of the recipes through wacky sketches.

After the popular show ended in 2012, Brown used to tease on social media about a possible comeback. In a moment of serendipity, Eric Bigman, a seasoned video editor and long-time fan of “Good Eats,” found Brown’s business card in a stationary shop in New York City. The next time that Brown posted a hint of reviving the show, Bigman took a chance and emailed Brown directly. He got in touch at just the right time—Brown would go on to hire Bigman to help update some classic episodes as “Good Eats: Reloaded” for the Cooking Channel, and to create fresh episodes as “Good Eats: The Return” for the Food Network.

We’re sharing the story of why Bigman and the team chose to transition from Amazon S3 to Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage as a key ingredient in their infrastructure for “Good Eats: The Return” and “Good Eats: Reloaded,” how this move saved time ongoing by a factor of 100, and how it also eliminated failures worse than any overcooked egg or burnt cake.

Perfecting Recipes and Workflows

To refresh the classic episodes for “Good Eats: Reloaded,” Bigman had to blend together the old footage which had been degraded throughout the retrieval process with new widescreen, high-definition footage. Since he was adjusting to a new team and process, Bigman waited until the end of that first season to archive his data using Amazon S3 while simultaneously trying to finish post-production. He knew that uploading to S3 would take a long time—time he couldn’t spare while trying to deliver 13 episodes on a deadline.

When Bigman’s team then started production for “Good Eats: The Return,” he wanted to work toward a more fluid, integrated process. He started backing up every other week. But he was still facing the same problem as before: The data backup process to Amazon S3 was too time-consuming. What’s more is that Alton Brown was worried about their backups, too. The show meant a lot to him and he didn’t want all of his team’s hard work to disappear in some overnight mishap.

From then on, Bigman tried to back up every night, but he was growing more and more frustrated with Amazon S3. It seemed to him like nine times out of 10, he walked into a pipeline failure in the morning. Babysitting the backup process took up valuable production time during his day, and he felt he couldn’t trust AWS to complete the backup overnight.

Real-Time Solutions Are Essential in Backups, and Cooking

Bigman turned to media solutions integrator CineSys-Oceana for a better backup and archiving solution. They suggested Backblaze B2. Bigman also chose Cyberduck, a libre server and cloud storage browser that integrates with Backblaze B2, to upload data. Now, when they’re in production, Bigman keeps the Cyberduck browser open and continuously uploads to B2 Cloud Storage.

Bigman originally intended to move the show’s archives from Amazon S3 to Glacier to reduce costs. But with Backblaze B2, he doesn’t have to balance access to footage against his budget.
That instant access is critical during filming. Bigman often pulls footage for continuity checks. The real-time workflow and Backblaze’s simplicity ensure that he can always access footage he needs.

Backblaze B2 Makes Remote Work Possible

When they started production on the second season of “Good Eats: Reloaded,” Bigman moved to working from home in New Jersey while the rest of the team continued work in Atlanta. The fully cloud-based setup ensured they could keep their post-production process going without any problems. Bigman’s assistant in Atlanta easily accesses data through the Backblaze website. If Bigman needs a file quickly, his assistant logs in to the Backblaze website and uses the web GUI to drag and drop. It’s quick, easy, and helps spread the work out.

“Good Eats”: A Fine Example of Good Storage

With seamless workflows, instant access, cost-effective storage rates, and virtually zero upload failures, Backblaze saves Bigman the most critical resource on a quick-turnaround production—time. He says that “Time saved is by a factor of 100. I just don’t have to think about it anymore. It’s done, and that means I’m done.”

Read the full case study about how Alton Brown’s post-production team unlocked a seamless, remote workflow and quick backups that let them focus on producing a beloved show.

The post Cloud Storage for a Perfect “Good Eats” Recipe appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

We’ve Got The Solutions (Engineers) For You

Post Syndicated from Ramya Ramamoorthy original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/weve-got-the-solutions-engineers-for-you/

At Backblaze, we are fortunate to serve hundreds of thousands of customers in more than 150 countries. To make this possible, we have a Solutions Engineering team whose main goal is to help existing and potential customers succeed with the technical implementation of their cloud-based workflows. Keep reading to learn how this team of four forms the technical backbone of the Sales team, and how they can help you with challenges you might experience while enabling cloud solutions at your business.

What Makes Backblaze Solutions Engineers Different

In a traditional sales environment, there is a pre- and post-sales engineer. (Want to know more about the difference between sales and solutions engineers? More on that later.) The pre-sales engineer addresses technical questions that a customer may have prior to purchasing the product, while a post-sales engineer assists them with setting up the software and its integrations.

The first thing that sets our solutions engineers apart is that our customers at Backblaze get to work with the same team of people on both sides of the transaction. Their journey starts with an introductory call with a business development representative (BDR), who tries to get a better understanding of the client’s needs and concerns. Once the BDR qualifies the customer, they transfer them to an account executive (AE), who manages the customer’s account.

AEs work closely with solutions engineers (SEs) and ask them to step in when clients have unique technical requests. SEs begin by asking the customer questions to understand the full scope of the problem and offer them the best solution. The types of queries range from topics like writing scripts to partner integrations (more on these subjects later).

But once the problem is solved, and the customer is up and running, they aren’t passed off to another team, as is often the case in other operations. The SEs remain in conversation with customers to ensure they continue to get what they need from our products.

Another thing that sets our SE team apart is that they do not have quotas—their primary goal is to help the customer find the best solution to their needs, not to optimize their potential value for Backblaze. Since solving problems is their sole objective, their titles changed from “sales engineer” to “solutions engineer” in 2018.

Our Solutions Engineering team is built differently because we have a unique approach to business. The SEs work to create long-term relationships with customers because they want to help them succeed throughout the future.

The Team

Our Solutions Engineering team is made up of a solutions engineer manager and three solutions engineers. While all four of them come from diverse backgrounds, they are all well-versed in every aspect related to being an SE (such as writing to our API, testing integrations, and providing workflow recommendations to users), so each of them can step into another person’s role at any given time if needed.

Troy Liljedahl, the Solutions Engineer Manager, started his career at Backblaze as a support technician. He transitioned over to the Solutions Engineering team because he wanted to pursue his passion for helping people, but in a more technical manner. He explained, “The solutions engineer job is the best of both worlds—not only am I getting to help customers succeed, but I am also able to do that by being a technical resource for them.”

Troy trains and manages the three other solutions engineers. Udara Gunawardena, one of the SEs, worked in a technical role at an Apple store during his college days. After graduating and becoming a full stack engineer, he realized that he missed interacting with users. He discovered solutions engineering and quickly made a career switch. Now, his programming background helps him with a number of tasks such as assisting customers who are trying to write to our API.

Another one of our solutions engineers joined the team around the same time as Udara. She completed her master’s in engineering management and worked in sales at a SaaS company. Now, her sales expertise helps her communicate with customers, solve their technical issues, and build strong relationships with them.

Rounding out the team is Mike Farace, who unlike his peers, works with us remotely, stationed all the way over in Ukraine. Although he may be physically distant, his relationship with Backblaze is one of the oldest. He worked with the founders of Backblaze between 2003 to 2006 while working as an IT architect at MailFrontier. He was the first contractor for Backblaze and set up the VPN so that the five founders could remotely access the testing servers that they were using in Brian Wilson’s apartment. Throughout the years, he was involved in some Backblaze projects and when there was the right fit for him, he moved into a full-time role as a solutions engineer.

Finding the Best Solutions for You

Broadly speaking, solutions engineers are responsible for understanding how our product works on its own and in integrations with other products, making recommendations based on that knowledge, and helping customers implement personalized workflows. Because Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage works with hundreds of different integrations, our SEs have extensive problem solving capacity. For example, they helped AK Productions use Flexify.IO to transfer their data from Google Cloud to Backblaze B2.

The SEs also have a wide understanding of the best solutions that work for different industries—the right solution for a media and entertainment customer may be different than the best one for an IT professional.

When teams begin working with new customers, they work to educate them on the different tools that are available. If a customer has a particular integration in mind, SEs can tell them about the benefits/disadvantages of using one integration over another and help them find the solution that matches their needs. Some topics that SEs often address are lifecycle rule settings, encryption, and SSO. They also help customers think through potential issues that they may not have yet considered.

One of the more technical aspects of the SE role is helping customers write to our API. Udara explained that this is his favorite part of the job: “The really creative stuff happens when people are trying to write to our API. Some people might be trying to stream video from surveillance cameras dynamically to Backblaze B2 whereas another company will have game streamers trying to save their video captures onto our cloud storage product. There’s a gamut of ways in which people use Backblaze B2 and that makes it really exciting.”

SEs also make sure they understand the full scope of a customer’s needs. They ask questions, even if they think they know the answer. Troy explained, “Although there will be patterns between customers, we truly look at every customer as unique and every setup as unique.” The team also does a great job of speaking the language of the customers—while some clients may have a technical background, others may not. Regardless of the customer’s technical expertise, SEs can give them a high-level overview of the solution without making them feel overwhelmed.

Another important aspect of the SE’s role is their ability to work cross-functionally with the other teams at Backblaze. Apart from the Sales team, they work closely with the Engineering team, especially when helping major clients. Udara said, “We have to communicate and collaborate effectively with the Engineering team to increase performance and to solve the issues that our clients may have.”

On the other hand, when SEs are working with smaller customers, they collaborate with the Customer Support team. Udara further explained, “The Customer Support team has seen the entire gamut of use cases, especially for Backblaze Computer Backup. They’re a great resource to us because they have the answers to even the smallest issues.”

The SEs are equally passionate as they are proficient at doing their jobs. Mike particularly loves the problem solving aspect to the job because it feels like a puzzle. He explained, “When you have a puzzle, you have to figure out what it looks like now, what it’s supposed to look like, and how to get it there. On top of that, when helping users, you’re dealing with different constraints like the customer’s budget and technology. It’s always a different puzzle to solve, which makes the job exciting.”

Testing Partner Integrations

When SEs have free time between talking to customers, they act as quality assurance for the Sales team by testing integrations—both those that could potentially work with Backblaze B2 and those that are currently being used. While doing so, they simultaneously document every step and when the integration testing is complete, they work with Customer Support to write a knowledge base article. These articles are available online for customers as a help guide so that they can learn how to use Backblaze B2 with our integration partners.

Back in October 2019, one of our customers wanted to use Backblaze B2 with EditShare Flow, which is a media asset management (MAM) all-in-one workflow solution that allows video editors to collaborate in the cloud. One of our solutions engineers, who had just joined the team, took on the responsibility of testing the integration. This partnership could potentially allow creative professionals to edit their videos on EditShare Flow and store their content on Backblaze B2.

Since the SE was new to the team and still learning our products, she worked with her teammates to learn about the different terms involved such as “MAM” and “metadata.” Once she learned more about EditShare Flow and its intricacies, she was ready to start the integration testing. She got the metadata from a NAS device, then she pivoted and pushed the data from that NAS device to Backblaze B2. She also tested the upload speed and ensured that the interface was user-friendly.

While testing the integration, she noted each step for setting it up which would later help her when writing a knowledge base article about the integration. After the integration testing was complete, she sent the customer all the documentation he needed to use Backblaze B2 with EditShare Flow. The customer was happy and if he had any further questions, he could always reach out to the SE.

When a company applies to be featured as an integration partner on our website, Mike tests the integration to ensure that the product can be paired successfully with Backblaze B2. Sometimes, companies that are already on the website make changes to their software, so Mike tests those products as well. He and the rest of the team also proactively test current integrations to verify that they are working and to identify any areas of improvement.

Demo Environment

SEs have a demo environment to show prospective customers how different features within Backblaze Computer Backup can play out. Mike maintains this demo environment, which is set up with pre-created accounts and consists of a large VMware server with over 140 machines running. He creates different demos ranging from ones that show how to add a new computer to those showing how to restore files on behalf of a user. There are even some computers in the environment that are in an error state, so that customers can see what that might look like, as well.

How Can You Become a Solutions Engineer?

If becoming a solutions engineer sounds like your ideal career, Troy offered the following advice, “The biggest skill that I look for when hiring a solutions engineer is the ability to ask the right questions. We need to identify a customer’s problem in order to offer them the right solution. Another quality I look for is the ability to talk in the same language as a customer, whether that means giving someone a high-level technical overview of the product or simplifying concepts so that it’s easier for a customer to understand.”

Troy continued, saying that although candidates need not be programmers, they should feel comfortable reading code and potentially writing scripts. However, this varies between different companies. At Backblaze, the role of an SE strikes a balance between being technical and customer service-oriented, but at other companies, the role may be more technical or more customer support-focused.

Reach Out!

If you are interested in learning more about how you could use Backblaze for your organization, click here to contact Sales and begin your journey with Backblaze! We look forward to hearing from you.

The post We’ve Got The Solutions (Engineers) For You appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

How to Download and Backup Your Google Drive

Post Syndicated from Nicole Perry original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/download-backup-google-drive/

a woman thinking about how to download and backup her Google Drive

When I first started using Google Drive I saved everything there. Class projects, presentations for work, notes from meetings, resumes, recipes, and family mailing lists. You name it—all of my files lived in my Google Drive because of how easy it was to access and share them there.

However, the longer I used Google Drive, the more I used it while juggling different accounts (school, personal, and work). So, inevitably, I lost track of where some of my favorite files were located. But then I faced a real challenge: My university announced they would soon be deleting my year’s academic Google Accounts. I realized, as I considered this change, that a lot of important files and emails were on that account that I absolutely needed.

Whether controlled by work, school, or your housemate, Google Accounts are not permanent. Depending on the type of account you have, or who controls it, you may suddenly only have limited access to the account; you might lose your passwords and not have access to the means to reset them; the domain might lapse and get picked up by someone else; or, at the extreme end, your account could be hacked.

So whether you want/need to leave your Google Account for a new service, or you just want to save a copy of all your Google data to a second source, you need to understand how one retrieves and backs up content from a cloud sync service. We’ve outlined some simple steps for you to achieve that, here.

How to Download from Google Drive

Log in to the Google Account you would like to copy your data from.

On average, people have two email accounts, so it is important to make sure you are logged in to the correct Google Account before you start this process. Once signed in, you will want to go to Google Drive itself: drive.google.com. From there, click on the top right corner of the page where your account profile image is located and a drop-down menu (like the one pictured below) will appear.

screenshot of Manage your Google Account

Select “Manage your Google Account” and you will be led to a new page where you will have four different options to choose from. Select the section labeled “Privacy & personalization.” This is where you will see what data, activity, and preferences your Google Account has associated with it. From here you want to select “Manage your data & personalization” which will bring you to the page where you can download your data.

Once you get to the new page, scroll down to the section labeled “Download or delete your data” and select “download your data.” This will lead you to a new website named Google Takeout. Here, you can export a copy of the content in your Google Account to keep on a local storage source. A reminder before we go forward: this is going to download your data, but it does not delete it from your Google Account.

Select the data you want to download.

Google Takeout select data screenshot

On this page, you can select to download an archive of your Google Drive and also your Chrome bookmarks, transactions from various Google services, locations stored in Google Maps, Google Drive contents, and other Google-related products you may use.

When most people think about downloading the data they store in Google Drive, they’re thinking about the documents, photos, and other larger files they work with, but as Google Takeout makes clear: You have a lot more data stored with Google outside of Drive.

Here’s why you might choose to export everything: to have a copy of bookmarked websites, to have a copy of emails that may contain files you’ve lost over time, or to have a copy of important voicemails from loved ones in Google’s Voice product that you want to keep forever. Also, when you download all of your data it is a good reminder of what information Google has on you.

Decide how you would like your files to be delivered.

Once you have decided what parts of your Google data you would like to download, you will have to pick what file type you would like it sent as, the frequency you would like this action to happen (example: if you would like your data to be downloaded every six months this is where you can set that to happen), and the destination you would like your data to be sent to.

Google Takeout delivery method screenshot

When picking a destination for where your data will be sent once you download it, you can choose from having the files emailed to you or sent to a sync service (if you use one) like Dropbox or OneDrive.

Depending on the size of your data, Google may send you multiple emails with different sizes of files. You can choose to have these files sent as a .zip file or a .tgz (tar) file. The main difference between the two options is that a .zip file compresses every file independently in the archive, but a .tgz file compresses the archive as a whole.

What to do once you have your data in your inbox.

An email will appear in a few minutes, hours, or a couple of days (depending on the size of data you are downloading), informing you that your Google data is ready to download. Once you have this email in your inbox, you have a week to download the data. Click the “download your files” button in the email and—presto—you will have a .zip file or a .tgz file (depending on what type of file you picked) on your computer with your Google data.

Your Google data is ready to download

Backing Up Your Google Drive

You now have your data with all of your important work out of the Google cloud and on to your operating system. What’s next? Protecting your newly downloaded Google data with a good cloud backup strategy should be the next thing you do.

Make sure to have at least two backups: one local, on your desktop or on a hard drive, and one in the cloud. (The word “cloud” may be confusing since you just had your data in a sync cloud service but we’ve found a simple way to define sync vs. backup.) Having two (or three) backups of your newly downloaded data ensures that you will never lose those projects you spent hours working on.

Do you have any techniques on how you download your data from Google Drive or other Google products? Share them in the comments section below!

The post How to Download and Backup Your Google Drive appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

The Backblaze Master Class: What to Work On, When You Can’t Work Out

Post Syndicated from Lora Maslenitsyna original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/the-backblaze-master-class-what-to-work-on-when-you-cant-work-out/

Judging by the number of photos on social media of elaborate loaves of sourdough, completed five thousand-piece puzzles, and quarantine push-up challenges—we’re all looking for ways to improve our skills (or maybe just distract ourselves) while we’re observing social distancing and staying closer to home.

In an effort to help distract you from baking bread (and thereby ease the strain on the flour supply chain) we thought we’d offer you some different approaches to skill development from some of the experts we work with at Backblaze. We polled some of our team members—ranging from SEO experts, to financial gurus, to engineering powerhouses—to ask them for their favorite entry-level and pro-level resources for building new knowledge and experience in their field of expertise.

Here’s what they recommend:

Want to Learn About SEO?

Toren Ajk, Backblaze’s E-Commerce Specialist, says that it’s integral to have a solid foundation of the basics of search engine optimization (SEO) before exploring the full range of what you can do with it. In his experience, there’s more to SEO than meets the eye at first, so taking the time to get an understanding of the basic elements lets you make better decisions as you move forward.

He recommends these resources for getting a good grasp of the fundamentals:

For specialists who are looking to learn more about SEO, Toren recommends:

  • The #SEOFOMO Newsletter. In her weekly newsletter, expert SEO consultant Aleyda Solis covers SEO news, resources, and useful tips.
  • Digitaleer’s “SEO This Week.” In this video series, digital marketing and SEO specialist Clint Butler breaks down interesting stories and trends related to e-commerce and SEO.

Wondering About Sales?

Terry LoBianco, Director of Media Sales for Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage, first became interested in sales after going on a sales call with her dad. She remembers that he had a great relationship and mutual dialogue with his distributors and it was inspiring to see that he didn’t use a hard sell approach.

Later, she got her first sales job for a healthcare company with a revolutionary product—the first blood centrifuge machine—which was exciting, fun, and inspired her to keep representing a reputable company with a strong belief that she can offer a quality product and service.

Terry recommends that beginners in sales follow a path similar to hers. She looked to her father to understand the basics of success in sales and recommends you do the same. Ask, listen, and build relationships with people working in the field and learn what you can from them.

For sales professionals looking to up their game, Terry recommends:

  • “See You at the Top.” In this classic book, author and sales master Zig Ziglar shares how to set goals and reach them, and why it’s important to believe in yourself to achieve your goals.
  • Online courses. Platforms like SalesHacker and LinkedIn offer a variety of courses on specialized topics within sales.

Thinking of Getting Started in Human Resources?

Natalie Cook, Director of HR, says that HR is a great path for anyone who loves a good challenge and finds great joy in other people’s developments and achievements.

Natalie’s recommended resources for beginners:

  • Simon Sinek. He was one of Natalie’s first HR role models whose lectures encouraged her to continue on the path of helping people.
  • Patty McCord. As the former Chief Talent Officer at Netflix, McCord’s approach to finding talent and defining culture set the stage for many tech companies in Silicon Valley. In her book “Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility,” she describes the path towards achieving a workplace culture of high performance and profitability.

Natalie’s recommended resources for experts looking to hone their skills:

  • SHRM.org. This is one great tool for any HR professional who wants to learn more about the field.
  • Online HR courses. LinkedIn and Coursera offer a variety of courses from foundational lessons to more specific topics.

Curious About Finance?

Backblaze’s CFO Frank Patchel describes his job as increasing the value of the firm. Value comes from the people, products, services, and profits.

Frank’s recommended resources for finance beginners:

  • Study economics. Frank initially became interested in finance in college, when he took an economics course. He learned to see finance as applied economics and now, he recommends anyone take an economics class of some kind, even outside of a school setting, as an introduction to finance.
  • Read the Wall Street Journal. The digital version has a lot of articles beyond company news and the state of the economy, so you can see if specific financial topics seem interesting to you.

For other financial professionals looking to learn more about the field, Frank recommends:

  • Take a development course. Just as it’s helpful for beginners to study, professionals can expand their skill set and breadth of knowledge through specialized classes.
  • Connect with other experts. Some professional organizations host classes and events to help professionals stay current, as well as meet other people working in the field.

Interested in Marketing?

Ahin Thomas, Backblaze’s VP of Marketing, says that he’s always been fascinated by pop culture, music, and food, then eventually realized that the common thread between them was storytelling. “After I made that connection, I came to the conclusion that marketing is so much about storytelling—crafting the narrative, polishing the delivery, and responding to the audience,” says Ahin.

For people who are interested in getting started with learning more about marketing, Ahin says it’s important to start thinking about the “why.” Ask yourself why someone would be motivated to evangelize a specific thing, and how they would gauge their success. What’s the message, and who is their audience? Ahin believes that one of the best resources is reading and listening to the stories of other marketing experts.

For marketing professionals who are looking to hone their skills, Ahin first recommends talking to other marketing professionals, especially those who are facing unforgiving marketing challenges, but are able to make things work.

For more pro-level resources, he recommends:

  • Ghostery. This Google Chrome plugin primarily helps protect user privacy and security, but also tells you what marketing tools other companies are using, making it easier to learn how to copy the success of others.
  • “Building the Minimum Badass User.” In this 2012 Business of Software Conference talk, programming instructor and game developer Kathy Sierra gives advice about how to approach software development, which is also a great lesson for marketers about understanding their customers.
  • “Made to Stick.” Authors Chip and Dan Heath help explain the principles that make some messages more memorable than others in a succinct encapsulation of successful storytelling.

Want to Learn About Business Analytics?

Jeannine Smith, Head of Business Analytics, says that one way to start learning about business analytics is to look for examples of analytics and optimization in your everyday life. One of her first jobs in high school was at McDonalds, where she was taught to measure everything with a standard operating procedure to optimize the metrics. For example, she learned to fry potatoes in a specific way that yielded the most orders of fries per pound of frozen potatoes.

Jeannine also says that being curious and detail-oriented is just as important as having a background in business intelligence or data analytics. You can look at visualizations of public data sources that interest you on Tableau, which she uses regularly. Zillow Research also publishes housing data including visualizations and the raw data.

Jeannine and her team also suggested a few resources for business intelligence and analytics professionals to continue building their skills:

Ready to Start Your Own Business?

Gleb Budman, Backblaze CEO, explains that building a business is like parenting. You play a part in creating something that you love and care for and try to make the best decisions for it with lots of conflicting input, data, and opinions. You also have to know that you’re going to screw them up in some way no matter how hard you try, but hope you provide the right guidance and guardrails, then watch them grow beyond what you even imagined—all while being on a wild roller coaster ride with them throughout the journey.

Gleb says that the best way to start learning about running a business is by…running a business. Nothing can replace the experience of trying, so he recommends that the best resource is to just go ahead and start your business.

  • Talk with potential customers. Try to sell them what you intend to sell them. If they’re ready to give you money, you’re onto something. If not, you either haven’t found the right customers, are planning to make something your customers won’t buy, or you might not be explaining it well.
  • Read founder Paul Graham’s essays, such as “Organic Startup Ideas.”
  • Take a look at Stripe Atlas, a package of tools to help you get started with your business’s essentials.
  • Learn more from Signal vs. Noise. In their blog, the founders of Basecamp explain how they explicitly designed their company to be profitable, self-sustaining, focused on the long-term, and with a good work/life balance.

Resources that Gleb likes to explore for new inspiration and to build his skills:

  • The Lattice Blog. Lattice builds performance management software and shares information about best practices in HR on their blog.
  • The AngelList Blog. Read news and guides on startups and growing businesses.
  • SaaStr. Built by software as a service enthusiasts, SaaStr shares valuable information about business technology with the goal of building community in the industry.

The post The Backblaze Master Class: What to Work On, When You Can’t Work Out appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

How to Virtually Onboard New Hires

Post Syndicated from Natalie Cook original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/how-to-virtually-onboard-new-hires/

Over the past few months, the world has been grappling with a pandemic which has unfortunately led to layoffs by some organizations and has resulted in others finding alternate ways to augment their team distribution, hiring, and onboarding. Both situations are challenging, logistically and emotionally.

At Backblaze, we feel incredibly fortunate that we’ve been able to continue employing our full staff and add some talented new employees to our roster. Thankfully, we’ve remotely onboarded employees in the past, which gives us a solid foundation to build out a process that can support a fully-distributed model.

We expect that there are a lot of companies out there who have never dealt with remote employees or onboarding before, but now have no other choice. With that in mind, we wanted to take a moment to share our experience with virtual onboarding processes to help those of you who now need to pivot in that direction.

Virtual Onboarding

Our Human Resources Generalist, Vanna Ngo, manages the onboarding processes at Backblaze and is a great resource to managers who may need ideas or advice. When someone accepts an offer to work with us, Vanna sends them a welcome email along with a “Getting to Know You” form that asks our new co-workers for some interesting facts. These range from their favorite foods and “Star”-related entertainment (like Wars, or Trek?), to their T-shirt size (so that we can give them swag when they come to the office, or ship it to them), and their favorite pastimes. Our Office Administrator, Judith Pimentel, uses this questionnaire to develop a personalized welcoming package of merchandise and goodies to help the new hire feel like a part of the team from day one.

Managers are informed of all required training and they build weekly plans for the new hire accordingly. The manager also determines an onboarding buddy, who is a resource for the new hire throughout the onboarding process and beyond. The buddy is chosen based on their role and their interest. They’re there for the new hire whether they have questions, need help with a project, or simply just want to have a casual conversation.

During the employee’s first weeks, managers are especially mindful of creating early social ties between new hires and a broad array of the Backblaze team. Normally, new hires have coffee with a few staffers from other teams. During our time working remotely, however, managers have vastly expanded this program by setting up a large number of virtual meet-and-greets. In addition, Vanna does 1:1 Slack calls with herself and the new hire for a few minutes during the first week or so of the new employee’s onboarding, simply to ensure they’re doing okay.

Tips and Tricks

Here’s some advice that we have compiled during our remote onboarding journey. We hope that your HR and IT departments will be able to carry them into your company’s onboarding processes.

      1. Welcome and introduce the new hire in an email and/or Slack channel. At Backblaze, when we have a new hire, the hiring manager emails the entire company and welcomes the new employee by describing who they are and how they will use their professional background to help at Backblaze. We also have Slack channels like #social and #virtualwatercooler where employees send welcome messages. These initiatives can help new hires feel more included.
      2. Turn on your video when doing an onboarding call. This is a best practice for any remote meeting, but especially true when onboarding a new hire. You want to reassure them that they still have co-workers even if they may not be sitting right next to them.
      3. If you are using Google Hangouts, take advantage of the presentation feature. This tool allows you to share your screen with the new hire, which can make training sessions a bit easier.
      4. Develop booklets to go along with virtual training sessions. At Backblaze, we created booklets and pre-recorded videos for our expense report training with accounting, security training with IT, and time card training with payroll. New hires can reference these booklets later, in the absence of being able to incidentally ask other staffers for help.
      5. Install necessary applications on the new hire’s computer before handing it off. Our IT department does this either by using system images or manually installing relevant software and configuration files. They also set up the new hire’s accounts with temporary passwords, so the employee can change their password later. This ensures that IT never knows the individual’s password.
      6. Implement and teach new hires about best security practices. Every computer that is given to our new hires uses Full Disk Encryption. Our IT team helps the new employee set up an account with a password manager so that they only have to remember one strong password rather than multiple vulnerable passwords. IT also teaches the new hire best security practices and they cover topics such as creating secure passwords, using a VPN, and keeping private information out of view during a video call.

Delivering Equipment

One initial roadblock to virtual onboarding during the COVID-19 epidemic was getting equipment shipped to new hires. Laptops were out of stock from our normal supplier, but our IT department worked quickly to procure a stock from elsewhere. If you have a certain hiring target, you may want to consider buying some amount of buffer stock even before new hires come on board. We likely haven’t seen the end of supply-chain disruptions for laptop manufacturing, which means out-of-stock situations could be a problem again.

Simran Kaur, our recently hired Product Manager—who began her role here after Backblaze had shifted to a primarily work-from-home status during the COVID crisis—explained, “I got my laptop, keyboard, and an extra monitor a day or two before my start date. I had everything I needed before I even started working.” Our IT department planfully pulled together instructions so that new hires could easily assemble their work stations on arrival.

Simran’s experience of receiving everything she needed in a timely way is our ideal. But because we expect supplies of different work-from-home essentials to be constrained, Vanna has started asking new hires regarding what equipment they already have on hand. With this approach, we’re able to not only control our supply, but also accommodate limited spacing in employee’s homes. Some new hires already have a workstation at home, so sending them more equipment will only take up their space.

When onboarding employees remotely, it’s crucial that they have the backup tools they need. We set up each employee with a Backblaze Business Backup account on their laptop so that they can access their files from any location. The Business Backup product also allows for both IT-side and physical restores as well as groups-level file sharing. If you are interested in learning more about the advantages of implementing Backblaze Business Backup into your remote workflow, please read our blog post here.

Succeeding from Home with Backblaze Business Backup

Encouraging Productivity

Once an employee is effectively onboarded and their workstation is ready for daily use, the most important aspect of their orientation begins: ensuring that they’re able to be productive. To help with this, hiring managers create schedules for their new hires prior to their start date. This way, new hires know exactly what they need to do and when they need to do it each day.

Backblaze’s benefits package also includes an equipment stipend which employees can use on anything that would improve their productivity, whether in the office (eventually), or now at home. This includes home office furniture, an extra monitor, or any other tools that may help productivity.

Backblaze offers this perk because we understand that each employee has unique needs for doing their best work: for some it’s noise cancelling headphones, for others it’s a smartwatch to keep them active during the day. We strongly recommend providing your employees with some flexibility in customizing their workspace—especially as they work to make a place (their home) into something it likely wasn’t intended to be (their office).

Advice From One New Hire to Another

On the flip side, there are some things that new hires themselves can do to improve their remote onboarding experience. Shannon Gerard, our new Director of Marketing Operations, has worked remotely for the past five years. Her first piece of advice for new hires is to upgrade your internet connection. In an effort to assist with internet costs and upgrades, Backblaze has given employees (who were not remote prior to the shelter-in-place) a monthly stipend/allowance to cover that cost. Shannon said, “When it comes to your internet connection, you need to have a backup plan of some sort, whether that’s connecting to your mobile hotspot or just dialing into the call using your phone. You also need to be prepared to execute your plan quickly because there’s nothing worse than getting kicked off a meeting and taking a while to get back in.”

She also recommends scheduling brief meet-and-greets with people who you may not be formally meeting as part of your onboarding. “It doesn’t have to be anything super formal,” she explained. “Just a quick introduction so that you can actually meet the person before you start working with them.”

Virtual Socializing

Whether or not someone is a new hire, working remotely can take a toll on their social life. It can also be difficult to share the company culture with the new hire. To solve this challenge, Judith created various virtual social events throughout the week.

We suggest you create similar events that can help your employees socialize with their work friends and help new hires get a sense of the company culture. We have listed a few of the events that Judith initiated below. Feel free to use them as inspiration for your own virtual social events!

  • We start off every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with “Brewtiful Mornings,” where employees gather on Google Hangouts to socialize over a cup of coffee or tea. During these 15-minute sessions (but they always go long), employees talk about everything from their coffee mugs to current events.
  • On Monday afternoon, we have an all-hands meeting where managers introduce their new hires to the rest of the company. We also have virtual yoga and meditation on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, where employees can bond with their co-workers while resting their mind for a few moments. On Wednesday afternoon, employees enjoy a virtual lunch break together.
  • To end the week, we have a virtual happy hour on Friday evening. This is another chance for new hires to introduce themselves and to get to know their peers. Simran said that though these social events were virtual, she was still able to learn everything she needed to know about the Backblaze culture by participating.

    New Practices for Onsite Onboarding

    Remote onboarding may be a challenge, but there are some aspects of it that you can transfer to your onsite onboarding processes. We highly recommend you keep video training materials and have new hires watch them as part of their onboarding process even when everyone is back in the office. Training videos are more time efficient because the IT department will no longer have to conduct a training for every new hire.

    Another practice that can be carried into onsite onboarding processes is virtual meet-and-greets. This is especially useful if you have employees who work remotely full-time even when there is not a pandemic happening. Traditionally, new hires only meet those who work onsite and they don’t get a chance to meet remote employees or get much face time with them. Virtual meet-and-greets can help your new employees connect with your full-time remote staff. They can also help remote staff feel like they are still in the loop even if they may not be physically in the office.

    We’re Still Hiring!

    The pandemic is not something we can control, but what we can adjust is how we respond to it. By being proactive and thinking outside of the box, we were able to pivot to a fully remote onboarding experience for our new hires. We hope some of the tips above are helpful for other organizations in the same boat.

    If you are currently seeking a new role, we are hiring at Backblaze. All of our interviews are being done virtually for the time being, but we are still committed to hiring and expanding our team. If you are interested in working with us, please feel free to apply through our Career Center or send your resume to jobscontact@backblaze.com! We look forward to hearing from you.

The post How to Virtually Onboard New Hires appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Cloud University—Online and in Session Today

Post Syndicated from Janet Lafleur original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/cloud-university-online-and-in-session-today/

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced many of us to shelter in place at home, it seemed like a good opportunity to learn news things: Baking sourdough bread, sure! Tackling 2000 piece puzzles, great. Hosting virtual birthday parties on Zoom for three dozen family members? Got it! It was fun (mostly), but it quickly became clear that what seemed like a pause was actually the beginning of a whole new way of living and doing business.

And for anyone responsible for media workflows, turning to online learning during this time quickly became a clear requirement. The NAB Show, the media and entertainment industry’s huge show every April, cancelled their live event in Las Vegas and rebirthed it as an online experience a month later.

During normal times, this show was everyone in the industry’s opportunity to learn what the newest essential solutions for their workflow might be. In 2020, this wasn’t possible, despite the fact that learning how to use cloud-based tools to enable work is no longer a long-term strategic “hope for”—it’s a must-have.

After the cancellation of trade shows and other in-person events, our marketing and sales teams got together to decide how they could reach our NAB audience in the absence of face-to-face discussions at our booth on the NAB Show floor. The answer was Cloud University: an ongoing series of webinars highlighting powerful, cloud-enabled workflow solutions built with over a dozen partners, including ProMAX, CatDV, Cloudflare, iconik, and more. This series of free courses features live demos, tips, and best practices on topics like remote collaboration, content delivery, cloud migration, and workflow automation, with more to come each week.

To sign up for the next installment of Cloud University, you can go here. To be informed about upcoming classes, you can sign up for our media and entertainment newsletter here.

Cloud University: Welcome to Your Class Schedule

You can always head to our Cloud University page to stay up to date with the latest classes, but we’ll include digests of past classes here, as well as callouts to additional information that might be useful to you, and some key takeaways to scan so you can tell what webinar might be most effective for you.

We hope to see you at our next online class, and of course, if there’s anything you’d like us to cover at Cloud University, don’t hesitate to say so in the comments!

DEMO LABORATORY: Turnkey Cloud Backup, Sync, and Restore with QNAP NAS

Register for May 19th

Want your NAS to do more than just store content? A NAS solution with built-in data protection tools can safeguard your content, too. Join this live demo and learn how to:

  • Determine when to use backup vs. sync functions based on your workflow
  • Enable your users to restore files and folders without any IT support
  • Deploy a hybrid cloud—for the best of local and off-premise storage—in minutes
  • Select the right NAS solution for your environment

CONTENT MONETIZATION 101: Unlock More Revenue from Existing Content with GrayMeta

Register for May 21st

How can you monetize content quicker by discovering information hidden inside your media files? Attend this webinar to learn how to:

  • Use machine learning and AI to extract metadata from content scattered across SAN, NAS, and cloud storage
  • Uncover actionable insights from words, sounds, faces, and logos detected in video and other assets
  • Build time-saving workflows that identify, move, and transform content automatically
  • Make your content monetization workflow more efficient to shorten time to revenue

WORKFLOW AUTOMATION 101: Fast and Foolproof Production Workflows with CatDV

Register for May 28th

How much faster could you finish projects if your workflow adapted to new demands without costly, time-consuming development? Attend this event to learn how you can automate:

  • High-volume ingest and content processing using cloud compute and storage
  • Proxy creation, custom tagging, and metadata extraction without undue compute costs
  • Transcode and upload of files to playout servers as soon as clips are marked “approved”
  • Review and approval process, and delivery to platforms like YouTube or Vimeo

DEMO LABORATORY: Effortless Multi-Office File Exchange for Real-Time Collaboration with Synology

Register for June 9th

How much easier would your life be if your team members at different sites could share large files efficiently, with everything protected in the cloud? Attend this live demo to learn how to:

  • Set up cross-office collaboration with faster, simpler local access
  • Reduce bandwidth consumption by syncing files on multiple NAS devices just once
  • Generate shared links, files, or folders to deliver content to external clients
  • Efficiently and easily backup and sync all your NAS devices to the cloud

CONTENT DISTRIBUTION 101: Ultra-Fast Worldwide Content Delivery with Cloudflare

Start Learning Now

Are you ready to take your content worldwide? You, too, can have a simple, fast, incredibly cost effective solution for your website or content service up and running in minutes. Attend this event to learn how to:

  • Improve end-user experience with global caching and optimization
  • Eliminate egress fees for content movement
  • Compare cost savings of Backblaze and Cloudflare vs. S3 and Cloudfront
  • Quickly build a pilot workflow at no cost

CONTENT AGILITY 101: Unlocking Immediate Content Value for Remote Teams & Partners with Imagen

Start Learning Now

Do you need to unlock value in your existing assets and keep your remote teams productive? You can watch this recording to learn:

  • How broadcaster, sports, and corporate video creative teams can manage, distribute, and deliver content remotely
  • How Imagen’s monetization and delivery features integrate with Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage
  • How a sports video customer quickly pivoted from live events using existing content
  • How Carleton College deployed a student content solution in only five days

REMOTE PRODUCTION 101: Full-Resolution Editing Environments for Distributed Teams with ProMax

Start Learning Now

Do your video editing teams need to work remotely on short notice, without sacrificing access to content stored on the main shared system? Watch this class to learn how you can:

  • Rapidly deploy remote content servers that deliver full-resolution content to editors
  • Keep remote and main studio content in sync, even with limited remote bandwidth
  • Protect the entire content library and add flexible content delivery with cloud storage
  • Reintegrate the remote environments back into the main shared system, ready to deploy to the next site

DEMO LABORATORY: Truly Painless Backup and Sync with Goodsync

Start Learning Now

Do you need rock-solid backup and synchronization of your critical systems and high-value folders, but aren’t sure where to start? Watch this class to learn how to set up reliable backup and sync in minutes, and pick up best practices along the way. Topics covered include:

  • Goodsync overview for Mac, Windows, Linux, and NAS systems
  • One minute setup—configuring Goodsync with Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage
  • Five different ways to initiate backup and synchronization jobs
  • Best practices with real-world examples from our customers

DEMO LABORATORY: Cloud-to-Cloud Data Migration with Flexify.IO

Start Learning Now

Want your cloud storage spending to go farther for you, but concerned about the cost or complexity of moving between clouds? Fear not. In this class, you’ll learn how Flexify.IO and Backblaze can help you:

  • Easily and inexpensively transfer data from one cloud provider to another
  • Eliminate downtime during cloud-to-cloud migration
  • Choose the right cloud storage to meet your workflow needs

DEMO LABORATORY: A Hybrid Cloud Approach to Media Management with iconik

Start Learning Now

In their move toward cloud workflows, content owners are looking for solutions that manage content stored on-premises seamlessly with content in the cloud. Backblaze partner iconik built their smart media management system with this hybrid cloud approach in mind. With iconik, you don’t have to wait for all your content to be in the cloud before you and your creative team can take advantage of their cloud-based platform. In this class, iconik expert Mike Szumlinski details how you can:

  • Get started with cloud-based media management without migrating any content
  • Search and preview all your content from any device, anywhere
  • Add collaborators on the fly, including view-only licenses at no charge
  • Instantly ingest content stored in Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage into iconik

The post Cloud University—Online and in Session Today appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Media Stats 2019: Top Takeaways From iconik’s New Report

Post Syndicated from Skip Levens original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/media-stats-2019-top-takeaways-from-iconiks-new-report/

Recently, the team at iconik, a popular cloud-based content management and collaboration app, released a stats-driven look at how their business has grown over the past year. Given that we just released our Q1 Hard Drive Stats, we thought now was a good time to salute our partners at iconik for joining us in sharing business intelligence to help our industries grow and progress.

Their report is a fascinating look inside a disruptive business that is a major driver of growth for Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage. With that in mind, we wanted to share our top takeaways from their report and highlight key trends that will dramatically impact businesses soon—if they haven’t already.

Takeaway 1: Workflow Applications in the Cloud Unlock Accelerated Growth

iconik doubled all assets in the final quarter of 2019 alone.

Traditional workflow apps thrive in the cloud when paired with active, object storage.

We’ve had many customers adopt iconik with Backblaze B2, including Everwell, Fin Films, and Complex Networks, among several others. Each of these customers not only quickly converted to an agile, cloud-enabled workflow, they also immediately grew their use of cloud storage as the capacities it unlocked fueled new business. As such, it’s no surprise that iconik is growing fast, doubling all assets in Q4 2019 alone.

iconik is a prime example of an application that was traditionally installed on physical servers and storage in a facility. A longtime frustration with such systems is trying to ‘right-size’ the amount of server horsepower and storage to allocate to the system. Given how quickly content grows, making the wrong storage choice could be incredibly costly, or incredibly disruptive to your users as the system ‘hits the wall’ of capacity and the storage needs to be expanded frequently.

By moving the entire application to the cloud, users get the best of all worlds: a responsive and immersive application that keeps them focused on collaboration and production tasks, protection for the entire content library while keeping it immediately retrievable, and seamless growth to any size needed without any disruptions.

And these are only the benefits of moving your storage solution to the cloud. Almost every other application in your workflow that traditionally needs on-site servers and storage can be similarly shifted to the cloud, lending benefits like “pay-as-you-use-it” cost models, access from everywhere, and the ability to extend features with other cloud delivered services like transcoding, machine learning, AI services, and more. (Our own B2 Cloud Storage service just launched S3 Compatible APIs, which allows infinitely more solutions for diverse workflows.)

Takeaway 2: Now, Every Company Is a Media Company

41% of iconik’s customer base are not from traditional media and entertainment entities.

Every company benefits by leveraging the power of collaboration and content management in their business.

Every company generates massive amounts of rich content, including graphics, video, product and sales literature, training videos, social media clips, and more. And every company fights ‘content sprawl’ as documents are duplicated, stored on different department’s servers, and different versions crop up. Keeping that content organized and ensuring that your entire organization has perfect access to the up-to-the-minute changes in all of it is easily done in iconik, and now accounts for 41% of their customers.

Even if your company is not an ad agency, or involved in film and television production, thinking and moving like a content producer and organizing around efficient and collaborative storytelling can transform your business. By doing so, you will immediately improve how your company creates, organizes, and updates the content that carries your image and story to your end users and customers. The end result is faster, more responsive, and cleaner messaging to your end users.

Takeaway 3: Solve For Video First

Video is 17.67% of all assets in iconik—but 78.36% of storage used.

Make sure your workflow tools and storage are optimized for video first to head off future scaling challenges.

Despite being a small proportion of content in iconik’s system, video takes up the most storage.
While most customers have large libraries of HD or even SD content now, 4K size video is rapidly gaining ground as it becomes the default resolution.

Video files have traditionally been the hardest element of a workflow to balance. Most shared storage systems can serve several editors working on HD streams, but only one or two 4K editors. So a system that proves that it can handle larger video files seamlessly will be able to scale as these resolution sizes continue to grow.

If you’re evaluating changes in your content production workflow, make sure that it can handle 4K video sizes and above, even if you’re predominantly managing HD content today.

Takeaway 4: Hybrid Cloud Needs to Be Transparent

47% of content stored locally, 53% in cloud storage.

Great solutions transparently bridge on-site and cloud storage, giving you the best features of each.

iconik’s report calls out the split of the storage location for assets it stores—whether on-site, or in the cloud. But the story behind the numbers reveals a deeper message.

Where assets are stored as part of a hybrid-cloud solution is a bit more complex. Assets in heavy use may exist locally only, while others might be stored on both local storage and the cloud, and the least often used assets might exist only in the cloud. And then, many customers choose to forego local storage completely and only work with content stored in the cloud.

While that may sound complex, the power of iconik’s implementation is that users don’t need—and shouldn’t need to know—about all that complexity. iconik keeps a single reference to the asset no matter how many copies there are, or where they are stored. Creative users simply use the solution as their interface as they move their content through production, internal approval, and handoff.

Meanwhile, admin users can easily make decisions about shifting content to the cloud, or move content back from cloud storage to local storage. This means that current projects are quickly retrieved from local storage, then when the project is finished the files can move to the cloud, freeing up space on local storage for other active projects.

For customers working with Backblaze B2, the cloud storage expands to whatever size needed on a simple, transparent pricing model. And it is fully active, or in other words, it’s immediately retrievable within the iconik interface. In this way it functions as a “live” archive as opposed to offline content archives like LTO tape libraries, or a cold storage cloud which could require days for file retrieval. As such, using ‘active’ cloud storage like Backblaze B2 eases the admin’s decision-making process about what to keep, and where to keep it. With transparent cloud storage, they have the insight needed to effectively scale their data.

Looking into Your (Business) Future

iconik’s report confirms a number of trends we’ve been seeing as every business comes to terms with the full potential and benefits of adopting cloud-based solutions:

  • The dominance of video content.
  • The need for transparent reporting and visibility of the location of data.
  • The fact that we’re all in the media business now.
  • And that cloud storage will unlock unanticipated growth.

Given all we can glean from this first report, we can’t wait for the next one.

But don’t take our word for it, you should dig into their numbers and let us and iconik know what you think. Tell us how these takeaways might help your business in the coming year, or where we might have missed something. We hope to see you in the comments.

The post Media Stats 2019: Top Takeaways From iconik’s New Report appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Backblaze Hard Drive Stats Q1 2020

Post Syndicated from Andy Klein original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/backblaze-hard-drive-stats-q1-2020/

Backblaze Drive Stats Q1 2020

As of March 31, 2020, Backblaze had 132,339 spinning hard drives in our cloud storage ecosystem spread across four data centers. Of that number, there were 2,380 boot drives and 129,959 data drives. This review looks at the Q1 2020 and lifetime hard drive failure rates of the data drive models currently in operation in our data centers and provides a handful of insights and observations along the way. In addition, near the end of the post, we review a few 2019 predictions we posed a year ago. As always, we look forward to your comments.

Hard Drive Failure Stats for Q1 2020

At the end of Q1 2020, Backblaze was using 129,959 hard drives to store customer data. For our evaluation we remove from consideration those drives that were used for testing purposes and those drive models for which we did not have at least 60 drives (see why below). This leaves us with 129,764 hard drives. The table below covers what happened in Q1 2020.

Backblaze Q1 2020 Annualized Hard Drive Failure Rates

Notes and Observations

The Annualized Failure Rate (AFR) for Q1 2020 was 1.07%. That is the lowest AFR for any quarter since we started keeping track in 2013. In addition, the Q1 2020 AFR is significantly lower than the Q1 2019 AFR which was 1.56%.

During this quarter 4 (four) drive models, from 3 (three) manufacturers, had 0 (zero) drive failures. None of the Toshiba 4TB and Seagate 16TB drives failed in Q1, but both drives had less than 10,000 drive days during the quarter. As a consequence, the AFR can range widely from a small change in drive failures. For example, if just one Seagate 16TB drive had failed, the AFR would be 7.25% for the quarter. Similarly, the Toshiba 4TB drive AFR would be 4.05% with just one failure in the quarter.

On the contrary, both of the HGST drives with 0 (zero) failures in the quarter have a reasonable number of drive days, so the AFR is less volatile. If the 8TB model had 1 (one) failure in the quarter, the AFR would only be 0.40% and the 12TB model would have an AFR of just 0.26% with 1 (one) failure for the quarter. In both cases, the 0% AFR for the quarter is impressive.

There were 195 drives (129,959 minus 129,764) that were not included in the list above because they were used as testing drives or we did not have at least 60 drives of a given model. For example, we have: 20 Toshiba 16TB drives (model: MG08ACA16TA), 20 HGST 10TB drives (model: HUH721010ALE600), and 20 Toshiba 8TB drives (model: HDWF180). When we report quarterly, yearly, or lifetime drive statistics, those models with less than 60 drives are not included in the calculations or graphs. We use 60 drives as a minimum as there are 60 drives in all newly deployed Storage Pods.

That said, all the data from all of the drive models, including boot drives, is included in the files which can be accessed and downloaded on our Hard Drive Test Data webpage.

Computing the Annualized Failure Rate

Throughout our reports we use the term Annualized Failure Rate (AFR). The word “annualized” here means that regardless of the period of observation (month, quarter, etc.) the failure rate will be transformed into being an annual measurement. For a given group of drives (i.e. model, manufacturer, etc.) we compute the AFR for a period of observation as follows:

AFR = (Drive Failures / (Drive Days / 366) * 100

Where:

  • Drive Failures is the number of drives that failed during the period of observation.
  • Drive Days is the number of days all of the drives being observed were operational during the period of observation.
  • There are 366 days in 2020, obviously in non-leap years we use 365.

Example: Compute the AFR for the Drive Model BB007 for the last six months given;

  • There were 28 drive failures during the period of observation (six months).
  • There were 6,000 hard drives at the end of the period of observation.
  • The total number of days all of the drives of drive model BB007 were in operation during the period of observation (6 months) totaled 878,400 days.

AFR = (28 / (878,400 / 366)) * 100 = (28 / 2,400) * 100 = 1.17%

For the six month period, drive model BB007 had an annualized failure rate of 1.17%.

But What About Drive Count?

Some of you may be wondering where “drive count” fits into this formula? It doesn’t, and that bothers some folks. After all, wouldn’t it be easier to calculate the AFR as:

AFR = (Drive Failures / Drive Count) * (366 / days in period of observation) * 100

Let’s go back to our example in the previous paragraph. There were 6,000 hard drives in operation at the end of the period of observation; doing the math:

AFR = (28 / 6000) * (366 / 183) * 100 = (0.00467) * (2) * 100 = 0.93%

Using the drive count method, model BB007 had a failure rate of 0.93%. The reason for the difference is that Backblaze is constantly adding and subtracting drives. New Backblaze Vaults come online every month; new features like S3 compatibility rapidly increase demand; migration replaces old, low capacity drives with new, higher capacity drives; and sometimes there are cloned and temp drives in the mix. The environment is very dynamic. The drive count on any given day over the period of observation will vary. When using the drive count method, the failure rate is based on the day the drives were counted. In this case, the last day of the period of observation. Using the drive days method, the failure rate is based on the entire period of observation.

In our example, the following table shows the drive count as we added drives over the six month period of observation:

Drive Count Table

When you total up the number of drive days, you get 878,400, but the drive count at the end of the period of observation is 6,000. The drive days formula responds to the change in the number of drives over the period of observation, while the drive count formula responds only to the count at the end.

The failure rate of 0.93% from the drive count formula is significantly lower, which is nice if you are a drive manufacturer, but not correct for how drives are actually integrated and used in our environment. That’s why Backblaze chooses to use the drive days method as it better fits the reality of how our business operates.

Predictions from Q1 2019

In the Q1 2019 Hard Drive Stats review we made a few hard drive-related predictions of things that would happen by the end of 2019. Let’s see how we did.

Prediction: Backblaze will continue to migrate out 4TB drives and will have fewer than 15,000 by the end of 2019: we currently have about 35,000.

  • Reality: 4TB drive count as of December 31, 2019: 34,908.
  • Review: We were too busy adding drives to migrate any.

Prediction: We will have installed at least twenty 20TB drives for testing purposes.

  • Reality: We have zero 20TB drives.
  • Review: We have not been offered any 20TB drives to test or otherwise.

Prediction: Backblaze will go over one exabyte (1,000 petabytes) of available cloud storage. We are currently at about 850 petabytes of available storage.

Prediction: We will have installed, for testing purposes, at least 1 HAMR based drive from Seagate and/or 1 MAMR drive from Western Digital.

  • Reality: Not a sniff of HAMR or MAMR drives.
  • Review: Hopefully by the end of 2020.

In summary, I think I’ll go back to my hard drive statistics and leave the prognosticating to soothsayers and divining rods.

Lifetime Hard Drive Stats

The table below shows the lifetime failure rates for the hard drive models we had in service as of March 31, 2020. The reporting period is from April 2013 through December 31, 2019. All of the drives listed were installed during this timeframe.

Backblaze Lifetime Hard Drive Failure Rates

The Hard Drive Stats Data

The complete data set used to create the information used in this review is available on our Hard Drive Test Data webpage. You can download and use this data for free for your own purpose. All we ask are three things: 1) You cite Backblaze as the source if you use the data, 2) You accept that you are solely responsible for how you use the data, and 3) You do not sell this data to anyone—it is free.

If you just want the summarized data used to create the tables and charts in this blog post you can download the ZIP file containing the MS Excel spreadsheet.

Good luck and let us know if you find anything interesting.

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Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage Now Has S3 Compatible APIs

Post Syndicated from Gleb Budman original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/backblaze-b2-s3-compatible-api/

Backblaze S3 Compatible APIs

In 2015, we kept hearing the same request. It went something like: “I love your computer backup service, but I also need a place to store data for other reasons—backing up servers, hosting files, and building applications. Can you give me direct access to your storage?” We listened, and we built Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage.

To build on my own words from the time, “It. Was. HUGE.” B2 Cloud Storage fundamentally changed the trajectory of our company. Over just the past two years, we’ve added more customer data than we did in our entire first decade. We now have customers in over 160 countries and they’ve entrusted us with more than an exabyte of data.

Brands like American Public Television, Patagonia, and Verizon’s Complex Networks—alongside more than 100,000 other customers—use Backblaze B2 to back up and archive their data; host their files online; offload their NAS, SAN, and other storage systems; replace their aging tape infrastructure; and as the store for the applications they’ve built. Many of them have told us how the low cost enabled them to do what they wouldn’t have been able to, and the simplicity to do it quickly.

I’m proud that we’ve been able to help customers by offering the most affordable download prices in the industry, making it easy to migrate from the cloud oligarchy, and offering unprecedented choice in how our customers use their data.

Today, I’m thrilled to announce the public beta launch of our most requested feature: S3 Compatible APIs for B2 Cloud Storage.

If you have a B2 Cloud Storage account, you can start immediately.

If you need one, create an account today.
It’s free, easy and you’ll get 10GB of free storage as well.

If you have wanted to use B2 Cloud Storage but your application or device didn’t support it, or you wanted to move to cloud storage in general but couldn’t afford it, you should be able to instantly start with the new S3 Compatible APIs for Backblaze B2.

Welcome to Backblaze B2 via our S3 Compatible APIs

In practical terms, this launch means that you can now instantly plug into the Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage service by doing little more than pointing your data to a new destination. There’s no need to write new code, no change in workflow, and no downtime. Our S3 Compatible APIs are ready to use, and our solutions engineering team is ready to help you get started.

But they’re not alone. We have a number of launch partners leveraging our S3 Compatible APIs so you can use B2 Cloud Storage. These partners include IBM Aspera, Quantum, and Veeam.

Official Launch Partners

Cinnafilm, IBM Aspera, Igneous, LucidLink, Marquis, Masstech, Primestream, Quantum, Scale Logic, Storage Made Easy, Studio Network Solutions, Veeam, Venera Technologies, Vidispine, Xendata. These companies join a list of more than 100 other software, hardware, and cloud companies already offering Backblaze B2 to support their customers’ cloud storage needs.

Challenging the Cloud Oligarchy

For too long, cloud storage has been an oligarchy, leaving customers with choices that all look the same: expensive, opaque, complicated. We pride ourselves on being simple, reliable, and affordable. As Inc. magazine put it recently, B2 Cloud Storage is “Everything Amazon’s AWS Isn’t.

With B2 Cloud Storage S3 Compatible APIs, we’re making the choice for something different a no-brainer. While there are all new ways to use Backblaze B2, our pricing is unchanged. We remain the affordability leader, and our prices have nothing to hide. With Backblaze, customers don’t need to choose what data they actually use—all data is instantly available.

While we’re opening this new pathway to B2 Cloud Storage, it doesn’t mean we’re changing anything about the service you already love. Our Native APIs are still performant, elegant, and supported. We’re just paving the way for more of you to see what it feels like when a cloud storage solution works for you.

We hope you like it.

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How Hackers Can Help: Backblaze and the Ethical Hackers on HackerOne

Post Syndicated from Ramya Ramamoorthy original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/how-hackers-can-help-backblaze-and-the-ethical-hackers-on-hackerone/

A white hat hacker.

Backblaze is responsible for a huge amount of customer, company, and employee data—in fact, we recently announced that we have more than an exabyte under management. With a huge amount of data, however, comes a huge amount of responsibility to protect that data.

This is why our security team works tirelessly to protect our systems. One of the ways in which they safeguard the data we’ve been entrusted with is by working alongside hackers. But these aren’t just any hackers…

Sometimes Hackers Can Be Good

Although it may sound odd at first, hackers have helped us discover and resolve a number of issues in our systems. This is thanks to Backblaze’s collaboration with HackerOne, a platform that crowdsources white hat hackers to test products and alert companies of security issues when they find them. In return, companies award the hacker a bounty. Bounty amounts are carefully outlined based on severity ratings, so when a vulnerability is discovered, it is awarded based on that bounty structure.

Backblaze + HackerOne

Tim Nufire, Chief Security and Cloud Officer at Backblaze, created the company’s HackerOne program back in March 2015. One of the best things a company of our size can do is incentivize hackers around the world to look at our site to help ensure a secure environment. We can’t afford to onboard several hundred hackers as full-time employees, so by running a program like this, we are leveraging the talent of a very broad, diverse group of researchers, all of whom believe in security and are willing to test our systems in an effort to earn a bounty.

How HackerOne Works

When a hacker finds an issue on our site, backup clients, or any other public endpoint, they file a ticket with our security team. The team reviews the ticket and once they have triaged and confirmed that it is a real issue, they pay the hacker a bounty which depends on the severity of the find. The team then files an internal ticket with the engineering team. Once the engineers fix the issue, the security team will check to make sure that the problem was resolved.

To be extra cautious, the team gets a second set of eyes on the issue by asking the hacker to ensure that the vulnerability no longer exists. Once they agree everything is correct and give us the green light, the issue is closed. If you’re interested in learning even more about this process, check out Backblaze’s public bounty page, which offers even more information on our response efficiency, program statistics, policies, and bounty structure.

Moving from Private to Public

Initially, our program was private, which meant that we only worked with hackers we invited into our program. But in April 2019, our team took the program public. This meant that anyone could join our HackerOne program, find security issues, and earn a bounty.

The reasoning behind our decision to make the program public was simple: the more people we encourage to hack our site, the faster we can find and fix problems. And that’s exactly what happened at Backblaze. Thanks to the good guys on HackerOne we are one step ahead of the bad guys.

Some Issues We Resolve, Some We Contest

Let’s take a look at some examples as we work through two ‘classes’ of bugs typically reported by hackers.

One class of bugs that hackers find is Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) attacks. CSRF attacks attempt to trick users into making unwanted changes such as disabling security features on a website they’re logged into. CSRF attacks specifically target a user’s settings, not their data, since the attacker has no way to see the response to the malicious request. To resolve issues like this, we make changes like adding the SameSite attribute to web pages, among other techniques. Problem solved!

But sometimes making changes on our end isn’t the right response. Another class of “vulnerabilities” that hackers are quick to point out is “Information Disclosure” related to software versions or other system components. However, Backblaze does not see this as a vulnerability. “Security through obscurity” is not good security, so we intentionally make information like this visible and encourage hackers to use it to find holes in our defenses. It’s our belief that, by being as open with our community as possible, we’re more secure than we would be by hiding details about how our systems are configured.

We call attention to these two examples specifically because they underline one of the most interesting aspects of working with HackerOne: deciding when something is truly an issue that needs fixing, and when it is not.

Help Us Decide!

HackerOne has proven to be a great resource to scale our security efforts, but we’re missing one thing: a capable new team member to lead this program at Backblaze! Yes, we are hiring an Application Security Manager.

Among other interesting tasks, whoever fills the role will be responsible for triaging and prioritizing the issues identified through the HackerOne platform. This is a new role for us which was identified as a must-have by our security team because Backblaze is growing quickly.

Security has been our top priority since day one, but as our company scales and the amount of data that we store increases, we need someone who can help us navigate that growth. As Tim Nufire points out, “Growth makes us a bigger target, so we need a stronger defense.”

The Application Security Manager will not only have the opportunity to apply their security knowledge, but they will also have the unique chance to shape a security team at a growing, successful, and sustainable company. We think that sounds pretty exciting.

Who We Are Looking For

If you are someone who has years of experience in the security field, but hasn’t had the chance to take charge and lead a team, then this is your opportunity! We are looking for someone who is an expert in application layer security and is willing to teach us what we don’t know.

We need someone who is not afraid to roll up their sleeves and get to work even when there is no clear direction given. There are a couple of technical skills that we hope the new hire would have (like Burp Suite), but the most important qualities are being hands-on and having organizational management skills. This is because the Application Security Manager will formulate strategy and build a roadmap for the team moving forward. If that excites you as much as it excites us, feel free to send your resume to jobscontact@backblaze.com or apply online here.

And of course, we are always looking for more white hat hackers to test our site. If you can’t join us in the office, then join us on HackerOne to help discover and resolve potential vulnerabilities. We look forward to hearing from you!

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A Beginner’s Guide to External Hard Drives

Post Syndicated from Nicole Perry original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/a-beginners-guide-to-external-hard-drives/

A hand holding hard drives up.

At the beginning of this month, I received a frantic phone call from a long time friend who teaches ninth grade English. She had just been given the news that she would have to start teaching from home. Her school district gave out Zoom accounts and external hard drives to some of the teachers in order to have them transfer their lesson plans from their school computers to the personal devices they have at home, and sent them on their way.

My friend never had to use an external hard drive before since she saved everything to the computer she used at work or on to a Google Drive account. She was nervous about using it incorrectly, breaking it, or even just finding it on her computer.

This is a reality for thousands of teachers and employees who are being asked to learn new skills at home without the aid of onsite IT help. If you’re one of many folks who are suddenly asking “what is this thing?” and “how will it be helpful to me?” and “I hope I don’t break it”—all while trying to schedule online lesson plans, big meetings, or just trying to continue your connection with your students—you’re not alone! Lots of folks are dealing with this, and we’re here to help with a guide for setting up and protecting your new hard drive.

When you first start using an external hard drive, you might be annoyed by the need to learn something new, or you may simply ignore it. But we love hard drives (obviously) and will include some information below regarding the benefits they can bring to your table: extra space on your computer for new files and applications, portability, and more!

A Guide to Setting Up Your First External Hard Drive

During this COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have found ourselves in situations where we are handed external hard drives to keep our files safe. We hope these tips will help you understand how to best utilize your external hard drive and protect your data.

Getting Started

While it might seem like a no brainer, the first step for setting up your hard drive is to plug it into your computer. An external hard drive typically has one or two cords, usually one for the computer which transfers the data, and another that may also go into your computer or an electric plug to power the hard drive. Small, external, portable hard drives usually need only one cable for both data and power.

Know What’s On Your External Hard Drive

Store only what’s needed. External hard drives are simple: you plug them in, they appear on your computer, and you can simply click and drag your files onto them to copy the files onto the hard drive. But it’s important to monitor what’s on your external hard drive. You can do this by periodically checking your drive to make sure your files are up to date and still needed.

To find where a connected external drive is located on your Mac, try opening Finder. You can do this either by clicking the default Finder icon at the bottom left end of your Dock, or by pressing Command + Space bar, and searching in Finder, or by pressing Shift + Command + C. Once Finder is open, you should see your drives listed either immediately or in the left-hand navigation column under “Locations.” From here, you can click on specific drives to view their contents.

For a Windows computer, you may see variations depending on the version of Windows you are using. In general, you will find your drives listed in File Explorer by clicking on Computer or This PC in the left-hand navigation bar. If you are unsure on how to open File Explorer, try looking for it in your Start Menu. You can also try clicking on your desktop and pressing Windows Key + E together. Once you have located the drives, you should be able to click on specific drives to view their contents.

Delete Duplicates

Another important thing to remember when reviewing the files on your external hard drive is to delete duplicates. Occasionally we will create a copy of a project or create a final edit of a video and have multiple saved versions of the same file. Deleting the duplicates you do not need can help your drive run faster and free up space for more files. You can manually check your files for duplications or use an application that will find and delete duplicate files on your drive.

Learn How to Clean Your Drive

To keep an external hard drive clean you must clean both the hard drive itself as well as the area around the actual computer. Most important is to keep your drive and surrounding areas free of dust. Keeping the airflow in your device free of dust or other debris makes it less likely to overheat. If you’ve already run your hard drive in a dusty environment, compressed air is the best cleaning tool for remedying your situation.

To know where to blow the compressed air you should look for the fan vent, check where the USB ports are, and find other spots on the external hard drive that could collect dust over time.

Finally, it’s important to keep the area around your external hard drive uncluttered to allow for maximum airflow. Be sure to move anything around your drive that may be blocking its airflow like books, papers, etc.

3-2-1 Backup Strategy

3-2-1 Backup

While storing information in the cloud has become second nature to most, there’s still nothing like having everything saved on a physical device. 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. So, if you have your files on your computer and your hard drive (which you should store separately from your computer when not in use), you need one other copy stored separately from your house. That’s where the cloud comes in.

There are numerous cloud backup services that will service your computer and your attached drives. We’re partial to our own, of course, and, with Backblaze’s Yearly and Forever Version History features, you can back up your external hard drive easily without having to worry about plugging it in every 30 days.

Keep Your Operating System Up to Date

Your operating system (OS) is the interface of the computer that your external hard drive connects to. We have all hit “remind me later” on an update dialog from our computer at some point in our lives, but updating your OS will ensure that your computer is secure, that your system can run better, and that hard drives are able to properly connect to your files. Updating your OS can vary depending on what kind of computer you have. The best place to look for how to update your OS is in your system’s preferences.

Depending on the age of your computer, however, you should reach out to your local IT person before updating. Some older computers are not able to run, or run very poorly on newer systems.

Prepare for a Drive Failure

Don’t wait until it’s too late. The average hard drive manufacturer’s warranty is only three to five years, and budget hard drives can be even less. This number does not take into consideration physical damage, make or model, or conditions that they are stored in.

When using an external hard drive, you have to prepare for the day that it fails. There are several different ways you can monitor your external hard drive’s health. When it’s near its end, you’ll see or hear the signs like strange clicking or screeching noises, slower performance, and encountering lots of errors when trying to open folders on the drive. You can manually check the status of your drives on your computer.

For a Windows computer, you’ll use a simple command prompt that will tell your computer where to look and what to check. Just right-click the Start menu on your computer, select Run, and type “cmd” or type “cmd” into the search bar. In the Command Prompt window that opens, copy and paste “wmic diskdrive get model,status” without the quotation marks and hit enter. This command will run and it will return “Pred Fail” if your drive is not performing, or “OK” if the drive is performing well.

For a Mac computer, you can monitor the status of your external hard drive by opening Disk Utility by going to Applications and then Utilities. Next, you will click on the drive you would like to test to see how it’s performing. Once you click the drive you would like to check on in the top right corner, click on First Aid. If your drive is performing well, you’ll be able to scroll until you find where it says the volume appears to be OK. If it is not performing well, this process will automatically notify you of any problems like file corruption, an external device not working properly, or that your computer won’t start up. Disk Utility will not detect or repair all problems that a disk may have, but it can give you a general picture.

There are tools or apps you can download to monitor your external hard drive’s health on a Mac using S.M.A.R.T (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology) diagnostics. One tool that does a good job is an app called DriveDx, which costs $20 (but you can test it out with a free trial first). DriveDx will help you continuously monitor your drive with a menu bar item that you can pull down and check the status of your drive.

In Conclusion…

Starting out with an external hard drive is exactly like starting out with any piece of technology you might own. The more you educate yourself on the ins and outs of taking care of it, the better it will run for you, hopefully. But if something bad were to happen, you should always have a backup plan (we suggest Backblaze, but you probably already know that) to protect your new piece of equipment.

Are you a hard drive expert? Are there any tips you would like to share with beginners? Be sure to share them in the comments below.

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Succeeding from Home with Backblaze Business Backup

Post Syndicated from Natasha Rabinov original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/succeeding-from-home-with-backblaze-business-backup/

Succeeding from Home with Backblaze Business Backup

Remote work, and therefore remote IT management, have become an essential part of the global fight to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19. Thankfully, it appears that widespread social distancing is working to reduce the acceleration of new cases in a number of regions, but it’s clear that the disruption this has caused for businesses is far from over. And for those tasked with IT management during this unpredictable time, their work is more challenging than ever.

With these challenges in mind, we wanted to take a moment to offer our Backblaze Business Backup customers a quick primer to make sure they understand the full range of solutions available to them if they’re experiencing disrupted workflows due to the current pandemic. We hope they help, and if you need any additional guidance, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments, or on our help page.

We understand that deploying new IT systems during this time could be impossible in many scenarios, so this guide begins with a focus on current customers. But if you’re in need of remote backup, restore, or file-sharing services over the coming weeks and months, scroll to the end of this post to learn how seamless and incremental Backblaze Business Backup onboarding can be.

Tips for Remote Backup, Restore, and File Sharing

For those of you that already use Backblaze, here are some tips and tricks to work more efficiently while you’re remote.

Remote File Access

View and Restore Files

There’s a good chance that a number of employees undergoing mandatory work from home (WFH) arrangements have lost access to files and directories they typically work with on their office devices. With a solution like Backblaze, employees can access their work files from any location, including home. To do so, they merely need to sign in to their account at Backblaze.com, and follow these easy steps.

IT-Side Restores

Users and Computers

If for some reason the user is not able to access their account, then an administrator of a managed Group can prepare a restore on behalf of that employee directly within the admin console. The admin can then either notify the employee that their file is ready to download, or download it on the admin computer and email it to them.

Groups-Level File Sharing

Alternatively, if you know exactly what you need to push to your users, Backblaze offers the option of sharing a file directly with multiple recipients without the need to download or have users log in. This can be done directly within the admin console as we outlined here.

Physical Restores for Low-Bandwidth Users

Hard Drive and USB Restores

Of course, given that your teams will likely be on a wide array of networks with varying qualities of connectivity, the quantity of data you need to share could saturate a home internet connection if downloaded.

For users in this scenario, Backblaze offers the option of shipping an encrypted restore drive with your data preloaded on it to locations anywhere in the world. Admins can log into their account, prepare the restore drive with the data needed, and ship it to their employees. If the drive is returned after the files are recovered, the price of the restore is refunded, making the process of restoring via USB drive free.

For Users in Need of Remote Backup, Restore, and File Sharing

For businesses with majority onsite teams, it’s tempting to use on-premises backup tools for individual workstations and servers, with backup drives being stored remotely to satisfy a 3-2-1 backup approach. But when teams suddenly have to work off-network for long periods of time, these solutions often no longer cut it. With team members only intermittently logging on to the VPN, or working on their personal machines at home, much of the data created during WFH periods may never hit your server or your backup drives.

If this sounds familiar, we’d urge you to consider using a cloud backup service, if only for the hopefully short duration of time that your team will be out of the office.

Remote Installation of Backblaze Business Backup in Three Steps

If you’re interested in giving it a shot, Backblaze Business Backup can be set up remotely in three easy steps:

      1. Administrators email an invitation to employees.
      2. End users click on the link in the email to install Backblaze and they’ll be backing up in minutes.
      3. Once the files are backed up, employees’ data is safe regardless of an employee’s physical location, whether they are in the office, working remotely, or even offline.

It really is that easy, and once you’re set up, you can scale up or down your use of Business Backup as you need to for your current business reality. You’re not locked into any level of commitment. If you’d like to learn more, you can get started here.

Staying Together, Apart

These are hard and uncertain times for all of us to navigate, but we hope this information can help those of you out there who are tasked with managing your business’ technical infrastructure find some useful information here. As our CEO, Gleb Budman, noted in his message to customers about our response to COVID-19, it’s all about being “together, apart.”

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