How to Get Petabytes Worth of Cheap Online Storage On a Shoestring Budget

By John Reynolds
April 1, 2014


As the winds of technological evolution accelerate in speeds, there’s no doubt anymore that cloud computing is the frontier of the next IT revolution. Giant corporations to casual internet-savvy users have already started integrating cloud storage solutions to meet their data management demands. Cloud storage is the one innovation that can truly render old school external storage devices like CDs, DVDs, USB drives, etc. completely obsolete. Cloud storage solutions have facilitated the rise of personal cloud back up services that let you store and retrieve any of your essential documents on the go no matter where you go.

Now you may find it a walk in the park if all you are looking for is a 10-30 GB of storage space for your personal needs; however, delving into enterprise cloud storage is a whole another ball game. While popular cloud storage platforms such as Dropbox, Amazon Cloud Drive, JustCloud and Google Drive offer an average 5 GB storage capacity for free on signing up along with several referral incentives for expanding this capacity, the truth is you can only mooch off around 100-250 GB space by clubbing all these offers together. Addressing the Cloud Pricing Dilemma for Enterprises There’s a meteoric difference between the data storage needs of a huge enterprise and that of a casual user, which falls in the range of several terabytes to petabytes. These are the kind of business cloud solutions that will cost you an arm and a leg to pay for if you don’t happen to be a high roller.

So I thought to myself maybe it’s just cheap corporate managers exaggerating the expenses because they are too blind to see the bright side of cloud storage. Unfortunately, that thought boomeranged to hit me back on my head when I investigated the cloud storage pricings for a petabyte worth of storage space in the market. To my bitter surprise, the pricing plans for 1 Petabyte offered by leading cloud service providers like Amazon S3, Sun Servers, NetApp Filers, Dell, and EMC SAN, range in between a whopping $826,000 to $2,860,000. Now the real dilemma with this eye-poppingly exorbitant pricing scheme is that it is completely unwarranted, because when you strip away all the cool marketing lingo and brand snobbery, all you are essentially paying for is to store your data on a hard drive. Cloud storage isn’t some new multi-billion dollar invention derived from the secret labs of NASA. Unfortunately, the best business cloud storage solutions may not necessarily be in agreement with your company IT budget.

The Business of Enterprise Cloud

Laying the Foundation For Cheap Cloud Storage

So what do you do when you’re a striving entrepreneur looking for large-scale cheap cloud storage without being taken to the cleaners for it? Fortunately, the savvy innovators at Backblaze were already one step ahead of the game and came up with a brilliant customizable solution for all those people looking for petabytes worth of storage space on a shoe-string budget. Backblaze developers sought out to achieve 2 significant objectives:

  • Minimization of upfront costs by combining the use of consumer-grade drives and abundantly available commodity components.
  • Maximization of power and space efficiency by intelligently integrating green components and arranging them to fit easily in a small box.

Thus came the innovation of the Backblaze Storage Pod – a 4U rack-mounted server that is powered by Linux and packs 67 terabytes of storage space at an uber-affordable price tag of $7,867. It’s amazing how a seemingly simple DIY-style tweaking of the conventional cloud storage architecture helped slash the price of a petabyte to nearly one-tenth the amount charged by Amazon S3, Dell, Sun, NetApp, etc. What this means is that you will now be shelling out merely three-tenths of a penny per GB per month for the next 3 years, which includes all maintenance costs.

How Backblaze Storage Pods Work & Their Future in the Cloud Storage Game

Conventionally, a cloud storage solution includes the combined deployment of hardware on a massive scale and efficient software to control it. Backblaze developers have come up with a nifty softwareprogram that can re-duplicate and cut data into blocks, followed by running it through an encryption process and then storing it on the cloud. Conversely, this software also reconstructs, decrypts, re-duplicated and assembles the stored data in its original format for recovering it from the cloud.

Enterprises can either choose to rely on their in-house systems to execute the above process and simply apply the Backblaze Storage Pod design, or opt for another suitable storage solution customized to your requirements that will not be deployed as the branch of a cloud. However, you will be happy to know that the Backblaze Storage Pod design is open sourced and it can be utilized by organizations in either case. The open-source design of Backblaze Storage Pods has helped drive a massive community-supported enhancement in functionality of their core cloud storage model. Backblaze developers were introduced to a user-created performance enhancement strategy, which involved the utilization of a new motherboard consisting of 3 PCIe slots and higher quality PCIe SATA cards.

Inside the Backblaze Storage Pod

This tweak proved to be a significant upgrade over its first-generation design as it helped revise the redundancy created by including a single standard PCI slot. Recently, Backblaze also announced a major overhaul of their first-generation 67 TB storage pod design that was launched nearly 2 years ago. The renovated Backblaze Storage Pod now features a storage capacity of 135 TB that is priced at a jaw-droppingly affordable $7,384. The innovation of their open source storage pod design also helped Backblaze realize their true calling and nail their niche in the cloud market. They have realized that their desktop client and back-end cloud software development is their forte, which will help spearhead generations of upgrades in cloud storage design. The revised version of the Backblaze Storage Pod has helped slash the cloud storage price for 1 TB of data down to a mere $55.

The reason behind the doubling of storage capacity in the second version of the Backblaze Storage Pod is that it now utilized 3 TB hard drives. Additionally, it also operates twice as fast because of the improved PCIe, higher RAM and more powerful CPUs. The outcome of it all is a remarkable 4U device with 135 TB of storage space that functions twice as fast as its older iteration and costs $500 lesserthan it as well. A vast number of organizations have already adopted this ingenious storage design for everything ranging from medical-image archiving to advertisement data. Software companies can now adopt the usage of these ingenious Backblaze storage pods and gain access to a plethora of hardware tools that will also make it incredibly cost-effective to lower capital investment in web development.