2008 Backblaze Online Backup

(written 5/6/08 by Brian Wilson, owner of ski-epic)

The Quick Summary

I am one of five partners that created and run Backblaze, Inc. (http://www.backblaze.com) which does online backup.  "Online Backup" is where a small program runs on your computer and pushes a copy of your important files to the Backblaze servers running in San Francisco, California.  It's automatic (you never need to do ANYTHING, all new files that appear on your computer are pushed to our servers as soon as possible).  It's that simple.  In the case that your computer crashes or is stolen, you can log into a simple website and download all your files to get them all back, like your irreplaceable pictures of your kids.  If you have a lot of files, we can FedEx them to your home in 24 hours on a DVD or USB hard drive.  This whole service costs $5/month for unlimited data -> you can backup as much as you want and never worry about getting charged extra.  And all your pictures will be totally safe.

That's the whole story, no reason to read any further.  You can try our online backup program out for 15 days totally for free from http://www.backblaze.com and if you like it decide to buy later (no information is required up front!).  If you want a little more thoughts and information, feel free to read on below!  (Or click here to read the Wikipedia Article on Backblaze.)

Wait, Who are You, and What does Backblaze have to do with ski-epic.com?

My name is Brian Wilson, and ski-epic.com has NOTHING to do with Backblaze.  http://www.ski-epic.com is my personal vacation website filled with my personal (sometimes silly) pictures and dumb commentary by me.  :-)   EVERYTHING on ski-epic is yours to enjoy for free, ski-epic isn't what I do for a living, it's just a place for my personal pictures and personal rants and I'm always glad whenever anybody shows up and finds something useful or entertaining.  On the other hand, Backblaze (http://www.backblaze.com) is a real company where I work, with a real need to be profitable and provide high levels of security and safety for people's data.  ski-epic is for silly personal stuff (and is free for you), while the Backblaze Online Backup system (consisting of desktop software pushing files to San Francisco servers) is my business.  Make sense? 

Why Are You Providing Online Backup?

I'm a software engineer, and I have been involved with several (moderately) successful startup companies.  The most recent startup I formed with my partner Pavni was called MailFrontier and we built software and appliances that blocked spam (junk email).  Our customers LOVED us for solving this problem for them, and I really liked that feeling of being one of the "good guys" and "wearing the white hat" and helping people out.  And along the way, we charged a fair price and made money, and that was good too.  :-)  It was a dream job, to make people happy, to help people out, to make money doing it that our customers were GLAD to pay us.  You can read about some of the history of MailFrontier at this MailFrontier Timeline.

When we sold MailFrontier to SonicWall in 2006, it was time for me to find a new project.  As a software engineer, I get frantic calls about computer problems from my less technical friends and family, and sometimes I can solve their computer problems, and sometimes I can't solve their problems.  It's very fun when I solve their problems, it makes me sad when I can't.  Inevitably, in the failures, I would ask about their backups, and the UNIVERSAL ANSWER is that non-technical people just don't back up.  I started thinking maybe I could contribute something here, make a difference, help people out, and yes, maybe make a little money that people were GLAD to pay if we provide a fair and honest product.  So that's how I started into Online Backup as a concept, but first....

Surely SOME people do Backups?

No, "people" don't, but businesses and computer professionals do.  I like to break down the world into 3 groups of people and identify how they are backing up their computers:

1) Businesses - 100 percent of businesses do backups of their email servers and databases.  Many businesses *BY* *LAW* have to backup their data!!  Any financial service like banks and stock brokers must retain backups or their communication and stock trades for 7 years, some even longer.  It's the law.  I can't really contribute anything to backing up databases and email archives, it is all taken care of.  :-)  Side note: many businesses don't backup the desktops and laptops of their employees, and there is a good opportunity to help out there.

2) High Tech Professionals - software engineers, scientists, high end power computer users -> this group universally backs up their data by hand onto DVDs and external USB hard drives according to some sort of built in magical clock in their head, usually about once every 6 months they do a comprehensive backup of every shred of data in their world.  They also quietly backup data for their loved ones around them.  Their husbands, wives, and children don't know it, but these people KNOW that laptops are stolen and hard drives fail, and they are quietly protecting the people they care about.

3) Consumers - also known as "the common man" or "mom & pop".  Basically "everybody" not in the above two groups.  This group universally DOES NOT BACKUP.  Nada, nothing, none.  Never done it.  Many of them know they SHOULD do backups, but generally backups are too hard, to unpleasant, etc.  My very own sister asked me what Backblaze was, and then admitted she did not backup her pictures of her children. 

I refuse to blame the victim here.  In group number 3 you will not find 1 percent, NOT ONE STINKING PERCENT that do any backups at all, and that cannot be "their fault", and they cannot possibly deserve to lose their data.  The computer companies have failed this group -> backups should be invisible, quiet, and infallible, built in, and simple to use.  There should be no installation.  AT ANY POINT any amateur 10 year old computer user should be able to go back in time, no matter what happens.  Tornado, fire, flood, earthquake, theft, it doesn't matter, backups should be there.

Ok, Ok, but Why Online?  Why not backup onto DVD or USB Hard Drive?

My original criteria was to "solve the problem, period".  I was open to any and all solutions.  I think DVD backups are great, and recently I bought a Blu-Ray burner and it's pretty awesome - 25 GB backups on a single disk!  USB hard drives are also great, I've bought several as gifts to close friends to help protect their data.  It's *ALL* good here. 

There are two basic reasons that Online Backup (like Backblaze offers) is a totally great choice for consumers.  First of all, if it isn't offsite, it isn't *REALLY* a 100 percent safe backup.  If somebody steals your computer, they will probably steal the USB Backup Hard Drive sitting next to your computer.  A fire that consumes your house will burn the backups too.  The second reason backing up online is a good choice is that it can be so automatic, so hassle free.  You don't have to take the time to insert a DVD blank, or connect your USB hard drive.  You never have to understand how to configure a DVD burner or what the phrase "mount an external hard drive" means.  You can never forget to do a backup -> it just works.

Now, all of this would be useless info if backing up your computer's data online was expensive -> but here is the really amusing part -> it's actually *LESS* expensive than any other technique!!  An external USB hard drive might be $200, same for a DVD burner and a pile of blanks.  Those drives don't last forever, most people will buy a new USB hard drive every two or three years.  But Backblaze charges only $50/year (or $5/month), so you're getting the EASIEST TO USE, plus MOST RELIABLE form of backup for less money than other solutions.  And you can store an unlimited amount of data for that fixed price, you'll never "fill up" the Backblaze datacenter like you would fill up a USB hard drive.

You've mentioned "Unlimited Storage for $5/month", what's the catch?

No catch.  The deal is that users don't REALLY know how much data they have, and they shouldn't have to care.  We carefully average out our costs -> we lose money on some customers, we make money on others.  We maintain our costs and our averages -> so that our customers don't have to stress out and can relax and know they are backed up.

Doesn't anybody else do this?

Yes they do!  There are several other companies doing this, each one has some plusses and minuses.  Two other companies that provide Online Backup are Mozy and Carbonite, which are both very reasonable products, and one heck of a lot better than not backing up your data.  My recommendation is USE SOMETHING!!  DVDs, USB Hard Drives, an online backup company, for goodness sake just do a backup, I swear you won't regret it.  If you aren't using anything else -> Backblaze is excellent, and it's free to try.  Try Backblaze Here.

Did you have an Office Warming Party?

Ok, I made up that question.  :-)   Here is the link to the 2007 Backblaze Office Warming Party.  Here is one of the pictures:


And that's it!  Thanks for stopping by this webpage!  If you have any corrections or feedback, please email me at the email address below.

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