License, Source, Bugs

HashBackup has been actively developed since November 2008, with the first beta release in June 2009.  Over that time there has been a release about every 2 weeks, on average.  The current release is labeled beta, but there are ongoing backups of development servers from 2010 - over 1700 daily versions.  HB is being used for large production backups, often to handle offsite backup requirements in addition to an existing onsite backup.  The largest reported single backup by disk space (for the initial backup) is 18TB, with 26M files, at a research lab.  Other large reported backups are 25M files / 1.5TB for a large imap server and 27TB of 1.5TB VM image backups that uses less than 1TB of backup space after dedup.


HB will be sold under a commercial license, probably with a 30-day free trial and an annual fee of $250-450 per server including support and upgrades.  Pricing isn't finalized, but this gives you an idea.  The reason for an annual license vs a one-time license is simple: if there are only a hundred licensees, an annual fee makes it possible to continue supporting a small customer base.  Companies that sell one-time licenses usually have huge customer bases, make their money on support, or upgrades cost extra.  HB is not likely to have a huge customer base, so a one-time fee isn't sustainable.

A downside of flat-rate pricing is that users with smallish backups pay the same as users with huge backups, but large users receive much more value from HashBackup.  So another idea is pricing by backup capacity.  A simple price model would be to add up the original file size of all the files stored in the backup and round up to the nearest TB.  This has a couple of advantages:  1) it's very easy for customers to estimate license costs without having to guess or figure out how much HashBackup can dedup and/or compress their data; 2) it aligns HashBackup LLC and users' interest.  Here's what I mean by that: if HB had a technology that could reduce 1TB of backup space into 1 byte, customers would save a lot of money on storage costs, but HashBackup LLC's license fees would be reduced to pennies.  License sizing using the original file size means that any whiz-bang technology in HB still benefits customers without penalizing HashBackup LLC.

"What if I don't need support?  How about a one-time fee with no support or upgrades?"
  While some customers may be fine with a single release and no upgrades, or buying the product without support, this causes long-term customer relation issues.  If a problem with the software occurs, or a question comes up and a customer needs advice or help, it's difficult to support an installation running a 3 year-old version of the program.  And if the customer didn't purchase support, it's difficult to say "Sorry, you'll have to pay to get your question answered."   It leads to hard feelings all around.  I'd rather have a smaller customer base with happy customers.

It's true, not everyone needs the features of HB or can justify a license fee, especially for smallish backups.  Some backup companies with huge user bases provide backup for $5/month.  But this pricing only works for crazy numbers of users, and realistically, HB will never have that.  Selling a program and refusing to answer questions about it (selling it cheap with no support) is not the kind of business I want to run.  For small backups, there probably will be a free version of HB with limits.

"What about giving away the program and charging for support?"  My ideal for HashBackup is that it is easy enough to use that support isn't required, users don't run into problems, and there are no bugs.  The more success toward that goal, the less likely customers will need support contracts.  Realistically, no one is going to pay for support contracts that aren't used regularly.  I have never liked the idea of paying a software company for the "privilege" of reporting bugs and having them fixed.

"Will there be a cheaper plan for personal backups?"  I'd love to give away free versions of HashBackup for personal backups.  The hard part is that with cheap disk drives and high resolution phone cameras, a personal backup may consist of a terabyte or more of backup data just for photos.  I haven't figured out how to distinguish between a personal and commercial backup.  One idea is to limit the frequency of large personal backups to once every 3 months.  Considering that most people have no personal backup, a 3-month old backup seems not so bad.

How is Development Funded?

I sold a business in 2005, have income from other projects, and fortunately, am okay financially.  
Making money is nice, but it comes with a lot of hassles:

- a fancy web site with user accounts
- payment accounting
- dealing with online payment companies
- purchase orders and invoicing for large companies
- accepting offline payments for large companies
- license contracts & negotiations
- software enforcement of license terms
- probably supporting Windows
- probably adding a GUI
- advertising and marketing
- long sales cycles for enterprise sales
- hiring and managing people for all of this
- people = payroll, benefit and salary negotiations, HR
Running a "real" company is a lot of work with a lot of overhead.  I've done it before and it's not as interesting to me as the technical aspects of making a great backup program.  Most of the things on that list don't make a better backup program.  They make more money, but also cost a lot of time, money and effort.

It would be ideal for the large online storage companies to sponsor HashBackup so I could work on development, not bother with all the business stuff, and users could have a great, free backup program.  My idea is that for a free version, backup data would have to be sent to at least one HashBackup sponsor.


"Where is the source?" 

One design goal of HashBackup is that users own and control their backup data.
  The HashBackup, LLC company is not a critical resource for daily backups and restores.  HB sends your backup data from the source directly to your own servers, or to companies you have chosen that are dedicated to providing online storage as a business.

Some backup companies do open source their backup programs.  They are able to do that because they manage a server operation and control your backup data.  Their license enforcement is easy: if you don't pay, your backup data is deleted.  Since the HB program itself is the only thing being licensed and backup space is not being sold, it isn't feasible to release the source because there would be no way to enforce a license.

Bug List

"Is there an online bug list?"

Bug lists often provide a comfortable home to bugs for many months or years.  But most customers would prefer that bugs are squashed rather than taking up residence on a bug list, so HashBackup works a different way: when a bug is reported, it's fixed, described it in the Changelog, released, and a reply is sent asking the customer to do an hb upgrade.  If it's a difficult bug, and most aren't, an update may be sent directly to a customer asking them to verify that the problem is fixed before doing a release.

Bug reports and correcting bugs take priority over new development, so not having a bug list also acts as a self-regulating mechanism to balance development and stability.  I do keep a list of customer suggestions and enhancements.

If you have any other questions or concerns you'd like to discuss, send an email!  It's always helpful to get feedback about HashBackup.

HashBackup, LLC