Tag Archives: Macintosh

Getting Rid of Your Mac? Here’s How to Securely Erase a Hard Drive or SSD

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/how-to-wipe-a-mac-hard-drive/

erasing a hard drive and a solid state drive

What do I do with a Mac that still has personal data on it? Do I take out the disk drive and smash it? Do I sweep it with a really strong magnet? Is there a difference in how I handle a hard drive (HDD) versus a solid-state drive (SSD)? Well, taking a sledgehammer or projectile weapon to your old machine is certainly one way to make the data irretrievable, and it can be enormously cathartic as long as you follow appropriate safety and disposal protocols. But there are far less destructive ways to make sure your data is gone for good. Let me introduce you to secure erasing.

Which Type of Drive Do You Have?

Before we start, you need to know whether you have a HDD or a SSD. To find out, or at least to make sure, you click on the Apple menu and select “About this Mac.” Once there, select the “Storage” tab to see which type of drive is in your system.

The first example, below, shows a SATA Disk (HDD) in the system.

SATA HDD

In the next case, we see we have a Solid State SATA Drive (SSD), plus a Mac SuperDrive.

Mac storage dialog showing SSD

The third screen shot shows an SSD, as well. In this case it’s called “Flash Storage.”

Flash Storage

Make Sure You Have a Backup

Before you get started, you’ll want to make sure that any important data on your hard drive has moved somewhere else. OS X’s built-in Time Machine backup software is a good start, especially when paired with Backblaze. You can learn more about using Time Machine in our Mac Backup Guide.

With a local backup copy in hand and secure cloud storage, you know your data is always safe no matter what happens.

Once you’ve verified your data is backed up, roll up your sleeves and get to work. The key is OS X Recovery — a special part of the Mac operating system since OS X 10.7 “Lion.”

How to Wipe a Mac Hard Disk Drive (HDD)

NOTE: If you’re interested in wiping an SSD, see below.

    1. Make sure your Mac is turned off.
    2. Press the power button.
    3. Immediately hold down the command and R keys.
    4. Wait until the Apple logo appears.
    5. Select “Disk Utility” from the OS X Utilities list. Click Continue.
    6. Select the disk you’d like to erase by clicking on it in the sidebar.
    7. Click the Erase button.
    8. Click the Security Options button.
    9. The Security Options window includes a slider that enables you to determine how thoroughly you want to erase your hard drive.

There are four notches to that Security Options slider. “Fastest” is quick but insecure — data could potentially be rebuilt using a file recovery app. Moving that slider to the right introduces progressively more secure erasing. Disk Utility’s most secure level erases the information used to access the files on your disk, then writes zeroes across the disk surface seven times to help remove any trace of what was there. This setting conforms to the DoD 5220.22-M specification.

  1. Once you’ve selected the level of secure erasing you’re comfortable with, click the OK button.
  2. Click the Erase button to begin. Bear in mind that the more secure method you select, the longer it will take. The most secure methods can add hours to the process.

Once it’s done, the Mac’s hard drive will be clean as a whistle and ready for its next adventure: a fresh installation of OS X, being donated to a relative or a local charity, or just sent to an e-waste facility. Of course you can still drill a hole in your disk or smash it with a sledgehammer if it makes you happy, but now you know how to wipe the data from your old computer with much less ruckus.

The above instructions apply to older Macintoshes with HDDs. What do you do if you have an SSD?

Securely Erasing SSDs, and Why Not To

Most new Macs ship with solid state drives (SSDs). Only the iMac and Mac mini ship with regular hard drives anymore, and even those are available in pure SSD variants if you want.

If your Mac comes equipped with an SSD, Apple’s Disk Utility software won’t actually let you zero the hard drive.

Wait, what?

In a tech note posted to Apple’s own online knowledgebase, Apple explains that you don’t need to securely erase your Mac’s SSD:

With an SSD drive, Secure Erase and Erasing Free Space are not available in Disk Utility. These options are not needed for an SSD drive because a standard erase makes it difficult to recover data from an SSD.

In fact, some folks will tell you not to zero out the data on an SSD, since it can cause wear and tear on the memory cells that, over time, can affect its reliability. I don’t think that’s nearly as big an issue as it used to be — SSD reliability and longevity has improved.

If “Standard Erase” doesn’t quite make you feel comfortable that your data can’t be recovered, there are a couple of options.

FileVault Keeps Your Data Safe

One way to make sure that your SSD’s data remains secure is to use FileVault. FileVault is whole-disk encryption for the Mac. With FileVault engaged, you need a password to access the information on your hard drive. Without it, that data is encrypted.

There’s one potential downside of FileVault — if you lose your password or the encryption key, you’re screwed: You’re not getting your data back any time soon. Based on my experience working at a Mac repair shop, losing a FileVault key happens more frequently than it should.

When you first set up a new Mac, you’re given the option of turning FileVault on. If you don’t do it then, you can turn on FileVault at any time by clicking on your Mac’s System Preferences, clicking on Security & Privacy, and clicking on the FileVault tab. Be warned, however, that the initial encryption process can take hours, as will decryption if you ever need to turn FileVault off.

With FileVault turned on, you can restart your Mac into its Recovery System (by restarting the Mac while holding down the command and R keys) and erase the hard drive using Disk Utility, once you’ve unlocked it (by selecting the disk, clicking the File menu, and clicking Unlock). That deletes the FileVault key, which means any data on the drive is useless.

FileVault doesn’t impact the performance of most modern Macs, though I’d suggest only using it if your Mac has an SSD, not a conventional hard disk drive.

Securely Erasing Free Space on Your SSD

If you don’t want to take Apple’s word for it, if you’re not using FileVault, or if you just want to, there is a way to securely erase free space on your SSD. It’s a little more involved but it works.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let me state for the record that this really isn’t necessary to do, which is why Apple’s made it so hard to do. But if you’re set on it, you’ll need to use Apple’s Terminal app. Terminal provides you with command line interface access to the OS X operating system. Terminal lives in the Utilities folder, but you can access Terminal from the Mac’s Recovery System, as well. Once your Mac has booted into the Recovery partition, click the Utilities menu and select Terminal to launch it.

From a Terminal command line, type:

diskutil secureErase freespace VALUE /Volumes/DRIVE

That tells your Mac to securely erase the free space on your SSD. You’ll need to change VALUE to a number between 0 and 4. 0 is a single-pass run of zeroes; 1 is a single-pass run of random numbers; 2 is a 7-pass erase; 3 is a 35-pass erase; and 4 is a 3-pass erase. DRIVE should be changed to the name of your hard drive. To run a 7-pass erase of your SSD drive in “JohnB-Macbook”, you would enter the following:

diskutil secureErase freespace 2 /Volumes/JohnB-Macbook

And remember, if you used a space in the name of your Mac’s hard drive, you need to insert a leading backslash before the space. For example, to run a 35-pass erase on a hard drive called “Macintosh HD” you enter the following:

diskutil secureErase freespace 3 /Volumes/Macintosh\ HD

Something to remember is that the more extensive the erase procedure, the longer it will take.

When Erasing is Not Enough — How to Destroy a Drive

If you absolutely, positively need to be sure that all the data on a drive is irretrievable, see this Scientific American article (with contributions by Gleb Budman, Backblaze CEO), How to Destroy a Hard Drive — Permanently.

The post Getting Rid of Your Mac? Here’s How to Securely Erase a Hard Drive or SSD appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Securing Your Cryptocurrency

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/backing-up-your-cryptocurrency/

Securing Your Cryptocurrency

In our blog post on Tuesday, Cryptocurrency Security Challenges, we wrote about the two primary challenges faced by anyone interested in safely and profitably participating in the cryptocurrency economy: 1) make sure you’re dealing with reputable and ethical companies and services, and, 2) keep your cryptocurrency holdings safe and secure.

In this post, we’re going to focus on how to make sure you don’t lose any of your cryptocurrency holdings through accident, theft, or carelessness. You do that by backing up the keys needed to sell or trade your currencies.

$34 Billion in Lost Value

Of the 16.4 million bitcoins said to be in circulation in the middle of 2017, close to 3.8 million may have been lost because their owners no longer are able to claim their holdings. Based on today’s valuation, that could total as much as $34 billion dollars in lost value. And that’s just bitcoins. There are now over 1,500 different cryptocurrencies, and we don’t know how many of those have been misplaced or lost.



Now that some cryptocurrencies have reached (at least for now) staggering heights in value, it’s likely that owners will be more careful in keeping track of the keys needed to use their cryptocurrencies. For the ones already lost, however, the owners have been separated from their currencies just as surely as if they had thrown Benjamin Franklins and Grover Clevelands over the railing of a ship.

The Basics of Securing Your Cryptocurrencies

In our previous post, we reviewed how cryptocurrency keys work, and the common ways owners can keep track of them. A cryptocurrency owner needs two keys to use their currencies: a public key that can be shared with others is used to receive currency, and a private key that must be kept secure is used to spend or trade currency.

Many wallets and applications allow the user to require extra security to access them, such as a password, or iris, face, or thumb print scan. If one of these options is available in your wallets, take advantage of it. Beyond that, it’s essential to back up your wallet, either using the backup feature built into some applications and wallets, or manually backing up the data used by the wallet. When backing up, it’s a good idea to back up the entire wallet, as some wallets require additional private data to operate that might not be apparent.

No matter which backup method you use, it is important to back up often and have multiple backups, preferable in different locations. As with any valuable data, a 3-2-1 backup strategy is good to follow, which ensures that you’ll have a good backup copy if anything goes wrong with one or more copies of your data.

One more caveat, don’t reuse passwords. This applies to all of your accounts, but is especially important for something as critical as your finances. Don’t ever use the same password for more than one account. If security is breached on one of your accounts, someone could connect your name or ID with other accounts, and will attempt to use the password there, as well. Consider using a password manager such as LastPass or 1Password, which make creating and using complex and unique passwords easy no matter where you’re trying to sign in.

Approaches to Backing Up Your Cryptocurrency Keys

There are numerous ways to be sure your keys are backed up. Let’s take them one by one.

1. Automatic backups using a backup program

If you’re using a wallet program on your computer, for example, Bitcoin Core, it will store your keys, along with other information, in a file. For Bitcoin Core, that file is wallet.dat. Other currencies will use the same or a different file name and some give you the option to select a name for the wallet file.

To back up the wallet.dat or other wallet file, you might need to tell your backup program to explicitly back up that file. Users of Backblaze Backup don’t have to worry about configuring this, since by default, Backblaze Backup will back up all data files. You should determine where your particular cryptocurrency, wallet, or application stores your keys, and make sure the necessary file(s) are backed up if your backup program requires you to select which files are included in the backup.

Backblaze B2 is an option for those interested in low-cost and high security cloud storage of their cryptocurrency keys. Backblaze B2 supports 2-factor verification for account access, works with a number of apps that support automatic backups with encryption, error-recovery, and versioning, and offers an API and command-line interface (CLI), as well. The first 10GB of storage is free, which could be all one needs to store encrypted cryptocurrency keys.

2. Backing up by exporting keys to a file

Apps and wallets will let you export your keys from your app or wallet to a file. Once exported, your keys can be stored on a local drive, USB thumb drive, DAS, NAS, or in the cloud with any cloud storage or sync service you wish. Encrypting the file is strongly encouraged — more on that later. If you use 1Password or LastPass, or other secure notes program, you also could store your keys there.

3. Backing up by saving a mnemonic recovery seed

A mnemonic phrase, mnemonic recovery phrase, or mnemonic seed is a list of words that stores all the information needed to recover a cryptocurrency wallet. Many wallets will have the option to generate a mnemonic backup phrase, which can be written down on paper. If the user’s computer no longer works or their hard drive becomes corrupted, they can download the same wallet software again and use the mnemonic recovery phrase to restore their keys.

The phrase can be used by anyone to recover the keys, so it must be kept safe. Mnemonic phrases are an excellent way of backing up and storing cryptocurrency and so they are used by almost all wallets.

A mnemonic recovery seed is represented by a group of easy to remember words. For example:

eye female unfair moon genius pipe nuclear width dizzy forum cricket know expire purse laptop scale identify cube pause crucial day cigar noise receive

The above words represent the following seed:

0a5b25e1dab6039d22cd57469744499863962daba9d2844243fec 9c0313c1448d1a0b2cd9e230a78775556f9b514a8be45802c2808e fd449a20234e9262dfa69

These words have certain properties:

  • The first four letters are enough to unambiguously identify the word.
  • Similar words are avoided (such as: build and built).

Bitcoin and most other cryptocurrencies such as Litecoin, Ethereum, and others use mnemonic seeds that are 12 to 24 words long. Other currencies might use different length seeds.

4. Physical backups — Paper, Metal

Some cryptocurrency holders believe that their backup, or even all their cryptocurrency account information, should be stored entirely separately from the internet to avoid any risk of their information being compromised through hacks, exploits, or leaks. This type of storage is called “cold storage.” One method of cold storage involves printing out the keys to a piece of paper and then erasing any record of the keys from all computer systems. The keys can be entered into a program from the paper when needed, or scanned from a QR code printed on the paper.

Printed public and private keys

Printed public and private keys

Some who go to extremes suggest separating the mnemonic needed to access an account into individual pieces of paper and storing those pieces in different locations in the home or office, or even different geographical locations. Some say this is a bad idea since it could be possible to reconstruct the mnemonic from one or more pieces. How diligent you wish to be in protecting these codes is up to you.

Mnemonic recovery phrase booklet

Mnemonic recovery phrase booklet

There’s another option that could make you the envy of your friends. That’s the CryptoSteel wallet, which is a stainless steel metal case that comes with more than 250 stainless steel letter tiles engraved on each side. Codes and passwords are assembled manually from the supplied part-randomized set of tiles. Users are able to store up to 96 characters worth of confidential information. Cryptosteel claims to be fireproof, waterproof, and shock-proof.

image of a Cryptosteel cold storage device

Cryptosteel cold wallet

Of course, if you leave your Cryptosteel wallet in the pocket of a pair of ripped jeans that gets thrown out by the housekeeper, as happened to the character Russ Hanneman on the TV show Silicon Valley in last Sunday’s episode, then you’re out of luck. That fictional billionaire investor lost a USB drive with $300 million in cryptocoins. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen to you.

Encryption & Security

Whether you store your keys on your computer, an external disk, a USB drive, DAS, NAS, or in the cloud, you want to make sure that no one else can use those keys. The best way to handle that is to encrypt the backup.

With Backblaze Backup for Windows and Macintosh, your backups are encrypted in transmission to the cloud and on the backup server. Users have the option to add an additional level of security by adding a Personal Encryption Key (PEK), which secures their private key. Your cryptocurrency backup files are secure in the cloud. Using our web or mobile interface, previous versions of files can be accessed, as well.

Our object storage cloud offering, Backblaze B2, can be used with a variety of applications for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux. With B2, cryptocurrency users can choose whichever method of encryption they wish to use on their local computers and then upload their encrypted currency keys to the cloud. Depending on the client used, versioning and life-cycle rules can be applied to the stored files.

Other backup programs and systems provide some or all of these capabilities, as well. If you are backing up to a local drive, it is a good idea to encrypt the local backup, which is an option in some backup programs.

Address Security

Some experts recommend using a different address for each cryptocurrency transaction. Since the address is not the same as your wallet, this means that you are not creating a new wallet, but simply using a new identifier for people sending you cryptocurrency. Creating a new address is usually as easy as clicking a button in the wallet.

One of the chief advantages of using a different address for each transaction is anonymity. Each time you use an address, you put more information into the public ledger (blockchain) about where the currency came from or where it went. That means that over time, using the same address repeatedly could mean that someone could map your relationships, transactions, and incoming funds. The more you use that address, the more information someone can learn about you. For more on this topic, refer to Address reuse.

Note that a downside of using a paper wallet with a single key pair (type-0 non-deterministic wallet) is that it has the vulnerabilities listed above. Each transaction using that paper wallet will add to the public record of transactions associated with that address. Newer wallets, i.e. “deterministic” or those using mnemonic code words support multiple addresses and are now recommended.

There are other approaches to keeping your cryptocurrency transaction secure. Here are a couple of them.

Multi-signature

Multi-signature refers to requiring more than one key to authorize a transaction, much like requiring more than one key to open a safe. It is generally used to divide up responsibility for possession of cryptocurrency. Standard transactions could be called “single-signature transactions” because transfers require only one signature — from the owner of the private key associated with the currency address (public key). Some wallets and apps can be configured to require more than one signature, which means that a group of people, businesses, or other entities all must agree to trade in the cryptocurrencies.

Deep Cold Storage

Deep cold storage ensures the entire transaction process happens in an offline environment. There are typically three elements to deep cold storage.

First, the wallet and private key are generated offline, and the signing of transactions happens on a system not connected to the internet in any manner. This ensures it’s never exposed to a potentially compromised system or connection.

Second, details are secured with encryption to ensure that even if the wallet file ends up in the wrong hands, the information is protected.

Third, storage of the encrypted wallet file or paper wallet is generally at a location or facility that has restricted access, such as a safety deposit box at a bank.

Deep cold storage is used to safeguard a large individual cryptocurrency portfolio held for the long term, or for trustees holding cryptocurrency on behalf of others, and is possibly the safest method to ensure a crypto investment remains secure.

Keep Your Software Up to Date

You should always make sure that you are using the latest version of your app or wallet software, which includes important stability and security fixes. Installing updates for all other software on your computer or mobile device is also important to keep your wallet environment safer.

One Last Thing: Think About Your Testament

Your cryptocurrency funds can be lost forever if you don’t have a backup plan for your peers and family. If the location of your wallets or your passwords is not known by anyone when you are gone, there is no hope that your funds will ever be recovered. Taking a bit of time on these matters can make a huge difference.

To the Moon*

Are you comfortable with how you’re managing and backing up your cryptocurrency wallets and keys? Do you have a suggestion for keeping your cryptocurrencies safe that we missed above? Please let us know in the comments.


*To the Moon — Crypto slang for a currency that reaches an optimistic price projection.

The post Securing Your Cryptocurrency appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Computer Alarm that Triggers When Lid Is Opened

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/04/computer_alarm_.html

Do Not Disturb” is a Macintosh app that send an alert when the lid is opened. The idea is to detect computer tampering.

Wired article:

Do Not Disturb goes a step further than just the push notification. Using the Do Not Disturb iOS app, a notified user can send themselves a picture snapped with the laptop’s webcam to catch the perpetrator in the act, or they can shut down the computer remotely. The app can also be configured to take more custom actions like sending an email, recording screen activity, and keeping logs of commands executed on the machine.

Can someone please make one of these for Windows?

Simplicity is a Feature for Cloud Backup

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/distributed-cloud-backup-for-businesses/

cloud on a blue background
For Joel Wagener, Director of IT at AIBS, simplicity is an important feature he looks for in software applications to use in his organization. So maybe it’s not unexpected that Joel chose Backblaze for Business to back up AIBS’s staff computers. According to Joel, “It just works.”American Institute of Biological Sciences

AIBS (The American Institute of Biological Sciences) is a non-profit scientific association dedicated to advancing biological research and education. Founded in 1947 as part of the National Academy of Sciences, AIBS later became independent and now has over 100 member organizations. AIBS works to ensure that the public, legislators, funders, and the community of biologists have access to and use information that will guide them in making informed decisions about matters that require biological knowledge.

AIBS started using Backblaze for Business Cloud Backup several years ago to make sure that the organization’s data was backed up and protected from accidental loss or computer failure. AIBS is based in Washington, D.C., but is a virtual organization, with staff dispersed around the United States. AIBS needed a backup solution that worked anywhere a staff member was located, and was easy to use, as well. Joel has made Backblaze a default part of the configuration management for all the AIBS endpoints, which in their case are exclusively Macintosh.

AIBS biological images

“We started using Backblaze on a single computer in 2014, then not too long after that decided to deploy it to all our endpoints,” explains Joel. “We use Groups to oversee backups and for central billing, but we let each user manage their own computer and restore files on their own if they need to.”

“Backblaze stays out of the way until we need it. It’s fairly lightweight, and I appreciate that it’s simple,” says Joel. “It doesn’t throttle backups and the price point is good. I have family members who use Backblaze, as well.”

Backblaze’s Groups feature permits an organization to oversee and manage the user accounts, including restores, or let users handle that themselves. This flexibility fits a variety of organizations, where various degrees of oversight or independence are desirable. The finance and HR departments could manage their own data, for example, while the rest of the organization could be managed by IT. All groups can be billed centrally no matter how other functionality is set up.

“If we have a computer that needs repair, we can put a loaner computer in that person’s hands and they can immediately get the data they need directly from the Backblaze cloud backup, which is really helpful. When we get the original computer back from repair we can do a complete restore and return it to the user all ready to go again. When we’ve needed restores, Backblaze has been reliable.”

Joel also likes that the memory footprint of Backblaze is light — the clients for both Macintosh and Windows are native, and designed to use minimum system resources and not impact any applications used on the computer. He also likes that updates to the client software are pushed out when necessary.

Backblaze for Business

Backblaze for Business also helps IT maintain archives of users’ computers after they leave the organization.

“We like that we have a ready-made archive of a computer when someone leaves,” said Joel. The Backblaze backup is there if we need to retrieve anything that person was working on.”

There are other capabilities in Backblaze that Joel likes, but hasn’t had a chance to use yet.

“We’ve used Casper (Jamf) to deploy and manage software on endpoints without needing any interaction from the user. We haven’t used it yet for Backblaze, but we know that Backblaze supports it. It’s a handy feature to have.”

”It just works.”
— Joel Wagener, AIBS Director of IT

Perhaps the best thing about Backblaze for Business isn’t a specific feature that can be found on a product data sheet.

“When files have been lost, Backblaze has provided us access to multiple prior versions, and this feature has been important and worked well several times,” says Joel.

“That provides needed peace of mind to our users, and our IT department, as well.”

The post Simplicity is a Feature for Cloud Backup appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Your Hard Drive Crashed — Get Working Again Fast with Backblaze

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/how-to-recover-your-files-with-backblaze/

holding a hard drive and diagnostic tools
The worst thing for a computer user has happened. The hard drive on your computer crashed, or your computer is lost or completely unusable.

Fortunately, you’re a Backblaze customer with a current backup in the cloud. That’s great. The challenge is that you’ve got a presentation to make in just 48 hours and the document and materials you need for the presentation were on the hard drive that crashed.

Relax. Backblaze has your data (and your back). The question is, how do you get what you need to make that presentation deadline?

Here are some strategies you could use.

One — The first approach is to get back the presentation file and materials you need to meet your presentation deadline as quickly as possible. You can use another computer (maybe even your smartphone) to make that presentation.

Two — The second approach is to get your computer (or a new computer, if necessary) working again and restore all the files from your Backblaze backup.

Let’s start with Option One, which gets you back to work with just the files you need now as quickly as possible.

Option One — You’ve Got a Deadline and Just Need Your Files

Getting Back to Work Immediately

You want to get your computer working again as soon as possible, but perhaps your top priority is getting access to the files you need for your presentation. The computer can wait.

Find a Computer to Use

First of all. You’re going to need a computer to use. If you have another computer handy, you’re all set. If you don’t, you’re going to need one. Here are some ideas on where to find one:

  • Family and Friends
  • Work
  • Neighbors
  • Local library
  • Local school
  • Community or religious organization
  • Local computer shop
  • Online store

Laptop computer

If you have a smartphone that you can use to give your presentation or to print materials, that’s great. With the Backblaze app for iOS and Android, you can download files directly from your Backblaze account to your smartphone. You also have the option with your smartphone to email or share files from your Backblaze backup so you can use them elsewhere.

Laptop with smartphone

Download The File(s) You Need

Once you have the computer, you need to connect to your Backblaze backup through a web browser or the Backblaze smartphone app.

Backblaze Web Admin

Sign into your Backblaze account. You can download the files directly or use the share link to share files with yourself or someone else.

If you need step-by-step instructions on retrieving your files, see Restore the Files to the Drive section below. You also can find help at https://help.backblaze.com/hc/en-us/articles/217665888-How-to-Create-a-Restore-from-Your-Backblaze-Backup.

Smartphone App

If you have an iOS or Android smartphone, you can use the Backblaze app and retrieve the files you need. You then could view the file on your phone, use a smartphone app with the file, or email it to yourself or someone else.

Backblaze Smartphone app (iOS)

Backblaze Smartphone app (iOS)

Using one of the approaches above, you got your files back in time for your presentation. Way to go!

Now, the next step is to get the computer with the bad drive running again and restore all your files, or, if that computer is no longer usable, restore your Backblaze backup to a new computer.

Option Two — You Need a Working Computer Again

Getting the Computer with the Failed Drive Running Again (or a New Computer)

If the computer with the failed drive can’t be saved, then you’re going to need a new computer. A new computer likely will come with the operating system installed and ready to boot. If you’ve got a running computer and are ready to restore your files from Backblaze, you can skip forward to Restore the Files to the Drive.

If you need to replace the hard drive in your computer before you restore your files, you can continue reading.

Buy a New Hard Drive to Replace the Failed Drive

The hard drive is gone, so you’re going to need a new drive. If you have a computer or electronics store nearby, you could get one there. Another choice is to order a drive online and pay for one or two-day delivery. You have a few choices:

  1. Buy a hard drive of the same type and size you had
  2. Upgrade to a drive with more capacity
  3. Upgrade to an SSD. SSDs cost more but they are faster, more reliable, and less susceptible to jolts, magnetic fields, and other hazards that can affect a drive. Otherwise, they work the same as a hard disk drive (HDD) and most likely will work with the same connector.


Hard Disk Drive (HDD)Solid State Drive (SSD)

Hard Disk Drive (HDD)

Solid State Drive (SSD)


Be sure that the drive dimensions are compatible with where you’re going to install the drive in your computer, and the drive connector is compatible with your computer system (SATA, PCIe, etc.) Here’s some help.

Install the Drive

If you’re handy with computers, you can install the drive yourself. It’s not hard, and there are numerous videos on YouTube and elsewhere on how to do this. Just be sure to note how everything was connected so you can get everything connected and put back together correctly. Also, be sure that you discharge any static electricity from your body by touching something metallic before you handle anything inside the computer. If all this sounds like too much to handle, find a friend or a local computer store to help you.

Note:  If the drive that failed is a boot drive for your operating system (either Macintosh or Windows), you need to make sure that the drive is bootable and has the operating system files on it. You may need to reinstall from an operating system source disk or install files.

Restore the Files to the Drive

To start, you will need to sign in to the Backblaze website with your registered email address and password. Visit https://secure.backblaze.com/user_signin.htm to login.

Sign In to Your Backblaze Account

Selecting the Backup

Once logged in, you will be brought to the account Overview page. On this page, all of the computers registered for backup under your account are shown with some basic information about each. Select the backup from which you wish to restore data by using the appropriate “Restore” button.

Screenshot of Admin for Selecting the Type of Restore

Selecting the Type of Restore

Backblaze offers three different ways in which you can receive your restore data: downloadable ZIP file, USB flash drive, or USB hard drive. The downloadable ZIP restore option will create a ZIP file of the files you request that is made available for download for 7 days. ZIP restores do not have any additional cost and are a great option for individual files or small sets of data.

Depending on the speed of your internet connection to the Backblaze data center, downloadable restores may not always be the best option for restoring very large amounts of data. ZIP restores are limited to 500 GB per request and a maximum of 5 active requests can be submitted under a single account at any given time.

USB flash and hard drive restores are built with the data you request and then shipped to an address of your choosing via FedEx Overnight or FedEx Priority International. USB flash restores cost $99 and can contain up to 128 GB (110,000 MB of data) and USB hard drive restores cost $189 and can contain up to 4TB max (3,500,000 MB of data). Both include the cost of shipping.

You can return the ZIP drive within 30 days for a full refund with our Restore Return Refund Program, effectively making the process of restoring free, even with a shipped USB drive.

Screenshot of Admin for Selecting the Backup

Selecting Files for Restore

Using the left hand file viewer, navigate to the location of the files you wish to restore. You can use the disclosure triangles to see subfolders. Clicking on a folder name will display the folder’s files in the right hand file viewer. If you are attempting to restore files that have been deleted or are otherwise missing or files from a failed or disconnected secondary or external hard drive, you may need to change the time frame parameters.

Put checkmarks next to disks, files or folders you’d like to recover. Once you have selected the files and folders you wish to restore, select the “Continue with Restore” button above or below the file viewer. Backblaze will then build the restore via the option you select (ZIP or USB drive). You’ll receive an automated email notifying you when the ZIP restore has been built and is ready for download or when the USB restore drive ships.

If you are using the downloadable ZIP option, and the restore is over 2 GB, we highly recommend using the Backblaze Downloader for better speed and reliability. We have a guide on using the Backblaze Downloader for Mac OS X or for Windows.

For additional assistance, visit our help files at https://help.backblaze.com/hc/en-us/articles/217665888-How-to-Create-a-Restore-from-Your-Backblaze-Backup

Screenshot of Admin for Selecting Files for Restore

Extracting the ZIP

Recent versions of both macOS and Windows have built-in capability to extract files from a ZIP archive. If the built-in capabilities aren’t working for you, you can find additional utilities for Macintosh and Windows.

Reactivating your Backblaze Account

Now that you’ve got a working computer again, you’re going to need to reinstall Backblaze Backup (if it’s not on the system already) and connect with your existing account. Start by downloading and reinstalling Backblaze.

If you’ve restored the files from your Backblaze Backup to your new computer or drive, you don’t want to have to reupload the same files again to your Backblaze backup. To let Backblaze know that this computer is on the same account and has the same files, you need to use “Inherit Backup State.” See https://help.backblaze.com/hc/en-us/articles/217666358-Inherit-Backup-State

Screenshot of Admin for Inherit Backup State

That’s It

You should be all set, either with the files you needed for your presentation, or with a restored computer that is again ready to do productive work.

We hope your presentation wowed ’em.

If you have any additional questions on restoring from a Backblaze backup, please ask away in the comments. Also, be sure to check out our help resources at https://www.backblaze.com/help.html.

The post Your Hard Drive Crashed — Get Working Again Fast with Backblaze appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Needed: Senior Software Engineer

Post Syndicated from Yev original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/needed-senior-software-engineer/

Want to work at a company that helps customers in 156 countries around the world protect the memories they hold dear? A company that stores over 500 petabytes of customers’ photos, music, documents and work files in a purpose-built cloud storage system?

Well, here’s your chance. Backblaze is looking for a Sr. Software Engineer!

Company Description:

Founded in 2007, Backblaze started with a mission to make backup software elegant and provide complete peace of mind. Over the course of almost a decade, we have become a pioneer in robust, scalable low cost cloud backup. Recently, we launched B2 – robust and reliable object storage at just $0.005/gb/mo. Part of our differentiation is being able to offer the lowest price of any of the big players while still being profitable.

We’ve managed to nurture a team oriented culture with amazingly low turnover. We value our people and their families. Don’t forget to check out our “About Us” page to learn more about the people and some of our perks.

We have built a profitable, high growth business. While we love our investors, we have maintained control over the business. That means our corporate goals are simple – grow sustainably and profitably.

Some Backblaze Perks:

  • Competitive healthcare plans
  • Competitive compensation and 401k
  • All employees receive Option grants
  • Unlimited vacation days
  • Strong coffee
  • Fully stocked Micro kitchen
  • Catered breakfast and lunches
  • Awesome people who work on awesome projects
  • New Parent Childcare bonus
  • Normal work hours
  • Get to bring your pets into the office
  • San Mateo Office – located near Caltrain and Highways 101 & 280

Want to know what you’ll be doing?

You will work on the server side APIs that authenticate users when they log in, accept the backups, manage the data, and prepare restored data for customers. And you will help build new features as well as support tools to help chase down and diagnose customer issues.

Must be proficient in:

  • Java
  • Apache Tomcat
  • Large scale systems supporting thousands of servers and millions of customers
  • Cross platform (Linux/Macintosh/Windows) — don’t need to be an expert on all three, but cannot be afraid of any

Bonus points for:

  • Cassandra experience
  • JavaScript
  • ReactJS
  • Python
  • Struts
  • JSP’s

Looking for an attitude of:

  • Passionate about building friendly, easy to use Interfaces and APIs.
  • Likes to work closely with other engineers, support, and sales to help customers.
  • Believes the whole world needs backup, not just English speakers in the USA.
  • Customer Focused (!!) — always focus on the customer’s point of view and how to solve their problem!

Required for all Backblaze Employees:

  • Good attitude and willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done
  • Strong desire to work for a small, fast-paced company
  • Desire to learn and adapt to rapidly changing technologies and work environment
  • Rigorous adherence to best practices
  • Relentless attention to detail
  • Excellent interpersonal skills and good oral/written communication
  • Excellent troubleshooting and problem solving skills

This position is located in San Mateo, California but will also consider remote work as long as you’re no more than three time zones away and can come to San Mateo now and then.

Backblaze is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

If this sounds like you —follow these steps:

  1. Send an email to [email protected] with the position in the subject line.
  2. Include your resume.
  3. Tell us a bit about your programming experience.

The post Needed: Senior Software Engineer appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Server vs Endpoint Backup — Which is Best?

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/endpoint-backup-for-distributed-computing/

server and computer backup to the cloud

How common are these statements in your organization?

  • I know I saved that file. The application must have put it somewhere outside of my documents folder.” — Mike in Marketing
  • I was on the road and couldn’t get a reliable VPN connection. I guess that’s why my laptop wasn’t backed up.” — Sally in Sales
  • I try to follow file policies, but I had a deadline this week and didn’t have time to copy my files to the server.” — Felicia in Finance
  • I just did a commit of my code changes and that was when the coffee mug was knocked over onto the laptop.” — Erin in Engineering
  • If you need a file restored from backup, contact the help desk at [email protected] The IT department will get back to you.” — XYZ corporate intranet
  • Why don’t employees save files on the network drive like they’re supposed to?” — Isaac in IT

If these statements are familiar, most likely you rely on file server backups to safeguard your valuable endpoint data.

The problem is, the workplace has changed. Where server backups might have fit how offices worked at one time in the past, relying solely on server backups today means you could be missing valuable endpoint data from your backups. On top of that, you likely are unnecessarily expending valuable user and IT time in attempting to secure and restore endpoint data.

Times Have Changed, and so have Effective Enterprise Backup Strategies

The ways we use computers and handle files today are vastly different from just five or ten years ago. Employees are mobile, and we no longer are limited to monolithic PC and Mac-based office suites. Cloud applications are everywhere. Company-mandated network drive policies are difficult to enforce as office practices change, devices proliferate, and organizational culture evolves. Besides, your IT staff has other things to do than babysit your employees to make sure they follow your organization’s policies for managing files.

Server Backup has its Place, but Does it Support How People Work Today?

Many organizations still rely on server backup. If your organization works primarily in centralized offices with all endpoints — likely desktops — connected directly to your network, and you maintain tight control of how employees manage their files, it still might work for you.

Your IT department probably has set network drive policies that require employees to save files in standard places that are regularly backed up to your file server. Turns out, though, that even standard applications don’t always save files where IT would like them to be. They could be in a directory or folder that’s not regularly backed up.

As employees have become more mobile, they have adopted practices that enable them to access files from different places, but these practices might not fit in with your organization’s server policies. An employee saving a file to Dropbox might be planning to copy it to an “official” location later, but whether that ever happens could be doubtful. Often people don’t realize until it’s too late that accidentally deleting a file in one sync service directory means that all copies in all locations — even the cloud — are also deleted.

Employees are under increasing demands to produce, which means that network drive policies aren’t always followed; time constraints and deadlines can cause best practices to go out the window. Users will attempt to comply with policies as best they can — and you might get 70% or even 75% effective compliance — but getting even to that level requires training, monitoring, and repeatedly reminding employees of policies they need to follow — none of which leads to a good work environment.

Even if you get to 75% compliance with network file policies, what happens if the critical file needed to close out an end-of-year financial summary isn’t one of the files backed up? The effort required for IT to get from 70% to 80% or 90% of an endpoint’s files effectively backed up could require multiple hours from your IT department, and you still might not have backed up the one critical file you need later.

Your Organization Operates on its Data — And Today That Data Exists in Multiple Locations

Users are no longer tied to one endpoint, and may use different computers in the office, at home, or traveling. The greater the number of endpoints used, the greater the chance of an accidental or malicious device loss or data corruption. The loss of the Sales VP’s laptop at the airport on her way back from meeting with major customers can affect an entire organization and require weeks to resolve.

Even with the best intentions and efforts, following policies when out of the office can be difficult or impossible. Connecting to your private network when remote most likely requires a VPN, and VPN connectivity can be challenging from the lobby Wi-Fi at the Radisson. Server restores require time from the IT staff, which can mean taking resources away from other IT priorities and a growing backlog of requests from users to need their files as soon as possible. When users are dependent on IT to get back files critical to their work, employee productivity and often deadlines are affected.

Managing Finite Server Storage Is an Ongoing Challenge

Network drive backup usually requires on-premises data storage for endpoint backups. Since it is a finite resource, allocating that storage is another burden on your IT staff. To make sure that storage isn’t exceeded, IT departments often ration storage by department and/or user — another oversight duty for IT, and even more choices required by your IT department and department heads who have to decide which files to prioritize for backing up.

Adding Backblaze Endpoint Backup Improves Business Continuity and Productivity

Having an endpoint backup strategy in place can mitigate these problems and improve user productivity, as well. A good endpoint backup service, such as Backblaze Cloud Backup, will ensure that all devices are backed up securely, automatically, without requiring any action by the user or by your IT department.

For 99% of users, no configuration is required for Backblaze Backup. Everything on the endpoint is encrypted and securely backed up to the cloud, including program configuration files and files outside of standard document folders. Even temp files are backed up, which can prove invaluable when recovering a file after a crash or other program interruption. Cloud storage is unlimited with Backblaze Backup, so there are no worries about running out of storage or rationing file backups.

The Backblaze client can be silently and remotely installed to both Macintosh and Windows clients with no user interaction. And, with Backblaze Groups, your IT staff has complete visibility into when files were last backed up. IT staff can recover any backed up file, folder, or entire computer from the admin panel, and even give file restore capability to the user, if desired, which reduces dependency on IT and time spent waiting for restores.

With over 500 petabytes of customer data stored and one million files restored every hour of every day by Backblaze customers, you know that Backblaze Backup works for its users.

You Need Data Security That Matches the Way People Work Today

Both file server and endpoint backup have their places in an organization’s data security plan, but their use and value differ. If you already are using file server backup, adding endpoint backup will make a valuable contribution to your organization by reducing workload, improving productivity, and increasing confidence that all critical files are backed up.

By guaranteeing fast and automatic backup of all endpoint data, and matching the current way organizations and people work with data, Backblaze Backup will enable you to effectively and affordably meet the data security demands of your organization.

The post Server vs Endpoint Backup — Which is Best? appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

12 B2 Power Tips for Experts and Developers

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/advanced-cloud-storage-tips/

B2 Tips for Pros
If you’ve been using B2 Cloud Storage for a while, you probably think you know all that you can do with it. But do you?

We’ve put together a list of blazing power tips for experts and developers that will take you to the next level. Take a look below.

If you’re new to B2, we have a list of power tips for you, too.
Visit 12 Power Tips for New B2 Users.
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1    Manage File Versions

Use Lifecycle Rules on a Bucket to set how many days to keep files that are no longer the current version. This is a great way to manage the amount of space your B2 account is using.

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2    Easily Stay on Top of Your B2 Account Limits

Set usage caps and get text/email alerts for your B2 account when you approach limits that you define.

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3    Bring on Your Big Files

You can upload files as large as 10TB to B2.

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4    You Can Use FedEx to Get Your Data into B2

If you have over 20TB of data, you can use Backblaze’s Fireball hard disk array to load large volumes of data directly into your B2 account. We ship a Fireball to you and you ship it back.

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5    You Have Command-Line Control of All B2 Functions

You have complete control over B2 using our command line tool that is available for Macintosh, Windows, and Linux.

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6    You Can Use Your Own Domain Name To Front a Public B2 Bucket

You can create a vanity URL for your B2 account.

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7    See What’s Happening in Your Account with Graphical Reports

You can view graphical reports summarizing your B2 usage — transactions, downloads, averages, data stored — in your B2 account dashboard.

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8    Create a B2 SDK

You can build your own B2 SDK for JVM-based or JVM-compatible languages using our B2 Java SDK on Github.

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9    B2’s API is Easy to Use

B2’s API is similar to, but simpler than Amazon’s S3 API, making it super easy for developers to integrate with B2 Cloud Storage.

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10    View Code Examples To Get Your B2 Project Started

The B2 API is well documented and has code examples for cURL, Java, Python, Swift, Ruby, C#, and PHP. For example, here’s how to create a B2 Bucket.

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11    Developers can set the B2 part size as low as 5 MB

When working with large files, the minimum file part size can be set as low as 5MB or as high as 5GB. This gives developers the ability to maximize the throughput of B2 data uploads and downloads. See Large Files and Downloading for more developer tips.

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12    Your App or Device Can Work with B2, as well

Your B2 integration can be listed on Backblaze’s website. Visit Submit an Integration to get started.

Want to Learn More About B2?

You can find more information on B2 on our website and in our help pages.

The post 12 B2 Power Tips for Experts and Developers appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

12 B2 Power Tips for New Users

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/newbie-cloud-storage-guide/

B2 Tips for Beginners
You probably know that B2 is Backblaze’s fast and economical general purpose cloud storage, but do you know everything that you can do with it?

If you’re a B2 newbie, here are some blazing power tips to help you get the most out of B2 Cloud Storage.

If you’re a B2 expert or a developer, stay tuned. We’ll be publishing power tips for you in the near future. Enter your email address using the Join button at the top of the page and you won’t miss any upcoming blog posts.
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1    Drag and Drop Files to B2

Use Backblaze’s drag-and-drop web interface to store, restore, and share B2 files.

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2    Share Files You Have in B2

You can designate a B2 bucket as private or public. If the bucket is public and you’d like to share a file with others, you can create and copy a Friendly URL and paste it into an email or message.

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3    Use B2 Just Like Any Other Drive

Use B2 just as if it were a drive on your computer — drag and drop files and folders, save files to it — using one of a number of integrations that let you mount B2 as a volume in your Windows or Macintosh file system (Mountain Duck, ExpanDrive, odrive). Pick the files you want to save, drop them in a desktop folder, and they are automatically saved to B2.

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4    Drag and Drop To and From B2 from the Desktop, Too

Use Cyberduck, a B2 integration partner, to drag-and-drop files to and from B2 right from the Windows or Macintosh desktop.

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5    Determine the Speed of your Connection to B2

You can check the speed and latency of your internet connection between your location and Backblaze’s data centers, and see how much data you could theoretically transfer in a day, at https://www.backblaze.com/speedtest/.

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6    No Matter What Type of Data you Have, B2 Can Handle It

You can transfer any type or amount of data to B2 from any device that can connect to the internet, including Windows, Macintosh, Linux, servers, mobile devices, external drives, and NAS.

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7    Get Your Files from B2 by Mail

You have a choice of how to receive your data from B2. You can download data directly or request that your data be shipped to you via FedEx.

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8    Back Up Your Backups to B2

You can automatically back up your Apple Time Machine backup or Windows backup to a NAS and then back that up to B2 to give you both local and cloud backups for a 3-2-1 backup solution.

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9    Protect Your B2 Account with Two-Factor Verification

You can (and should) protect your Backblaze account with two-factor verification (such as using an app on your smartphone), and you can use backup codes and SMS verification in case you lose access to your smartphone.

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10    Preview Photos Stored on B2 from the Web

Preview your photos as thumbnails (and optionally download individual photos) in common image formats (including jpg, png, img, tiff, and gif) with the B2 web interface.

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11    B2 Has Group Management, Too

Backblaze Groups works for B2, too — just like Backblaze Personal Backup and Business Backup. You can manage billing, group membership, and control access using Group Management in your Backblaze account dashboard.

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12    B2 Integrations Make B2 More Powerful and Useful

There are over 30+ software and hardware integrations that make B2 more powerful. You can visit our integrations page to find a solution that works for you.

Want to Learn More About B2?

You can find more information on B2 on our website and in our help pages.

The post 12 B2 Power Tips for New Users appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Power Tips for Backblaze Backup

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/data-backup-tips/

Backup Power Tips

2017 has been a busy year for Backblaze. We’ve reached a total of over 400 petabytes of data stored for our customers — that’s a lot!, released a major upgrade to our backup product — Backblaze Cloud Backup 5.0, added Groups to our consumer and business backup products, further enhanced account security, and welcomed a whole lot of new customers to Backblaze.

For all of our new users (and maybe some of you more experienced ones, too), we’d like to share some power tips that will help you get the most out of Backblaze Backup for home and business.

Blazing Power Tips for Backblaze Backup

Back Up All of Your Valuable Data

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Include Directly-Attached External Drives in Your Backup

Backblaze can back up external drives attached via USB, Thunderbolt, or Firewire.

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Back Up Virtual Machines Installed on Your Computer

Virtual machines, such as those created by Parallels, VMware Fusion, VirtualBox, Hyper-V, or other programs, can be backed up with Backblaze.

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You Can Back Up Your Mobile Phone to Backblaze

Gain extra peace-of-mind by backing up your iPhone or Android phone to your computer and including that in your computer backup.

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Bring on Your Big Files

By default, Backblaze has no restrictions on the size of the files you are backing up, even that large high school reunion video you want to be sure to keep.

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Rescan Your Hard Drive to Check for Changes

Backblaze works quietly and continuously in the background to keep you backed up, but you can ask Backblaze to immediately check whether anything needs backing up by holding down the Alt key and clicking on the Restore Options button in the Backblaze client.

Manage and Restore Your Backed Up Files

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You Can Share Files You’ve Backed Up

You can share files with anyone directly from your Backblaze account.

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Select and Restore Individual Files

You can restore a single file without zipping it using the Backblaze web interface.

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Receive Your Restores from Backblaze by Mail

You have a choice of how to receive your data from Backblaze. You can download individual files, download a ZIP of the files you choose, or request that your data be shipped to you anywhere in the world via FedEx.

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Put Your Account on Hold for Six Months

As long as your account is current, all the data you’ve backed up is maintained for up to six months if you’re traveling or not using your computer and don’t connect to our servers. (For active accounts, data is maintained up to 30 days.)

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Groups Make Managing Business or Family Members Easy

For businesses, families, or organizations, our Groups feature makes it easy to manage billing, group membership, and individual user access to files and accounts — all at no incremental charge.

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You Can Browse and Restore Previous Versions of a File

Visit the View/Restore Files page to go back in time to earlier or deleted versions of your files.

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Mass Deploy Backblaze Remotely to Many Computers

Companies, organizations, schools, non-profits, and others can deploy Backblaze computer backup remotely across all their computers without any end-user interaction.

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Move Your Account and Preserve Backups on a New or Restored Computer

You can move your Backblaze account to a new or restored computer with the same data — and preserve the backups you have already completed — using the Inherit Backup State feature.

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Reinstall Backblaze under a Different Account

Backblaze remembers the account information when it is uninstalled and reinstalled. To install Backblaze under a different account, hold down the ALT key and click the Install Now button.

Keep Your Data Secure

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Protect Your Account with Two-Factor Verification

You can (and should) protect your Backblaze account with two-factor verification. You can use backup codes and SMS verification in case you lose access to your smartphone and the authentication app. Sign in to your account to set that up.

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Add Additional Security to Your Data

All transmissions of your data between your system and our servers is encrypted. For extra account security, you can add an optional private encryption key (PEK) to the data on our servers. Just be sure to remember your encryption key because it’s required to restore your data.

Get the Best Data Transfer Speeds

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How Fast is your Connection to Backblaze?

You can check the speed and latency of your internet connection between your location and Backblaze’s data centers at https://www.backblaze.com/speedtest/.

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Fine-Tune Your Upload Speed with Multiple Threads

Our auto-threading feature adjusts Backblaze’s CPU usage to give you the best upload speeds, but for those of you who like to tinker, the Backblaze client on Windows and Macintosh lets you fine-tune the number of threads our client is using to upload your files to our data centers.

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Use the Backblaze Downloader To Get Your Restores Faster

If you are downloading a large ZIP restore, we recommend that you use the Backblaze Downloader application for Macintosh or Windows for maximum speed.

Want to Learn More About Backblaze Backup?

You can find more information on Backblaze Backup (including a free trial) on our website, and more tips about backing up in our help pages and in our Backup Guide.

Do you have a friend who should be backing up, but doesn’t? Why not give the gift of Backblaze?

The post Power Tips for Backblaze Backup appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

How to Recover From Ransomware

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/complete-guide-ransomware/

Here’s the scenario. You’re working on your computer and you notice that it seems slower. Or perhaps you can’t access document or media files that were previously available.

You might be getting error messages from Windows telling you that a file is of an “Unknown file type” or “Windows can’t open this file.”

Windows error message

If you’re on a Mac, you might see the message “No associated application,” or “There is no application set to open the document.”

MacOS error message

Another possibility is that you’re completely locked out of your system. If you’re in an office, you might be looking around and seeing that other people are experiencing the same problem. Some are already locked out, and others are just now wondering what’s going on, just as you are.

Then you see a message confirming your fears.

wana decrypt0r ransomware message

You’ve been infected with ransomware.

You’ll have lots of company this year. The number of ransomware attacks on businesses tripled in the past year, jumping from one attack every two minutes in Q1 to one every 40 seconds by Q3.There were over four times more new ransomware variants in the first quarter of 2017 than in the first quarter of 2016, and damages from ransomware are expected to exceed $5 billion this year.

Growth in Ransomware Variants Since December 2015

Source: Proofpoint Q1 2017 Quarterly Threat Report

This past summer, our local PBS and NPR station in San Francisco, KQED, was debilitated for weeks by a ransomware attack that forced them to go back to working the way they used to prior to computers. Five months have passed since the attack and they’re still recovering and trying to figure out how to prevent it from happening again.

How Does Ransomware Work?

Ransomware typically spreads via spam or phishing emails, but also through websites or drive-by downloads, to infect an endpoint and penetrate the network. Once in place, the ransomware then locks all files it can access using strong encryption. Finally, the malware demands a ransom (typically payable in bitcoins) to decrypt the files and restore full operations to the affected IT systems.

Encrypting ransomware or “cryptoware” is by far the most common recent variety of ransomware. Other types that might be encountered are:

  • Non-encrypting ransomware or lock screens (restricts access to files and data, but does not encrypt them)
  • Ransomware that encrypts the Master Boot Record (MBR) of a drive or Microsoft’s NTFS, which prevents victims’ computers from being booted up in a live OS environment
  • Leakware or extortionware (exfiltrates data that the attackers threaten to release if ransom is not paid)
  • Mobile Device Ransomware (infects cell-phones through “drive-by downloads” or fake apps)

The typical steps in a ransomware attack are:

1
Infection
After it has been delivered to the system via email attachment, phishing email, infected application or other method, the ransomware installs itself on the endpoint and any network devices it can access.
2
Secure Key Exchange
The ransomware contacts the command and control server operated by the cybercriminals behind the attack to generate the cryptographic keys to be used on the local system.
3
Encryption
The ransomware starts encrypting any files it can find on local machines and the network.
4
Extortion
With the encryption work done, the ransomware displays instructions for extortion and ransom payment, threatening destruction of data if payment is not made.
5
Unlocking
Organizations can either pay the ransom and hope for the cybercriminals to actually decrypt the affected files (which in many cases does not happen), or they can attempt recovery by removing infected files and systems from the network and restoring data from clean backups.

Who Gets Attacked?

Ransomware attacks target firms of all sizes — 5% or more of businesses in the top 10 industry sectors have been attacked — and no no size business, from SMBs to enterprises, are immune. Attacks are on the rise in every sector and in every size of business.

Recent attacks, such as WannaCry earlier this year, mainly affected systems outside of the United States. Hundreds of thousands of computers were infected from Taiwan to the United Kingdom, where it crippled the National Health Service.

The US has not been so lucky in other attacks, though. The US ranks the highest in the number of ransomware attacks, followed by Germany and then France. Windows computers are the main targets, but ransomware strains exist for Macintosh and Linux, as well.

The unfortunate truth is that ransomware has become so wide-spread that for most companies it is a certainty that they will be exposed to some degree to a ransomware or malware attack. The best they can do is to be prepared and understand the best ways to minimize the impact of ransomware.

“Ransomware is more about manipulating vulnerabilities in human psychology than the adversary’s technological sophistication.” — James Scott, expert in Artificial Intelligence

Phishing emails, malicious email attachments, and visiting compromised websites have been common vehicles of infection (we wrote about protecting against phishing recently), but other methods have become more common in past months. Weaknesses in Microsoft’s Server Message Block (SMB) and Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) have allowed cryptoworms to spread. Desktop applications — in one case an accounting package — and even Microsoft Office (Microsoft’s Dynamic Data Exchange — DDE) have been the agents of infection.

Recent ransomware strains such as Petya, CryptoLocker, and WannaCry have incorporated worms to spread themselves across networks, earning the nickname, “cryptoworms.”

How to Defeat Ransomware

1
Isolate the Infection
Prevent the infection from spreading by separating all infected computers from each other, shared storage, and the network.
2
Identify the Infection
From messages, evidence on the computer, and identification tools, determine which malware strain you are dealing with.
3
Report
Report to the authorities to support and coordinate measures to counter attacks.
4
Determine Your Options
You have a number of ways to deal with the infection. Determine which approach is best for you.
5
Restore and Refresh
Use safe backups and program and software sources to restore your computer or outfit a new platform.
6
Plan to Prevent Recurrence
Make an assessment of how the infection occurred and what you can do to put measures into place that will prevent it from happening again.

1 — Isolate the Infection

The rate and speed of ransomware detection is critical in combating fast moving attacks before they succeed in spreading across networks and encrypting vital data.

The first thing to do when a computer is suspected of being infected is to isolate it from other computers and storage devices. Disconnect it from the network (both wired and Wi-Fi) and from any external storage devices. Cryptoworms actively seek out connections and other computers, so you want to prevent that happening. You also don’t want the ransomware communicating across the network with its command and control center.

Be aware that there may be more than just one patient zero, meaning that the ransomware may have entered your organization or home through multiple computers, or may be dormant and not yet shown itself on some systems. Treat all connected and networked computers with suspicion and apply measures to ensure that all systems are not infected.

This Week in Tech (TWiT.tv) did a videocast showing what happens when WannaCry is released on an isolated system and encrypts files and trys to spread itself to other computers. It’s a great lesson on how these types of cryptoworms operate.

2 — Identify the Infection

Most often the ransomware will identify itself when it asks for ransom. There are numerous sites that help you identify the ransomware, including ID Ransomware. The No More Ransomware! Project provides the Crypto Sheriff to help identify ransomware.

Identifying the ransomware will help you understand what type of ransomware you have, how it propagates, what types of files it encrypts, and maybe what your options are for removal and disinfection. It also will enable you to report the attack to the authorities, which is recommended.

wanna decryptor 2.0 ransomware message

WannaCry Ransomware Extortion Dialog

3 — Report to the Authorities

You’ll be doing everyone a favor by reporting all ransomware attacks to the authorities. The FBI urges ransomware victims to report ransomware incidents regardless of the outcome. Victim reporting provides law enforcement with a greater understanding of the threat, provides justification for ransomware investigations, and contributes relevant information to ongoing ransomware cases. Knowing more about victims and their experiences with ransomware will help the FBI to determine who is behind the attacks and how they are identifying or targeting victims.

You can file a report with the FBI at the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

There are other ways to report ransomware, as well.

4 — Determine Your Options

Your options when infected with ransomware are:

  1. Pay the ransom
  2. Try to remove the malware
  3. Wipe the system(s) and reinstall from scratch

It’s generally considered a bad idea to pay the ransom. Paying the ransom encourages more ransomware, and in most cases the unlocking of the encrypted files is not successful.

In a recent survey, more than three-quarters of respondents said their organization is not at all likely to pay the ransom in order to recover their data (77%). Only a small minority said they were willing to pay some ransom (3% of companies have already set up a Bitcoin account in preparation).

Even if you decide to pay, it’s very possible you won’t get back your data.

5 — Restore or Start Fresh

You have the choice of trying to remove the malware from your systems or wiping your systems and reinstalling from safe backups and clean OS and application sources.

Get Rid of the Infection

There are internet sites and software packages that claim to be able to remove ransomware from systems. The No More Ransom! Project is one. Other options can be found, as well.

Whether you can successfully and completely remove an infection is up for debate. A working decryptor doesn’t exist for every known ransomware, and unfortunately it’s true that the newer the ransomware, the more sophisticated it’s likely to be and a perhaps a decryptor has not yet been created.

It’s Best to Wipe All Systems Completely

The surest way of being certain that malware or ransomware has been removed from a system is to do a complete wipe of all storage devices and reinstall everything from scratch. If you’ve been following a sound backup strategy, you should have copies of all your documents, media, and important files right up to the time of the infection.

Be sure to determine as well as you can from file dates and other information what was the date of infection. Consider that an infection might have been dormant in your system for a while before it activated and made significant changes to your system. Identifying and learning about the particular malware that attacked your systems will enable you to understand how that malware operates and what your best strategy should be for restoring your systems.

Backblaze Backup enables you to go back in time and specify the date prior to which you wish to restore files. That date should precede the date your system was infected.

Choose files to restore from earlier date in Backblaze Backup

If you’ve been following a good backup policy with both local and off-site backups, you should be able to use backup copies that you are sure were not connected to your network after the time of attack and hence protected from infection. Backup drives that were completely disconnected should be safe, as are files stored in the cloud, as with Backblaze Backup.

System Restores Are not the Best Strategy for Dealing with Ransomware and Malware

You might be tempted to use a System Restore point to get your system back up and running. System Restore is not a good solution for removing viruses or other malware. Since malicious software is typically buried within all kinds of places on a system, you can’t rely on System Restore being able to root out all parts of the malware. Instead, you should rely on a quality virus scanner that you keep up to date. Also, System Restore does not save old copies of your personal files as part of its snapshot. It also will not delete or replace any of your personal files when you perform a restoration, so don’t count on System Restore as working like a backup. You should always have a good backup procedure in place for all your personal files.

Local backups can be encrypted by ransomware. If your backup solution is local and connected to a computer that gets hit with ransomware, the chances are good your backups will be encrypted along with the rest of your data.

With a good backup solution that is isolated from your local computers, such as Backblaze Backup, you can easily obtain the files you need to get your system working again. You have the flexility to determine which files to restore, from which date you want to restore, and how to obtain the files you need to restore your system.

Choose how to obtain your backup files

You’ll need to reinstall your OS and software applications from the source media or the internet. If you’ve been managing your account and software credentials in a sound manner, you should be able to reactivate accounts for applications that require it.

If you use a password manager, such as 1Password or LastPass, to store your account numbers, usernames, passwords, and other essential information, you can access that information through their web interface or mobile applications. You just need to be sure that you still know your master username and password to obtain access to these programs.

6 — How to Prevent a Ransomware Attack

“Ransomware is at an unprecedented level and requires international investigation.” — European police agency EuroPol

A ransomware attack can be devastating for a home or a business. Valuable and irreplaceable files can be lost and tens or even hundreds of hours of effort can be required to get rid of the infection and get systems working again.

Security experts suggest several precautionary measures for preventing a ransomware attack.

  1. Use anti-virus and anti-malware software or other security policies to block known payloads from launching.
  2. Make frequent, comprehensive backups of all important files and isolate them from local and open networks. Cybersecurity professionals view data backup and recovery (74% in a recent survey) by far as the most effective solution to respond to a successful ransomware attack.
  3. Keep offline backups of data stored in locations inaccessible from any potentially infected computer, such as external storage drives or the cloud, which prevents them from being accessed by the ransomware.
  4. Install the latest security updates issued by software vendors of your OS and applications. Remember to Patch Early and Patch Often to close known vulnerabilities in operating systems, browsers, and web plugins.
  5. Consider deploying security software to protect endpoints, email servers, and network systems from infection.
  6. Exercise cyber hygiene, such as using caution when opening email attachments and links.
  7. Segment your networks to keep critical computers isolated and to prevent the spread of malware in case of attack. Turn off unneeded network shares.
  8. Turn off admin rights for users who don’t require them. Give users the lowest system permissions they need to do their work.
  9. Restrict write permissions on file servers as much as possible.
  10. Educate yourself, your employees, and your family in best practices to keep malware out of your systems. Update everyone on the latest email phishing scams and human engineering aimed at turning victims into abettors.

It’s clear that the best way to respond to a ransomware attack is to avoid having one in the first place. Other than that, making sure your valuable data is backed up and unreachable by ransomware infection will ensure that your downtime and data loss will be minimal or avoided completely.

Have you endured a ransomware attack or have a strategy to avoid becoming a victim? Please let us know in the comments.

The post How to Recover From Ransomware appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Backing Up the Modern Enterprise with Backblaze for Business

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/endpoint-backup-solutions/

Endpoint backup diagram

Organizations of all types and sizes need reliable and secure backup. Whether they have as few as 3 or as many as 300,000 computer users, an organization’s computer data is a valuable business asset that needs to be protected.

Modern organizations are changing how they work and where they work, which brings new challenges to making sure that company’s data assets are not only available, but secure. Larger organizations have IT departments that are prepared to address these needs, but often times in smaller and newer organizations the challenge falls upon office management who might not be as prepared or knowledgeable to face a work environment undergoing dramatic changes.

Whether small or large, local or world-wide, for-profit or non-profit, organizations need a backup strategy and solution that matches the new ways of working in the enterprise.

The Enterprise Has Changed, and So Has Data Use

More and more, organizations are working in the cloud. These days organizations can operate just fine without their own file servers, database servers, mail servers, or other IT infrastructure that used to be standard for all but the smallest organization.

The reality is that for most organizations, though, it’s a hybrid work environment, with a combination of cloud-based and PC and Macintosh-based applications. Legacy apps aren’t going away any time soon. They will be with us for a while, with their accompanying data scattered amongst all the desktops, laptops and other endpoints in corporate headquarters, home offices, hotel rooms, and airport waiting areas.

In addition, the modern workforce likely combines regular full-time employees, remote workers, contractors, and sometimes interns, volunteers, and other temporary workers who also use company IT assets.

The Modern Enterprise Brings New Challenges for IT

These changes in how enterprises work present a problem for anyone tasked with making sure that data — no matter who uses it or where it lives — is adequately backed-up. Cloud-based applications, when properly used and managed, can be adequately backed up, provided that users are connected to the internet and data transfers occur regularly — which is not always the case. But what about the data on the laptops, desktops, and devices used by remote employees, contractors, or just employees whose work keeps them on the road?

The organization’s backup solution must address all the needs of the modern organization or enterprise using both cloud and PC and Mac-based applications, and not be constrained by employee or computer location.

A Ten-Point Checklist for the Modern Enterprise for Backing Up

What should the modern enterprise look for when evaluating a backup solution?

1) Easy to deploy to workers’ computers

Whether installed by the computer user or an IT person locally or remotely, the backup solution must be easy to implement quickly with minimal demands on the user or administrator.

2) Fast and unobtrusive client software

Backups should happen in the background by efficient (native) PC and Macintosh software clients that don’t consume valuable processing power or take memory away from applications the user needs.

3) Easy to configure

The backup solutions must be easy to configure for both the user and the IT professional. Ease-of-use means less time to deploy, configure, and manage.

4) Defaults to backing up all valuable data

By default, the solution backs up commonly used files and folders or directories, including desktops. Some backup solutions are difficult and intimidating because they require that the user chose what needs to be backed up, often missing files and folders/directories that contain valuable data.

5) Works automatically in the background

Backups should happen automatically, no matter where the computer is located. The computer user, especially the remote or mobile one, shouldn’t be required to attach cables or drives, or remember to initiate backups. A working solution backs up automatically without requiring action by the user or IT administrator.

6) Data restores are fast and easy

Whether it’s a single file, directory, or an entire system that must be restored, a user or IT sysadmin needs to be able to restore backed up data as quickly as possible. In cases of large restores to remote locations, the ability to send a restore via physical media is a must.

7) No limitations on data

Throttling, caps, and data limits complicate backups and require guesses about how much storage space will be needed.

8) Safe & Secure

Organizations require that their data is secure during all phases of initial upload, storage, and restore.

9) Easy-to-manage

The backup solution needs to provide a clear and simple web management interface for all functions. Designing for ease-of-use leads to efficiency in management and operation.

10) Affordable and transparent pricing

Backup costs should be predictable, understandable, and without surprises.

Two Scenarios for the Modern Enterprise

Enterprises exist in many forms and types, but wanting to meet the above requirements is common across all of them. Below, we take a look at two common scenarios showing how enterprises face these challenges. Three case studies are available that provide more information about how Backblaze customers have succeeded in these environments.

Enterprise Profile 1

The needs of a smaller enterprise differ from those of larger, established organizations. This organization likely doesn’t have anyone who is devoted full-time to IT. The job of on-boarding new employees and getting them set up with a computer likely falls upon an executive assistant or office manager. This person might give new employees a checklist with the software and account information and lets users handle setting up the computer themselves.

Organizations in this profile need solutions that are easy to install and require little to no configuration. Backblaze, by default, backs up all user data, which lets the organization be secure in knowing all the data will be backed up to the cloud — including files left on the desktop. Combined with Backblaze’s unlimited data policy, organizations have a truly “set it and forget it” platform.

Customizing Groups To Meet Teams’ Needs

The Groups feature of Backblaze for Business allows an organization to decide whether an individual client’s computer will be Unmanaged (backups and restores under the control of the worker), or Managed, in which an administrator can monitor the status and frequency of backups and handle restores should they become necessary. One group for the entire organization might be adequate at this stage, but the organization has the option to add additional groups as it grows and needs more flexibility and control.

The organization, of course, has the choice of managing and monitoring users using Groups. With Backblaze’s Groups, organizations can set user-based access rules, which allows the administrator to create restores for lost files or entire computers on an employee’s behalf, to centralize billing for all client computers in the organization, and to redeploy a recovered computer or new computer with the backed up data.

Restores

In this scenario, the decision has been made to let each user manage her own backups, including restores, if necessary, of individual files or entire systems. If a restore of a file or system is needed, the restore process is easy enough for the user to handle it by herself.

Case Study 1

Read about how PagerDuty uses Backblaze for Business in a mixed enterprise of cloud and desktop/laptop applications.

PagerDuty Case Study

In a common approach, the employee can retrieve an accidentally deleted file or an earlier version of a document on her own. The Backblaze for Business interface is easy to navigate and was designed with feedback from thousands of customers over the course of a decade.

In the event of a lost, damaged, or stolen laptop,  administrators of Managed Groups can  initiate the restore, which could be in the form of a download of a restore ZIP file from the web management console, or the overnight shipment of a USB drive directly to the organization or user.

Enterprise Profile 2

This profile is for an organization with a full-time IT staff. When a new worker joins the team, the IT staff is tasked with configuring the computer and delivering it to the new employee.

Backblaze for Business Groups

Case Study 2

Global charitable organization charity: water uses Backblaze for Business to back up workers’ and volunteers’ laptops as they travel to developing countries in their efforts to provide clean and safe drinking water.

charity: water Case Study

This organization can take advantage of additional capabilities in Groups. A Managed Group makes sense in an organization with a geographically dispersed work force as it lets IT ensure that workers’ data is being regularly backed up no matter where they are. Billing can be company-wide or assigned to individual departments or geographical locations. The organization has the choice of how to divide the organization into Groups (location, function, subsidiary, etc.) and whether the Group should be Managed or Unmanaged. Using Managed Groups might be suitable for most of the organization, but there are exceptions in which sensitive data might dictate using an Unmanaged Group, such as could be the case with HR, the executive team, or finance.

Deployment

By Invitation Email, Link, or Domain

Backblaze for Business allows a number of options for deploying the client software to workers’ computers. Client installation is fast and easy on both Windows and Macintosh, so sending email invitations to users or automatically enrolling users by domain or invitation link, is a common approach.

By Remote Deployment

IT might choose to remotely and silently deploy Backblaze for Business across specific Groups or the entire organization. An administrator can silently deploy the Backblaze backup client via the command-line, or use common RMM (Remote Monitoring and Management) tools such as Jamf and Munki.

Restores

Case Study 3

Read about how Bright Bear Technology Solutions, an IT Managed Service Provider (MSP), uses the Groups feature of Backblaze for Business to manage customer backups and restores, deploy Backblaze licenses to their customers, and centralize billing for all their client-based backup services.

Bright Bear Case Study

Some organizations are better equipped to manage or assist workers when restores become necessary. Individual users will be pleased to discover they can roll-back files to an earlier version if they wish, but IT will likely manage any complete system restore that involves reconfiguring a computer after a repair or requisitioning an entirely new system when needed.

This organization might chose to retain a client’s entire computer backup for archival purposes, using Backblaze B2 as the cloud storage solution. This is another advantage of having a cloud storage provider that combines both endpoint backup and cloud object storage among its services.

The Next Step: Server Backup & Data Archiving with B2 Cloud Storage

As organizations grow, they have increased needs for cloud storage beyond Macintosh and PC data backup. Backblaze’s object cloud storage, Backblaze B2, provides low-cost storage and archiving of records, media, and server data that can grow with the organization’s size and needs.

B2 Cloud Storage is available through the same Backblaze management console as Backblaze Computer Backup. This means that Admins have one console for billing, monitoring, deployment, and role provisioning. B2 is priced at 1/4 the cost of Amazon S3, or $0.005 per month per gigabyte (which equals $5/month per terabyte).

Why Modern Enterprises Chose Backblaze

Backblaze for Business

Businesses and organizations select Backblaze for Business for backup because Backblaze is designed to meet the needs of the modern enterprise. Backblaze customers are part of a a platform that has a 10+ year track record of innovation and over 400 petabytes of customer data already under management.

Backblaze’s backup model is proven through head-to-head comparisons to back up data that other backup solutions overlook in their default configurations — including valuable files that are needed after an accidental deletion, theft, or computer failure.

Backblaze is the only enterprise-level backup company that provides TOTP (Time-based One-time Password) via both SMS and Authentication app to all accounts at no incremental charge. At just $50/year/computer, Backblaze is affordable for any size of enterprise.

Modern Enterprises can Meet The Challenge of The Changing Data Environment

With the right backup solution and strategy, the modern enterprise will be prepared to ensure that its data is protected from accident, disaster, or theft, whether its data is in one office or dispersed among many locations, and remote and mobile employees.

Backblaze for Business is an affordable solution that enables organizations to meet the evolving data demands facing the modern enterprise.

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Backblaze Supports Apple’s macOS High Sierra

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/backblaze-supports-apples-macos-high-sierra/

Backblaze on Apple macOS High Sierra

Apple has released the latest version of its Macintosh operating system, macOS 10.13 “High Sierra.” It is available as a free download in the Mac App Store.

We thought we’d put up a quick post today to let everyone know that the Backblaze Macintosh client has been tested and is compatible with High Sierra. For most users, your existing client is already compatible. Backblaze users can be certain they have the latest version of our client by selecting Check For Updates… from the Backblaze icon in the Apple Menu Bar.

We wrote about the features and changes in the new Mac operating system in our recent blog post, Backblaze’s Upgrade Guide for macOS High Sierra. Highlights include improvements to the file system, video support, graphics, Siri, photos, and the Safari browser.

Backblaze recommends backing up your computer before making major changes, such as installing a new version of the operating system. See our previous post on High Sierra or our Mac Backup Guide for assistance.

The post Backblaze Supports Apple’s macOS High Sierra appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Backblaze’s Upgrade Guide for macOS High Sierra

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/macos-high-sierra-upgrade-guide/

High Sierra

Apple introduced macOS 10.13 “High Sierra” at its 2017 Worldwide Developers Conference in June. On Tuesday, we learned we don’t have long to wait — the new OS will be available on September 25. It’s a free upgrade, and millions of Mac users around the world will rush to install it.

We understand. A new OS from Apple is exciting, But please, before you upgrade, we want to remind you to back up your Mac. You want your data to be safe from unexpected problems that could happen in the upgrade. We do, too. To make that easier, Backblaze offers this macOS High Sierra upgrade guide.

Why Upgrade to macOS 10.13 High Sierra?

High Sierra, as the name suggests, is a follow-on to the previous macOS, Sierra. Its major focus is on improving the base OS with significant improvements that will support new capabilities in the future in the file system, video, graphics, and virtual/augmented reality.

But don’t despair; there also are outward improvements that will be readily apparent to everyone when they boot the OS for the first time. We’ll cover both the inner and outer improvements coming in this new OS.

Under the Hood of High Sierra

APFS (Apple File System)

Apple has been rolling out its first file system upgrade for a while now. It’s already in iOS: now High Sierra brings APFS to the Mac. Apple touts APFS as a new file system optimized for Flash/SSD storage and featuring strong encryption, better and faster file handling, safer copying and moving of files, and other improved file system fundamentals.

We went into detail about the enhancements and improvements that APFS has over the previous file system, HFS+, in an earlier post. Many of these improvements, including enhanced performance, security and reliability of data, will provide immediate benefits to users, while others provide a foundation for future storage innovations and will require work by Apple and third parties to support in their products and services.

Most of us won’t notice these improvements, but we’ll benefit from better, faster, and safer file handling, which I think all of us can appreciate.

Video

High Sierra includes High Efficiency Video Encoding (HEVC, aka H.265), which preserves better detail and color while also introducing improved compression over H.264 (MPEG-4 AVC). Even existing Macs will benefit from the HEVC software encoding in High Sierra, but newer Mac models include HEVC hardware acceleration for even better performance.

MacBook Pro

Metal 2

macOS High Sierra introduces Metal 2, the next-generation of Apple’s Metal graphics API that was launched three years ago. Apple claims that Metal 2 provides up to 10x better performance in key areas. It provides near-direct access to the graphics processor (GPU), enabling the GPU to take control over key aspects of the rendering pipeline. Metal 2 will enhance the Mac’s capability for machine learning, and is the technology driving the new virtual reality platform on Macs.

audio video editor screenshot

Virtual Reality

We’re about to see an explosion of virtual reality experiences on both the Mac and iOS thanks to High Sierra and iOS 11. Content creators will be able to use apps like Final Cut Pro X, Epic Unreal 4 Editor, and Unity Editor to create fully immersive worlds that will revolutionize entertainment and education and have many professional uses, as well.

Users will want the new iMac with Retina 5K display or the upcoming iMac Pro to enjoy them, or any supported Mac paired with the latest external GPU and VR headset.

iMac and HTC virtual reality player

Outward Improvements

Siri

Siri logo

Expect a more nature voice from Siri in High Sierra. She or he will be less robotic, with greater expression and use of intonation in speech. Siri will also learn more about your preferences in things like music, helping you choose music that fits your taste and putting together playlists expressly for you. Expect Siri to be able to answer your questions about music-related trivia, as well.

Siri:  what does “scaramouche” refer to in the song Bohemian Rhapsody?

Photos

HD MacBook Pro screenshot

Photos has been redesigned with a new layout and new tools. A redesigned Edit view includes new tools for fine-tuning color and contrast and making adjustments within a defined color range. Some fun elements for creating special effects and memories also have been added. Photos now works with external apps such as Photoshop and Pixelmator. Compatibility with third-party extension adds printing and publishing services to help get your photos out into the world.

Safari

Safari logo

Apple claims that Safari in High Sierra is the world’s fastest desktop browser, outperforming Chrome and other browsers in a range of benchmark tests. They’ve also added autoplay blocking for those pesky videos that play without your permission and tracking blocking to help protect your privacy.

Can My Mac Run macOS High Sierra 10.13?

All Macs introduced in mid 2010 or later are compatible. MacBook and iMac computers introduced in late 2009 are also compatible. You’ll need OS X 10.7.5 “Lion” or later installed, along with at least 2 GB RAM and 8.8 GB of available storage to manage the upgrade.
Some features of High Sierra require an internet connection or an Apple ID. You can check to see if your Mac is compatible with High Sierra on Apple’s website.

Conquering High Sierra — What Do I Do Before I Upgrade?

Back Up That Mac!

It’s always smart to back up before you upgrade the operating system or make any other crucial changes to your computer. Upgrading your OS is a major change to your computer, and if anything goes wrong…well, you don’t want that to happen.

iMac backup screenshot

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

Check for App and Driver Updates

This is when it helps to do your homework. Check with app developers or device manufacturers to find if their apps and devices have updates to work with High Sierra. Visit their websites or use the Check for Updates feature built into most apps (often found in the File or Help menus).

If you’ve downloaded apps through the Mac App Store, make sure to open them and click on the Updates button to download the latest updates.

Updating can be hit or miss when you’ve installed apps that didn’t come from the Mac App Store. To make it easier, visit the MacUpdate website. MacUpdate tracks changes to thousands of Mac apps.


Will Backblaze work with macOS High Sierra?

Yes. We’ve taken care to ensure that Backblaze works with High Sierra. We’ve already enhanced our Macintosh client to report the space available on an APFS container and we plan to add additional support for APFS capabilities that enhance Backblaze’s capabilities in the future.

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


Set Aside Time for the Upgrade

Depending on the speed of your Internet connection and your computer, upgrading to High Sierra will take some time. You’ll be able to use your Mac straightaway after answering a few questions at the end of the upgrade process.

If you’re going to install High Sierra on multiple Macs, a time-and-bandwidth-saving tip came from a Backblaze customer who suggested copying the installer from your Mac’s Applications folder to a USB Flash drive (or an external drive) before you run it. The installer routinely deletes itself once the upgrade process is completed, but if you grab it before that happens you can use it on other computers.

Where Do I get High Sierra?

Apple says that High Sierra will be available on September 25. Like other Mac operating system releases, Apple offers macOS 10.13 High Sierra for download from the Mac App Store, which is included on the Mac. As long as your Mac is supported and running OS X 10.7.5 “Lion” (released in 2012) or later, you can download and run the installer. It’s free. Thank you, Apple.

Better to be Safe than Sorry

Back up your Mac before doing anything to it, and make Backblaze part of your 3-2-1 backup strategy. That way your data is secure. Even if you have to roll back after an upgrade, or if you run into other problems, your data will be safe and sound in your backup.

Tell us How it Went

Are you getting ready to install High Sierra? Still have questions? Let us know in the comments. Tell us how your update went and what you like about the new release of macOS.

And While You’re Waiting for High Sierra…

While you’re waiting for Apple to release High Sierra on September 25, you might want to check out these other posts about using your Mac and Backblaze.

The post Backblaze’s Upgrade Guide for macOS High Sierra appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Strategies for Backing Up Windows Computers

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/strategies-for-backing-up-windows-computers/

Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10 logos

There’s a little company called Apple making big announcements this week, but about 45% of you are on Windows machines, so we thought it would be a good idea to devote a blog post today to Windows users and the options they have for backing up Windows computers.

We’ll be talking about the various options for backing up Windows desktop OS’s 7, 8, and 10, and Windows servers. We’ve written previously about this topic in How to Back Up Windows, and Computer Backup Options, but we’ll be covering some new topics and ways to combine strategies in this post. So, if you’re a Windows user looking for shelter from all the Apple hoopla, welcome to our Apple Announcement Day Windows Backup Day post.

Windows laptop

First, Let’s Talk About What We Mean by Backup

This might seem to our readers like an unneeded appetizer on the way to the main course of our post, but we at Backblaze know that people often mean very different things when they use backup and related terms. Let’s start by defining what we mean when we say backup, cloud storage, sync, and archive.

Backup
A backup is an active copy of the system or files that you are using. It is distinguished from an archive, which is the storing of data that is no longer in active use. Backups fall into two main categories: file and image. File backup software will back up whichever files you designate by either letting you include files you wish backed up or by excluding files you don’t want backed up, or both. An image backup, sometimes called a disaster recovery backup or a system clone, is useful if you need to recreate your system on a new drive or computer.
The first backup generally will be a full backup of all files. After that, the backup will be incremental, meaning that only files that have been changed since the full backup will be added. Often, the software will keep changed versions of the files for some period of time, so you can maintain a number of previous revisions of your files in case you wish to return to something in an earlier version of your file.
The destination for your backup could be another drive on your computer, an attached drive, a network-attached drive (NAS), or the cloud.
Cloud Storage
Cloud storage vendors supply data storage just as a utility company supplies power, gas, or water. Cloud storage can be used for data backups, but it can also be used for data archives, application data, records, or libraries of photos, videos, and other media.
You contract with the service for storing any type of data, and the storage location is available to you via the internet. Cloud storage providers generally charge by some combination of data ingress, egress, and the amount of data stored.
Sync
File sync is useful for files that you wish to have access to from different places or computers, or for files that you wish to share with others. While sync has its uses, it has limitations for keeping files safe and how much it could cost you to store large amounts of data. As opposed to backup, which keeps revision of files, sync is designed to keep two or more locations exactly the same. Sync costs are based on how much data you sync and can get expensive for large amounts of data.
Archive
A data archive is for data that is no longer in active use but needs to be saved, and may or may not ever be retrieved again. In old-style storage parlance, it is called cold storage. An archive could be stored with a cloud storage provider, or put on a hard drive or flash drive that you disconnect and put in the closet, or mail to your brother in Idaho.

What’s the Best Strategy for Backing Up?

Now that we’ve got our terminology clear, let’s talk backup strategies for Windows.

At Backblaze, we advocate the 3-2-1 strategy for safeguarding your data, which means that you should maintain three copies of any valuable data — two copies stored locally and one stored remotely. I follow this strategy at home by working on the active data on my Windows 10 desktop computer (copy one), which is backed up to a Drobo RAID device attached via USB (copy two), and backing up the desktop to Backblaze’s Personal Backup in the cloud (copy three). I also keep an image of my primary disk on a separate drive and frequently update it using Windows 10’s image tool.

I use Dropbox for sharing specific files I am working on that I might wish to have access to when I am traveling or on another computer. Once my subscription with Dropbox expires, I’ll use the latest release of Backblaze that has individual file preview with sharing built-in.

Before you decide which backup strategy will work best for your situation, you’ll need to ask yourself a number of questions. These questions include where you wish to store your backups, whether you wish to supply your own storage media, whether the backups will be manual or automatic, and whether limited or unlimited data storage will work best for you.

Strategy 1 — Back Up to a Local or Attached Drive

The first copy of the data you are working on is often on your desktop or laptop. You can create a second copy of your data on another drive or directory on your computer, or copy the data to a drive directly attached to your computer, such as via USB.

external hard drive and RAID NAS devices

Windows has built-in tools for both file and image level backup. Depending on which version of Windows you use, these tools are called Backup and Restore, File History, or Image. These tools enable you to set a schedule for automatic backups, which ensures that it is done regularly. You also have the choice to use Windows Explorer (aka File Explorer) to manually copy files to another location. Some external disk drives and USB Flash Drives come with their own backup software, and other backup utilities are available for free or for purchase.

Windows Explorer File History screenshot

This is a supply-your-own media solution, meaning that you need to have a hard disk or other medium available of sufficient size to hold all your backup data. When a disk becomes full, you’ll need to add a disk or swap out the full disk to continue your backups.

We’ve written previously on this strategy at Should I use an external drive for backup?

Strategy 2 — Back Up to a Local Area Network (LAN)

Computers, servers, and network-attached-storage (NAS) on your local network all can be used for backing up data. Microsoft’s built-in backup tools can be used for this job, as can any utility that supports network protocols such as NFS or SMB/CIFS, which are common protocols that allow shared access to files on a network for Windows and other operatings systems. There are many third-party applications available as well that provide extensive options for managing and scheduling backups and restoring data when needed.

NAS cloud

Multiple computers can be backed up to a single network-shared computer, server, or NAS, which also could then be backed up to the cloud, which rounds out a nice backup strategy, because it covers both local and remote copies of your data. System images of multiple computers on the LAN can be included in these backups if desired.

Again, you are managing the backup media on the local network, so you’ll need to be sure you have sufficient room on the destination drives to store all your backup data.

Strategy 3 — Back Up to Detached Drive at Another Location

You may have have read our recent blog post, Getting Data Archives Out of Your Closet, in which we discuss the practice of filling hard drives and storing them in a closet. Of course, to satisfy the off-site backup guideline, these drives would need to be stored in a closet that’s in a different geographical location than your main computer. If you’re willing to do all the work of copying the data to drives and transporting them to another location, this is a viable option.

stack of hard drives

The only limitation to the amount of backup data is the number of hard drives you are willing to purchase — and maybe the size of your closet.

Strategy 4 — Back Up to the Cloud

Backing up to the cloud has become a popular option for a number of reasons. Internet speeds have made moving large amounts of data possible, and not having to worry about supplying the storage media simplifies choices for users. Additionally, cloud vendors implement features such as data protection, deduplication, and encryption as part of their services that make cloud storage reliable, secure, and efficient. Unlimited cloud storage for data from a single computer is a popular option.

A backup vendor likely will provide a software client that runs on your computer and backs up your data to the cloud in the background while you’re doing other things, such as Backblaze Personal Backup, which has clients for Windows computers, Macintosh computers, and mobile apps for both iOS and Android. For restores, Backblaze users can download one or all of their files for free from anywhere in the world. Optionally, a 128 GB flash drive or 4 TB drive can be overnighted to the customer, with a refund available if the drive is returned.

Storage Pod in the cloud

Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage is an option for those who need capabilities beyond Backblaze’s Personal Backup. B2 provides cloud storage that is priced based on the amount of data the customer uses, and is suitable for long-term data storage. B2 supports integrations with NAS devices, as well as Windows, Macintosh, and Linux computers and servers.

Services such as BackBlaze B2 are often called Cloud Object Storage or IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), because they provide a complete solution for storing all types of data in partnership with vendors who integrate various solutions for working with B2. B2 has its own API (Application Programming Interface) and CLI (Command-line Interface) to work with B2, but B2 becomes even more powerful when paired with any one of a number of other solutions for data storage and management provided by third parties who offer both hardware and software solutions.

Backing Up Windows Servers

Windows Servers are popular workstations for some users, and provide needed network services for others. They also can be used to store backups from other computers on the network. They, in turn, can be backed up to attached drives or the cloud. While our Personal Backup client doesn’t support Windows servers, our B2 Cloud Storage has a number of integrations with vendors who supply software or hardware for storing data both locally and on B2. We’ve written a number of blog posts and articles that address these solutions, including How to Back Up your Windows Server with B2 and CloudBerry.

Sometimes the Best Strategy is to Mix and Match

The great thing about computers, software, and networks is that there is an endless number of ways to combine them. Our users and hardware and software partners are ingenious in configuring solutions that save data locally, copy it to an attached or network drive, and then store it to the cloud.

image of cloud backup

Among our B2 partners, Synology, CloudBerry Archiware, QNAP, Morro Data, and GoodSync have integrations that allow their NAS devices to store and retrieve data to and from B2 Cloud Storage. For a drag-and-drop experience on the desktop, take a look at CyberDuck, MountainDuck, and Dropshare, which provide users with an easy and interactive way to store and use data in B2.

If you’d like to explore more options for combining software, hardware, and cloud solutions, we invite you to browse the integrations for our many B2 partners.

Have Questions?

Windows versions, tools, and backup terminology all can be confusing, and we know how hard it can be to make sense of all of it. If there’s something we haven’t addressed here, or if you have a question or contribution, please let us know in the comments.

And happy Windows Backup Day! (Just don’t tell Apple.)

The post Strategies for Backing Up Windows Computers appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

An Invitation for CrashPlan Customers: Try Backblaze

Post Syndicated from Gleb Budman original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/crashplan-alternative-backup-solution/

Welcome CrashPlan Users
With news coming out this morning of CrashPlan exiting the consumer market, we know some of you may be considering which backup provider to call home. We welcome you to try us.

For over a decade, Backblaze has provided unlimited cloud backup for Windows and Macintosh computers at $5 per month (or $50 per year).

Backblaze is excellent if you’re looking for the cheapest online backup option that still offers serious file protection.” — Dann Berg, Tom’s Guide.

That’s it. Ready to make sure your data is safe? Try Backblaze for free — it’ll take you less than a minute and you don’t need a credit card to start protecting your data.

Our customers don’t have to choose between competing feature sets or hard to understand fine print. There are no extra charges and no limits on the size of your files — no matter how many videos you want to back up. And when we say unlimited, we mean unlimited; there are no restrictions on files, gigabytes, or restores. Customers also love the choices they have for getting their data back — web, mobile apps, and our free Restore by Mail option. We’re also the fastest to back up your data. While other services throttle your upload speeds, we want to get you protected as quickly as possible.

Backblaze vs. Carbonite

We know that CrashPlan is encouraging customers to look at Carbonite as an alternative. We would like to offer you another option: Backblaze. We cost less, we offer more, we store over 350 Petabytes of data, we have restored over 20 billion files, and customers in over 120 countries around the world trust us with their data.

Backblaze Carbonite Basic Carbonite Prime
Price per Computer $50/year $59.99/year $149.99/year
Back Up All User Data By Default – No Picking And Choosing Yes No No
Automatically Back Up Files Of Any Size, Including Videos Yes No Yes1
Back Up Multiple USB External Hard Drives Yes No No
Restore by Mail for Free Yes No No
Locate Computer Yes No No
Manage Families & Teams Yes No No
Protect Accounts Via Two Factor VerificationSMS & Authenticator Apps Yes No No
Protect Data Via Private Encryption Key Yes No No2
(1) All videos and files over 4GB require manual selection.  (2) Available on Windows Only

To get just some of the features offered by Backblaze for $50/year, you would need to purchase Carbonite Prime at $149.99/year.

Reminder: Sync is Not Backup

“Backblaze is my favorite online backup service, mostly because everything about it is so simple, especially its pricing and software.“ Tim Fisher — Lifewire: 22 Online Backup Services Reviewed

Of course, there are plenty of options in the marketplace. We encourage you to choose one to make sure you stay backed up. One thing we tell our own friends and family: sync is not backup.

If you’re considering using a sync service — Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, iCloud, etc. — you should know that these services are not designed to back up all your data. Typically, they only sync data from a specific directory or folder. If the service detects a file was deleted from your sync folder, it also will delete it from their server, and you’re out of luck. In addition, most don’t support external drives and have tiered pricing that gets quite expensive.

Backblaze is the Simple, Reliable, and Affordable Choice for Unlimited Backup of All Your Data
People have trusted Backblaze to protect their digital photos, music, movies, and documents for the past 10 years. We look forward to doing the same for your valuable data.

Your CrashPlan service may not be getting shut off today. But there’s no reason to wait until your data is at risk. Try Backblaze for FREE today — all you need to do is pick an email/password and click download.

The post An Invitation for CrashPlan Customers: Try Backblaze appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

What’s the Diff: Programs, Processes, and Threads

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/whats-the-diff-programs-processes-and-threads/

let's talk about Threads

How often have you heard the term threading in relation to a computer program, but you weren’t exactly sure what it meant? How about processes? You likely understand that a thread is somehow closely related to a program and a process, but if you’re not a computer science major, maybe that’s as far as your understanding goes.

Knowing what these terms mean is absolutely essential if you are a programmer, but an understanding of them also can be useful to the average computer user. Being able to look at and understand the Activity Monitor on the Macintosh, the Task Manager on Windows, or Top on Linux can help you troubleshoot which programs are causing problems on your computer, or whether you might need to install more memory to make your system run better.

Let’s take a few minutes to delve into the world of computer programs and sort out what these terms mean. We’ll simplify and generalize some of the ideas, but the general concepts we cover should help clarify the difference between the terms.

Programs

First of all, you probably are aware that a program is the code that is stored on your computer that is intended to fulfill a certain task. There are many types of programs, including programs that help your computer function and are part of the operating system, and other programs that fulfill a particular job. These task-specific programs are also known as “applications,” and can include programs such as word processing, web browsing, or emailing a message to another computer.

Program

Programs are typically stored on disk or in non-volatile memory in a form that can be executed by your computer. Prior to that, they are created using a programming language such as C, Lisp, Pascal, or many others using instructions that involve logic, data and device manipulation, recurrence, and user interaction. The end result is a text file of code that is compiled into binary form (1’s and 0’s) in order to run on the computer. Another type of program is called “interpreted,” and instead of being compiled in advance in order to run, is interpreted into executable code at the time it is run. Some common, typically interpreted programming languages, are Python, PHP, JavaScript, and Ruby.

The end result is the same, however, in that when a program is run, it is loaded into memory in binary form. The computer’s CPU (Central Processing Unit) understands only binary instructions, so that’s the form the program needs to be in when it runs.

Perhaps you’ve heard the programmer’s joke, “There are only 10 types of people in the world, those who understand binary, and those who don’t.”

Binary is the native language of computers because an electrical circuit at its basic level has two states, on or off, represented by a one or a zero. In the common numbering system we use every day, base 10, each digit position can be anything from 0 to 9. In base 2 (or binary), each position is either a 0 or a 1. (In a future blog post we might cover quantum computing, which goes beyond the concept of just 1’s and 0’s in computing.)

Decimal—Base 10 Binary—Base 2
0 0000
1 0001
2 0010
3 0011
4 0100
5 0101
6 0110
7 0111
8 1000
9 1001

How Processes Work

The program has been loaded into the computer’s memory in binary form. Now what?

An executing program needs more than just the binary code that tells the computer what to do. The program needs memory and various operating system resources that it needs in order to run. A “process” is what we call a program that has been loaded into memory along with all the resources it needs to operate. The “operating system” is the brains behind allocating all these resources, and comes in different flavors such as macOS, iOS, Microsoft Windows, Linux, and Android. The OS handles the task of managing the resources needed to turn your program into a running process.

Some essential resources every process needs are registers, a program counter, and a stack. The “registers” are data holding places that are part of the computer processor (CPU). A register may hold an instruction, a storage address, or other kind of data needed by the process. The “program counter,” also called the “instruction pointer,” keeps track of where a computer is in its program sequence. The “stack” is a data structure that stores information about the active subroutines of a computer program and is used as scratch space for the process. It is distinguished from dynamically allocated memory for the process that is known as “the heap.”

diagram of how processes work

There can be multiple instances of a single program, and each instance of that running program is a process. Each process has a separate memory address space, which means that a process runs independently and is isolated from other processes. It cannot directly access shared data in other processes. Switching from one process to another requires some time (relatively) for saving and loading registers, memory maps, and other resources.

This independence of processes is valuable because the operating system tries its best to isolate processes so that a problem with one process doesn’t corrupt or cause havoc with another process. You’ve undoubtedly run into the situation in which one application on your computer freezes or has a problem and you’ve been able to quit that program without affecting others.

How Threads Work

So, are you still with us? We finally made it to threads!

A thread is the unit of execution within a process. A process can have anywhere from just one thread to many threads.

Process vs. Thread

diagram of threads in a process over time

When a process starts, it is assigned memory and resources. Each thread in the process shares that memory and resources. In single-threaded processes, the process contains one thread. The process and the thread are one and the same, and there is only one thing happening.

In multithreaded processes, the process contains more than one thread, and the process is accomplishing a number of things at the same time (technically, it’s almost at the same time—read more on that in the “What about Parallelism and Concurrency?” section below).

diagram of single and multi-treaded process

We talked about the two types of memory available to a process or a thread, the stack and the heap. It is important to distinguish between these two types of process memory because each thread will have its own stack, but all the threads in a process will share the heap.

Threads are sometimes called lightweight processes because they have their own stack but can access shared data. Because threads share the same address space as the process and other threads within the process, the operational cost of communication between the threads is low, which is an advantage. The disadvantage is that a problem with one thread in a process will certainly affect other threads and the viability of the process itself.

Threads vs. Processes

So to review:

  1. The program starts out as a text file of programming code,
  2. The program is compiled or interpreted into binary form,
  3. The program is loaded into memory,
  4. The program becomes one or more running processes.
  5. Processes are typically independent of each other,
  6. While threads exist as the subset of a process.
  7. Threads can communicate with each other more easily than processes can,
  8. But threads are more vulnerable to problems caused by other threads in the same process.

Processes vs. Threads — Advantages and Disadvantages

Process Thread
Processes are heavyweight operations Threads are lighter weight operations
Each process has its own memory space Threads use the memory of the process they belong to
Inter-process communication is slow as processes have different memory addresses Inter-thread communication can be faster than inter-process communication because threads of the same process share memory with the process they belong to
Context switching between processes is more expensive Context switching between threads of the same process is less expensive
Processes don’t share memory with other processes Threads share memory with other threads of the same process

What about Concurrency and Parallelism?

A question you might ask is whether processes or threads can run at the same time. The answer is: it depends. On a system with multiple processors or CPU cores (as is common with modern processors), multiple processes or threads can be executed in parallel. On a single processor, though, it is not possible to have processes or threads truly executing at the same time. In this case, the CPU is shared among running processes or threads using a process scheduling algorithm that divides the CPU’s time and yields the illusion of parallel execution. The time given to each task is called a “time slice.” The switching back and forth between tasks happens so fast it is usually not perceptible. The terms parallelism (true operation at the same time) and concurrency (simulated operation at the same time), distinguish between the two type of real or approximate simultaneous operation.

diagram of concurrency and parallelism

Why Choose Process over Thread, or Thread over Process?

So, how would a programmer choose between a process and a thread when creating a program in which she wants to execute multiple tasks at the same time? We’ve covered some of the differences above, but let’s look at a real world example with a program that many of us use, Google Chrome.

When Google was designing the Chrome browser, they needed to decide how to handle the many different tasks that needed computer, communications, and network resources at the same time. Each browser window or tab communicates with multiple servers on the internet to retrieve text, programs, graphics, audio, video, and other resources, and renders that data for display and interaction with the user. In addition, the browser can open many windows, each with many tasks.

Google had to decide how to handle that separation of tasks. They chose to run each browser window in Chrome as a separate process rather than a thread or many threads, as is common with other browsers. Doing that brought Google a number of benefits. Running each window as a process protects the overall application from bugs and glitches in the rendering engine and restricts access from each rendering engine process to others and to the rest of the system. Isolating JavaScript programs in a process prevents them from running away with too much CPU time and memory, and making the entire browser non-responsive.

Google made the calculated trade-off with a multi-processing design as starting a new process for each browser window has a higher fixed cost in memory and resources than using threads. They were betting that their approach would end up with less memory bloat overall.

Using processes instead of threads provides better memory usage when memory gets low. An inactive window is treated as a lower priority by the operating system and becomes eligible to be swapped to disk when memory is needed for other processes, helping to keep the user-visible windows more responsive. If the windows were threaded, it would be more difficult to separate the used and unused memory as cleanly, wasting both memory and performance.

You can read more about Google’s design decisions on Google’s Chromium Blog or on the Chrome Introduction Comic.

The screen capture below shows the Google Chrome processes running on a MacBook Air with many tabs open. Some Chrome processes are using a fair amount of CPU time and resources, and some are using very little. You can see that each process also has many threads running as well.

activity monitor of Google Chrome

The Activity Monitor or Task Manager on your system can be a valuable ally in helping fine-tune your computer or troubleshooting problems. If your computer is running slowly, or a program or browser window isn’t responding for a while, you can check its status using the system monitor. Sometimes you’ll see a process marked as “Not Responding.” Try quitting that process and see if your system runs better. If an application is a memory hog, you might consider choosing a different application that will accomplish the same task.

Windows Task Manager view

Made it This Far?

We hope this Tron-like dive into the fascinating world of computer programs, processes, and threads has helped clear up some questions you might have had.

The next time your computer is running slowly or an application is acting up, you know your assignment. Fire up the system monitor and take a look under the hood to see what’s going on. You’re in charge now.

We love to hear from you

Are you still confused? Have questions? If so, please let us know in the comments. And feel free to suggest topics for future blog posts.

The post What’s the Diff: Programs, Processes, and Threads appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.