Backblaze B2 Cloud
B2 is the cloud storage offering from the very reputable online backup company, Backblaze. One of the biggest selling points of B2 is that it is fully compatible with Amazon’s S3 storage interface yet only costs about 25% of the official AWS offering, add into this considerably lower bandwidth fees and this service is already looking like a winner!
Pricing aside, Backblaze B2 is a service aimed mainly towards business and more technically savvy PC users, this is due mainly to the way it is set up meaning (realistically) 3rd party software is required to connect to and make best use of the service. It is also worth noting that, as of 2020, Backblaze B2 is now available in the EU region thanks to a new Backblaze EU data centre situated in the Netherlands, a much welcome addition for all EU based users I’m sure.
Given this super low cost of access, EU or US data centres and S3 compatibility, B2 is starting to prove very popular and with support from many cloud software providers including MSP360 (formally Cloudberry Labs), Cloudflare and QNAP it looks set to keep growing and become increasingly popular.
So, having gotten through this quick intro, lets go and have a look at Backblaze B2 cloud storage!
Key Features of Backblaze B2
- Easy to use web-based management interface
- Free account providing a generous 10GB of free storage
- No fees for uploading data and only $0.01/GB for downloads!
- Fully AWS S3 compatible storage
- Integration with many 3rd Party tools (including Cloudberry)
- Backblaze command line tool available
- File versioning support (optionally keep old versions & deleted files)
- No smartphone apps or desktop sync client
- Supports 2FA (SMS or Google Authenticator)
- No zero knowledge encryption built-in
Backblaze B2 Usability
Signing up to Backblaze B2
Getting started with Backblaze B2 is really quick and easy, in-fact, if you already have a Backblaze cloud backup account you can simply add-in B2 as an additional service. If you are completely new to Backblaze then signing up for a new account is a quick and painless process (and you will be rewarded with 10GB of free storage once your account is fully set-up).
As was mentioned a little earlier on, Backblaze now have an EU based data centre available for both their cloud backup solution and for B2 as well, if you are wanting to use this data centre it is important to make sure you select this during the sign-up process (this document from Backblaze support has more details).
Using the Backblaze B2 Web Interface
Once you have a Backblaze B2 account configured you can login to the web based interface and start managing your account and the storage buckets within. Backblaze (at the time of writing) don’t provide an own-branded desktop client software nor do they have any smartphone apps, this means without the use of third party software this web based console is the only way to get started with the service itself.
As can be seen above, once logged in we are automatically taken to an overview screen, to see any buckets under our account (or create new ones) we need to click on the “buckets” link on the bottom left side menu. Once in the Buckets page we can begin by creating a new bucket, this is done using the big “Create a Bucket” button atop the page.
Once a new bucket has been created it is important to note that certain features of the B2 service are added to buckets retrospectively, this includes settings for sharing the contents of the bucket and setting the bucket life cycle rules (which allow for revisions of changed / deleted files to be kept for a certain time frame).
Should you want to manage files in any B2 bucket (to a basic level at least) B2 now incudes a web-based file explorer tool (found on the left side menu again under the “B2 Cloud Storage” heading).
Unfortunately, this file explorer is very basic and with uploading, downloading and deleting files aside the only other useful feature on offer is the snapshot tool. This snapshot allows a specific set of files to have a snapshot taken of them (essentially a point-in-time backup), this might be useful for some but it is important to remember you can also snapshot an entire bucket should you so wish!
On this left side menu we can also see B2 provides us with some other useful tools for managing our B2 account, these include the ability to take snapshots of buckets (a form of backup) as well as create reports of what amount of storage is being used and set alerts when thresholds are crossed.
Finally, towards the bottom of the left menu we can find the “My Settings” and “Billing” pages, these are, of course not central to this review but this should highlight nicely that Backblaze make everything easy to find and simple to work with once logged into the service.
Is Backblaze B2 S3 Compatible?
Yes, in-fact as of May 2020 all newly created B2 buckets are fully S3 compatible from the moment they are created. With this built-in S3 compatibility and considerably lower storage and bandwidth costs across the board, Backblaze really are taking the fight to AWS with B2.
It should be noted, however, any older buckets created before this change will not be made S3 compatible retrospectively, you must create new buckets to take advantage of this change!
Sharing Files with Backblaze B2
Backblaze is mainly designed to work very much behind the scenes powering 3rd party apps, this is in contrast to most “user facing” cloud storage providers which provide feature rich web consoles, desktop synchronisation clients and smartphone apps to their users. As a result of this setup, file sharing is not really possible with B2 directly (without a 3rd party app in place).
The ability to make a bucket public is, however, included and this can be turned on via the B2 web interface to make for an alternative file sharing solution.
Backblaze B2 Third-Party Integrations
Before the S3 compatibility was introduced in 2020, B2 already had the support of many cloud based software provides in addition to hardware providers including QNAP and Synology also supporting the service. Now, thanks to S3 compatibility (virtually) all S3 compatible software should work seamlessly with Backblaze B2 storage.
Some notable providers which offer direct and supported integrations with B2 include MSP360 (Cloudberry), Arq Backup, Cloudflare (CDN), Cryerduck, Duplicacy plus many more, a full list can be seen on the B2 integrations page.
Backblaze B2 Command Line Access
Despite not offering a desktop sync client nor any smartphone apps, one tool Backblaze do provide is a command line integration tool allowing B2 to be managed via a local command line for PCs running Windows, Mac or Linux.
Once installed, the self-contained B2 command line tool can be authenticated with a B2 account using an application key, this application key can be generated with permissions for specific buckets as well as for specified commands which can be run.
When all is set up, the command line tool can be used to perform all of the major functionality available from the B2 service, there are also options for working with the Python command line although this is beyond the scope of this review, more details can be found at the B2 command line integration page.
Using Backblaze B2 as a Backup Solution
So far in this review we have looked at the command line integration (just above) in addition to the wide range of 3rd party software which is designed to work with and support B2 storage.
Naturally, such a service is an ideal backup target for many different types of backup application and with so much choice in 3rd party apps it is likely you will find an integration to suit your needs.
One provider in particular which works very well with Backblaze B2 is Cloudberry, Their Cloudberry Backup product has already been reviewed on Best Backup Reviews (click here to read it) and is a great starting point if you are looking to backup a PC or server to B2.
Using Backblaze B2 with a CDN
Whilst B2 doesn’t have a CDN built directly into the service (such as Spaces from DigitalOcean) there is a very established link with one of the worlds leading CDN providers, Cloudflare.
This integration sees B2 storage become available as a storage container for any files served via the Cloudflare CDN network. Whilst Cloudflare have their own pricing it is important to note that the bandwidth between Backblaze and Cloudflare is provided completely free of charge, this makes B2 a great storage for large websites and web-apps which make use of the Cloudflare CDN.
Security is a key concern with any cloud storage provider and it is one Backblaze clearly takes seriously. To start with all transfers to and from the B2 service are performed automatically over encrypted HTTPS channels and specialist app keys are available meaning passwords do not need to be shared when using 3rd party software.
When looking at the actual files stored on B2, the story changes a little, according to Backblaze default encryption of all files is not possible due to certain use-cases of the service preventing it. Whilst this wont be an issue to many users (who always encrypt themselves anyway) it is something to be aware of.
NB – The Backblaze Backup Service (which I have reviewed here) is different to the B2 service and makes extensive use of encryption before any files ever leave your PC, so please don’t get the two mixed up!
Another concern to be aware of when using B2 is the redundancy of stored data, whilst Backblaze make a strong point of this being 99.999999999% (11 x 9) redundant, it is important to be aware that this figure is currently for a single data centre only. Backblaze do have multiple data centre locations such as the EU data centre mentioned earlier, but these currently must operate under a completely separate user account and therefore is no sharing of data between the two sites is possible (at time of writing at least).
If data redundancy is extremely important then use of the AWS S3 storage tier (which automatically splits stored data across 3+ physical locations by default) might still be a better choice.
Backblaze have a very useful online support portal featuring a detailed knowledge base and the ability to contact the support team via an online ticketing system if required. All-in-all a very clear, easy to use and well laid out support system!
Backblaze B2 Pricing
This is where Backblaze B2 really stands out, at approx 25% of the cost of AWS S3 this is clearly a great service for those seeking cost effective off-site storage solutions.
At time of writing the cost per GB / per month for Backblaze B2 is $0.005 with a (download only) bandwidth charge of $0.01 per GB.
Backblaze also provide all B2 account users with their first 10GB of storage for free!
Backblaze B2 has been around for a few years now and I have personally made use of it myself over this time. With the obvious draw of the super low pricing put aside, B2 really is a great storage service which is (in my opinion at least) much easier to start working and make full use of than Amazon’s official S3 service.
S3 does, of course, still have some advantages over B2 but with the low cost, ease of use, and great 3rd party software support available, B2 becomes a very viable choice for many. This is especially true for smaller businesses and individual who simply don’t have the time and money to learn about and make the most of the official AWS S3 service.
Given both of these above points, B2 has found itself in a great place in the market and I would advise anyone looking for S3-like storage to look at B2 first before delving into the depths of AWS!
Overall, thanks to its simplicity, low cost and great 3rd party software support Backblaze B2 is a very good service which is to be taken very seriously, a great effort Backblaze!