Tag Archives: What’s the Diff?

What’s the Diff: 3-2-1 vs. 3-2-1-1-0 vs. 4-3-2

Post Syndicated from Natasha Rabinov original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/whats-the-diff-3-2-1-vs-3-2-1-1-0-vs-4-3-2/

When it comes to having a backup plan, Navy SEALs go by the rule that “Two is one and one is none.” They’re not often one-upped, but in the world of computer backup, even two is none. The gold standard until recently has been the 3-2-1 rule—three copies of your data on two different media with one copy stored off-site.

The 3-2-1 rule still has value, especially for individuals who aren’t backing up at all. But today, the gold standard is evolving. In this post, we’ll explain why 3-2-1 is being replaced by more comprehensive strategies; we’ll look at the difference between the 3-2-1 rule and emerging rules, including 3-2-1-1-0 and 4-3-2; and we’ll help you decide which is best for you.

Why Is the 3-2-1 Backup Strategy Falling Out of Favor?

When the 3-2-1 backup strategy gained prominence, the world looked a lot different than it does today, technology-wise. The rule is thought to have originated in the world of photography in Peter Krogh’s 2009 book, “The DAM Book: Digital Asset Management for Photographers.” At that time, tape backups were still widely used, especially at the enterprise level, due to their low cost, capacity, and longevity.

The 3-2-1 strategy improved upon existing practices of making one copy of your data on tape and keeping it off-site. It advised keeping three copies of your data (e.g., one primary copy and two backups) on two different media (e.g., the primary copy on an internal hard disk, a backup copy on tape, and an additional backup copy on an external HDD or tape) with one copy off-site (likely the tape backup).

Before cloud storage was widely available, getting the third copy off-site usually involved hiring a storage service to pick up and store the tape drives or physically driving them to an off-site location. (One of our co-founders used to mail a copy of his backup to his brother.) This meant off-site tape backups were “air-gapped” or physically separated from the network that stored the primary copy by a literal gap of air. In the event the primary copy or on-site backup became corrupted or compromised, the off-site backup could be used for a restore.

As storage technology has evolved, the 3-2-1 backup strategy has gotten a little…cloudy. A company might employ a NAS device or SAN to store backups on-site, which is then backed up to object storage in the cloud. An individual might employ a 3-2-1 strategy by backing up their computer to an external hard drive as well as the cloud.

While a 3-2-1 strategy with off-site copies stored in the cloud works well for events like a natural disaster or accidental deletion, it lost the air gap protection that tape provided. Cloud backups are sometimes connected to production networks and thus vulnerable to a digital attack.

Ransomware: The Driver for Stronger Backup Strategies

With as many high-profile ransomware incidents as the past few months have seen, it shouldn’t be news to anyone that ransomware is on the rise. Ransom demands hit an all-time high of $50 million in 2021 so far, and attacks like the ones on Colonial Pipeline and JBS Foods threatened gas and food supply supply chains. In their 2021 report, “Detect, Protect, Recover: How Modern Backup Applications Can Protect You From Ransomware,” Gartner predicted that at least 75% of IT organizations will face one or more attacks by 2025.

Backups are meant to be a company’s saving grace in the event of a ransomware attack, but they only work if they’re not compromised. And hackers know this. Ransomware operators like Sodinokibi, the outfit responsible for attacks on JBS Foods, Acer, and Quanta, are now going after backups in addition to production data.

Cloud backups are sometimes tied to a company’s active directory, and they’re often not virtually isolated from a company’s production network. Once hackers compromise a machine connected to the network, they spread laterally through the network attempting to gain access to admin credentials using tools like keyloggers, phishing attacks, or by reading documentation stored on servers. With admin credentials, they can extract all of the credentials from the active directory and use that information to access backups if they’re configured to authenticate through the active directory.

Is a 3-2-1 Backup Strategy Still Viable?

As emerging technology has changed the way backup strategies are implemented, the core principles of a 3-2-1 backup strategy still hold up:

  • You should have multiple copies of your data.
  • Copies should be geographically distanced.
  • One or more copies should be readily accessible for quick recoveries in the event of a physical disaster or accidental deletion.

But, they need to account for an additional layer of protection: One or more copies should be physically or virtually isolated in the event of a digital disaster like ransomware that targets all of their data, including backups.

What Backup Strategies Are Replacing 3-2-1?

A 3-2-1 backup strategy is still viable, but more extensive, comprehensive strategies exist that make up for the vulnerabilities introduced by connectivity. While not as catchy as 3-2-1, strategies like 3-2-1-1-0 and 4-3-2 offer more protection in the era of cloud backups and ransomware.

What Is 3-2-1-1-0?

A 3-2-1-1-0 strategy stipulates that you:

  • Maintain at least three copies of business data.
  • Store data on at least two different types of storage media.
  • Keep one copy of the backups in an off-site location.
  • Keep one copy of the media offline or air gapped.
  • Ensure all recoverability solutions have zero errors.

The 3-2-1-1-0 method reintroduced the idea of an offline or air gapped copy—either tape backups stored off-site as originally intended in 3-2-1, or cloud backups stored with immutability, meaning the data cannot be modified or changed.

If your company uses a backup software provider like Veeam, storing cloud backups with immutability can be accomplished by using Object Lock. Object Lock is a powerful backup protection tool that prevents a file from being altered or deleted until a given date. Only a few storage platforms currently offer the feature, but if your provider is one of them, you can enable Object Lock and specify the length of time an object should be locked in the storage provider’s user interface or by using API calls.

When Object Lock is set on data, any attempts to manipulate, encrypt, change, or delete the file will fail during that time. The files may be accessed, but no one can change them, including the file owner or whoever set the Object Lock and—most importantly—any hacker that happens upon the credentials of that person.

The 3-2-1-1-0 strategy goes a step further to require that backups are stored with zero errors. This includes data monitoring on a daily basis, correcting for any errors as soon as they’re identified, and regularly performing restore tests.

A strategy like 3-2-1-1-0 offers the protection of air gapped backups with the added fidelity of more rigorous monitoring and testing.

What Is 4-3-2?

If your data is being managed by a disaster recovery expert like Continuity Centers, for example, your backups may be subscribing to the 4-3-2 rule:

  • Four copies of your data.
  • Data in three locations (on-prem with you, on-prem with an MSP like Continuity Centers, and stored with a cloud provider).
  • Two locations for your data are off-site.

Continuity Centers’ CEO, Greg Tellone, explained the benefits of this strategy in a session with Backblaze’s VP of Sales, Nilay Patel, at VeeamON 2021, Veeam’s annual conference. A 4-3-2 strategy means backups are duplicated and geographically distant to offer protection from events like natural disasters. Backups are also stored on two separate networks, isolating them from production networks in the event they’re compromised. Finally, backup copies are stored with immutability, protecting them from deletion or encryption should a hacker gain access to systems.

Which Backup Strategy Is Right for You?

First, any backup strategy is better than no backup strategy. As long as it meets the core principles of 3-2-1 backup, you can still get your data back in the event of a natural disaster, a lost laptop, or an accidental deletion. To summarize, that means:

  • Keeping multiple copies of your data—at least three.
  • Storing copies of your data in geographically separate locations.
  • Keeping at least one copy on-site for quick recoveries.

With tools like Object Lock, you can apply the principles of 3-2-1-1-0 or 4-3-2, giving your data an additional layer of protection by virtually isolating it so it can’t be deleted or encrypted for a specific time. In the unfortunate event that you are attacked by ransomware, backups protected with Object Lock allow you to recover.

For more information on how you can protect your company from ransomware, check out our guide to recovering from and preventing a ransomware attack.

The post What’s the Diff: 3-2-1 vs. 3-2-1-1-0 vs. 4-3-2 appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

What’s the Diff: NAS vs. SAN

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/whats-the-diff-nas-vs-san/

What's the Diff? Network Attached Storage (NAS) vs Storage Area Network (SAN)

Both network attached storage (NAS) and storage area networks (SAN) were developed to solve the problem of making stored data available to many users at once. Each of them provides dedicated storage for a group of users, but they couldn’t be more different in their approach to achieving their mission.

NAS is a single storage device that serves files over Ethernet and is relatively inexpensive and easy to set up, while a SAN is a tightly coupled network of multiple devices that is more expensive and complex to set up and manage. From a user perspective, the biggest difference between NAS and SAN is that NAS devices deliver shared storage as network mounted volumes and use protocols like NFS and SMB/CIFS, while SAN-connected disks appear to the user as local drives.

In this post, we provide an overview of the differences between NAS and SAN, as well as the kinds of applications they are best suited for to help you in deciding which is right for you.

Basic Definitions: What Is NAS?

NAS is a computer connected to a network that provides file-based data storage services to other devices on the network. The primary strength of NAS is how simple it is to set up and deploy. NAS volumes appear to the user as network mounted volumes. The files to be served are typically contained on one or more hard drives in the system, often arranged in RAID arrays. Generally, the more drive bays available within the NAS, the larger and more flexible storage options you have. The device itself is a network node—much like computers and other TCP/IP devices, all of which maintain their own IP address—and the NAS file service uses the Ethernet network to send and receive files. Although a NAS is usually not designed to be a general-purpose server, NAS vendors and third parties are increasingly offering other software to provide server-like functionality on a NAS.

NAS devices offer an easy way for multiple users in diverse locations to access data, which is valuable when users are collaborating on projects or sharing information. NAS provides good access controls and security to support collaboration, while also enabling someone who is not an IT professional to administer and manage access to the data via an on-board web server. It also offers good fundamental data resiliency through the use of redundant data structures—often RAID—making multiple drives appear like a single, large volume that can tolerate failure of a few of its individual drives.

Benefits of NAS

A NAS is frequently the next step up for a home office or small business that is using external hard drives or direct attached storage, which can be especially vulnerable to drive failure. The move up to NAS is driven by the desire to share files locally and remotely, having files available 24/7, achieving data redundancy, having the ability to replace and upgrade hard drives in the system, and most importantly, supports integrations with cloud storage that provides a location for necessary automatic data backups.

Summary of NAS Benefits:

  • Relatively inexpensive.
  • A self-contained solution.
  • Ease of administration.
  • 24/7 and remote data availability.
  • Wide array of systems and sizes to choose from.
  • Drive failure-tolerant storage volumes.
  • Automatic backups to other devices and the cloud.
The NAS system and clients connect via your local network—all file service occurs via Ethernet.
Synology NAS
NAS with eight drive bays for 3.5″ disk drives.

Limitations of NAS

The weaknesses of a NAS are related to scale and performance. As more users need access, the server might not be able to keep up. At this point, you might be able to expand the storage, but most likely it will need to be replaced with a more powerful system with a bigger on-board processor, more memory, and faster and larger network connections. The other weakness is related to the nature of Ethernet itself. By design, Ethernet transfers data from one place to another by dividing the source into a number of segments called packets and sending them along to their destination. Depending on existing network traffic or issues, any of those packets could be delayed or sent out of order, and the file might not be available to the user until all of the packets arrive and are put back in order.

Any latency (slow or retried connections) is usually not noticed by users for small files, but can be a major problem in demanding environments such as video production, where files are extremely large, and latency of more than a few milliseconds can disrupt production such as video editing.

Basic Definitions: What Is SAN?

A SAN is a way to provide users high-performance, low-latency shared access to storage. A SAN is built from a combination of servers and storage over a high speed, low latency interconnect that allows direct Fibre Channel connections from the client to the storage volume to provide the fastest possible performance. The SAN may also require a separate, private Ethernet network between the server and clients to keep the file request traffic out of the Fibre Channel network for even more performance. A SAN is a flexible way to deliver shared storage for a number of users in demanding applications, like video editing or multiple application servers. By joining together the clients, SAN server, and storage on a Fibre Channel network, the SAN volumes appear and perform as if it were a directly connected hard drive. Storage traffic over Fibre Channel avoids the TCP/IP packetization and latency issues, as well as any local area network congestion, ensuring the highest access speed available for media and mission critical stored data.

The SAN management server, storage arrays, and clients all connect via a Fibre Channel network—all file serving occurs over Fibre Channel.

Benefits of SAN

Because it’s considerably more complex and expensive than NAS, SAN is typically used by large corporations and requires administration by an IT staff. For some applications, such as video editing, it’s especially desirable due to its high speed and low latency.

The primary strength of SAN is that it allows simultaneous shared access to shared storage that becomes faster with the addition of storage controllers. For example, hundreds of video editors can use 10’s GB/s of storage simultaneously. For this reason, SAN is widely used in collaborative video production environments.

Summary of SAN Benefits:

  • Extremely fast data access with low latency.
  • Relieves stress on a local area network.
  • Can be scaled up to the limits of the interconnect.
  • OS level (“native”) access to files.
  • Often the only solution for demanding applications requiring concurrent shared access.

Limitations of SAN

The challenge of SAN can be summed up in its cost and administration requirements—having to dedicate and maintain both a separate Ethernet network for metadata file requests and implement a Fibre Channel network can be a considerable investment. That being said, a SAN is often the only way to provide very fast data access for a large number of users that also can scale to supporting hundreds of users at the same time.

The Main Differences Between NAS and SAN

Often used in homes and small to medium sized businesses. Often used in professional and enterprise environments.
Less expensive. More expensive.
Easier to manage. Requires more administration.
Data accessed as if it were a network-attached drive. Servers access data as if it were a local hard drive.
Speed dependent on local TCP/IP Ethernet network, typically 1GbE to 10GbE, and affected by the number of other users accessing the storage at the same time. Generally slower throughput and higher latency due to the nature of Ethernet packetization, waiting for the file server, and latency in general. High speed using Fibre Channel, most commonly available in 16 Gb/s to 32 Gb/s. Fibre Channel can be delivered via high speed Ethernet such as 10Gb or 40Gb+ networks using protocols such as FCoE and iSCSI.
SMB/CIFS, NFS, SFTP, and WebDAV. Fibre Channel, iSCSI, FCoE.
Lower-end not highly scalable; high-end NAS scale to petabytes using clusters or scale-out nodes. Can add more storage controllers, or expanded storage arrays allowing SAN admins to scale performance, storage, or both.
Simply connects to your existing Ethernet network. Requires dedicated Fibre Channel connections for clients, servers, and storage, and often a separate, dedicated Ethernet network for file request traffic.
Entry level systems often have a single point of failure, e.g. power supply. Fault tolerant network and systems with redundant functionality.
Subject to general Ethernet issues. Behavior is more predictable in controlled, dedicated environments.
A central place from which to back up or sync user files. A place from which to archive files not immediately needed.

When considering NAS or SAN, you might find it helpful to think of it this way: NAS is simple to set up, easy to administer, and great for general purpose applications. Meanwhile, SAN can be more challenging to set up and administer, but it’s often the only way to make shared storage available for mission critical and high performance applications.

Are You Using NAS, SAN, or Both?

If you are using NAS or SAN, we’d love to hear from you about what you’re using and how you’re using them in the comments.

The post What’s the Diff: NAS vs. SAN appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Hard Disk Drive (HDD) vs Solid State Drive (SSD): What’s the Diff?

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/hdd-versus-ssd-whats-the-diff/

whats the diff? SSD vs. HDD

HDDs and SSDs have changed in the two years since Peter Cohen wrote the original version of this post on March 8 of 2016. We thought it was time for an update. We hope you enjoy it.

— Editor

In This Corner: The Hard Disk Drive (HDD)

The traditional spinning hard drive has been a standard for many generations of personal computers. Constantly improving technology has enabled hard drive makers to pack more storage capacity than ever, at a cost per gigabyte that still makes hard drives the best bang for the buck.

IBM RamacAs sophisticated as they’ve become, hard drives have been around since 1956. The ones back then were two feet across and could store only a few megabytes of information, but technology has improved to the point where you can cram 10 terabytes into something about the same size as a kitchen sponge.

Inside a hard drive is something that looks more than a bit like an old record player: There’s a platter, or stacked platters, which spin around a central axis — a spindle — typically at about 5,400 to 7,200 revolutions per minute. Some hard drives built for performance work faster.

Hard Drive exploded viewInformation is written to and read from the drive by changing the magnetic fields on those spinning platters using an armature called a read-write head. Visually, it looks a bit like the arm of a record player, but instead of being equipped with a needle that runs in a physical groove on the record, the read-write head hovers slightly above the physical surface of the disk.

The two most common form factors for hard drives are 2.5-inch, common for laptops, and 3.5-inch, common for desktop machines. The size is standardized, which makes for easier repair and replacement when things go wrong.

The vast majority of drives in use today connect through a standard interface called Serial ATA (or SATA). Specialized storage systems sometimes use Serial Attached SCSI (SAS), Fibre Channel, or other exotic interfaces designed for special purposes.

Hard Disk Drives Cost Advantage

Proven technology that’s been in use for decades makes hard disk drives cheap — much cheaper, per gigabyte than solid state drives. HDD storage can run as low as three cents per gigabyte. You don’t spend a lot but you get lots of space. HDD makers continue to improve storage capacity while keeping costs low, so HDDs remain the choice of anyone looking for a lot of storage without spending a lot of money.

The downside is that HDDs can be power-hungry, generate noise, produce heat, and don’t work nearly as fast as SSDs. Perhaps the biggest difference is that HDDs, with all their similarities to record players, are ultimately mechanical devices. Over time, mechanical devices will wear out. It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when.

HDD technology isn’t standing still, and price per unit stored has decreased dramatically. As we said in our post, HDD vs SSD: What Does the Future for Storage Hold? — Part 2, the cost per gigabyte for HDDs has decreased by two billion times in about 60 years.

HDD manufacturers have made dramatic advances in technology to keep storing more and more information on HD platters — referred to as areal density. As HDD manufacturers try to outdo each other, consumers have benefited from larger and larger drive sizes. One technique is to replace the air in drives with helium, which reduces reduces friction and supports greater areal density. Another technology that should be available soon uses heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR). HAMR records magnetically using laser-thermal assistance that ultimately could lead to a 20 terabyte drive by 2019. See our post on HAMR by Seagate’s CTO Mark Re, What is HAMR and How Does It Enable the High-Capacity Needs of the Future?

The continued competition and race to put more and more storage in the same familiar 3.5” HDD form factor means that it will be a relatively small, very high capacity choice for storage for many years to come.

In the Opposite Corner: The Solid State Drive (SSD)

Solid State Drives (SSDs) have become much more common in recent years. They’re standard issue across Apple’s laptop line, for example the MacBook, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air all come standard with SSDs. So does the Mac Pro.

Inside an SSDSolid state is industry shorthand for an integrated circuit, and that’s the key difference between an SSD and a HDD: there are no moving parts inside an SSD. Rather than using disks, motors and read/write heads, SSDs use flash memory instead — that is, computer chips that retain their information even when the power is turned off.

SSDs work in principle the same way the storage on your smartphone or tablet works. But the SSDs you find in today’s Macs and PCs work faster than the storage in your mobile device.

The mechanical nature of HDDs limits their overall performance. Hard drive makers work tirelessly to improve data transfer speeds and reduce latency and idle time, but there’s a finite amount they can do. SSDs provide a huge performance advantage over hard drives — they’re faster to start up, faster to shut down, and faster to transfer data.

A Range of SSD Form Factors

SSDs can be made smaller and use less power than hard drives. They also don’t make noise, and can be more reliable because they’re not mechanical. As a result, computers designed to use SSDs can be smaller, thinner, lighter and last much longer on a single battery charge than computers that use hard drives.

SSD Conversion KitMany SSD makers produce SSD mechanisms that are designed to be plug-and-play drop-in replacements for 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch hard disk drives because there are millions of existing computers (and many new computers still made with hard drives) that can benefit from the change. They’re equipped with the same SATA interface and power connector you might find on a hard drive.

Intel SSD DC P4500A wide range of SSD form factors are now available. Memory Sticks, once limited to 128MB maximum, now come in versions as large as 2 TB. They are used primarily in mobile devices where size and density are primary factor, such as cameras, phones, drones, and so forth. Other high density form factors are designed for data center applications, such as Intel’s 32 TB P4500. Resembling a standard 12-inch ruler, the Intel SSD DC P4500 has a 32 terabyte capacity. Stacking 64 extremely thin layers of 3D NAND, the P4500 is currently the world’s densest solid state drive. The price is not yet available, but given that the DC P4500 SSD requires only one-tenth the power and just one-twentieth the space of traditional hard disk storage, once the price comes out of the stratosphere you can be sure that there will be a market for it.

Nimbus ExaDrive 100TB SSDEarlier this year, Nimbus Data announced the ExaDrive D100 100TB SSD. This SSD by itself holds over twice as much data as Backblaze’s first Storage Pods. Nimbus Data has said that the drive will have pricing comparable to other business-grade SSDs “on a per terabyte basis.” That likely means a price in the tens of thousands of dollars.

SSD drive manufacturers also are chasing ways to store more data in ever smaller form factors and at greater speeds. The familiar SSD drive that looks like a 2.5” HDD drive is starting to become less common. Given the very high speeds that data can be read and copied to the memory chips inside SSDs, it’s natural that computer and storage designers want to take full advantage of that capability. Increasingly, storage is plugging directly into the computer’s system board, and in the process taking on new shapes.

Anand Lal Shimpi, anandtech.com -- http://www.anandtech.com/show/6293/ngff-ssds-putting-an-end-to-proprietary-ultrabook-ssd-form-factors

A size comparison of an mSATA SSD (left) and an M.2 2242 SSD (right)

Laptop makers adopted the mSATA, and then the M.2 standard, which can be as small as a few squares of chocolate but have the same capacity as any 2.5” SATA SSD.

Another interface technology called NvM Express or NVMe may start to move from servers in the data center to consumer laptops in the next few years. NVMe will push storage speeds in laptops and workstations even higher.

SSDs Fail Too

Just like hard drives, SSDs can wear out, though for different reasons. With hard drives, it’s often just the mechanical reality of a spinning motor that wears down over time. Although there are no moving parts inside an SSD, each memory bank has a finite life expectancy — a limit on the number of times it can be written to and read from before it stops working. Logic built into the drives tries to dynamically manage these operations to minimize problems and extend its life.

For practical purposes, most of us don’t need to worry about SSD longevity. An SSD you put in your computer today will likely outlast the computer. But it’s sobering to remember that even though SSDs are inherently more rugged than hard drives, they’re still prone to the same laws of entropy as everything else in the universe.

Planning for the Future of Storage

If you’re still using a computer with a SATA hard drive, you can see a huge performance increase by switching to an SSD. What’s more, the cost of SSDs has dropped dramatically over the course of the past couple of years, so it’s less expensive than ever to do this sort of upgrade.

Whether you’re using a HDD or an SSD, a good backup plan is essential because eventually any drive will fail. You should have a local backup combined with secure cloud-based backup like Backblaze, which satisfies the 3-2-1 backup strategy. To help get started, make sure to check out our Backup Guide.

Hopefully, we’ve given you some insight about HDDs and SSDs. And as always, we encourage your questions and comments, so fire away!

Editor’s note:  You might enjoy reading more about the future of HDDs and SSDs in our two-part series, HDD vs SSD: What Does the Future for Storage Hold?

The post Hard Disk Drive (HDD) vs Solid State Drive (SSD): What’s the Diff? appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

What’s the Diff: Backup vs Archive

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

Whats the Diff: Backup vs Archive

Backups and archives serve different functions, yet it’s common to hear the terms used interchangeably in cloud storage. It’s important to understand the difference between the two to ensure that your data storage methodology meets your needs in a number of key areas:

  1. retained for the period of time you require
  2. protected from loss or unauthorized access
  3. able to be restored or retrieved when needed
  4. structured or tagged to enable locating specific data
  5. kept current according to your requirements

Our two choices can be broadly categorized:

  • backup is for recovery from hardware failure or recent data corruption or loss
  • archive is for space management and long term retention

What Is a Backup?

A backup is a copy of your data that is made to protect against loss of that data. Typically, backups are made on a regular basis according to a time schedule or when the original data changes. The original data is not deleted, but older backups are often deleted in favor of newer backups.

Data backup graphic

Desktop computers, servers, VMs, and mobile devices are all commonly backed up. Backups can include data, OS and application files, or a combination of these according to the backup methodology and purpose.

The goal of a backup is to make a copy of anything in current use that can’t afford to be lost. A backup of a desktop or mobile device might include just the user data so that a previous version of a file can be recovered if necessary. On these types of devices an assumption is often made that the OS and applications can easily be restored from original sources if necessary (and/or that restoring an OS to a new device could lead to significant corruption issues). In a virtual server environment, a backup could include .VMDK files that contain data and the OS as well as both structured (database) and unstructured data (files) so that the system can be put back into service as quickly as possible if something happens to the original VM in a VMware, Hyper-V, or other virtual machine environment.

In the case of a ransomware attack, a solid backup strategy can mean the difference between being able to restore a compromised system and having to pay a ransom in the vague hopes of getting a decryption key to obtain access to files that are no longer available because they were encrypted by the attacker.

Backups can have additional uses. A user might make go to a backup to retrieve an earlier version of a file because it contains something no longer in the current file, or, as is possible with some backup services such as Backblaze Backup, to share a file with a colleague or other person.

What Is an Archive?

An archive is a copy of data made for long-term storage and reference. The original data may or may not be deleted from the source system after the archive copy is made and stored, though it is common for the archive to be the only copy of the data.

Data archive graphic

In contrast to a backup whose purpose is to be able to return a computer or file system to a state it existed in previously, an archive can have multiple purposes. An archive can provide an individual or organization with a permanent record of important papers, legal documents, correspondence, and other matters. Often, an archive is used to meet information retention requirements for corporations and businesses. If a dispute or inquiry arises about a business practice, contract, financial transaction, or employee, the records pertaining to that subject can be obtained from the archive.

An archive is frequently used to ease the burden on faster and more frequently accessed data storage systems. Older data that is unlikely to be needed often is put on systems that don’t need to have the speed and accessibility of systems that contain data still in use. Archival storage systems are usually less expensive, as well, so a strong motivation is to save money on data storage.

Archives are often created based on the age of the data or whether the project the data belongs to is still active. An archiving program might send data to an archive if it hasn’t been accessed in a specified amount of time, when it has reached a certain age, if a person is no longer with the organization, or the files have been marked for storage because the project has been completed or closed.

Archives also can be created using metadata describing the project. An archiving program can automatically add relevant metadata, or the user can tag data manually to aid in future retrieval. Common metadata added can be business information describing the data, or in the case of photos and videos, the equipment, camera settings, and geographical location where the media was created. Artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to identify and catalog subject matter in some data such as photos and videos to make it easier to find the data at a later date. AI tools will become increasingly important as we archive more data and need to be able to find it based on parameters that might not be known at the time the data was archived.

What’s the Diff?

Backup Archive
Data backup graphic Data archive graphic
Enables rapid recovery of live, changing data Stores unchanging data no longer in use but must be retained
One of multiple copies of data Usually only remaining copy of data
Restore speed: crucial Retrieval speed: not crucial
Short Term Retention
Retained for as long as data is in active use
Long Term Retention
Retained for required period or indefinitely
Duplicate copies are periodically overwritten Data cannot be altered or deleted

What’s the Difference Between Restore and Retrieve?

In general backup systems restore and archive systems retrieve. The tools needed to perform these functions are different.

If you are interested in restoring something from a backup, it usually is a single file, a server, or structured data such as a database that needs to be restored to a specific point in time. You need to know a lot about the data, such as where it was located when it was backed up, the database or folder it was in, the name of the file, when it was backed up, and so forth.

When you retrieve data from an archive, the data is connected in some manner, such as date, email recipient, period of time, or other set of parameters that can be specified in a search. A typical retrieval query might be to obtain all files related to a project name, or all emails sent by a person during a specific period of time.

Trying to use a backup for an archive can present problems. You would need to keep rigorous records of where and when the files were backed up, what medium they were backed up to, and myriad other pieces of information that would need to be recorded at the time of backup. By definition, backup systems keep copies of data currently in use, so maintaining backups for lengthy periods of time go beyond the capabilities of backup systems and would require manual management.

The bottom line is don’t use a backup for an archive. Select the approach that suits your needs: a backup to keep additional copies of data currently in use in case something happens to your primary copy, or an archive to keep a permanent (and perhaps only record) of important data you wish to retain for personal, business, or legal reasons.

Why You Need Both Backup and Archive

It’s clear the a backup and an archive have different uses. Do you need both?

If you’re a business, the wise choice is yes. You need to make sure that your active business data is protected from accidental or malicious loss, and that your important records are maintained as long as necessary for business and legal reasons. If you are an individual or a small business with documents, photos, videos, and other media, you also need both backup and archive to ensure that your data is protected both short and long term and available and retrievable when you need it.

Data backup graphic & Data archive graphic

Selecting the right tools and services for backup and archiving is essential. Each have feature sets that make them suited to their tasks. Trying to use backup for archiving, or archiving for backup, is like trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. It’s best to use the right tool and service for the data storage function you require.

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What’s the Diff: VMs vs Containers

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/vm-vs-containers/

What's the Diff: Containers vs VMs

Both VMs and containers can help get the most out of available computer hardware and software resources. Containers are the new kids on the block, but VMs have been, and continue to be, tremendously popular in data centers of all sizes.

If you’re looking for the best solution for running your own services in the cloud, you need to understand these virtualization technologies, how they compare to each other, and what are the best uses for each. Here’s our quick introduction.

Basic Definitions — VMs and Containers

What are VMs?

A virtual machine (VM) is an emulation of a computer system. Put simply, it makes it possible to run what appear to be many separate computers on hardware that is actually one computer.

The operating systems (“OS”) and their applications share hardware resources from a single host server, or from a pool of host servers. Each VM requires its own underlying OS, and the hardware is virtualized. A hypervisor, or a virtual machine monitor, is software, firmware, or hardware that creates and runs VMs. It sits between the hardware and the virtual machine and is necessary to virtualize the server.

Since the advent of affordable virtualization technology and cloud computing services, IT departments large and small have embraced virtual machines (VMs) as a way to lower costs and increase efficiencies.

Virtual Machine System Architecture Diagram

VMs, however, can take up a lot of system resources. Each VM runs not just a full copy of an operating system, but a virtual copy of all the hardware that the operating system needs to run. This quickly adds up to a lot of RAM and CPU cycles. That’s still economical compared to running separate actual computers, but for some applications it can be overkill.

That led to the development of containers.

Benefits of VMs

  • All OS resources available to apps
  • Established management tools
  • Established security tools
  • Better known security controls
Popular VM Providers

What are Containers?

With containers, instead of virtualizing the underlying computer like a virtual machine (VM), just the OS is virtualized.

Containers sit on top of a physical server and its host OS — typically Linux or Windows. Each container shares the host OS kernel and, usually, the binaries and libraries, too. Shared components are read-only. Sharing OS resources such as libraries significantly reduces the need to reproduce the operating system code, and means that a server can run multiple workloads with a single operating system installation. Containers are thus exceptionally “light” — they are only megabytes in size and take just seconds to start. In contrast, VMs take minutes to run and are an order of magnitude larger than an equivalent container.

In contrast to VMs, all that a container requires is enough of an operating system, supporting programs and libraries, and system resources to run a specific program. What this means in practice is you can put two to three times as many as applications on a single server with containers than you can with a VM. In addition, with containers you can create a portable, consistent operating environment for development, testing, and deployment.

Containers System Architecture Diagram

Types of Containers

Linux Containers (LXC) — The original Linux container technology is Linux Containers, commonly known as LXC. LXC is a Linux operating system level virtualization method for running multiple isolated Linux systems on a single host.

Docker — Docker started as a project to build single-application LXC containers, introducing several changes to LXC that make containers more portable and flexible to use. It later morphed into its own container runtime environment. At a high level, Docker is a Linux utility that can efficiently create, ship, and run containers.

Benefits of Containers

  • Reduced IT management resources
  • Reduced size of snapshots
  • Quicker spinning up apps
  • Reduced & simplified security updates
  • Less code to transfer, migrate, upload workloads
Popular Container Providers

Uses for VMs vs Uses for Containers

Both containers and VMs have benefits and drawbacks, and the ultimate decision will depend on your specific needs, but there are some general rules of thumb.

  • VMs are a better choice for running apps that require all of the operating system’s resources and functionality, when you need to run multiple applications on servers, or have a wide variety of operating systems to manage.
  • Containers are a better choice when your biggest priority is maximizing the number of applications running on a minimal number of servers.
What’s the Diff: VMs vs. Containers
VMs Containers
Heavyweight Lightweight
Limited performance Native performance
Each VM runs in its own OS All containers share the host OS
Host OS can be different than the guest OS Host OS and container OS are the same
Startup time in minutes Startup time in milliseconds
Hardware-level virtualization OS virtualization
Allocates required memory Requires less memory space
Fully isolated and hence more secure Process-level isolation and hence less secure

For most, the ideal setup is likely to include both. With the current state of virtualization technology, the flexibility of VMs and the minimal resource requirements of containers work together to provide environments with maximum functionality.

If your organization is running a large number of instances of the same operating system, then you should look into whether containers are a good fit. They just might save you significant time and money over VMs.

Are you Using VMs, Containers, or Both?

We will explore this topic in greater depth in subsequent posts. If you are using VMs or containers, we’d love to hear from you about what you’re using and how you’re using them.

The post What’s the Diff: VMs vs Containers appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

What’s the Diff: Sync vs Backup vs Storage

Post Syndicated from Yev original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/sync-vs-backup-vs-storage/

Cloud Sync vs. Cloud Backup vs. Cloud Storage

The digital landscape has changed over the years, with the cloud becoming increasingly used for storing digital data. As a cloud storage company, it’s important for us to understand how and why people use the tools at their disposal. Knowing how people use tools helps us hone our services to better match that usage. While people become more comfortable using and leveraging cloud services to meet various needs, we still find ourselves repeatedly answering the same questions: “how is this service different from that service?,” “how do I incorporate best practices to ensure we never lose data?,” and “why use a backup service when I already have sync?”

It’s not just average Joes that struggle. Organizations of all shapes and sizes are finding it difficult to navigate service offerings to find ones that meet their needs. A great example is St. John’s School, a top-tier K-12 learning facility with almost 600 students enrolled, who modernized their on-premises data infrastructure. They made the decision to move into the cloud and use a combination of sync (Google Drive for Education) and backup (Backblaze Business Backup) services to cover all of their bases. These hybrid approaches are a great example of how services differ and the unique benefits each provides.

What is the Cloud? Sync vs Backup vs Storage

The cloud is still a term that causes a lot of confusion, both about what it is and how services utilize it. Put simply, the cloud is a set of computers that someone else is managing. When talking about syncing and sharing services like Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, OneDrive, or any of the others, people often assume they are acting as a cloud backup solution as well. Adding to the confusion, cloud storage services are often the backend for backup and sync services as well as standalone services meaning, some of your favorite apps are built in the cloud, sometimes using third party cloud storage. To help sort this out, we’ll define some of the terms below as they apply to a traditional computer setup with a bunch of apps and data.

Cloud Sync (e.g. Dropbox, iCloud Drive, OneDrive, Box, Google Drive)
These services sync folders on your computer or mobile device to folders on other machines or into the cloud, allowing users to work from a folder or directory across devices. Typically these services have tiered pricing, meaning you pay for the amount of data you store with the service, or for tiers of data that you are allowed to use. If there is data loss, sometimes these services even have a version history feature. Of course, only files that are in the synced folders are available to be recovered, resulting in sync services not being able to get back files that were never synced.
Cloud Backup (e.g. Backblaze Computer Backup and Carbonite)
These services should typically work automatically in the background. The user does not usually need to take any action like setting up and working out of specific folders like with sync services (though some online services do differ and you may want to make sure there are no gotchas, like common directories being excluded by default). Backup services typically back up new or changed data that is on your computer to another location. Before the cloud became an available and popular destination, that location was primarily a CD or an external hard drive, but as cloud storage (see below) became more readily available and affordable, quickly it became the most popular offsite storage medium. Typically cloud backup services have fixed pricing, and if there is a system crash or data loss, all backed up data is available for restore. In addition, these services have version history and rollback features in case there is data loss or accidental file deletion.
Cloud Storage (e.g. Backblaze B2, Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud)
These services are where many online backup, syncing, and sharing services store their data. Cloud storage providers typically serve as the endpoint for data storage. These services usually provide APIs (application program interfaces), CLIs (command line interfaces), and access points for individuals and developers to tie in their cloud storage offerings directly. This allows developers to create programs that use the cloud storage solution in any way they see fit. A good way to think about cloud storage is as a building block for whatever tool or service you want to create. Cloud storage services are priced per unit stored, meaning you pay for the amount of storage that you use and access. Since these services are designed for high availability and durability, data can live solely on these services, though we still recommend having multiple copies of your data, just in case.

Which Backup Service is Right For You?

Backblaze strongly believes in a 3-2-1 Backup Strategy. A 3-2-1 strategy means having at least three total copies of your data, two of which are local (or quickly accessible) but on different mediums (e.g. an external hard drive in addition to your computer’s local drive), and at least one copy offsite. A good way to think about this is a setup where you have data (files) on your computer, a copy of that data on a hard drive that resides somewhere not inside your computer (commonly on your desk), and another copy with a cloud backup provider.

Following data best practices is similar to investing. You want to diversify where copies of your data live to decrease the likelihood of losing your data. That is why services like Backblaze Cloud Backup are a great complement to other services, like Time Machine, iCloud, Dropbox, and even the free-tiers of cloud storage services.

What is The Difference Between Cloud Sync and Backup?

People are often confused about how sync tools work, so let’s take a look at some sync setups that we see fairly frequently.

Example 1)  Users have one folder on their computer that is designated for Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or one of the other syncing/sharing services. Users save or place data into that folder when they want the data to appear on other devices. Often these users are using the free tier of those syncing and sharing services and only have a few GB of data uploaded in them.

Example 2)  Users are paying for extended storage for Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, etc, and use those folders as their Documents folder, essentially working out of those directories. Files in that folder are available across devices, however, files outside of that folder (i.e.. living on the computer’s desktop or anywhere else) are not synced or stored by those syncing and sharing services.
What both examples are missing however is the backup of photos, movies, videos, and the rest of the data on their computer. That’s where cloud backup providers shine. They automatically back up user data with little or no setup, and no need for the dragging-and-dropping of files.

If Backblaze Backup is added to this example, the application scans your hard drive(s) to find all the user’s data regardless of where it might be stored. This means that all the user’s data is kept as a backup in the Backblaze cloud, including the data synced by sync services like Dropbox, iCloud Drive, Google Drive, or OneDrive, as long as that data resides on the computer.

Data Recovery

Beyond just where and how your data is stored, it’s important to consider how easy it is to get your data back from all of these services. With sync and share services, retrieving a lot of data, especially if you are in a high-data tier, can be cumbersome and take a while. Generally, the sync and share services only allow customers to download files over the internet. If you are trying to download more than a couple gigabytes of data, the process can take time and can be fraught with errors. If the process of downloading from your sync/share service will take three days, one thing to consider is having to keep the computer online the entire time or risk an error if the download were to get interrupted. One thing to be wary of with syncing and sharing services is that if you are sharing your folders or directories with others, if they add or remove files from shared directories, they will also be added or removed from your computer as well.

With cloud storage services, you can usually only retrieve data over the internet as well, and you pay for both the storage and the egress of the data, so retrieving a large amount of data can be both expensive and time consuming.

Cloud backup services enable you to download files over the internet too and can also suffer from long download times. At Backblaze, we never want our customers to feel like we’re holding their data hostage. That is one of the reasons why we have a lot of restore options, including our Restore Return Refund policy, which allows people to restore their data via a USB hard drive and then return that drive to us for a refund. Cloud sync providers typically do not provide this capability.

One popular data recovery use case we’ve seen when a person has a lot of data to restore is for that user to download just the files that are needed immediately, and then order a USB hard drive restore for the remaining files that are not as time sensitive. The user gets all their files back in a few days and their network is spared the download charges.

The bottom line is that all of these services have merit for different use cases. For additional information, you can see a comparison of online backup and cloud storage services on this webpage.

Have questions about which is best for you? Sound off in the comments below!

•  •  •

Note: This post was updated from June 20, 2017.

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What’s the Diff: RAM vs Storage

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/whats-diff-ram-vs-storage/

WHATS the DIFF? RAM vs Hard Drives

Perhaps the most common challenge computer users encounter when using a computer involves memory, or the lack thereof in their computer.

Computer support technicians will tell you that computer users are often unclear on the different types of memory in their computer. Users often interchange memory with storage, and vice-versa. Statements like “I have eight gigabytes of disk,” or “I have one terabyte of memory” tell computer support people that they’re dealing with a novice when it comes to computer terminology.

We don’t want you to appear as a novice, so let’s break the concepts down and examine these two parts of your computer, how they work together, and how they affect your computer’s performance.

The Difference Between Memory and Storage

Your computer’s main memory is called RAM. You can think of it as a workspace the computer uses to get work done. When you double-click on an app, or open a document, or, well, do much of anything, RAM gets used to store that data while the computer is working on it. Modern computers often come equipped with 8, 16 or more gigabytes of RAM pre-installed.

There’s also storage: a hard disk drive or solid state drive where data is recorded and can stay indefinitely, to be recalled as necessary. That might be a tax return, a poem in a word processor, or an email. By comparison, RAM is volatile — the information that’s put in there disappears when the power is turned off or when the computer is reset. Stuff written to disk stays there permanently until it’s erased, or until the storage medium fails (more on that later).

What is RAM?

RAM takes the form of computer chips — integrated circuits — that are either soldered directly onto the main logic board of your computer or installed in memory modules that go in sockets on your computer’s logic board.

RAM stands for Random Access Memory. The data stored in RAM can be accessed almost instantly regardless of where in memory it is stored, so it’s very fast — milliseconds fast. RAM has a very fast path to the computer’s CPU, or central processing unit, the brain of the computer that does most of the work.

RAM is random access as opposed to sequential access. Data that’s accessed sequentially includes stuff that’s written to your hard disk drive, for example. It’s commonly written in files, with a specific start location and end location. We’ll get to your hard drive storage in a moment.

If you have general purpose needs for your computer, you probably don’t need to tweak its RAM very much. In fact, depending on what computer you buy, you may very well not be able to change the RAM. (Apple and others have removed RAM upgradability from some of their lower-end or portable computers, for example).

Mojave About Dialog BoxHow much RAM on Mac OS (Apple Menu > About This Mac)

How much RAM -- Windows 10


How much RAM on Windows 10 (Control Panel > System and Security > System)

If your computer is older and upgradable, putting in more RAM helps it load and use more apps, more documents, and larger files without slowing down and having to swap that data to disk, which we’ll cover below.

If you work with very large files — big databases, for example, or big image files or video, or if the apps you work with require a large amount of memory to process their data, having more RAM in your computer can help performance significantly.

What is Computer Storage?

Computers need some form of non-volatile storage. That’s a place data can stay even when the computer isn’t being used and is turned off, so you don’t have to reload and re-enter everything each time you use the computer. That’s the point of having storage in addition to RAM.

Storage for the vast majority of computers in use today consists of a drive, either a hard drive or a solid state drive. Drives can provide a lot of space that can be used to store applications, documents, data and all the other stuff you need to get your work done (and your computer needs to operate).

Mac OS Disk SpaceDisk Space on Mac OS (Apple Menu > About This Mac > Storage)

Windows 10 Disk SpaceDisk Space on Windows 10 (This PC > Computer)

No matter what type of drive you have, storage is almost always slower than RAM. Hard disk drives are mechanical devices, so they can’t access information nearly as quickly as memory does. And storage devices in most personal computers use an interface called Serial ATA (SATA), which affects the speed at which data can move between the drive and the CPU.

So why use hard drives at all? Well, they’re cheap and available.

In recent years, more computer makers have begun to offer Solid State Drives (SSDs) as a storage option, in place of or in addition to a conventional hard disk drive.

SSDs are much faster than hard drives since they use integrated circuits. SSDs use a special type of memory circuitry called non-volatile RAM (NVRAM) to store data, so everything stays in place even when the computer is turned off.

Even though SSDs use memory chips instead of a mechanical platter that has to be read sequentially, they’re still slower than the computer’s RAM. That’s partly because of the performance of the memory chips that are being used, and partly also because of the bottleneck created by the interface that connects the storage device to the computer – it’s not nearly as fast as the interface RAM uses.

How RAM and Storage Affect Your Computer’s Performance


For most of us using computers for general purpose work — checking email, surfing the web, paying the bills, playing a game or two and watching Netflix — the RAM our computer comes with is as much as we’ll need. Further down the road, we might need to add a bit more to keep up with new operating system improvements, updated apps, and new apps that have a heftier memory requirement.

If you’re planning to use your computer for more specialized work, more RAM may benefit you greatly. Examples of those sort of tasks include editing video, editing high-resolution images, recording multi-track audio, 3D rendering, and large scale computations for science and engineering.

Again, depending on what computer you buy, you may not be able to upgrade your RAM. So consider this carefully the next time you buy a new computer, and make sure it’s either upgradeable or comes equipped with as much RAM as you think you’ll need.

Your computer’s RAM can fill up: Load up a bunch of applications, open a bunch of documents, get a bunch of activities going, and RAM will be used up by each of the individual processes, or programs, that are running.

When that happens, your computer will temporarily write information it needs to keep track of to a predefined portion of your hard drive or SSD. This area is called virtual memory, and swapping data from RAM to disk is a pretty standard feature of modern operating systems.

The faster your disk is, the less time it takes for the computer to read and write virtual memory. So a computer with an SSD, for example, will seem faster under load than a computer with a regular hard drive.

SSDs also take less time to load apps and documents than hard drives, too. Really, if your computer is using a hard drive, one of the best things you can do to extend its life and improve performance is replace it with an SSD.


Besides RAM, the most serious bottleneck to improving performance in your computer can be your storage. Even with plenty of RAM installed, computers need to write information and read it from the storage system — the hard drive or the SSD.

Hard drives come in different speeds and sizes. Many operate at 5400 RPM (their central axes turn at 5400 revolutions per minute). You’ll see snappier performance if you can get a 7200 RPM drive, and some specialized operating environments even call for 10,000 RPM drives. Faster drives cost more, are louder and use more power, but they exist as options.

New disk technologies enable hard drives to be bigger and faster. These technologies include filling the drive with helium instead of air to reduce disk platter friction, and using heat or microwaves to improve disk density, such as with HAMR (Heat-Assisted Magnetic Recording) and MAMR (Microwave-Assisted Magnetic Recording).

Because they use computer chips instead of spinning disks, SSDs are faster still, and they consume less power, produce less heat, and can take up less space. They’re also less susceptible to magnetic fields and physical jolts, which makes them great for portable use. They’re more money per gigabyte (though the price has dropped quite dramatically in recent months), so do what you will based on your budget and your needs.

For more about the difference between hard drives and SSDs, please check out Hard Disk Drive Versus Solid State Drive: What’s the Diff?

Adding More Disk Storage

As a user’s disk storage needs increase, typically they will look to larger drives to store more data. The first step might be to replace an existing drive with a larger, faster drive, or, if space permits, to add a second drive. A common strategy to improve performance is to use an SSD for the operating system and applications, and a larger HDD for data if the SSD can’t hold both.

If more storage space is needed, an external drive can be added, most often using USB or Thunderbolt to connect to the computer. This can be a single or multiple drive and might use a data storage virtualization technology such as RAID to protect the data.

If you have really large amounts of data, or simply wish to make it easy to share data with others in your location or elsewhere, you likely will turn to network-attached storage (NAS). A NAS device holds multiple drives, typically uses a data virtualization technology such as RAID, and is accessible to anyone on your local network, and, if you wish, on the internet, as well. NAS devices can offer a great deal of storage and other services that typically have been offered only by dedicated network servers in the past.

Back Up Early and Often

No matter how you configure your computer’s RAM and hard drive, remember to back up your device. Whether you have an SSD or a hard drive, and regardless of how much RAM is installed, things will eventually slow down and stop working all together.

You don’t want to be caught without any sort of ability to recover. That’s why it’s vital to have a backup strategy in place. A good backup strategy shouldn’t be dependent on any single device, either, so even if you’re backing up to a local hard disk, a network attached storage system, a Time Capsule or some other device on your computer or local network, you’re not doing enough. Having offsite backup like Backblaze can help.

For more on best backup practices, make sure to check out Backblaze’s Backup Guide.

Have a question? Let us know in the comments. And if you have ideas for things you’d like to see featured in future installments of What’s the Diff?, please let us know!

Note: This post was updated from March 15, 2016. — Editor

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