Top Ten Ways to Protect Yourself Against Phishing Attacks

Posted on

email phishing attack

It’s hard to miss the increasing frequency of phishing attacks in the news. Earlier this year, a major phishing attack targeted Google Docs users, and attempted to compromise at least one million Google Docs accounts. Experts say the “phish” was convincing and sophisticated, and even people who thought they would never be fooled by a phishing attack were caught in its net.

What is phishing?

Phishing attacks use seemingly trustworthy but malicious emails and websites to obtain your personal account or banking information. The attacks are cunning and highly effective because they often appear to come from an organization or business you actually use. The scam comes into play by tricking you into visiting a website you believe belongs to the trustworthy organization, but in fact is under the control of the phisher attempting to extract your private information.

Phishing attacks are once again in the news due to a handful of high profile ransomware incidents. Ransomware invades a user’s computer, encrypts their data files, and demands payment to decrypt the files. Ransomware most often makes its way onto a user’s computer through a phishing exploit, which gives the ransomware access to the user’s computer.

The best strategy against phishing is to scrutinize every email and message you receive and never to get caught. Easier said than done—even smart people sometimes fall victim to a phishing attack. To minimize the damage in an event of a phishing attack, backing up your data is the best ultimate defense and should be part of your anti-phishing and overall anti-malware strategy.

How do you recognize a phishing attack?

A phishing attacker may send an email seemingly from a reputable credit card company or financial institution that requests account information, often suggesting that there is a problem with your account. When users respond with the requested information, attackers can use it to gain access to the accounts.

The image below is a mockup of how a phishing attempt might appear. In this example, courtesy of Wikipedia, the bank is fictional, but in a real attempt the sender would use an actual bank, perhaps even the bank where the targeted victim does business. The sender is attempting to trick the recipient into revealing confidential information by getting the victim to visit the phisher’s website. Note the misspelling of the words “received” and “discrepancy” as recieved and discrepency. Misspellings sometimes are indications of a phishing attack. Also note that although the URL of the bank’s webpage appears to be legitimate, the hyperlink would actually take you to the phisher’s webpage, which would be altogether different from the URL displayed in the message.

Phishing attack example email
By Andrew Levine – en:Image:PhishingTrustedBank.png, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=549747

Top ten ways to protect against phishing attacks

  1. Always think twice when presented with a link in any kind of email or message before you click on it. Ask yourself whether the sender would ask you to do what it is requesting. Most banks and reputable service providers won’t ask you to reveal your account information or password via email. If in doubt, don’t use the link in the message and instead open a new webpage and go directly to the known website of the organization. Sign in to the site in the normal manner to verify that the request is legitimate.
  2. A good precaution is to always hover over a link before clicking on it and observe the status line in your browser to verify that the link in the text and the destination link are in fact the same.
  3. Phishers are clever, and they’re getting better all the time, and you might be fooled by a simple ruse to make you think the link is one you recognize. Links can have hard-to-detect misspellings that would result in visiting a site very different than what you expected.
  4. Be wary even of emails and message from people you know. It’s very easy to spoof an email so it appears to come from someone you know, or to create a URL that appears to be legitimate, but isn’t.

For example, let’s say that you work for roughmedia.com and you get an email from Chuck in accounting (chuck@roughrnedia.com) that has an attachment for you, perhaps a company form you need to fill out. You likely wouldn’t notice in the sender address that the phisher has replaced the “m” in media with an “r” and an “n” that look very much like an “m.” You think it’s good old Chuck in finance and it’s actually someone “phishing” for you to open the attachment and infect your computer. This type of attack is known as “spear phishing” because it’s targeted at a specific individual and is using social engineering—specifically familiarity with the sender—as part of the scheme to fool you into trusting the attachment. This technique is by far the most successful on the internet today. (This example is based on Gimlet Media’s Reply All Podcast Episode, “What Kind of Idiot Gets Phished?“)

  1. Use anti-malware software, but don’t rely on it to catch all attacks. Phishers change their approach often to keep ahead of the software attack detectors.
  2. If you are asked to enter any valuable information, only do so if you’re on a secure connection. Look for the “https” prefix before the site URL, indicating the site is employing SSL (Secure Socket Layer). If there is no “s” after “http,” it’s best not to enter any confidential information.
https secure connection
By Fabio Lanari – Internet1.jpg by Rock1997 modified., GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20995390
  1. Avoid logging in to online banks and similar services via public Wi-Fi networks. Criminals can compromise open networks with man-in-the-middle attacks that capture your information or spoof website addresses over the connection and redirect you to a fake page they control.
  2. Email, instant messaging, and gaming social channels are all possible vehicles to deliver phishing attacks, so be vigilant!
  3. Lay the foundation for a good defense by choosing reputable tech vendors and service providers that respect your privacy and take steps to protect your data. At Backblaze, we have full-time security teams constantly looking for ways to improve our security.
  4. When it is available, always take advantage of multi-factor verification to protect your accounts. The standard categories used for authentication are 1) something you know (e.g. your username and password), 2) something you are (e.g. your fingerprint or retina pattern), and 3) something you have (e.g. an authenticator app on your smartphone). An account that allows only a single factor for authentication is more susceptible to hacking than one that supports multiple factors. Backblaze supports multi-factor authentication to protect customer accounts.

It’s important to also be a good internet citizen and help reduce phishing and other malware attacks by notifying the organization being impersonated in the phishing attempt or by forwarding suspicious messages to the Federal Trade Commission at spam@uce.gov. Some email clients and services, such as Microsoft Outlook and Google Gmail, give you the ability to easily report suspicious emails. Phishing emails misrepresenting Apple can be reported to reportphishing@apple.com.

Backing up your data to protect against phishing and other malware

The best way to avoid becoming a victim is to be vigilant against suspicious messages and emails, but also to assume that no matter what you do, it is very possible that your system will be compromised. Even the most sophisticated and tech-savvy of us can be ensnared if we are tired, in a rush, or just unfamiliar with the latest methods hackers are using. Remember that hackers are working full-time on ways to fool us, so it’s very difficult to keep ahead of them.

The best defense is to make sure that any data that could be compromised by hackers—basically all of the data that is reachable via your computer—is not your only copy. You do that by maintaining an active and reliable backup strategy.

Files that are backed up to the cloud, such as with Backblaze, are not vulnerable to attacks on your local computer in the way that local files, attached drives, network drives, or sync services like Dropbox that have local directories on your computer are.

In the event that your computer is compromised and your files are lost or encrypted, you can recover your files if you have a cloud backup that is beyond the reach of attacks on your computer.

The post Top Ten Ways to Protect Yourself Against Phishing Attacks appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Powered by WPeMatico

Introducing Our Content Director: Roderick

Posted on

As Backblaze continues to grow, and as we go down the path of sharing our stories, we found ourselves in need of someone that could wrangle our content calendar, write blog posts, and come up with interesting ideas that we could share with our readers and fans. We put out the call, and found Roderick! As you’ll read below he has an incredibly interesting history, and we’re thrilled to have his perspective join our marketing team! Lets learn a bit more about Roderick, shall we?

What is your Backblaze Title?
Content Director

Where are you originally from?
I was born in Southern California, but have lived a lot of different places, including Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Texas, New Mexico, Austria, and Italy.

What attracted you to Backblaze?
I met Gleb a number of years ago at the Failcon Conference in San Francisco. I spoke with him and was impressed with him and his description of the company. We connected on LinkedIn after the conference and I ultimately saw his post for this position about a month ago.

What do you expect to learn while being at Backblaze?
I hope to learn about Backblaze’s customers and dive deep into the latest in cloud storage and other technologies. I also hope to get to know my fellow employees.

Where else have you worked?
I’ve worked for Microsoft, Adobe, Autodesk, and a few startups. I’ve also consulted to Apple, HP, Stanford, the White House, and startups in the U.S. and abroad. I mentored at incubators in Silicon Valley, including IndieBio and Founders Space. I used to own vineyards and a food education and event center in the Napa Valley with my former wife, and worked in a number of restaurants, hotels, and wineries. Recently, I taught part-time at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in the Napa Valley. I’ve been a partner in a restaurant and currently am a partner in a mozzarella di bufala company in Marin county where we have about 50 water buffalo that are amazing animals. They are named after famous rock and roll vocalists. Our most active studs now are Sting and Van Morrison. I think singing “a fantabulous night to make romance ‘neath the cover of October skies” works for Van.

Where did you go to school?
I studied at Reed College, U.C. Berkeley, U.C. Davis, and the Università per Stranieri di Perugia in Italy. I put myself through college so was in and out of school a number of times to make money. Some of the jobs I held to earn money for college were cook, waiter, dishwasher, bartender, courier, teacher, bookstore clerk, head of hotel maintenance, bookkeeper, lifeguard, journalist, and commercial salmon fisherman in Alaska.

What’s your dream job?
I think my dream would be having a job that would continually allow me to learn new things and meet new challenges. I love to learn, travel, and be surprised by things I don’t know.

I love animals and sometimes think I should have become a veterinarian.

Favorite place you’ve traveled?
I lived and studied in Italy, and would have to say the Umbria region of Italy is perhaps my favorite place. I also worked in my father’s home country of Austria, which is incredibly beautiful.

Favorite hobby?
I love foreign languages, and have studied Italian, French, German, and a few others. I am a big fan of literature and theatre and read widely and have attended theatre productions all over the world. That was my motivation to learn other languages—so I could enjoy literature and theatre in the languages they were written in. I started scuba diving when I was very young because I wanted to be Jacques-Yves Cousteau and explore the oceans. I also sail, motorcycle, ski, bicycle, hike, play music, and hope to finish my pilot’s license someday.

Coke or Pepsi?
Red Burgundy

Favorite food?
Both my parents are chefs, so I was exposed to a lot of great food growing up. I would have to give more than one answer to that question: fresh baked bread and bouillabaisse. Oh, and white truffles.

Not sure we’ll be able to stock our cupboards with Red Burgundy, but we’ll see what our office admin can do! Welcome to the team!

The post Introducing Our Content Director: Roderick appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Powered by WPeMatico

Why Consumer Design is Good For Business

Posted on

Using the Backblaze Cloud Backup App

We know that business users sometimes ask, “Why can’t business software be as easy to use as consumer software?”

At Backblaze, we believe it can be.

We started our business to make backup easier for everyone, knowing that the primary reason why people don’t backup is that it is too complicated and too intimidating.

Backblaze has spent the last decade building an unlimited, inexpensive, and best of all easy-to-use backup service. We designed it from the ground up, with the goal of making it a simple service – one that “just works.” We wanted it to be the easiest backup solution for grandmothers and IT administrators alike.

Having a product that’s intuitive and easy makes it ideal for people that don’t want to fret about backing up or worrying about whether or not the they selected the right files when their backup system was set up. Backblaze backs up all user data by default so there’s no worrying about missing something. What that means is when you use Backblaze for Business – you’re getting a solution that works out of the box not just for the end-user, but also for the account administrator.

Design for Enterprise Scalability but With Consumer Simplicity

Often times when a product is designed “for enterprise” the result can be an unintuitive piece of software that only the systems administrators can navigate. While that may be acceptable for antivirus or anti-spam software, there are many products and services that should not require hours to learn to use. Some of the most common services that businesses use today are known for their ease-of-use. Dropbox Sync, Trello, and Slack come to mind.

Backblaze Online Backup is much the same. Regardless of whether you have one computer or are deploying to an organization of 1,000, Backblaze scales so that you and all your users get the same, simple service that backs up and makes data accessible.

Overcomplexity reduces efficiency
The last thing an IT professional wants is users asking them how a program on their computer works, or complaining about a process that’s supposed to be running in the background. The more bloated and over-designed products and services get, the more stumbling blocks appear before the end-user. When you’re developing a product there’s a fine line between adding features and creating an overwhelmingly complicated user interface. The cost of getting that balance wrong is that it will raise more questions than it provides answers, leaving customers and end-users confused with too many choices. Many of the players in the online backup space have made confusing design choices that leave customers perplexed. We believe easy is better for everyone.

Backblaze for Business is built on top of our award winning Computer Backup product that has been in market for over 10 years. We have over 350 PB under storage and have helped users save over 23 BILLION files. We know a lot about backup.

But businesses have unique needs, such as centralized user management and billing, reporting, monitoring usage, and the ability to act on behalf of any user. When an end-user (or the IT admin) installs Backblaze, the backup starts automatically, backing up all the user-data on the machine. There’s no need to select files or folders. The backup process just starts, because all of the data is important. We’ve heard time and time again that a user’s files were saved because we backed up an obscure directory where one or two important files would have been forgotten about had the user been forced to choose what to back up.

Backblaze just works—for everyone

The best products are the ones that don’t impede your workflow and work seamlessly with the processes you have in place. Which is another reason having something designed with the end-user in mind is helpful. You build software that is aware of its environment (not everyone has top-of-the-line computing systems) and stays out of the way.

Making sure that people are diligent about their backup strategy is hard enough. At Backblaze we believe that simplicity is key, and that’s why we designed a backup service that scales from 1 to 10,000 — without having to change a setting.

The post Why Consumer Design is Good For Business appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Powered by WPeMatico

How To Get Your First 1,000 Customers

Posted on

PR for getting your first 1000 customers

If you launch your startup and no one knows, did you actually launch? As mentioned in my last post, our initial launch target was to get a 1,000 people to use our service. But how do you get even 1,000 people to sign up for your service when no one knows who you are?

There are a variety of methods to attract your first 1,000 customers, but launching with the press is my favorite. I’ll explain why and how to do it below.

Paths to Attract Your First 1,000 Customers

Social following: If you have a massive social following, those people are a reasonable target for what you’re offering. In particular if your relationship with them is one where they would buy something you recommend, this can be one of the easiest ways to get your initial customers. However, building this type of following is non-trivial and often is done over several years.

Press not only provides awareness and customers, but credibility and SEO benefits as well

Paid advertising: The advantage of paid ads is you have control over when they are presented and what they say. The primary disadvantage is they tend to be expensive, especially before you have your positioning, messaging, and funnel nailed.

Viral: There are certainly examples of companies that launched with a hugely viral video, blog post, or promotion. While fantastic if it happens, even if you do everything right, the likelihood of massive virality is miniscule and the conversion rate is often low.

Press: As I said, this is my favorite. You don’t need to pay a PR agency and can go from nothing to launched in a couple weeks. Press not only provides awareness and customers, but credibility and SEO benefits as well.

How to Pitch the Press

It’s easy: Have a compelling story, find the right journalists, make their life easy, pitch and follow-up. Of course, each one of those has some nuance, so let’s dig in.

Have a compelling story

How to Get Attention When you’ve been working for months on your startup, it’s easy to get lost in the minutiae when talking to others. Stories that a journalist will write about need to be something their readers will care about. Knowing what story to tell and how to tell it is part science and part art. Here’s how you can get there:

The basics of your story

Ask yourself the following questions, and write down the answers:

  • What are we doing? What product service are we offering?
  • Why? What problem are we solving?
  • What is interesting or unique? Either about what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, or for who we’re doing it.

“But my story isn’t that exciting”

Neither was announcing a data backup company, believe me. Look for angles that make it compelling. Here are some:

  • Did someone on your team do something major before? (build a successful company/product, create some innovation, market something we all know, etc.)
  • Do you have an interesting investor or board member?
  • Is there a personal story that drove you to start this company?
  • Are you starting it in a unique place?
  • Did you come upon the idea in a unique way?
  • Can you share something people want to know that’s not usually shared?
  • Are you partnered with a well-known company?
  • …is there something interesting/entertaining/odd/shocking/touching/etc.?

It doesn’t get much less exciting than, “We’re launching a company that will backup your data.” But there were still a lot of compelling stories:

  • Founded by serial entrepreneurs, bootstrapped a capital-intensive company, committed to each other for a year without salary.
  • Challenging the way that every backup company before was set up by not asking customers to pick and choose files to backup.
  • Designing our own storage system.
  • Etc. etc.

For the initial launch, we focused on “unlimited for $5/month” and statistics from a survey we ran with Harris Interactive that said that 94% of people did not regularly backup their data.

It’s an old adage that “Everyone has a story.” Regardless of what you’re doing, there is always something interesting to share. Dig for that.

The headline

Once you’ve captured what you think the interesting story is, you’ve got to boil it down. Yes, you need the elevator pitch, but this is shorter…it’s the headline pitch. Write the headline that you would love to see a journalist write.

Regardless of what you’re doing, there is always something interesting to share. Dig for that.

Now comes the part where you have to be really honest with yourself: if you weren’t involved, would you care?

The “Techmeme Test”

One way I try to ground myself is what I call the “Techmeme Test”. Techmeme lists the top tech articles. Read the headlines. Imagine the headline you wrote in the middle of the page. If you weren’t involved, would you click on it? Is it more or less compelling than the others. Much of tech news is dominated by the largest companies. If you want to get written about, your story should be more compelling. If not, go back above and explore your story some more.

Embargoes, exclusives and calls-to-action

Journalists write about news. Thus, if you’ve already announced something and are then pitching a journalist to cover it, unless you’re giving her something significant that hasn’t been said, it’s no longer news. As a result, there are ‘embargoes’ and ‘exclusives’.

Embargoes

    • : An embargo simply means that you are sharing news with a journalist that they need to keep private until a certain date and time.

If you’re Apple, this may be a formal and legal document. In our case, it’s as simple as saying, “Please keep embargoed until 4/13/17 at 8am California time.” in the pitch. Some sites explicitly will not keep embargoes; for example The Information will only break news. If you want to launch something later, do not share information with journalists at these sites. If you are only working with a single journalist for a story, and your announcement time is flexible, you can jointly work out a date and time to announce. However, if you have a fixed launch time or are working with a few journalists, embargoes are key.

Exclusives: An exclusive means you’re giving something specifically to that journalist. Most journalists love an exclusive as it means readers have to come to them for the story. One option is to give a journalist an exclusive on the entire story. If it is your dream journalist, this may make sense. Another option, however, is to give exclusivity on certain pieces. For example, for your launch you could give an exclusive on funding detail & a VC interview to a more finance-focused journalist and insight into the tech & a CTO interview to a more tech-focused journalist.

Call-to-Action: With our launch we gave TechCrunch, Ars Technica, and SimplyHelp URLs that gave the first few hundred of their readers access to the private beta. Once those first few hundred users from each site downloaded, the beta would be turned off.

Thus, we used a combination of embargoes, exclusives, and a call-to-action during our initial launch to be able to brief journalists on the news before it went live, give them something they could announce as exclusive, and provide a time-sensitive call-to-action to the readers so that they would actually sign up and not just read and go away.

How to Find the Most Authoritative Sites / Authors

“If a press release is published and no one sees it, was it published?” Perhaps the time existed when sending a press release out over the wire meant journalists would read it and write about it. That time has long been forgotten. Over 1,000 unread press releases are published every day. If you want your compelling story to be covered, you need to find the handful of journalists that will care.

Determine the publications

Find the publications that cover the type of story you want to share. If you’re in tech, Techmeme has a leaderboard of publications ranked by leadership and presence. This list will tell you which publications are likely to have influence. Visit the sites and see if your type of story appears on their site. But, once you’ve determined the publication do NOT send a pitch their “tips@” or “news@” email addresses. In all the times I’ve done that, I have never had a single response. Those email addresses are likely on every PR, press release, and spam list and unlikely to get read. Instead…

Determine the journalists

Once you’ve determined which publications cover your area, check which journalists are doing the writing. Skim the articles and search for keywords and competitor names.

Over 1,000 unread press releases are published every day.

Identify one primary journalist at the publication that you would love to have cover you, and secondary ones if there are a few good options. If you’re not sure which one should be the primary, consider a few tests:

  • Do they truly seem to care about the space?
  • Do they write interesting/compelling stories that ‘get it’?
  • Do they appear on the Techmeme leaderboard?
  • Do their articles get liked/tweeted/shared and commented on?
  • Do they have a significant social presence?

Leveraging Google

Google author search by date

In addition to Techmeme or if you aren’t in the tech space Google will become a must have tool for finding the right journalists to pitch. Below the search box you will find a number of tabs. Click on Tools and change the Any time setting to Custom range. I like to use the past six months to ensure I find authors that are actively writing about my market. I start with the All results. This will return a combination of product sites and articles depending upon your search term.

Scan for articles and click on the link to see if the article is on topic. If it is find the author’s name. Often if you click on the author name it will take you to a bio page that includes their Twitter, LinkedIn, and/or Facebook profile. Many times you will find their email address in the bio. You should collect all the information and add it to your outreach spreadsheet. Click here to get a copy. It’s always a good idea to comment on the article to start building awareness of your name. Another good idea is to Tweet or Like the article.

Next click on the News tab and set the same search parameters. You will get a different set of results. Repeat the same steps. Between the two searches you will have a list of authors that actively write for the websites that Google considers the most authoritative on your market.

How to find the most socially shared authors

Buzzsumo search for most shared by date

Your next step is to find the writers whose articles get shared the most socially. Go to Buzzsumo and click on the Most Shared tab. Enter search terms for your market as well as competitor names. Again I like to use the past 6 months as the time range. You will get a list of articles that have been shared the most across Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+. In addition to finding the most shared articles and their authors you can also see some of the Twitter users that shared the article. Many of those Twitter users are big influencers in your market so it’s smart to start following and interacting with them as well as the authors.

How to Find Author Email Addresses

Some journalists publish their contact info right on the stories. For those that don’t, a bit of googling will often get you the email. For example, TechCrunch wrote a story a few years ago where they published all of their email addresses, which was in response to this new service that charges a small fee to provide journalist email addresses. Sometimes visiting their twitter pages will link to a personal site, upon which they will share an email address.

Of course all is not lost if you don’t find an email in the bio. There are two good services for finding emails, https://app.voilanorbert.com/ and https://hunter.io/. For Voila Norbert enter the author name and the website you found their article on. The majority of the time you search for an author on a major publication Norbert will return an accurate email address. If it doesn’t try Hunter.io.

On Hunter.io enter the domain name and click on Personal Only. Then scroll through the results to find the author’s email. I’ve found Norbert to be more accurate overall but between the two you will find most major author’s email addresses.

Email, by the way, is not necessarily the best way to engage a journalist. Many are avid Twitter users. Follow them and engage – that means read/retweet/favorite their tweets; reply to their questions, and generally be helpful BEFORE you pitch them. Later when you email them, you won’t be just a random email address.

Don’t spam

Now that you have all these email addresses (possibly thousands if you purchased a list) – do NOT spam. It is incredibly tempting to think “I could try to figure out which of these folks would be interested, but if I just email all of them, I’ll save myself time and be more likely to get some of them to respond.” Don’t do it.

Follow them and engage – that means read/retweet/favorite their tweets; reply to their questions, and generally be helpful BEFORE you pitch them.

First, you’ll want to tailor your pitch to the individual. Second, it’s a small world and you’ll be known as someone who spams – reputation is golden. Also, don’t call journalists. Unless you know them or they’ve said they’re open to calls, you’re most likely to just annoy them.

Build a relationship

Build Trust with reporters Play the long game. You may be focusing just on the launch and hoping to get this one story covered, but if you don’t quickly flame-out, you will have many more opportunities to tell interesting stories that you’ll want the press to cover. Be honest and don’t exaggerate.
When you have 500 users it’s tempting to say, “We’ve got thousands!” Don’t. The good journalists will see through it and it’ll likely come back to bite you later. If you don’t know something, say “I don’t know but let me find out for you.” Most journalists want to write interesting stories that their readers will appreciate. Help them do that. Build deeper relationships with 5 – 10 journalists, rather than spamming thousands.

Stay organized

It doesn’t need to be complicated, but keep a spreadsheet that includes the name, publication, and contact info of the journalists you care about. Then, use it to keep track of who you’ve pitched, who’s responded, whether you’ve sent them the materials they need, and whether they intend to write/have written.

Make their life easy

Journalists have a million PR people emailing them, are actively engaging with readers on Twitter and in the comments, are tracking their metrics, are working their sources…and all the while needing to publish new articles. They’re busy. Make their life easy and they’re more likely to engage with yours.

Get to know them

Before sending them a pitch, know what they’ve written in the space. If you tell them how your story relates to ones they’ve written, it’ll help them put the story in context, and enable them to possibly link back to a story they wrote before.

Prepare your materials

Journalists will need somewhere to get more info (prepare a fact sheet), a URL to link to, and at least one image (ideally a few to choose from.) A fact sheet gives bite-sized snippets of information they may need about your startup or product: what it is, how big the market is, what’s the pricing, who’s on the team, etc. The URL is where their reader will get the product or more information from you. It doesn’t have to be live when you’re pitching, but you should be able to tell what the URL will be. The images are ones that they could embed in the article: a product screenshot, a CEO or team photo, an infographic. Scan the types of images included in their articles. Don’t send any of these in your pitch, but have them ready. Studies, stats, customer/partner/investor quotes are also good to have.

Pitch

A pitch has to be short and compelling.

Subject Line

Think back to the headline you want. Is it really compelling? Can you shorten it to a subject line? Include what’s happening and when. For Mike Arrington at Techcrunch, our first subject line was “Startup doing an ‘online time machine’”. Later I would include, “launching June 6th”.

For John Timmer at ArsTechnica, it was “Demographics data re: your 4/17 article”. Why? Because he wrote an article titled “WiFi popular with the young people; backups, not so much”. Since we had run a demographics survey on backups, I figured as a science editor he’d be interested in this additional data.

Body

A few key things about the body of the email. It should be short and to the point, no more than a few sentences. Here was my actual, original pitch email to John:

Hey John,

We’re launching Backblaze next week which provides a Time Machine-online type of service. As part of doing some research I read your article about backups not being popular with young people and that you had wished Accenture would have given you demographics. In prep for our invite-only launch I sponsored Harris Interactive to get demographic data on who’s doing backups and if all goes well, I should have that data on Friday.

Next week starts Backup Awareness Month (and yes, probably Clean Your House Month and Brush Your Teeth Month)…but nonetheless…good time to remind readers to backup with a bit of data?

Would you be interested in seeing/talking about the data when I get it?

Would you be interested in getting a sneak peak at Backblaze? (I could give you some invite codes for your readers as well.)

Gleb Budman        

CEO and Co-Founder

Backblaze, Inc.

Automatic, Secure, High-Performance Online Backup

Cell: XXX-XXX-XXXX

The Good: It said what we’re doing, why this relates to him and his readers, provides him information he had asked for in an article, ties to something timely, is clearly tailored for him, is pitched by the CEO and Co-Founder, and provides my cell.

The Bad: It’s too long.

I got better later. Here’s an example:

Subject: Does temperature affect hard drive life?

Hi Peter, there has been much debate about whether temperature affects how long a hard drive lasts. Following up on the Backblaze analyses of how long do drives last & which drives last the longest (that you wrote about) we’ve now analyzed the impact of heat on the nearly 40,000 hard drives we have and found that…

We’re going to publish the results this Monday, 5/12 at 5am California-time. Want a sneak peak of the analysis?

Timing

A common question is “When should I launch?” What day, what time? I prefer to launch on Tuesday at 8am California-time. Launching earlier in the week gives breathing room for the news to live longer. While your launch may be a single article posted and that’s that, if it ends up a larger success, earlier in the week allows other journalists (including ones who are in other countries) to build on the story. Monday announcements can be tough because the journalists generally need to have their stories finished by Friday, and while ideally everything is buttoned up beforehand, startups sometimes use the weekend as overflow before a launch.

The 8am California-time is because it allows articles to be published at the beginning of the day West Coast and around lunch-time East Coast. Later and you risk it being past publishing time for the day. We used to launch at 5am in order to be morning for the East Coast, but it did not seem to have a significant benefit in coverage or impact, but did mean that the entire internal team needed to be up at 3am or 4am. Sometimes that’s critical, but I prefer to not burn the team out when it’s not.

Finally, try to stay clear of holidays, major announcements and large conferences. If Apple is coming out with their next iPhone, many of the tech journalists will be busy at least a couple days prior and possibly a week after. Not always obvious, but if you can, find times that are otherwise going to be slow for news.

Follow-up

There is a fine line between persistence and annoyance. I once had a journalist write me after we had an announcement that was covered by the press, “Why didn’t you let me know?! I would have written about that!” I had sent him three emails about the upcoming announcement to which he never responded.

My general rule is 3 emails.

Ugh. However, my takeaway from this isn’t that I should send 10 emails to every journalist. It’s that sometimes these things happen.

My general rule is 3 emails. If I’ve identified a specific journalist that I think would be interested and have a pitch crafted for her, I’ll send her the email ideally 2 weeks prior to the announcement. I’ll follow-up a week later, and one more time 2 days prior. If she ever says, “I’m not interested in this topic,” I note it and don’t email her on that topic again.

If a journalist wrote, I read the article and engage in the comments (or someone on our team, such as our social guy, @YevP does). We’ll often promote the story through our social channels and email our employees who may choose to share the story as well. This helps us, but also helps the journalist get their story broader reach. Again, the goal is to build a relationship with the journalists your space. If there’s something relevant to your customers that the journalist wrote, you’re providing a service to your customers AND helping the journalist get the word out about the article.

At times the stories also end up shared on sites such as Hacker News, Reddit, Slashdot, or become active conversations on Twitter. Again, we try to engage there and respond to questions (when we do, we are always clear that we’re from Backblaze.)

And finally, I’ll often send a short thank you to the journalist.

Getting Your First 1,000 Customers With Press

As I mentioned at the beginning, there is more than one way to get your first 1,000 customers. My favorite is working with the press to share your story. If you figure out your compelling story, find the right journalists, make their life easy, pitch and follow-up, you stand a high likelyhood of getting coverage and customers. Better yet, that coverage will provide credibility for your company, and if done right, will establish you as a resource for the press for the future.

Like any muscle, this process takes working out. The first time may feel a bit daunting, but just take the steps one at a time. As you do this a few times, the process will be easier and you’ll know who to reach out and quickly determine what stories will be compelling.

The post How To Get Your First 1,000 Customers appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Powered by WPeMatico

Two Factor Verification via Auth Apps

Posted on

totp authentication

Security is something we take very seriously at Backblaze. All Backblaze backups occur over HTTPS, are encrypted, and we even have private encryption key functionality available for those who wish to add another layer of protection. In 2015, we added two-factor verification (“2FV”) via SMS to our service, which allowed customers to use a mobile device to verify that they were indeed the ones accessing their Backblaze accounts. Today we are announcing our latest step in helping customers protect their Backblaze accounts – two factor verification via authenticator applications like Google Authenticator and Authy. To enable that, we now support the “ToTP” protocol.

What is ToTP?

ToTP stands for Time-based One Time Password, and it allows customers to use service like Google Authenticator, Authy, or others to access their accounts in a more secure way. This is the underlying authentication algorithm for the vast majority of authentication apps on the market today. A user that has ToTP enabled can use their authentication app of choice for an added layer of security. Users will first log in with their account’s username and password, the incremental layer of security happens next – the authenticator app will generate a time sensitive password that is valid for only one use.

For a lot of people receiving SMS messages is cumbersome, and doesn’t always work. Now Backblaze users can choose 2FV via SMS or authentication app.

Enabling Two-Factor Verification:
When you log in to your Backblaze account, on the left-hand side go to “My Settings”, and navigate towards the middle of the page where you will see your “Sign-In Settings”, click on that to make the change.

Backblaze 2FA setup

If you haven’t already, you will need to enter your phone number to enable two-factor verification.
ToTP SMS message

Once done, you will be able to select the frequency at which Backblaze will ask for an advanced authentication method, and you will be able to select your desired method, Two-Factor Verification via SMS or App.
ToTP authorization

That’s it! We hope you like it!

The post Two Factor Verification via Auth Apps appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Powered by WPeMatico

Hard Drive Cost Per Gigabyte

Posted on

Hard Drive Cost

For hard drive prices, the race to zero is over: nobody won. For the past 35+ years or so, hard drives prices have dropped, from around $500,000 per gigabyte in 1981 to less than $0.03 per gigabyte today. This includes the period of the Thailand drive crisis in 2012 that spiked hard drive prices. Matthew Komorowski has done an admirable job of documenting the hard drive price curve through March 2014 and we’d like to fill in the blanks with our own drive purchase data to complete the picture. As you’ll see, the hard drive pricing curve has flattened out.

75,000 New Hard Drives

We first looked at the cost per gigabyte of a hard drive in 2013 when we examined the effects of the Thailand Drive crisis on our business. When we wrote that post, the cost per gigabyte for a 4 TB hard drive was about $0.04 per gigabyte. Since then 5-, 6-, 8- and recently 10 TB hard drives have been introduced and during that period we have purchased nearly 75,000 drives. Below is a chart by drive size of the drives we purchased since that last report in 2013.

Hard Drive Cost Per GB by drive size

Observations

  1. We purchase drives in bulk, thousands at a time. The price you might get at Costco or BestBuy, or on Amazon will most likely be higher.
  2. The effect of the Thailand Drive crisis is clearly seen from October 2011 through mid-2013.

The 4 TB Drive Enigma

Up through the 4 TB drive models, the cost per gigabyte of a larger sized drive always became less than the smaller sized drives. In other words, the cost per gigabyte of a 2 TB drive was less than that of a 1 TB drive resulting in higher density at a lower cost per gigabyte. This changed with the introduction of 6- and 8 TB drives, especially as it relates to the 4 TB drives. As you can see in the chart above, the cost per gigabyte of the 6 TB drives did not fall below that of the 4 TB drives. You can also observe that the 8 TB drives are just approaching the cost per gigabyte of the 4 TB drives. The 4 TB drives are the price king as seen in the chart below of the current cost of Seagate consumer drives by size.

Seagate Hard Drive Prices By Size

Drive Size Model Price Cost/GB
1 TB ST1000DM010 $49.99 $0.050
2 TB ST2000DM006 $66.99 $0.033
3 TB ST3000DM008 $83.72 $0.028
4 TB ST4000DM005 $99.99 $0.025
6 TB ST6000DM004 $240.00 $0.040
8 TB ST8000DM005 $307.34 $0.038

The data on this chart was sourced from the current price of these drives on Amazon. The drive models selected were “consumer” drives, like those we typically use in our data centers.

The manufacturing and marketing efficiencies that drive the pricing of hard drives seems to have changed over time. For example, the 6 TB drives have been in the market at least 3 years, but are not even close to the cost per gigabyte of the 4 TB drives. Meanwhile, back in 2011, the 3 TB drives models fell below the cost per gigabyte of the 2 TB drives they “replaced” within a few months. Have we as consumers decided that 4 TB drives are “big enough” for our needs and we are not demanding (by purchasing) larger sized drives in the quantities needed to push down the unit cost?

Approaching Zero: There’s a Limit

The important aspect is the trend of the cost over time. While it has continued to move downward, the rate of change has slowed dramatically as observed in the chart below which represents our average quarterly cost per gigabyte over time.

Hard Drive Cost per GB over time

The change in the rate of the cost per gigabyte of a hard drive is declining. For example, from January 2009 to January 2011, our average cost for a hard drive decreased 45% from $0.11 to $0.06 – $0.05 per gigabyte. From January 2015 to January 2017, the average cost decreased 26% from $0.038 to $0.028 – just $0.01 per gigabyte. This means that the declining price of storage will become less relevant in driving the cost of providing storage.

Back in 2011, IDC predicted that the overall data will grow by 50 times by 2020, and in 2014, EMC estimated that by 2020, we will be creating 44 trillion gigabytes of data annually. That’s quite a challenge for the storage industry especially as the cost per gigabyte curve for hard drives is flattening out. Improvements in existing storage technologies (Helium, HAMR) along with future technologies (Quantum Storage, DNA), are on the way – we can’t wait. Of course we’d like these new storage devices to be 50% less expensive per gigabyte then today’s hard drives. That would be a good start.

The post Hard Drive Cost Per Gigabyte appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Powered by WPeMatico

The Cost of Cloud Storage

Posted on

the cost of the cloud as a percentage of revenue

This week, we’re celebrating the one year anniversary of the launch of Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage. Today’s post is focused on giving you a peek behind the curtain about the costs of providing cloud storage. Why? Over the last 10 years, the most common question we get is still “how do you do it?” In this multi-billion dollar, global industry exhibiting exponential growth, none of the other major players seem to be willing to discuss the underlying costs. By exposing a chunk of the Backblaze financials, we hope to provide a better understanding of what it costs to run “the cloud,” and continue our tradition of sharing information for the betterment of the larger community.

Context
Backblaze built one of the industry’s largest cloud storage systems and we’re proud of that accomplishment. We bootstrapped the business and funded our growth through a combination of our own business operations and just $5.3M in equity financing ($2.8M of which was invested into the business – the other $2.5M was a tender offer to shareholders). To do this, we had to build our storage system efficiently and run as a real, self-sustaining, business. After over a decade in the data storage business, we have developed a deep understanding of cloud storage economics.

Definitions
I promise we’ll get into the costs of cloud storage soon, but some quick definitions first:

    Revenue: Money we collect from customers.
    Cost of Goods Sold (“COGS”): The costs associated with providing the service.
    Operating Expenses (“OpEx”): The costs associated with developing and selling the service.
    Income/Loss: What is left after subtracting COGS and OpEx from Revenue.

I’m going to focus today’s discussion on the Cost of Goods Sold (“COGS”): What goes into it, how it breaks down, and what percent of revenue it makes up. Backblaze is a roughly break-even business with COGS accounting for 47% of our revenue and the remaining 53% spent on our Operating Expenses (“OpEx”) like developing new features, marketing, sales, office rent, and other administrative costs that are required for us to be a functional company.

This post’s focus on COGS should let us answer the commonly asked question of “how do you provide cloud storage for such a low cost?”

Breaking Down Cloud COGS

Providing a cloud storage service requires the following components (COGS and OpEX – below we break out COGS):
cloud infrastructure costs as a percentage of revenue

  • Hardware: 23% of Revenue
  • Backblaze stores data on hard drives. Those hard drives are “wrapped” with servers so they can connect to the public and store data. We’ve discussed our approach to how this works with our Vaults and Storage Pods. Our infrastructure is purpose built for data storage. That is, we thought about how data storage ought to work, and then built it from the ground up. Other companies may use different storage media like Flash, SSD, or even tape. But it all serves the same function of being the thing that data actually is stored on. For today, we’ll think of all this as “hardware.”

    We buy storage hardware that, on average, will last 5 years (60 months) before needing to be replaced. To account for hardware costs in a way that can be compared to our monthly expenses, we amortize them and recognize 1/60th of the purchase price each month.

    Storage Pods and hard drives are not the only hardware in our environment. We also have to buy the cabinets and rails that hold the servers, core servers that manage accounts/billing/etc., switches, routers, power strips, cables, and more. (Our post on bringing up a data center goes into some of this detail.) However, Storage Pods and the drives inside them make up about 90% of all the hardware cost.

  • Data Center (Space & Power): 8% of Revenue
  • “The cloud” is a great marketing term and one that has caught on for our industry. That said, all “clouds” store data on something physical like hard drives. Those hard drives (and servers) are actual, tangible things that take up actual space on earth, not in the clouds.

    At Backblaze, we lease space in colocation facilities which offer a secure, temperature controlled, reliable home for our equipment. Other companies build their own data centers. It’s the classic rent vs buy decision; but it always ends with hardware in racks in a data center.

    Hardware also needs power to function. Not everyone realizes it, but electricity is a significant cost of running cloud storage. In fact, some data center space is billed simply as a function of an electricity bill.

    Every hard drive storing data adds incremental space and power need. This is a cost that scales with storage growth.

    I also want to make a comment on taxes. We pay sales and property tax on hardware, and it is amortized as part of the hardware section above. However, it’s valuable to think about taxes when considering the data center since the location of the hardware actually drives the amount of taxes on the hardware that gets placed inside of it.

  • People: 7% of Revenue
  • Running a data center requires humans to make sure things go smoothly. The more data we store, the more human hands we need in the data center. All drives will fail eventually. When they fail, “stuff” needs to happen to get a replacement drive physically mounted inside the data center and filled with the customer data (all customer data is redundantly stored across multiple drives). The individuals that are associated specifically with managing the data center operations are included in COGS since, as you deploy more hard drives and servers, you need more of these people.

    Customer Support is the other group of people that are part of COGS. As customers use our services, questions invariably arise. To service our customers and get questions answered expediently, we staff customer support from our headquarters in San Mateo, CA. They do an amazing job! Staffing models, internally, are a function of the number of customers and the rate of acquiring new customers.

  • Bandwidth: 3% of Revenue
  • We have over 350 PB of customer data being stored across our data centers. The bulk of that has been uploaded by customers over the Internet (the other option, our Fireball service, is 6 months old and is seeing great adoption). Uploading data over the Internet requires bandwidth – basically, an Internet connection similar to the one running to your home or office. But, for a data center, instead of contracting with Time Warner or Comcast, we go “upstream.” Effectively, we’re buying wholesale.

    Understanding how that dynamic plays out with your customer base is a significant driver of how a cloud provider sets its pricing. Being in business for a decade has explicit advantages here. Because we understand our customer behavior, and have reached a certain scale, we are able to buy bandwidth in sufficient bulk to offer the industry’s best download pricing at $0.02 / Gigabyte (compared to $0.05 from Amazon, Google, and Microsoft).

    Why does optimizing download bandwidth charges matter for customers of a data storage business? Because it has a direct relationship to you being able to retrieve and use your data, which is important.

  • Other Fees: 6% of Revenue
  • We have grouped the remaining costs inside of “Other Fees.” This includes fees we pay to our payment processor as well as the costs of running our Restore Return Refund program.

    A payment processor is required for businesses like ours that need to accept credit cards securely over the Internet. The bulk of the money we pay to the payment processor is actually passed through to pay the credit card companies like AmEx, Visa, and Mastercard.

    The Restore Return Refund program is a unique program for our consumer and business backup business. Customers can download any and all of their files directly from our website. We also offer customers the ability to order a hard drive with some or all of their data on it, we then FedEx it to the customer wherever in the world she is. If the customer chooses, she can return the drive to us for a full refund. Customers love the program, but it does cost Backblaze money. We choose to subsidize the cost associated with this service in an effort to provide the best customer experience we can.

The Big Picture

At the beginning of the post, I mentioned that Backblaze is, effectively, a break even business. The reality is that our products drive a profitable business but those profits are invested back into the business to fund product development and growth. That means growing our team as the size and complexity of the business expands; it also means being fortunate enough to have the cash on hand to fund “reserves” of extra hardware, bandwidth, data center space, etc. In our first few years as a bootstrapped business, having sufficient buffer was a challenge. Having weathered that storm, we are particularly proud of being in a financial place where we can afford to make things a bit more predictable.

All this adds up to answer the question of how Backblaze has managed to carve out its slice of the cloud market – a market that is a key focus for some of the largest companies of our time. We have innovated a novel, purpose built storage infrastructure with our Vaults and Pods. That infrastructure allows us to keep costs very, very low. Low costs enable us to offer the world’s most affordable, reliable cloud storage.

Does reliable, affordable storage matter? For a company like Vintage Aerial, it enables them to digitize 50 years’ worth of aerial photography of rural America and share that national treasure with the world. Having the best download pricing in the storage industry means Austin City Limits, a PBS show out of Austin, can digitize and preserve over 550 concerts.

We think offering purpose built, affordable storage is important. It empowers our customers to monetize existing assets, make sure data is backed up (and not lost), and focus on their core business because we can handle their data storage needs.

The post The Cost of Cloud Storage appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Powered by WPeMatico

Desert To Data in 7 Days – Our New Phoenix Data Center

Posted on

We are pleased to announce that Backblaze is now storing some of our customers’ data in our newest data center in Phoenix. Our Sacramento facility was slated to store about 500 petabytes of data and was starting to fill up so it was time to expand. After visiting multiple locations in the US and Canada, we selected Phoenix as it had the right combination of power, networking, price and more that we were seeking. Let’s take you through the process of getting the Phoenix data center up and running.

Day 0 – Designing the Data Center

After we selected the Phoenix location as our next DC (data center), we had to negotiate the contract. We’re going to skip that part of the process because, unless you’re a lawyer, it’s a long, boring process. Let’s just say we wanted to be ready to move in once the contract was signed. That meant we had to gather up everything we needed and order a bunch of other things like networking equipment, racks, storage pods, cables, etc. We decided to use our Sacramento DC as the staging point and started gathering what was going to be needed in Phoenix.

In actuality, for some items we started the process several months ago as lead times for things like network switches, Storage Pods, and even hard drives can be measured in months and delays are normal. For example, depending on our move in date, the network providers we wanted would only be able to provide limited bandwidth, so we had to prepare for that possibility. It helps to have a procurement person who knows what they are doing, can work the schedule, and is creatively flexible – thanks Amanda.

So by Day 0, we had amassed multiple pallets of cabinets, network gear, PDUs, tools, hard drives, carts, Guido, and more. And yes, for all you Guido fans he is still with us and he now resides in Phoenix. Everything was wrapped and loaded into a 53-foot semi-truck that was driven the 755 miles (1,215 km) from Sacramento, California to Phoenix, Arizona.

Day 1 – Move In Day

We sent a crew of 5 people to Phoenix with the goal of going from empty space to being ready to accept data in one week. The truck from Sacramento arrived mid-morning and work started unloading and marshaling the pallets and boxes into one area, while the racks were placed near their permanent location on the DC floor.

Day 2 – Building the Racks

Day 2 was spent primarily working with the racks. First they were positioned to their precise location on the data center floor. They were then anchored down and tied together. We started with 2 rows of twenty-two racks each, with twenty being for storage pods and two being for networking equipment. By the end of the week there will be 4 rows of racks installed.

Day 3 – Networking and Power, Part 1

While one team continued to work on the racks, another team began the process a getting the racks connected to the electricty and running the network cables to the network distribution racks. Once that was done, networking gear and rack-based PDUs (Power Distribution Units) were installed in the racks.

Day 4 – Rack Storage Pods

The truck from Sacramento brought 100 Storage Pods, a combination of 45 drive and 60 drive systems. Why did we use 45 drives units here? It has to do with the size (in racks and power) of the initial installation commitment and the ramp (increase) of installations over time. Contract stuff: boring yes, important yes. Basically to optimize our spend we wanted to use as much of the initial space we were allotted as possible. Since we had a number of empty 45 drive chassis available in Sacramento we decided to put them to use.

Day 5 – Drive Day

Our initial set-up goal was to build out five Backblaze Vaults. Each Vault is comprised of twenty Storage Pods. Four of the Vaults were filled with 45 drive Storage Pods and one was filled with 60 drive Storage Pods. That’s 4,800 hard drives to install – thank goodness we don’t use those rubber bands around the drives anymore.

Day 6 – Networking and Power, Part 2

With the storage pods in place, Day 6 was spent routing network and power cables to the individual pods. A critical part of the process is to label every wire so you know where it comes from and where it goes too. Once labeled, wires are bundled together and secured to the racks in a standard pattern. Not only does this make things look neat, it standardizes where you’ll find each cable across the hundreds of racks that are in the DC.

Day 7 – Test, Repair, Test, Ready

With all the power and networking finished, it was time to test the installation. Most of the Storage Pods light up with no problem, but there were a few that failed. These failures are quickly dealt with, and one by one each Backblaze Vault is registered into our monitoring and administration systems. By the end of the day, all five Vaults were ready.

Moving Forward

The Phoenix data center was ready for operation except that the network carriers we wanted to use could only provide a limited amount of bandwidth to start. It would take a few more weeks before the final network lines would be provisioned and operational. Even with the limited bandwidth we kicked off the migration of customer data from Sacramento to Phoenix to help balance out the workload. A few weeks later, once the networking was sorted out, we started accepting external customer data.

We’d like to thank our data center build team for documenting their work in pictures and allowing us to share some of them with our readers.

















Questions About Our New Data Center

Now that we have a second DC, you might have a few questions, such as can you store your data there and so on. Here’s the status of things today…

    Q: Does the new DC mean Backblaze has multi-region storage?
    A: Not yet. Right now we consider the Phoenix DC and the Sacramento DC to be in the same region.
    Q: Will you ever provide multi-region support?
    A: Yes, we expect to provide multi-region support in the future, but we don’t have a date for that capability yet.
    Q: Can I pick which data center will store my data?
    A: Not yet. This capability is part of our plans when we provide multi-region support.
    Q: Which data center is my data being stored in?
    A: Chances are that your data is in the Sacramento data center given it currently stores about 90% of our customer’s data.
    Q: Will my data be split across the two data centers?
    A: It is possible that one portion of your data will be stored in the Sacramento DC and another portion of your data will be stored in the Phoenix DC. This will be completely invisible to you and you should see no difference in storage or data retrieval times.
    Q: Can my data be replicated from one DC to the other?
    A: Not today. As noted above, your data will be in one DC or the other. That said files uploaded to the Backblaze Vaults in either DC are stored redundantly across 20 Backblaze Storage Pods within that DC. This translates to 99.999999% durability for the data stored this way.
    Q: Do you plan on opening more data centers?
    A: Yes. We are actively looking for new locations.

If you have any additional questions, please let us know in the comments or on social media. Thanks.

The post Desert To Data in 7 Days – Our New Phoenix Data Center appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Powered by WPeMatico

Backblaze B2, Cloud Storage on a Budget: One Year Later

Posted on

B2 Cloud Storage Review

A year ago, Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage came out of beta and became available for everyone to use. We were pretty excited, even though it seemed like everyone and their brother had a cloud storage offering. Now that we are a year down the road let’s see how B2 has fared in the real world of tight budgets, maxed-out engineering schedules, insanely funded competition, and more. Spoiler alert: We’re still pretty excited…

Cloud Storage on a Budget

There are dozens of companies offering cloud storage and the landscape is cluttered with incomprehensible pricing models, cleverly disguised transfer and download charges, and differing levels of service that seem to be driven more by marketing departments than customer needs.

Backblaze B2 keeps things simple: A single performant level of service, a single affordable price for storage ($0.005/GB/month), a single affordable price for downloads ($0.02/GB), and a single list of transaction charges – all on a single pricing page.

Who’s Using B2?

By making cloud storage affordable, companies and organizations now have a way to store their data in the cloud and still be able to access and restore it as quickly as needed. You don’t have to choose between price and performance. Here are a few examples:

  • Media & Entertainment: KLRU-TV, Austin PBS, is using B2 to preserve their video catalog of the world renown musical anthology series, Austin City Limits.
  • LTO Migration: The Girl Scouts San Diego, were able to move their daily incremental backups from LTO tape to the cloud, saving money and time, while helping automate their entire backup process.
  • Cloud Migration: Vintage Aerial found it cost effective to discard their internal data server and store their unique hi-resolution images in B2 Cloud Storage.
  • Backup: Ahuja and Clark, a boutique accounting firm, was able to save over 80% on the cost to backup all their corporate and client data.

How is B2 Being Used?

B2 Cloud Storage can be accessed in four ways: using the Web GUI, using the CLI, using the API library, and using a product or service integrated with B2. While many customers are using the Web GUI, CLI and API to store and retrieve data, the most prolific use of B2 occurs via our integration partners. Each integration partner has certified they have met our best practices for integrating to B2 and we’ve tested each of the integrations submitted to us. Here are a few of the highlights.

  • NAS Devices – Synology and QNAP have integrations which allow their NAS devices to sync their data to/from B2.
  • Backup and Sync – CloudBerry, GoodSync, and Retrospect are just a few of the services that can backup and/or sync data to/from B2.
  • Hybrid Cloud – 45 Drives and OpenIO are solutions that allow you to setup and operate a hybrid data storage cloud environment.
  • Desktop Apps – CyberDuck, MountainDuck, Dropshare, and more allow users an easy way to store and use data in B2 right from your desktop.
  • Digital Asset Management – Cantemo, Cubix, CatDV, and axle Video, let you catalog your digital assets and then store them in B2 for fast retrieval when they are needed.

If you have an application or service that stores data in the cloud and it isn’t integrated with Backblaze B2, then your customers are probably paying too much for cloud storage.

What’s New in B2?

B2 Fireball – our rapid data ingest service. We send you a storage device, and you load it up with up to 40 TB of data and send it back, then we load the data into your B2 account. The cost is $550 per trip plus shipping. Save your network bandwidth with the B2 Fireball.

Lowered the download price – When we introduced B2, we set the price to download a gigabyte of data to be $0.05/GB – the same as most competitors. A year in, we reevaluated the price based on usage and decided to lower the price to $0.02/GB.

B2 User Groups – Backblaze Groups functionality is now available in B2. An administrator can invite users to a B2 centric Group to centralize the storage location for that group of users. For example, multiple members of a department working on a project will be able to archive their work-in-process activities into a single B2 bucket.

Time Machine backup – You may know that you can use your Synology NAS as the destination for your Time Machine backup. With B2 you can also sync your Synology NAS to B2 for a true 3-2-1 backup solution. If your system crashes or is lost, you can restore your Time Machine image directly from B2 to your new machine.

Life Cycle Rules – Create rules that allow you to manage the length of time deleted files will remain in your B2 bucket before they are deleted. A great option for managing the cleanup of outdated file versions to save on storage costs.

Large Files – In the B2 Web GUI you can upload files as large as 500 MB using either the upload or drag-and-drop functionality. The B2 CLI and API support the ability to upload/download files as large as 10 TB.

5 MB file part size – When working with large files, the minimum file part size can now be set as low as 5 MB versus the previous low setting of 100 MB. Now the range of a file part when working with large files can be from 5 MB to 5GB. This increases the throughput of your data uploads and downloads.

SHA-1 at the end – This feature allows you to compute the SHA-1 checksum and append it to the end of the request body versus doing the computation before the file is sent. This is especially useful for those applications which stream data to/from B2.

Cache-Control – When data is downloaded from B2 into a browser, the length of time the file remains in the browser cache can be set at the bucket level using the b2_create_bucket and b2_update_bucket API calls. Setting this policy is optional.

Customized delimiters – Used in the API, this allows you to specify a delimiter to use for a given purpose. A common use is to set a delimiter in the file name string. Then use that delimiter to detect a folder name within the string.

Looking Ahead

Over the past year we added nearly 30,000 new B2 customers to the fold and are welcoming more and more each day as B2 continues to grow. We have plans to expand our storage footprint by adding more data centers as we look forward to moving towards a multi-region environment.

For those of you who are B2 customers – thank you for helping build B2. If you have an interesting way you are using B2, tell us in the comments below.

The post Backblaze B2, Cloud Storage on a Budget: One Year Later appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Powered by WPeMatico

From Idea to Launch: Getting Your First Customers

Posted on

line outside of Apple

After deciding to build an unlimited backup service and developing our own storage platform, the next step was to get customers and feedback. Not all customers are created equal. Let’s talk about the types, and when and how to attract them.

How to Get Your First Customers

First Step – Don’t Launch Publicly
Launch when you’re ready for the judgments of people who don’t know you at all. Until then, don’t launch. Sign up users and customers either that you know, those you can trust to cut you some slack (while providing you feedback), or at minimum those for whom you can set expectations. For months the Backblaze website was a single page with no ability to get the product and minimal info on what it would be. This is not to counter the Lean Startup ‘iterate quickly with customer feedback’ advice. Rather, this is an acknowledgement that there are different types of feedback required based on your development stage.

Sign Up Your Friends
We knew all of our first customers; they were friends, family, and previous co-workers. Many knew what we were up to and were excited to help us. No magic marketing or tech savviness was required to reach them – we just asked that they try the service. We asked them to provide us feedback on their experience and collected it through email and conversations. While the feedback wasn’t unbiased, it was nonetheless wide-ranging, real, and often insightful. These people were willing to spend time carefully thinking about their feedback and delving deeper into the conversations.

Broaden to Beta
Unless you’re famous or your service costs $1 million per customer, you’ll probably need to expand quickly beyond your friends to build a business – and to get broader feedback. Our next step was to broaden the customer base to beta users.

Opening up the service in beta provides three benefits:

  1. Air cover for the early warts. There are going to be issues, bugs, unnecessarily complicated user flows, and poorly worded text. Beta tells people, “We don’t consider the product ‘done’ and you should expect some of these issues. Please be patient with us.”
  2. A request for feedback. Some people always provide feedback, but beta communicates that you want it.
  3. An awareness opportunity. Opening up in beta provides an early (but not only) opportunity to have an announcement and build awareness.

Pitching Beta to Press
Not all press cares about, or is even willing to cover, beta products. Much of the mainstream press wants to write about services that are fully live, have scale, and are important in the marketplace. However, there are a number of sites that like to cover the leading edge – and that means covering betas. Techcrunch, Ars Technica, and SimpleHelp covered our initial private beta launch. I’ll go into the details of how to work with the press to cover your announcements in a post next month.

Private vs. Public Beta
Both private and public beta provide all three of the benefits above. The difference between the two is that private betas are much more controlled, whereas public ones bring in more users. But this isn’t an either/or – I recommend doing both.

Private Beta
For our original beta in 2008, we decided that we were comfortable with about 1,000 users subscribing to our service. That would provide us with a healthy amount of feedback and get some early adoption, while not overwhelming us or our server capacity, and equally important not causing cash flow issues from having to buy more equipment. So we decided to limit the sign-up to only the first 1,000 people who signed up; then we would shut off sign-ups for a while.

But how do you even get 1,000 people to sign up for your service? In our case, get some major publications to write about our beta. (Note: In a future post I’ll explain exactly how to find and reach out to writers. Sign up to receive all of the entrepreneurial posts in this series.)

Public Beta
For our original service (computer backup), we did not have a public beta; but when we launched Backblaze B2, we had a private and then a public beta. The private beta allowed us to work out early kinks, while the public beta brought us a more varied set of use cases. In public beta, there is no cap on the number of users that may try the service.

While this is a first-class problem to have, if your service is flooded and stops working, it’s still a problem. Think through what you will do if that happens. In our early days, when our system could get overwhelmed by volume, we had a static web page hosted with a different registrar that wouldn’t let customers sign up but would tell them when our service would be open again. When we reached a critical volume level we would redirect to it in order to at least provide status for when we could accept more customers.

Collect Feedback
Since one of the goals of betas is to get feedback, we made sure that we had our email addresses clearly presented on the site so users could send us thoughts. We were most interested in broad qualitative feedback on users’ experience, so all emails went to an internal mailing list that would be read by everyone at Backblaze.

For our B2 public and private betas, we also added an optional short survey to the sign-up process. In order to be considered for the private beta you had to fill the survey out, though we found that 80% of users continued to fill out the survey even when it was not required. This survey had both closed-end questions (“how much data do you have”) and open-ended ones (“what do you want to use cloud storage for?”).

BTW, despite us getting a lot of feedback now via our support team, Twitter, and marketing surveys, we are always open to more – you can email me directly at gleb.budman {at} backblaze.com.

Don’t Throw Away Users
Initially our backup service was available only on Windows, but we had an email sign-up list for people who wanted it for their Mac. This provided us with a sense of market demand and a ready list of folks who could be beta users and early adopters when we had a Mac version. Have a service targeted at doctors but lawyers are expressing interest? Capture that.

Product Launch

When
The first question is “when” to launch. Presuming your service is in ‘public beta’, what is the advantage of moving out of beta and into a “version 1.0”, “gold”, or “public availability”? That depends on your service and customer base. Some services fly through public beta. Gmail, on the other hand, was (in)famous for being in beta for 5 years, despite having over 100 million users.

The term beta says to users, “give us some leeway, but feel free to use the service”. That’s fine for many consumer apps and will have near zero impact on them. However, services aimed at businesses and government will often not be adopted with a beta label as the enterprise customers want to know the company feels the service is ‘ready’. While Backblaze started out as a purely consumer service, because it was a data backup service, it was important for customers to trust that the service was ready.

No product is bug-free. But from a product readiness perspective, the nomenclature should also be a reflection of the quality of the product. You can launch a product with one feature that works well out of beta. But a product with fifty features on which half the users will bump into problems should likely stay in beta. The customer feedback, surveys, and your own internal testing should guide you in determining this quality during the beta. Be careful about “we’ve only seen that one time” or “I haven’t been able to reproduce that on my machine”; those issues are likely to scale with customers when you launch.

How
Launching out of beta can be as simple as removing the beta label from the website/product. However, this can be a great time to reach out to press, write a blog post, and send an email announcement to your customers.

Consider thanking your beta testers somehow; can they get some feature turned out for free, an extension of their trial, or premium support? If nothing else, remember to thank them for their feedback. Users that signed up during your beta are likely the ones who will propel your service. They had the need and interest to both be early adopters and deal with bugs. They are likely the key to getting 1,000 true fans.

The Beginning
The title of this post was “Getting your first customers”, because getting to launch may feel like the peak of your journey when you’re pre-launch, but it really is just the beginning. It’s a step along the journey of building your business. If your launch is wildly successful, enjoy it, work to build on the momentum, but don’t lose track of building your business. If your launch is a dud, go out for a coffee with your team, say “well that sucks”, and then get back to building your business. You can learn a tremendous amount from your early customers, and they can become your biggest fans, but the success of your business will depend on what you continue to do the months and years after your launch.

The post From Idea to Launch: Getting Your First Customers appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Powered by WPeMatico