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Backblaze's low-cost B2 Cloud Storage service is now in public trials following a three-month private beta that CEO Gleb Budman said attracted 15,000 users.

The B2 service is designed to compete against public clouds, such as Amazon S3 and Microsoft Azure, but at a lower cost. Backblaze B2 lets users -- ranging from developers to IT to consumers looking for storage space -- store, retrieve and share data.

The service costs half a cent per gigabyte, which is less than a quarter of the cost of similar options from the large cloud providers. For example, Amazon S3 pricing starts at 3 cents per GB for its standard service while Microsoft Azure storage pricing starts at 2.4 cents. And the first 10 GB of storage is free on B2.

Backblaze garnered ideas from private beta customers about types of use cases, new features the product should have and what should be high priorities, Budman said. One takeaway is Backblaze is working on the ability to upload files larger than the current 5 GB limit.

Customers use B2 to protect data ranging from mobile photo sharing apps to genome data for research studies. Budman said developers are looking to build apps using B2 as back-end storage.

App developer reports successful experience with B2

One customer, photo app developer IceCream, now uses B2 Cloud Storage in public beta following a trial in private beta. IceCream CEO George Berkowski said he is planning a broader rollout with B2 for all of his users early this year.

IceCream has worked with different backup partners for years, but Berkowski said he likes that Backblaze is optimized just for backup and storage. Berkowski also said he was happy to see Backblaze challenge Amazon's S3, which he called "very expensive."

Backblaze garnered ideas from private beta customers about types of use cases, new features B2 Cloud Storage should have and what should be high priorities.

The IceCream app allows people to quickly free up space on their smartphones by sending batches of full resolution photos and videos to the secure IceCream Cloud. While this service is free, IceCream is rolling out its premium service that allows users to back up all their photos and videos from their smartphone for $19.99 per year. The B2 Cloud Storage price may allow IceCream to lower the cost of its premium service.

"We're increasingly using B2 to complement (and eventually replace) S3," Berkowski wrote in an email. "The guys have done a great job of making [B2] very easy to integrate."

"[The price point] opens up a lot of use cases for cloud storage people wouldn't have considered before," Budman said. For example, video production companies could keep footage they didn't use that used to be too expensive to store, or research facilities could keep raw data from experiments that they would previously throw out.

Berkowski said his company didn't have any problems with B2 Cloud Storage but would like to see Backblaze add the ability to easily see how much storage space a given account is using, and the net cost of that. The feature would simplify reporting and back-end management.

Budman said support for large files was a high priority among private beta users, and Backblaze is working on support for terabyte-range files.

Budman added that he was surprised that users didn't raise the issue of security more often. Berkowski said that while security is one of the most important elements of the IceCream app, there were no issues with B2 Cloud Storage in that respect.

The final public launch is slated for early 2016.

Next Steps

Cloud storage providers still in race for performance, low cost

Cloud backup has evolved but still has limitations

How to use cloud storage for more than backup, archiving

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