Rohan Vora, Senior Product Manager, Dropbox
Jonathan Handel, Entertainment/Technology Attorney & Labor Reporter, TroyGould and The Hollywood Reporter
Tom Coughlin, President, Coughlin Associates, Inc.
Andrew Klein, Director, Product Marketing, Backblaze
James DeRuvo, Film and Technology Reporter, DoddleNEWS
Larry Jordan: Tonight on the Buzz we are looking at cloud storage and breaking news. We start with the news. This morning, RED made a big announcement of a new hardware product specifically designed for virtual reality. Tonight James DeRuvo has the details in our weekly DoddleNEWS update.
Larry Jordan: After coming close to a strike and multiple extensions, SAG/AFTRA and the AMPTA finally agreed to new contract terms. Tonight, Jonathan Handel, entertainment labor reporter for the Hollywood Reporter has an update on these negotiations and more importantly, what this means to the rest of the industry.
Larry Jordan: Then we shift gears to take a closer look at cloud storage. Over the last few weeks, we’ve examined a variety of collaborative services but all of these involve storing our data in the cloud. Tonight we examine what this means.
Larry Jordan: We start with Tom Coughlin, president of Coughlin Associates who provides an overview of what cloud storage is, what makes it different from more typical local storage and future storage technology.
Larry Jordan: Rohan Vora is the product manager for business, enterprise and education at Dropbox. Tonight he explains what his products are, how they keep our data secure, and how to determine which of their products are right for our business.
Larry Jordan: Andy Klein is the director of product marketing for Backblaze. This cloud based storage company focuses on creating secure backups for our data. Tonight, he explains how Backblaze is different from many other cloud vendors, why they use such powerful encryption and how to pick a cloud vendor.
Larry Jordan: The Buzz starts now.
Announcer: Since the dawn of digital filmmaking – authoritative – one show serves a worldwide network of media professionals – current – uniting industry experts – production – filmmakers – post production – and content creators around the planet – distribution. From the media capital of the world in Los Angeles, California, the Digital Production Buzz goes live now.
Larry Jordan: Welcome to the Digital Production Buzz, the world’s longest running podcast for the creative content industry, covering media production, post production and marketing around the world.
Larry Jordan: Hi, my name is Larry Jordan. Over the last several weeks, the Buzz has looked at storage from a variety of angles. Tonight we take a closer look at the cloud. At its simplest, while storing data in the cloud sounds almost mystical, all we’re really doing is transferring our data to a remote server which is managed by somebody else and accessed via the web. Sometimes storing data in the cloud can enable very efficient collaboration. Other times it may be more time consuming and expensive than storing files locally and looming over all our cloud decisions is security. When is a web server secure enough?
Larry Jordan: Tonight we start with an overview from Tom Coughlin who’s an engineer by training and has been working in the storage industry for more than 30 years. Now he runs his own consulting and conference company, specializing in storage. Then we talk with two storage vendors, Dropbox and Backblaze to learn how they work, what we need to know to use their services successfully, and how to pick the right cloud storage vendor for our projects. This will be an interesting discussion but, before we float off into the cloud, this week saw a number of breaking news stories that deserve some extended coverage.
Larry Jordan: We start with news from RED and James DeRuvo. Hello James.
James DeRuvo: Hi Larry, how are you?
Larry Jordan: I am excited. There’s all kinds of cool news going on, what’s the latest?
James DeRuvo: I know, tech news is blowing up today. RED did a big announcement. They were very cryptic last week saying they were going to introduce a brand new product and everybody should get their credit cards ready, and then when it dropped it was like, “Oh man, I think I need to get my credit card ready.” They’re getting into virtual reality with a new mobile device. It’s called Hydrogen, and it’s a fully functional android smart phone with a 5.7 inch high resolution holographic display. It’s going to be a modular system which will work in concert with their complete line of RED cinema cameras, including the Scarlet, Epic and Weapon, to create virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality and 3D content, and you will be able to view virtual reality with no glasses or goggles at all. So you don’t need the Oculus, you don’t need the HTC Vive or any of that nonsense, you can just watch it in the phone.
Larry Jordan: Wait a second, I’m confused. Is this android device a camera or is it a viewer?
James DeRuvo: Yes. There’s not a lot of details on it which is typical of RED. They make this big announcement and all the RED heads want to buy it. In and of itself a mobile device. It’s called the Hydrogen One. It’s a phone. It’s a smartphone, and what you’ll be able to do is view virtual reality with it, glasses free. However, it’s going to be part of a modular system called the Hydrogen Modular System which will have additional modular products that you’ll be able to add on down the line and it may end up being a fully functional cinema camera. But in the meantime, it’ll be able to work in concert with the RED Scarlet, the Epic and the Weapon and it’ll actually be able to do double duty as a field monitor because it’s a 5.7 inch screen. It’s going to be huge. I’m more excited about the modular content creation concept than the glasses free, because glasses free has been around for a while now with your smartphone. To be able to merge with your cinema camera, you’ll be able to use it as a field monitor. I’m not entirely convinced that virtual reality is the future, but with Hydrogen, RED may get us there before anyone else. It’s interesting, we need to know more, it’s costing about $1500 which really isn’t bad considering that after a two year deal you’re going to pay that for an iPhone 8 anyway. So, it’s an interesting concept, we’ll see where it goes.
Larry Jordan: Alrighty, but RED was not the only company making news recently. Who else we got?
James DeRuvo: Well Adobe has introduced a brand new plugin for the Audio Network which will have playlists involved. Audio Network is a soundtrack, music, stock music company which offers 120,000 pieces of music from composers, producers and artists all around the world, and so this is going to be like Adobe Stock, but only for audio and you’ll be able to search directly from the panel in Premiere Pro, drag and drop lower quality versions of test music to find out if it fits for what you’re trying to do in your scene, and if you like it, you’ll be able to license it within the app in an in app purchase, and then a higher quality version of the music will automatically drop right into the timeline, replacing what you’ve already done. You’ll have nine different curated playlists, so you’ll be able to look at different kinds of music. That was the announcement yesterday and that’s going to be pretty exciting.
Larry Jordan: Audio Network is huge in Europe but they’re still small inside the US and this is a great way for them to expand their American footprint.
James DeRuvo: Absolutely.
Larry Jordan: I’m really curious to see how this pans out because there are so many other music companies in the US and why Adobe chose this one versus somebody else.
James DeRuvo: I’d be interested too, but I really like the way that the whole concept of Adobe Stock where you can drag and drop lower resolution versions to test it, see if it works, and then you can license it and it’ll automatically update with a higher resolution version. I really like that, and Adobe has made it shamefully easy to be able to find what you need in stock footage, stock video, stock stills, and now stock audio. It’s going to be awesome.
Larry Jordan: OK, so we’ve got two announcements, RED and Audio Network with Adobe. What’s third?
James DeRuvo: The big news up north is that Canada has loosened up their drone laws to make it easier for recreational drone pilots to fly around and practice their hobby. Responding to lobbying done by enthusiasts and drone companies like DJI, Canada’s Ministry of Transportation loosened their interim drone rules to make it easier for them to enjoy their UAV hobby. New rules are modeled on the USFAA drone rules, and will require a minimum distance of at least 5.5 kilometers from airports and 1.7 kilometers from helipads, a 9 kilometer distance from natural disasters and hazards like forest fires, and you’ll have to fly in the day and stay at least 30 meters away from people, vehicles and vessels with an altitude limit of 90 meters. It’s a very reasonable change that has been welcomed by drone enthusiasts and DJI alike, because the previous interim drone rules made it all but impossible to fly a drone in any urban setting, and that would have spelled doom for the drone industry up in the great white north. So by loosening up the rules, the Canadian transportation ministry is giving responsible drone users the ability to safely operate their UAVs around population centers, so long as they respect everybody’s privacy and steer clear of the aerial traffic.
Larry Jordan: Cool, and for people that need more information on these and other stories, where can they go?
James DeRuvo: Other headlines, including Michel Gondry’s latest feature being shot entirely on the iPhone 7, can be found at Doddlenews.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word, doddlenews.com, and James DeRuvo is the senior writer for DoddleNEWS. James, thanks for joining us today.
James DeRuvo: OK Larry, see you next week.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan Handel is an entertainment and technology attorney, of counsel at Troy Gould in Los Angeles. He is also the contributing editor on entertainment labor issues for the Hollywood Reporter, and best of all, he’s a regular here on the Buzz. Hello Jonathan, welcome back.
Jonathan Handel: Hey Larry, it’s a pleasure to be back.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan, SAG/AFTRA took us right to the brink this year. What’s the latest?
Jonathan Handel: Well they did, and that after the Writers Guild took us right to the brink. So it’s been a nail biter of a year. These negotiating cycles come every three years, and SAG/AFTRA did reach a deal finally. It’s probably no coincidence that this is the one year every six years where the three year contract cycle intersects with the two year election cycle for SAG/AFTRA, and those elections tend to be very politicized, much more so usually than the other two unions.
Larry Jordan: I remember when we were talking about this weren’t you describing this before it even started, as going to be a fairly simple negotiation? What took it off the rails?
Jonathan Handel: So much for my crystal ball which is rolling down the street as we speak. What took it off the rails? It’s hard to know exactly. Part of it is that by reports from inside the room, they really didn’t get down to what I would call serious negotiation, negotiations that converge on a deal until the last week or so roughly of the talks. They had two weeks of informal talks supposedly to pre-digest the big issues, and then four weeks of formal talks till the contract expired and then three 24 hour extensions. Plus another six hour unofficial extension, this was a sunrise deal. They did it July 4th at close to six am in the morning after having been in the room from 11 in the morning the previous day.
Larry Jordan: What were the main contract issues?
Jonathan Handel: The big issues were really two or three fold. One is a similar issue that had bedeviled the writers, which is short seasons. So when you have these Netflix series with eight or ten episodes rather than a broadcast network standard of 22, the actors do less work, they get paid for less work, but they’re held under exclusivity for the remainder of the year, and with very limited car routes, essentially can’t do any other television work during that time. So that really limits their income potential and it’s important to note that actors are not like George Clooney and people like that are making boatloads of money in the world. Ten years ago when SAG last released figures, the average working actor, and this is leaving aside those in the union who don’t work at all, middle of the road, was making about $50,000 a year, and that money doesn’t go very far in Los Angeles or New York.
Jonathan Handel: The other big issue is travel. With the continued growth of runaway production to places like Atlanta for example which is just booming, the contract says that if an actor is hired from Los Angeles to a distant location like Atlanta, that as I understand the contract, they have to get paid a per diem and be given lodging. But that’s not what the industry usually does. Instead they give them a one shot relocation fee of something like $7500 which is really only enough to move into an apartment, at first, last and security kind of thing, and then the actor is stuck trying to pay rent on two residences, or even mortgage in Los Angeles. It’s a tough situation. We don’t know the details yet of what the actors got on these two issues because they haven’t released anything but the sketchiest of details until after the board approves the deal. That’ll happen I’m told on the 15th or the weekend of the 15th, in other words about ten days from now, and then the deal goes out to the members for their vote. It’s highly expected to be approved and to pass.
Larry Jordan: So is there lessons to be learned from the rest of the industry or upcoming negotiations or is this an outlier?
Jonathan Handel: It’s not an outlier because this is once again technology putting stress on working conditions in the business. We also had issues over residuals, streaming residuals and so forth, but those were mostly dealt with by the DGA and the writers and actors got the same pattern. So the issue though is that as technology continues to change the way programming is both made and where it’s made and also continues to change consumption patterns, end users, the audiences, want these short seasons that they can binge on. They’re becoming less interested in 22 episode seasons. That has an effect. Next negotiations a year from now, the SAG/AFTRA daytime agreement really covering soap operas. Once burned, twice shy, I hesitate to say that that won’t be a difficult one, but that’s such a small section of the industry these days.
Larry Jordan: Very quickly, the Writers Guild released their annual report, what did they tell us?
Jonathan Handel: This is Writers Guild West, they give very detailed figures unlike the other unions, Writers Guild East, DGA and SAG/AFTRA, and what we learned from their annual report which people can relatively easy find by Googling, is that maybe the era of peak TV has peaked for writers. Television earnings and employment are down. Screen earnings of course, motion picture earnings are down significantly, ten percent in fact. Screen employment then 6.5 percent roughly for screen earnings. So it’s hard to know if that’s just a blip, and if so, why, because it comes in the face of what was otherwise for the last five years a strong growth.
Larry Jordan: Interesting. Jonathan for people that want to keep track of what you’re writing and what’s going on the industry, where can they go on the web?
Jonathan Handel: Two places, thrlabor.com, the Hollywood Reporter, and my website, jhandel.com.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan Handel is the entertainment and technology attorney and a contributing editor for entertainment labor issues at the Hollywood Reporter. Jonathan, thanks for joining us today.
Jonathan Handel: Thanks Larry.
Larry Jordan: Take care, bye bye.
Jonathan Handel: Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Here’s another website I want to introduce you to. Doddlenews.com. DoddleNEWS gives you a portal into the broadcast, video and film industries. It’s a leading online resource, presenting news, reviews and products for the film and video industry. DoddleNEWS also offers a resource guide and crew management platforms specifically designed for production. These digital call sheets, along with their app, directory and premium listings, provide in depth organizational tools for busy production professionals. DoddleNEWS is a part of the Thalo Arts Community, a worldwide community of artists, filmmakers and storytellers. From photography to filmmaking, performing arts to fine arts, and everything in between, Thalo is filled with resources you need to succeed. Whether you want the latest industry news, need to network with other creative professionals or require state of the art online tools to manage your next project, there’s only one place to go. Doddlenews.com.
Larry Jordan: Tom Coughlin is a Silicon Valley consultant, a storage analyst, and the organizer of the Annual Storage Visions and Creative Visions Conferences. Storage is critical to media creation which is why it’s always good to have Tom back on the show. Hello Tom, welcome back.
Tom Coughlin: Hi Larry, thank you very much. It’s good to be back.
Larry Jordan: Tom, this week we’re talking about storage, specifically cloud storage, and before we get into that though, what got you interested in storage in the first place?
Tom Coughlin: Well I’m actually an engineer by background. I’ve worked on digital storage technologies and applications for three decades, so it’s kind of in my blood.
Larry Jordan: How would you define cloud storage?
Tom Coughlin: Well cloud storage would be a digital content that’s being stored in large data centers or on premise where it’s accessible to the internet, with public networks.
Larry Jordan: What makes cloud storage different from local storage?
Tom Coughlin: With local storage you’re usually talking storage that’s within a facility being used directly for an application or for instance, media and entertainment for post production. Generally when people are talking about cloud storage, they’re talking about storage that’s accessible remotely and it could be used for things where people are trying to do collaborative projects and want to share content with somebody who’s far away, to do collaborative workflows. The difference between what’s in the cloud and what’s local is generally where the storage is actually located, and how you access that content.
Larry Jordan: Is gear for cloud storage different than the gear we use for local storage?
Tom Coughlin: Generally, it’s not. But one thing that is different about the cloud storage, especially large cloud storage providers, is because they have such a volume of equipment they buy, that many of these people, like Amazon or Google, or Facebook, they define to manufacturers what they want. They may have large IT departments themselves and a lot of times they’ll buy off the shelf components, they’ll use software to configure it and make it do what they want it to do. Especially for smaller facilities, you know, they oftentimes have a lot more resources than somebody who is just working in house using in house storage.
Larry Jordan: Who are the big players in cloud storage today?
Tom Coughlin: There’s a lot of people that are providing cloud storage or have storage in the cloud, folks who work particularly in the media and entertainment space. There are smaller ones, but the larger ones would be Google, Amazon, and Microsoft is also working in that area. There’s a lot of smaller players as well who are doing various things in cloud storage.
Larry Jordan: When we’re debating what storage to use, when should we consider putting our data in the cloud, and when should we keep our data local?
Tom Coughlin: The reasons why people put things in the cloud is one, if they’re doing something collaborative, and they want somebody to be able to access it remotely. Another reason that people put things in the cloud is to basically move what otherwise might be a capital expense to buy storage equipment into an operating expense, where you’re hiring a service including backup and all of the IT operations with the content. So there’s a few different reasons why people will use cloud for various applications.
Larry Jordan: What’s interesting to me is your definition of a cloud which is basically a remote server with web access, the issues that we deal with with storage, whether its local or cloud, are pretty much the same. The gear is the same, it’s just whether we need the collaboration aspect it sounds like is the key difference? True?
Tom Coughlin: Well there’s two key differences. One is whether you want to manage the assets yourself, which you would do with on premise, or if you want to do something where somebody else is managing it, that’s one reason. And the other thing is to enable collaboration and sharing of content.
Larry Jordan: How concerned should we be about the security over our data in the cloud?
Tom Coughlin: There’s always a question, you know, if you’ve got content available to the internet, how safe it’s going to be. The folks that are providing these services though have done a lot to create encryption, other ways of ensuring privacy and that this data is not accessible to people who aren’t supposed to get it. And also if you’ve got a larger facility with enough storage you can often get dedicated space within a data center, where the content’s going to be kept. So there’s various things to be done to make the cloud more secure. But if you get down to it, if you don’t want anyone ever to have the possibility of accessing it, keeping it local, keeping it unconnected would be the best idea.
Larry Jordan: As we’re picking a storage vendor, what questions should we ask them to determine whether this is the right storage vendor for us?
Tom Coughlin: Things to look at would be what they call a service level agreement, which is the agreement that’s made, what kind of service they’re going to provide, what kind of availability they’re going to have, how many … whether it’s located in more than one place or the data’s replicated geographically so that for instance if one site goes down, it’s available from another site. There’s a number of different things that can be in the service level agreements that have a lot to do with it. And of course the more things you’re asking for generally the more expensive it’s going to get, so those are some of the tradeoffs you make in getting those services.
Larry Jordan: I’ve had the great pleasure of speaking at some of your storage conferences, and you’ve been covering the storage industry with your conferences for many years. Why did you decide to start them?
Tom Coughlin: I decided to start them because I thought that visual storage is playing a very important role in the media space, and events that focused on that would be valuable to people in the industry, so that’s why I started Creative Storage. The other conference Storage Visions I started because I think in general that storage is playing an extremely important role that the idea and the vision of where storage is going will have a lot to do with what we can do with the content we’re creating. With so much unstructured content being created, particularly unstructured content not like data in databases, but data that doesn’t have as much information on how to find things, how we deal with that in videos is one of those. How we deal with that’s very important and the tools that enable us to do that I think are the cutting edge of what makes artificial intelligence and big video projects, big data projects in general, possible. So Storage Visions conference this year in Milpitas, California is going to have a particular focus on unstructured data storage and its application.
Larry Jordan: Who would benefit most by attending one of your conferences?
Tom Coughlin: Geared towards people with niches in technology, those that make technology and those that use the technology, whether it be from the component side or from the systems side, or people that are making applications, using storage content.
Larry Jordan: What are your attendees trying to accomplish when they attend the show?
Tom Coughlin: There’s a number of different uses, all the way from people within the industry being able to connect, and for people who are making use of those tools and services to be able to find out and evaluate those tools and services on site, in an environment where they can catch a lot of things that are going on in the industry, digital storage and its applications in one place.
Larry Jordan: What do you see as the future of storage? Are we fading out on spinning disks and coming into something different? Or is it pretty much the same for the next several years?
Tom Coughlin: Well things are changing an awful lot. There’s a big move towards solid state storage where you need the speed of the performance. But there’s also still a place for people that are keeping content for a long period of time in which case, they may trade off the price for some longer latencies, or a bit slower performance, and that’s places where hard disk drives, magnetic tape or optical disks can play a role. So I think we’re going to see a lot of different storage technologies in place for some time to come, as long as they’re cost effective, you have that tradeoff between cost effective as storage versus performance. Even some new technologies coming in, especially in the solid state area where there’s things like non-volatile memories that may bring in architectures that would bring the computing power closer to the storage content which will dramatically change the way that we do computation, rendering, the analysis of data to create metadata to be able to find new stuff and even to be able to create content in new and faster ways. For instance what if I could do CGI whilst at …? If I could really fast rendering to fill in some content and make some changes I want to make. Those things may be possible with some of these new computer architectures.
Larry Jordan: Tom for people that want to attend your next conference, where is it, when is it and where do they sign up?
Tom Coughlin: So the Storage Visions Conference is going to be October 16th, 2017. It’s going to be in Milpitas, California. The website is storagevisions.com and welcome everyone to come there. It’s keeping stuff, or making use of the stuff you’ve got, this is the place you can find out the best tools, new visions and ideas of what people can do and in the not too distant future.
Larry Jordan: Tom, for people who want to keep track of all the stuff that you and your team are working on, where can they go on the web?
Tom Coughlin: You can go to tomcoughlin.com which is my site, and also you may be interested in the Entertainment Storage Alliance site which is entertainmentstorage.org.
Larry Jordan: So a couple of those websites, for the conference it’s storagevisions.com, and to keep track of what Tom and his researchers are doing visit tomcoughlin.com and Tom Coughlin is the founder of Tom Coughlin and Associates. Tom thanks for joining us today.
Tom Coughlin: Thanks so much Larry. Glad to talk to you again.
Larry Jordan: Rohan Vora is the senior product manager for business enterprise and education at Dropbox. Prior to joining Dropbox Rohan spent over five years at Citrix in various engineering, finance and product management roles. Hello Rohan, welcome.
Rohan Vora: Hello Larry, nice to be on the show.
Larry Jordan: It is a delight having you with us. Let’s start with the really easy question. How would you describe Dropbox?
Rohan Vora: How would I describe Dropbox? Well Dropbox is a product that lets users, whether you’re an individual, a creative freelancer or a person working on a collaborative theme, to keep track of all your content in the cloud, in a secure place and be able to collaborate on it seamlessly, irrespective of which corner of the globe you’re in.
Larry Jordan: Dropbox is essentially this giant storage container. What does a product manager do for Dropbox?
Rohan Vora: A great question, and one of the great things about the product is just the simplicity with which it’s built. On the surface it looks like a simple product that just works, and what the product manager is really responsible for is keeping the experience simple for the end users while making sure all the complexity is abstracted away from them to build that great product.
Larry Jordan: So specifically, what are you doing?
Rohan Vora: Specifically what I’m doing is I’m focusing on the Dropbox business product line, and what that means is, Dropbox started as a consumer product, and a lot of individuals found a lot of great value in it in terms of being able to access your files anytime from any device. It turned out that a lot of users were finding a lot of value not just in having access to their files, but actually sharing those files. And we found that people were using this technology at work a lot because it just helped them in terms of how they could be in sync with their teams, and a lot of that potential. So Dropbox now has a Dropbox business product line which provides corporations who want to use Dropbox as a storage as well as a collaboration platform and I primarily focus on building the Dropbox business product out.
Larry Jordan: You mention a storage and collaboration platform. How is it used for collaboration?
Rohan Vora: Absolutely. As I said, the vision was initially when Dropbox started, it was a storage product in the sense that no matter where you were, you would have access to the file, and what we realized is once you can have access to your files anywhere, that means that you can give other folks that you’re collaborating with access to the same files as well, because there’s no concept of barriers in that sense. What that means is we’re able to actually unlock a lot of value in terms of when two people or teams of people have access to the same content from any device, they can do a lot of things, like be able to share content, be able to comment on the same shared piece of content, have a discussion around that content, and be able to create finished work from a raw stage, right within Dropbox. So it goes much beyond just being able to store your files and go away from being a cloud storage to being a cloud storage that has a productivity and a collaboration layer on top of it.
Larry Jordan: There’s two big concerns that people have with storing data on the cloud. One is bandwidth and the other is security and I know that Dropbox made news a few years ago after suffering a major data breach. How has security changed since then?
Rohan Vora: Keeping the users information safe and secure is our top priority. I want to be very explicit about that and we’re constantly on the lookout for a threat to either our users or in their files, and we continue to innovate in building new tools that improve security. We’re focused on innovating to fight back against those threats, and we work hard to do two things. One is to make sure our systems are up to speed and compliant with industry standards, as well as equip users to use best in class tools to protect their information, like two factor authentication to help ensure an additional layer of security.
Larry Jordan: How often should we as users update our passwords?
Rohan Vora: The answer to that is going to be twofold. Number one is frequently, but more important than updating your password, I would say use two factor authentication and make sure you’re not using the same password for multiple services.
Larry Jordan: What does two factor authentication mean?
Rohan Vora: What two factor authentication means is, in addition to having your password, you need to provide another input to be able to log into any system of record. So it could be something that’s a one time password that’s pushed by a service to you on your phone, but what it does is, if your password is compromised, that’s not the only factor that you still get access to your account. I kind of think it like a bank vault. You need actually two keys to open the vault, so if you lose your own key, but unless you can have the second key to open your vault, there’s no way to get around that. So it provides that additional security.
Larry Jordan: Who has access to our data? In other words, can Dropbox admins access our data, or is there a wall between your admin function and our data?
Rohan Vora: That’s a broad question. In terms of who has access to your data, as a company, we put systems in place to make sure our users’ information is always safe and secure. What that means is, there’s a lot of regulation in terms of who has access to your data. It means that not every employee can access your data.
Larry Jordan: There’s a lot of cloud storage vendors out there. Why should a media creator consider Dropbox when there’s so many other companies to choose from?
Rohan Vora: When you think of cloud storage solutions, there’s a couple of things that I think that sets Dropbox apart from other solutions. First is the unrelenting focus on the users. If you probably had to ask any user on why use Dropbox, the first thing they would tell you is it just works. It’s so easy because of the relentless focus we put on users to make a product that’s great for the users in terms of their experiences. The second one is even in the media professional field, and we have a lot of customers in the media field, we realize it’s not just about cloud storage, it’s about collaborating. Whether it’s somebody on a podcast, or in a media production environment, in all those cases collaboration and staying in sync is really important. With the fact that Dropbox has over half a billion registered users means we have one of the greatest sharing networks you have in the productivity space. That’s what sets Dropbox apart from other tools.
Larry Jordan: In the interview that follows yours, we’re going to be talking with the product manager for Backblaze, and one of the things that he stresses is that they use end to end encryption, to make sure our data stays secure. Is there any encryption in Dropbox?
Rohan Vora: There is end to end encryption in Dropbox as well.
Larry Jordan: With the two factor authentication, which requires us using a separate device so that we don’t compromise our password, how do you balance security with ease of use? It seems to me there’s always a delicate line between the two.
Rohan Vora: How do you balance the security with the ease of use, it’s kind of like providing the user with the right education on how to set their account up, how to protect their account the most. An example of that is like a security check up tool that we just released that educates the user on where on the spectrum of security settings is your account on and what things can they do to protect their security and help guide them through it. Because in our opinion, securing is something that sometimes feels overwhelming for the users, so the more we can do within the product to make it feel like a natural extension of the product, as well as guide our users through what is the best way of doing it, users are pretty inclined to take us up on that, or any software. Most times security becomes a challenge because users might not know how to secure their accounts in the best possible way.
Larry Jordan: One of the other big challenges is that media files are huge, but the upload speed of the internet in many cases is very slow. How can Dropbox help us solve this issue of having to spend hours or days uploading large files?
Rohan Vora: That’s a great question because when we spoke about what sets Dropbox apart from the competition, one of the things we did not talk about is the ability of Dropbox to sync your files across devices, is the fastest in the industry and that’s been validated by third party analysts. That’s not my biased opinion coming out of Dropbox. Obviously I’m biased towards the product I helped build, and the reason why it’s different from most other products is one thing, that unrelenting focus on the user manifested in Dropbox in multiple different ways. First building a great user experience, but Dropbox takes a lot of pride in building a great underlying infrastructure that helps power these systems from an end to end perspective. We invested time in building our own infrastructure because we know we have customers in Asia. I come from India. Internet speeds at my home in India are not comparable to the speeds in the west, but there’s no reason why somebody using Dropbox in Asia should feel like it doesn’t work as fast as it does in the US. So building an infrastructure that helps abstract that complexity away from the users, and continue to make it feel like a product that just works no matter where you are on the globe is essentially what sets Dropbox apart.
Larry Jordan: For people that want more information about Dropbox, where can they go on the web?
Rohan Vora: People who want more Dropbox information can go to www.dropbox.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s dropbox.com, all one word. Rohan Vora is the senior product manager for business enterprise and education at Dropbox. Rohan, thanks for joining us today.
Rohan Vora: Thank you. 00:39:06:19
Larry Jordan: For the past five years, Andy Klein has been the director of product marketing at Backblaze, as well as writing blog posts on hard drive and smart stats, drive farming, hybrid data storage and more. Before Backblaze, Andy worked at Checkpoint, Symantic, PeopleSoft and several start-ups throughout Silicon Valley. Hello Andy, welcome.
Andrew Klein: Thank you for having me.
Larry Jordan: It’s my pleasure. Andy, let’s start with the basics. How would you describe what Backblaze does?
Andrew Klein: Backblaze is all about storage, in particular cloud storage. So whether you bring your own application like a Cloudberry or your own device like a Synology device or you use one of our applications, we store the data, store it securely, and keep it there until you need it back.
Larry Jordan: Now wait a minute, what do you mean by bring your own device? I thought Backblaze provided everything?
Andrew Klein: We started out that way. That’s great, we started out with our online or cloud backup product, for your Mac or your PC. You would download our software, install it, and it would take care of everything, backing it up for you. About a year or so ago we introduced B2 cloud storage and that basically gives you access through an API or CLI or even a web interface, or a third party product like I mentioned to access that storage, store data there, and of course retrieve it when you need it back.
Larry Jordan: Well why bring your own hardware?
Andrew Klein: What we found is that we can’t invent everything, so for example, Synology devices. We’re not going to go build a NAS device, but you certainly want to back that data up into the cloud at some point, or sync it back into the cloud. If you’re backing up servers, there are lots of folks out there, again Cloudberry for one of them. Another company is GoodSync, they have great software for backing up servers and DM’s and all of that. We’re really good at storage, they’re really good at doing server backups, so why don’t we just put the two together?
Larry Jordan: Many people are still deeply concerned about the security of their data stored on external servers. How do you reassure them?
Andrew Klein: Certainly you want to make sure all of the data that you store is encrypted and all of those applications I mentioned give you the capability to do that. Most of them allow you to have the keys on your side, so you do all of the encryption, decryption on your side, and then of course all the keys are protected. Then from a physical security point of view, our data centers are what’s called SSAE60 and SOC2 compliant. A lot of words which basically mean they go through regular audits to make sure that they’re protected, their procedures are good, and that it’s difficult, certainly never impossible, but difficult to get in and get data and then go through the process of trying to decrypt it because it’s all stored out there encrypted.
Larry Jordan: Has Backblaze been hacked?
Andrew Klein: No.
Larry Jordan: It’s a nice feeling.
Andrew Klein: It is. The reality is at some point someone will certainly try. Hopefully we’re on our toes enough to prevent all of that but as of yet, we have not been hacked. Occasionally one of our customers gets hacked, and then we have some procedures to handle with that and we do.
Larry Jordan: Who owns our data when it’s stored on your servers? If for any bizarre chance Backblaze goes out of business, who owns the data?
Andrew Klein: You do, it’s your data. We don’t do anything with it, we don’t mine it for information. The only time we decrypt it is if you needed it back for a restore and that’s very temporarily, for example we’ll store it on a USB drive and encrypt that drive and send it off to you, but during that storing process the data’s decrypted. But it’s all your data and if we were to go out of business, we would do everything we can to make sure that you have access to it before we turn out the lights.
Larry Jordan: Your site talks about being a highly open company. What do you mean by that?
Andrew Klein: We talk about the things that go on inside the company, so for example just last week we released a blog post on the cost of goods sold, in other words, the cogs of our B2 service, the cloud storage service. What it cost us to put that up, what are the components that make that up, and published it and told everybody. We haven’t seen that by anybody else out there. We’ve published the drive stats for example, talking about the statistics that we use and what we’ve found in running our data center. Many years ago we talked about a potential acquisition, we were almost acquired. We detailed that process out for folks and explained the decisions that you make and the pain and suffering you go through. It’s just our way of making sure people are comfortable with who we are as a company.
Larry Jordan: Well I will confess, your drive stats which breaks it down by type of hard disk is fascinating. I mean, yes I love numbers, but I really appreciated you putting those stats up in terms of longevity, and failure rates. It was just brilliant. So thank you.
Andrew Klein: You’re welcome. That was a bit of insight, like I said, we look around for things that we can share. We’ve been doing it now for the better part of three years I guess, and we have the quarterly ones coming up some time in July. It’s proven to be fascinating for a lot of folks. It’s always fun doing that.
Larry Jordan: Do you see the drive manufacturers paying attention to those stats?
Andrew Klein: We certainly get contacted by them. We have good working relationships with the drive manufacturers. We only report what we see. It’s very difficult to argue with that, and so you know, if they’re a good, solid mature company they look at us and they say, “OK, so how can we get better?” So we have good working relationships with them.
Larry Jordan: Switching back to cloud storage, what questions should we ask when we’re trying to pick a cloud storage vendor?
Andrew Klein: You mentioned the first one, and the most critical one, security. But the second one you also talked about, which is the ownership of your data. What can they do with it when they have it? You know, a lot of companies take that and they mine the metadata out of it, and do some things with that. That’s not any fun. But the things that are also important are, how quickly can you get your data back when you store it there? So if you put it there and it takes hours to get it back, that may or may not fit your model. Two is complexity of pricing, or lack thereof. Backblaze’s cloud storage is very straightforward pricing. One price for uploading, one price for downloading, and that’s about it. So you want to make that simple. Not that they’re trying to cheat you, but the more complex they make the pricing, the less you can predict what you’re going to spend, and the more frustrated you’re going to be over time, and try to figure out what it’s going to cost your business to store things in the cloud. So, look for folks that secure, and are consistent in the way they price things and deliver it to market.
Larry Jordan: For many of us, the gating factor to cloud storage is the speed or lack thereof of our home or office internet connection. The last mile. For me, uploading a terabyte file is measured in days not hours. How do we overcome this?
Andrew Klein: Well, from the cloud storage perspective, we have a product called Fireball, and what we’ll do is, we’ll send you a device, you obviously pay for it, it’s $550. We send you a device, it’ll hold up to 40 terabytes of data. You load it up and send it on back to us, and we’ll load it into your B2 account and you’re ahead of the game at that point. So you can get us your data within a matter of a few days to a few weeks depending on how quickly all of that goes down, versus trying to, as you say, send it up via a somewhat slow connection or even a fast connection that you just don’t want to dedicate to uploading 35 terabytes of data.
Larry Jordan: How do we get a Backblaze account, and what does it cost to get started?
Andrew Klein: You just go to backblaze.com/B2 and that will get you into the B2. Scroll down the page and you can create an account there. The first ten gigabytes of storage are always free, and you basically go through, you create an account with an email address and a password. You go through the process of verifying your account with a phone number, that makes some sense for you. Then you’re off, and at that point you can use up to ten gigabytes of storage. If you want to use more, then you have to give us your credit card, so we can charge you for it. When you do that, you can either do it with dragging and dropping, the web interface, or use one of the third party products like I mentioned earlier, to store data in there. When you want it back the process gets reversed. You pay us a half a penny a gigabyte a month to store your data, which is ridiculously inexpensive, and then if you want your data back, you pay us two cents a gigabyte to get it back.
Larry Jordan: For people that want more information, where can they go on the web?
Andrew Klein: It’s always good to go backblaze.com/B2 or if you just go to Backblaze you just look at the B2 cloud storage tab, and start exploring from there.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word, backblaze.com and Andy Klein is the director of product marketing at Backblaze. Andy, thanks for joining us today.
Andrew Klein: Thank you for having me.
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Larry Jordan: The cloud holds significant benefits for collaboration and low cost off site storage. But security and internet upload speeds remain barriers for many. Tonight we wanted to take a closer look at key cloud storage technology and companies to provide you with the ability to make more informed decisions on where you’ll entrust your data.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank this week’s guests, Tom Coughlin, the president of Coughlin Associates, Rohan Vora, the senior product manager for Dropbox, Andy Klein the director of product marketing for Backblaze, Jonathan Handel, entertainment labor reporter for The Hollywood Reporter, and James DeRuvo, senior writer for DoddleNEWS. A great group of people all trying to solve the question of when does the cloud make sense for you?
Larry Jordan: There’s a lot of history in our industry and it’s all posted to our website, at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Here you’ll find thousands of interviews, all online and all available to you today. Remember to sign up for our free weekly show newsletter that comes out every Friday.
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Larry Jordan: Our producer is Debbie Price, my name is Larry Jordan, and thanks for listening to The Digital Production Buzz.
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