Backup Awareness Month, Backblaze, And A Simple Question

Last month was Backup Awareness Month (at least according to Backblaze). It’s not formally recognised my any government entities, and it’s more something that was made up by Backblaze. But I’m a big fan of backup awareness, so I endorse making up stuff like this. I had a chance to chat to Yev over at Backblaze about the results of a survey Backblaze runs annually and thought I’d share my thoughts here. Yes, I know I’m a bit behind, but I’ve been busy.

As I mentioned previously, as part of the backup awareness month celebrations, Backblaze reaches out to folks in the US and asks a basic question: “How often do you backup all the data on your computer?”. This has shown some interesting facts about consumer backup habits. There has been a positive decrease in the amount of people stating that they have never backed up their data (down to around one fifth of the respondents), and the frequency of which backup has increased.

Other takeaways from the results include:

  • Almost 50% of people lose their data each year;
  • 41% of people do not completely understand the difference between cloud backup and cloud storage;
  • Millennials are the generation most likely to backup their data daily; and
  • Seniors (65+) have gone from being the best age group at backing up data to the worst.

 

Thoughts

I bang on a lot about how important backup (and recovery) is across both the consumer and enterprise space. Surveys like this are interesting because they highlight, I think, the importance of regularly backing up our data. We’re making more and more of it, and it’s not magically protected by the benevolent cloud fairies, so it’s up to us to protect it. Particularly if it’s important to us. It’s scary to think that one in two people are losing data on a regular basis, and scarier still that most folks don’t understand the distinction between cloud storage and cloud backup. I was surprised that Millennials are most likely to backup their data, but my experience with younger generations really only extends to my children, so they’re maybe not the best indicator of what the average consumer is doing. It’s also troubling that older folk are struggling to keep on top of backups. Anecdotally that lines up with my experience as well. So I think it’s great that Yev and the team at Backblaze have been on something of a crusade to educate people about cloud backup and how it can help them. I love that the company is all about making it easier for consumers, not harder.

As an industry we need to be better at making things simple for people to consume, and more transparent in terms of what can be achieved with technology. I know this blog isn’t really focused on consumer technology, and it might seem a bit silly that I carry on a bit about consumer backup. But you all have data stored some place or another that means something to you. And I know not all of you are protecting it appropriately. Backup is like insurance. It’s boring. People don’t like paying for it. But when something goes bang, you’ll be glad you have it. If these kind of posts can raise some awareness, and get one more person to protect the data that means something to them in an effective fashion, then I’ll be happy with that.

Random Short Take #39

Welcome to Random Short Take #39. Not a huge amount of players have worn 39 in the NBA, and I’m not going to pretend I’m any real fan of The Dwightmare. But things are tough all around, so let’s remain optimistic and push through to number 40. Anyway let’s get random.

  • VeeamON 2020 was online this week, and Anthony Spiteri has done a great job of summarising the major technical session announcements here.
  • I’ve known Howard Marks for a while now, and always relish the opportunity to speak with him when I can. This post is pretty hilarious, and I’m looking forward to reading the followup posts.
  • This is a great article from Alastair Cooke on COVID-19 and what En-Zed has done effectively to stop the spread. It was interesting to hear his thoughts on returning to the US, and I do agree that it’s going to be some time until I make the trip across the Pacific again.
  • Sometimes people get crazy ideas about how they might repurpose some old bits of technology. It’s even better when they write about their experiences in doing so. This article on automating an iPod Hi-Fi’s volume control over at Six Colors was fantastic.
  • Chris M. Evans put out a typically thought-provoking piece on data migration challenges recently that I think is worth checking out. I’ve been talking a lot to customers that are facing these challenges on a daily basis, and it’s interesting to see how, regardless of the industry vertical they operate in, it’s sometimes just a matter of the depth varying, so to speak.
  • I frequently bump into Ray Lucchesi at conferences, and he knows a fair bit about what does and doesn’t work. This article on his experiences recently with a number of virtual and online conferences is the epitome of constructive criticism.
  • Speaking of online conferences, the Australian VMUG UserCon will be virtual this year and will be held on the 30th July. You can find out more and register here.
  • Finally, if you’ve spent any time with me socially, you’ll know I’m a basketball nut. And invariably I’ll tell you that Deftones is may favouritest band ever. So it was great to come across this article about White Pony on one of my favourite sports (and popular culture) websites. If you’re a fan of Deftones, this is one to check out.

 

Random Short Take #38

Welcome to Random Short Take #38. Not a huge amount of players have worn 38 in the NBA, and I’m not going to pretend I was ever a Kwame Brown fan. Although it did seem like he had a tough time of it. Anyway let’s get random.

  • Ransomware is the new hotness. Or, rather, protecting storage systems from ransomware is the new hotness. My man Chin-Fah had a writeup on that here. It’s not a matter of if, but rather when you’ll run into a problem. It’s been interesting to see the various approaches being taken by the storage vendors and the data protection companies.
  • Applications for the vExpert program intake for the second half of 2020 are open, but closing soon. It’s a fantastic program to be a part of, so if you think you’ve got the goods, you can apply here. I also recommend this article from Christopher on his experiences.
  • This was a great article from Alastair on some of the differences between networking with AWS and VMC on AWS. As someone who works for a VMware Cloud Provider, I can confirm that NSX (T or V, I don’t care) has a whole slew of capabilities and whole slew of integration challenges.
  • Are you Zoomed out? I am. Even when you think the problem can’t be the network, it might just be the network (I hope my friends in networking appreciate that it’s not always the storage). John Nicholson posted a typically comprehensive overview of how your bandwidth might be one of the things keeping you from demonstrating excellent radio voice on those seemingly endless meetings you’re doing at the moment. It could also be that you’re using crap audio devices too, but I think John’s going to cover that in the future.
  • Scale Computing has a good story to tell about what it’s been doing with a large school district in the U.S. Read more about that here.
  • This is one of those promotions aimed at my friends in Northern America more than folks based where I am, but I’m always happy to talk about deals on data protection. StorCentric has launched its “Retrospect Dads & Grads Promotion” offering a free 90-Day subscription license for every Retrospect Backup product. You can read more about that here.
  • Pure//Accelerate Online was this week, and Max did a nice write-up on Pure Storage File Services over at Gestalt IT.
  • Rancher Labs recently announced the general availability of Longhorn (a cloud-native container storage solution). I’m looking forward to digging in to this a bit more over the next little while.

 

 

Random Short Take #37

Welcome to Random Short Take #37. Not a huge amount of players have worn 37 in the NBA, but Metta World Peace did a few times. When he wasn’t wearing 15, and other odd numbers. But I digress. Let’s get random.

  • Pavilion Data recently added S3 capability to its platform. It’s based on a variant of MinIO, and adds an interesting dimension to what Pavilion Data has traditionally offered. Mellor provided some good coverage here.
  • Speaking of object storage, Dell EMC recently announced ECS 3.5. You can read more on that here. The architectural white paper has been updated to reflect the new version as well.
  • Speaking of Dell EMC, Preston posted a handy article on Data Domain Retention Lock and NetWorker. Have you pre-ordered Preston’s book yet? I’ll keep asking until you do.
  • Online events are all the rage at the moment, and two noteworthy events are coming up shortly: Pure//Accelerate and VeeamON 2020. Speaking of online events, we’re running a virtual BNEVMUG next week. Details on that here. ZertoCON Virtual is also a thing.
  • Speaking of Pure Storage, this article from Cody Hosterman on NVMe and vSphere 7 is lengthy, but definitely worth the read.
  • I can’t recall whether I mentioned that this white paper  covering VCD on VCF 3.9 is available now, and I can’t be bothered checking. So here it is.
  • I’m not just a fan of Backblaze because of its cool consumer backup solution and object storage platform, I’m also a big fan because of its blog. Articles like this one are a great example of companies doing corporate culture right (at least from what I can see).
  • I have the impression that Datadobi has been doing some cool stuff recently, and this story certainly seems to back it up.

Random Short Take #36

Welcome to Random Short Take #36. Not a huge amount of players have worn 36 in the NBA, but Shaq did (at the end of his career), and Marcus Smart does. This one, though, goes out to one of my favourite players from the modern era, Rasheed Wallace. It seems like Boston is the common thread here. Might have something to do with those hall of fame players wearing numbers in the low 30s. Or it might be entirely unrelated.

  • Scale Computing recently announced its all-NVMe HC3250DF as a new appliance targeting core data centre and edge computing use cases. It offers higher performance storage, networking and processing. You can read the press release here.
  • Dell EMC PowerStore has been announced. Chris Mellor covered the announcement here. I haven’t had time to dig into this yet, but I’m keen to learn more. Chris Evans also wrote about it here.
  • Rubrik Andes 5.2 was recently announced. You can read a wrap-up from Mellor here.
  • StorCentric’s Nexsan recently announced the E-Series 32F Storage Platform. You can read the press release here.
  • In what can only be considered excellent news, Preston de Guise has announced the availability of the second edition of his book, “Data Protection: Ensuring Data Availability”. It will be available in a variety of formats, with the ebook format already being out. I bought the first edition a few times to give as a gift, and I’m looking forward to giving away a few copies of this one too.
  • Backblaze B2 has been huge for the company, and Backblaze B2 with S3-compatible API access is even huger. Read more about that here. Speaking of Backblaze, it just released its hard dive stats for Q1, 2020. You can read more on that here.
  • Hal recently upgraded his NUC-based home lab to vSphere 7. You can read more about the process here.
  • Jon recently posted an article on a new upgrade command available in OneFS. If you’re into Isilon, you might just be into this.

VeeamON 2020 Is Online

VeeamON 2020 would have happened already this year, but these are crazy times, and like most vendors, Veeam has chosen to move the event online, rather than run the gauntlet of having a whole bunch of folks in one place and risk the rapid spread of COVID-19. The new dates for the event are June 17 – 18. You can find more information about VeeamON 2020 here and register for the event here.

The agenda is jam-packed with a range of interesting topics around data protection, spread across a range of tracks, including Architecture and Design, Implementation Best Practices, and Operations and Support. It’s not just marketing fluff either, there’s plenty there for technical folk to sink their teeth into.

 

Thoughts

Six months ago I thought I’d be heading to Vegas for this event. But a lot can change in a short period of time, and a lot has changed. The broader topic of online conferences versus in-person events is an interesting one, and not something I can do justice to here. This isn’t something that Veeam necessarily wanted to do, but it makes sense not to put a whole mess of people in the same space. What I’m interested to see is whether the tech vendors, including Veeam, will notice that not running large scale in-person events actually saves a bunch of money, and look to do more of these once things have gone back to whatever passes for normal in the future. Or whether, as a few people have commented, the events don’t get as much engagement because people aren’t present and can’t commit the time. As much as I’ve come to hate the frequent flights to the U.S.A. to attend tech conferences, it does make it easier to be present in terms of time zones and distractions. If I’m watching events in Pacific Time from my home, it’s usually the middle of the night to make the keynote. And I have the day job to consider as well.

That said, I think it’s fantastic that companies like Veeam have been able to adjust their approach to what was a fairly traditional model when it came to customer and partner engagement. Sure, we won’t be able to get together for a meal in person, but we’ll still have the opportunity to hear about what Veeam’s been up to, and find out a little more about what’s coming next. Ultimately, that’s what these kind of events are about.

 

Backblaze B2 And A Happy Customer

Backblaze recently published a case study with AK Productions. I had the opportunity to speak to Aiden Korotkin and thought I’d share some of my notes here.

 

The Problem

Korotkin’s problem was a fairly common one – he had lots of data from previous projects that had built up over the years. He’d been using a bunch of external drives to store this data, and had had a couple of external drives fail, including the backup drives. Google’s cloud storage option “seemed like a more redundant and safer investment financially to go into the cloud space”. He was already using G Suite. And so he migrated his old projects off hard drives and into the cloud. He had a credit with Google for a year to use its cloud platform. It became pretty expensive after that, not really feasible. Korotkin also stated that calculating the expected costs was difficult. He also felt that he needed to find something more private / secure.

 

The Solution

So how did he come by Backblaze? He did a bunch of research. Backblaze B2 consistently showed up in the top 15 results when online magazines were publishing their guides to cloud storage. He’d heard of it before, possibly seen a demo. The technology seemed very streamlined, exactly what he needed for his business. A bonus was that there were no extra steps to backup his QNAP NAS as well. This seemed like the best option.

Current Workflow

I asked Korotkin to walk me though his current workflow. B2 is being used as a backup target for the moment. Physics being what it is, it’s still “[h]ard to do video editing direct on the cloud”. The QNAP NAS houses current projects, with data mirrored to B2. Archives are uploaded to a different area of B2. After time, data is completely archived to the cloud.

How About Ingest?

Korotkin needed to move 12TB from Google to Backblaze. He used Flexify.IO to transfer from one cloud to the next. They walked him through how to do it. The good news is that they were able to do it in 12 hours.

It’s About Support

Korotkin noted that between Backblaze and Flexify.IO “the tech support experience was incredible”. He said that he “[f]elt like I was very much taken care of”. He got the strong impression that the support staff enjoyed helping him, and were with him through every step of the way. The most frustrating part of the migration, according to Korotkin, was dealing with Google generally. The offloading of the data from Google cost more money than he’s paid to date with Backblaze. “As a small business owner I don’t have $1500 just to throw away”.

 

Thoughts

I’ve been a fan of Backblaze for some time. I’m a happy customer when it comes to the consumer backup product, and I’ve always enjoyed the transparency it’s displayed as a company with regards to its pod designs and the process required to get to where it is today. I remain fascinated by the workflows required to do multimedia content creation successfully, and I think this story is a great tribute to the support culture of Backblaze. It’s nice to see that smaller shops, such as Korotkin’s, are afforded the same kind of care and support experience as some of the bigger customers might. This is a noticeable point of distinction when compared to working with the hyperscalers. It’s not that those folks aren’t happy to help, they’re just operating at a different level.

Korotkin’s approach was not unreasonable, or unusual, particularly for content creators. Keeping data safe is a challenge for small business, and solutions that make storing and protecting data easier are going to be popular. Korotkin’s story is a good one, and I’m always happy to hear these kinds of stories. If you find yourself shuffling external drives, or need a lot of capacity but don’t want to invest too heavily in on-premises storage, Backblaze has a good story in terms of both cloud storage and data protection.

Random Short Take #35

Welcome to Random Short Take #35. Some really good players have worn 35 in the NBA, including The Big Dog Antoine Carr, and Reggie Lewis. This one, though, goes out to one of my favourite players from the modern era, Kevin Durant. If it feels like it’s only been a week since the last post, that’s because it has. I bet you wish that I was producing some content that’s more useful than a bunch of links. So do I.

  • I don’t often get excited about funding rounds, but I have a friend who works there, so here’s an article covering the latest round (C) of funding for VAST Data.
  • Datadobi continue to share good news in these challenging times, and has published a success story based on some work it’s done with Payspan.
  • Speaking of challenging times, the nice folks a Retrospect are offering a free 90-day license subscription for Retrospect Backup. You don’t need a credit card to sign up, and “[a]ll backups can be restored, even if the subscription is cancelled”.
  • I loved this post from Russ discussing a recent article on Facebook and learning from network failures at scale. I’m in love with the idea that you can’t automate your way out of misconfiguration. We’ve been talking a lot about this in my day job lately. Automation can be a really exciting concept, but it’s not magic. And as scale increase, so too does the time it takes to troubleshoot issues. It all seems like a straightforward concept, but you’d be surprised how many people are surprised by these ideas.
  • Software continues to dominate the headlines, but hardware still has a role to play in the world. Alastair talks more about that idea here.
  • Paul Stringfellow recently jumped on the Storage Unpacked podcast to talk storage myths versus reality. Worth listening to.
  • It’s not all good news though. Sometimes people make mistakes, and pull out the wrong cables. This is a story I’ll be sharing with my team about resiliency.
  • SMR drives and consumer NAS devices aren’t necessarily the best combo. So this isn’t the best news either. I’m patiently waiting for consumer Flash drive prices to come down. It’s going to take a while though.

 

World Backup Day 2020

World Backup Day has been and gone already (it’s 31st March each year). I don’t normally write much about it, as I’d like to think that every day is World Backup Day. But not everyone is into data protection in the same way I am though. Every year, some very nice people at a PR firm I work with send me a series of quotes about World Backup Day, and I invariably file them away, and don’t write anything on the topic. But I thought this year, “in these uncertain times”, that it might be an idea to put together a short article that included some of those quotes and some of my own thoughts on the topic.

 

The Vendor’s View

Steve Cochran (Chief Technology Officer, ConnectWise), had this to say on the topic:

“There are two major reasons why we should take backups seriously: Hardware failure and human error. Systems are not foolproof and every piece of hardware will fail eventually, so it’s not a question of if, but rather when, these failures will happen. If you haven’t kept up with your backups, you’ll get caught unprepared. There’s also a factor of human error where you might accidentally delete a file or photo. We put our entire lives on our computers and mobile devices, but we also make mistakes, and not having a backup system in place is almost silly at this point. While you need to dedicate some time to set up automatic backups, you don’t have to keep up with them — they simply run in the background.”

 

Yev Pusin (Director of Strategy, Backblaze), chipped in with this:

“World Backup Day is coming up, and while many will folks will go with phrases like ‘Don’t be an April Fool, Backup Today,’ it is not the route I’ll go down this year. Backing up your data is something that should be taken seriously, especially with the recent increase in major ransomware attacks and the sudden increase in the amount of remote workers we are seeing in 2020 as a result of COVID-19.

While World Backup Day serves as a great reminder of the importance of backing up your data, data backup is something that should be an everyday activity. That used to be a daunting task, but it no longer has to be one!”

 

Carl D’Halluin (CTO, Datadobi), had this to say on the topic:

“Ultimately, in a world of rising threats, organizations must develop the ability to protect and back up their data quickly, flexibly, securely, and cost-effectively, so data can be backed up down to the individual file level.”

 

Data Protection is Everyone’s Problem

Data protection is everyone’s problem. But I don’t want that to sound like I’m trying to scare you. It’s one of those things that’s important though. More and more of our everyday activities revolve around technology and data. In the much the same way as most of us now have home insurance, and car insurance, and health insurance, we also need to consider the need for data insurance. This isn’t just a problem for companies, and it’s not just a problem for the end user, it’s a problem for everyone.

So what can you do? There’s all manner of things you can do to improve your personal and business data protection situation. From a personal perspective, I recommend you do the equivalent of going to your doctor for a health check, and do a health check on your data. Spend a day taking note of everything that you interact with, and question the data that’s generated during those interactions. Is it important to you? What would you do if you couldn’t access it? Then go and find a way to protect it if possible. That might be something as mundane as taking screenshots of messages (and baking up the resultant screenshots). It might be more complicated, and involve installing some software on your computer. Whatever it is, if you’re not doing it, and you think you should be, try and make it a priority. If it all seems too complicated, or something you don’t feel capable of doing yourself, don’t be afraid to ask people on the Internet for help.

The same goes for business. You might work for a company where the responsibility for data protection in a corporate sense lies with someone else, but I would suggest that, just like workplace health and safety, data protection (availability, integrity, and security) is everyone’s responsibility. If you’re generating data and keeping it on your laptop, how is your company going to protect that data? Is there a place you should be storing it? Why aren’t you doing that? Is your company relying on SaaS applications but not protecting those apps? Talk to the people responsible. Things go wrong all the time. You don’t want to be on the wrong end of it. Indeed, in celebration of World Backup Day, I recently jumped on a Druva podcast with W. Curtis Preston and Stephen Manley to talk about when things do go wrong. You can listen to it here.

Data protection can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Particularly when you start to understand the value of your data. So let’s all try to make every day “World Backup Day”. Okay, I know that’s a terrible line, but you know what I mean.

Random Short Take #34

Welcome to Random Short Take #34. Some really good players have worn 34 in the NBA, including Ray Allen and Sir Charles. This one, though, goes out to my favourite enforcer, Charles Oakley. If it feels like it’s only been a week since the last post, that’s because it has.

  • I spoke to the folks at Rancher Labs a little while ago, and they’re doing some stuff around what they call “Edge Scalability” and have also announced Series D funding.
  • April Fool’s is always a bit of a trying time, what with a lot of the world being a few timezones removed from where I live. Invariably I stop checking news sites for a few days to be sure. Backblaze recognised that these are strange times, and decided to have some fun with their releases, rather than trying to fool people outright. I found the post on Catblaze Cloud Backup inspiring.
  • Hal Yaman announced the availability of version 2.6 of his Office 365 Backup sizing tool. Speaking of Veeam and handy utilities, the Veeam Extract utility is now available as a standalone tool. Cade talks about that here.
  • VMware vSphere 7 recently went GA. Here’s a handy article covering what it means for VMware cloud providers.
  • Speaking of VMware things, John Nicholson wrote a great article on SMB and vSAN (I can’t bring myself to write CIFS, even when I know why it’s being referred to that way).
  • Scale is infinite, until it isn’t. Azure had some minor issues recently, and Keith Townsend shared some thoughts on the situation.
  • StorMagic recently announced that it has acquired KeyNexus. It also announced the availability of SvKMS, a key management system for edge, DC, and cloud solutions.
  • Joey D’Antoni, in collaboration with DH2i, is delivering a webinar titled “Overcoming the HA/DR and Networking Challenges of SQL Server on Linux”. It’s being held on Wednesday 15th April at 11am Pacific Time. If that timezone works for you, you can find out more and register here.