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 #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.

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 #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.

Random Short Take #33

Welcome to Random Short Take #33. Some terrific players have worn 33 in the NBA, including Keith Closs and Stephon Marbury. This one, though, goes out to the “hick from French Lick” Larry Joe Bird. You might see the frequency of these posts ramp up a bit over the next little while. Because everything feels a little random at the moment.

  • I recently wrote about what Scale Computing has been up to with Leostream. It’s also done a bit with Acronis in the past, and it recently announced it’s now offering Acronis Cloud Storage. You can read more on that here.
  • The good folks at Druva are offering 6 months of free subscription for Office 365 and Endpoint protection (up to 300 seats) to help businesses adjust to these modern ways of working. You can find out more about that here.
  • Speaking of cloud backup, Backblaze recently surpassed the exabyte mark in terms of stored customer data.
  • I’ve been wanting to write about Panzura for a while, and I’ve been terribly slack. It’s enjoying some amount of momentum at the moment though, and is reporting revenue growth that looks the goods. Speaking of Panzura, if you haven’t heard of its Vizion.AI offshoot – it’s well worth checking out.
  • Zerto recently announced Zerto 8. Lots of cool features have been made available, including support for VMware on Google Cloud, and improved VMware integration.
  • There’s a metric shedload of “how best to work from home” posts doing the rounds at the moment. I found this one from Russ White to be both comprehensive and readable. That’s not as frequent a combination as you might expect.
  • World Backup Day was yesterday. I’ll be writing more on that this week, but in the meantime this article from Anthony Spiteri on data displacement was pretty interesting.
  • Speaking of backup and Veeam things, this article on installing Veeam PN from Andre Atkinson was very useful.

And that’s it for now. Stay safe folks.

 

 

Random Short Take #29

Welcome to Random Short Take #29. You’d think 29 would be a hard number to line up with basketball players, but it turns out that Marcus Camby wore it one year when he played for Houston. It was at the tail-end of his career, but still. Anyhoo …

  • I love a good story about rage-quitting projects, and this one is right up there. I’ve often wondered what it must be like to work on open source projects and dealing with the craziness that is the community.
  • I haven’t worked on a Scalar library in over a decade, but Quantum is still developing them. There’s an interesting story here in terms of protecting your protection data using air gaps. I feel like this is already being handled a different way by the next-generation data protection companies, but when all you have is a hammer. And the cost per GB is still pretty good with tape.
  • I always enjoy Keith’s ability to take common problems and look at them with a fresh perspective. I’m interested to see just how far he goes down the rabbit hole with this DC project.
  • Backblaze frequently comes up with useful articles for both enterprise punters and home users alike. This article on downloading your social media presence is no exception. The processes are pretty straightforward to follow, and I think it’s a handy exercise to undertake every now and then.
  • The home office is the new home lab. Or, perhaps, as we work anywhere now, it’s important to consider setting up a space in your home that actually functions as a workspace. This article from Andrew Miller covers some of the key considerations.
  • This article from John Troyer about writing was fantastic. Just read it.
  • Scale Computing was really busy last year. How busy? Busy enough to pump out a press release that you can check out here. The company also has a snazzy new website and logo that you should check out.
  • Veeam v10 is coming “very soon”. You can register here to find out more. I’m keen to put this through its paces.

Random Short Take #27

Welcome to my semi-regular, random news post in a short format. This is #27. You’d think it would be hard to keep naming them after basketball players, and it is. None of my favourite players ever wore 27, but Marvin Barnes did surface as a really interesting story, particularly when it comes to effective communication with colleagues. Happy holidays too, as I’m pretty sure this will be the last one of these posts I do this year. I’ll try and keep it short, as you’ve probably got stuff to do.

  • This story of serious failure on El Reg had me in stitches.
  • I really enjoyed this article by Raj Dutt (over at Cohesity’s blog) on recovery predictability. As an industry we talk an awful lot about speeds and feeds and supportability, but sometimes I think we forget about keeping it simple and making sure we can get our stuff back as we expect.
  • Speaking of data protection, I wrote some articles for Druva about, well, data protection and things of that nature. You can read them here.
  • There have been some pretty important CBT-related patches released by VMware recently. Anthony has provided a handy summary here.
  • Everything’s an opinion until people actually do it, but I thought this research on cloud adoption from Leaseweb USA was interesting. I didn’t expect to see everyone putting their hands up and saying they’re all in on public cloud, but I was also hopeful that we, as an industry, hadn’t made things as unclear as they seem to be. Yay, hybrid!
  • Site sponsor StorONE has partnered with Tech Data Global Computing Components to offer an All-Flash Array as a Service solution.
  • Backblaze has done a nice job of talking about data protection and cloud storage through the lens of Star Wars.
  • This tip on removing particular formatting in Microsoft Word documents really helped me out recently. Yes I know Word is awful.
  • Someone was nice enough to give me an acknowledgement for helping review a non-fiction book once. Now I’ve managed to get a character named after me in one of John Birmingham’s epics. You can read it out of context here. And if you’re into supporting good authors on Patreon – then check out JB’s page here. He’s a good egg, and his literary contributions to the world have been fantastic over the years. I don’t say this just because we live in the same city either.

Backblaze Announces Version 7.0 – Keep Your Stuff For Longer

Backblaze recently announced Version 7.0 of its cloud backup solution for consumer and business and I thought I’d run through the announcement here.

 

Extended Version History

30 Days? 1 Year? 

One of the key parts of this announcement is support for extended retention of backup data. All Backblaze computer backup accounts have 30-Day Version History included with their backup license. But you can now extend that to 1 year if you like. Note that this will cost an additional $2/month and is charged based on your license type (monthly, yearly, or 2-year). It’s also prorated to align with your existing subscription.

Forever

Want to have a more permanent relationship with you protection data? You can also elect to keep it forever, at the cost of an additional $2/month (aligned to your license plan type) plus $0.005/GB/Month for versions modified on your computer more than 1 year ago. There’s a handy FAQ that you can read here. Note that all pricing from Backblaze is in US dollars.

[image courtesy of Backblaze]

 

Other Updates

Are you trying to back up really large files (like videos)? You might already know that Backblaze takes large files and chunks them into smaller ones before uploading them to the Internet. Upload performance has now been improved, with the maximum packet size being increased from 30MB to 100MB. This allows the Backblaze app to transmit data more efficiently by better leveraging threading. According to Backblaze, this also “smoothes out upload performance, reduces sensitivity to latency, and leads to smaller data structures”.

Other highlights of this release include:

  • For the aesthetically minded amongst you, the installer now looks better on higher resolution displays;
  • For Windows users, an issue with OpenSSL and Intel’s Apollo Lake chipsets has now been resolved; and
  • For macOS users, support for Catalina is built in. (Note that this is also available with the latest version 6 binary).

Availability?

Version 7.0 will be rolled out to all users over the next few weeks. If you can’t wait, there are two ways to get hold of the new version:

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

It seems weird that I’ve been covering Backblaze as much as I have, given their heritage in the consumer data protection space, and my focus on service providers and enterprise offerings. But Backblaze has done a great job of making data protection accessible and affordable for a lot of people, and it’s done it in a fairly transparent fashion at the same time. Note also that this release covers both consumers and business users. The addition of extended retention capabilities to its offering, improved performance, and some improved compatibility is good news for Backblaze users. It’s really easy to setup and get started with the application, they support a good variety of configurations, and you’ll sleep better knowing your data is safely protected (particularly if you accidentally fat-finger an important document and need to recover an older version). If you’re thinking about signing up, you can use this affiliate link I have and get yourself a free month (and I’ll get one too).

If you’d like to know more about the features of Version 7.0, there’s a webinar you can jump on with Yev. The webinar will be available on BrightTalk (registration is required) and you can sign up by visiting the Backblaze BrightTALK channel. You can also read more details on the Backblaze blog.

Backblaze Has A (Pod) Birthday, Does Some Cool Stuff With B2

Backblaze has been on my mind a lot lately. And not just because of their recent expansion into Europe. The Storage Pod recently turned ten years old, and I was lucky enough to have the chance to chat with Yev Pusin and Andy Klein about that news and some of the stuff they’re doing with B2, Tiger Technology, and Veeam.

 

10 Years Is A Long Time

The Backblaze Storage Pod (currently version 6) recently turned 10 years old. That’s a long time for something to be around (and successful) in a market like cloud storage. I asked to Yev and Andy about where they saw the pod heading, and whether they thought there was room for Flash in the picture. Andy pointed out that, with around 900PB under management, Flash still didn’t look like the most economical medium for this kind of storage task. That said, they have seen the main HDD manufacturers starting to hit a wall in terms of the capacity per drive that they can deliver. Nonetheless, the challenge isn’t just performance, it’s also the fact that people are needing more and more capacity to store their stuff. And it doesn’t look like they can produce enough Flash to cope with that increase in requirements at this stage.

Version 7.0

We spoke briefly about what Pod 7.0 would look like, and it’s going to be a “little bit faster”, with the following enhancements planned:

  • Updating the motherboard
  • Upgrade the CPU and consider using an AMD CPU
  • Updating the power supply units, perhaps moving to one unit
  • Upgrading from 10Gbase-T to 10GbE SFP+ optical networking
  • Upgrading the SATA cards
  • Modifying the tool-less lid design

They’re looking to roll this out in 2020 some time.

 

Tiger Style?

So what’s all this about Veeam, Tiger Bridge, and Backblaze B2? Historically, if you’ve been using Veeam from the cheap seats, it’s been difficult to effectively leverage object storage to use as a repository for longer term data storage. Backblaze and Tiger Technology have gotten together to develop an integration that allows you to use B2 storage to copy your Veeam protection data to the Backblaze cloud. There’s a nice overview of the solution that you can read here, and you can read some more comprehensive instructions here.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

I keep banging on about it, but ten years feels like a long time to be hanging around in tech. I haven’t managed to stay with one employer longer than 7 years (maybe I’m flighty?). Along with the durability of the solution, the fact that Backblaze made the design open source, and inspired a bunch of companies to do something similar, is a great story. It’s stuff like this that I find inspiring. It’s not always about selling black boxes to people. Sometimes it’s good to be a little transparent about what you’re doing, and relying on a great product, competitive pricing, and strong support to keep customers happy. Backblaze have certainly done that on the consumer side of things, and the team assures me that they’re experiencing success with the B2 offering and their business-oriented data protection solution as well.

The Veeam integration is an interesting one. While B2 is an object storage play, it’s not S3-compliant, so they can’t easily leverage a lot of the built-in options delivered by the bigger data protection vendors. What you will see, though, is that they’re super responsive when it comes to making integrations available across things like NAS devices, and stuff like this. If I get some time in the next month, I’ll look at setting this up in the lab and running through the process.

I’m not going to wax lyrical about how Backblaze is democratising data access for everyone, as they’re in business to make money. But they’re certainly delivering a range of products that is enabling a variety of customers to make good use of technology that has potentially been unavailable (in a simple to consume format) previously. And that’s a great thing. I glossed over the news when it was announced last year, but the “Rebel Alliance” formed between Backblaze, Packet and ServerCentral is pretty interesting, particularly if you’re looking for a more cost-effective solution for compute and object storage that isn’t reliant on hyperscalers. I’m looking forward to hearing about what Backblaze come up with in the future, and I recommend checking them out if you haven’t previously. You can read Ken‘s take over at Gestalt IT here.

Backblaze’s World Tour Of Europe

I spoke with Ahin Thomas at VMworld US last week about what Backblaze has been up to lately. The big news is that they’ve expanded data centre operations into Europe (Amsterdam specifically). Here’s a blog post from Backblaze talking about their new EU DC, and these three articles do a great job of explaining the process behind the DC selection.

So what does this mean exactly? If you’re not so keen on keeping your data in a US DC, you can create an account and start leveraging the EU region. There’s no facility to migrate existing data (at this stage), but if you have a lot of data you want to upload, you could use the B2 Fireball to get it in there.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

When you think of Backblaze it’s likely that you think of their personal backup product, and the aforementioned hard drive stats and storage pod reference designs. So it might seem a little weird to see them giving briefings at a show like VMworld. But their B2 business is ramping up, and a lot of people involved in delivering VMware-based cloud services are looking at object storage as a way to do cost-effective storage at scale. There are also plenty of folks in the mid-market segment trying to find more cost effective ways to store older data and protect it without making huge investments in the traditional data protection offerings on the market.

It’s still early days in terms of some of the features on offer from Backblaze that can leverage multi-region capabilities, but the EU presence is a great first step in expanding their footprint and giving non-US customers the option to use resources that aren’t located on US soil. Sure, you’re still dealing with a US company, and you’re paying in US dollars, but at least you’ve got a little more choice in terms of where the data will be stored. I’ve been a Backblaze customer for my personal backups for some time, and I’m always happy to hear good news stories coming out of the company. I’m a big fan of the level of transparency they’ve historically shown, particularly when other vendors have chosen to present their solutions as magical black boxes. Sharing things like the storage pod design and hard drive statistics goes a long way to developing trust in Backblaze as the keeper of your stuff.

The business of using cloud storage for data protection and scalable file storage isn’t as simple as jamming a few rackmount boxes in a random DC, filling them with hard drives, charging $5 a month, and waiting for the money to roll in. There’s a lot more to it than that. You need to have a product that people want, you need to know how to deliver that product, and you need to be able to evolve as technology (and the market) evolves. I’m happy to see that Backblaze have moved into storage services with B2, and the move to the EU is another sign of that continuing evolution. I’m looking forward (with some amount of anticipation) to hearing what’s next with Backblaze.

If you’re thinking about taking up a subscription with Backblaze – you can use my link to sign up and I’ll get a free month and you will too.