Flooding in Thailand made getting a hard drive a lot more expensive late last year. It wasn't a huge deal to most of us, but for a small cloud storage company, it was almost death. Staying alive took creativity. And Costco.
About a year ago, the 3TB internal drives that Backblaze—which sells unlimited cloud storage for $5 a month—had been using shot up from about $130 to $360. And while the human cost of the floods was enormous, the company also needed to do something to keep itself afloat.
It turned to cheaper external drives. Basically, the answer was to buy the drives, rip them open, and stick their guts into the 135TB "pods" that the company uses—like shucking an oyster, or ripping open a Claratin D packet to cook up some meth. Best Buy and Costco were the best deals, and employees started driving out and buying 50 or so 3TB externals at a time. Then things really started to get complicated:
The "Two Drive Limit" signs started appearing in retail stores in mid-November. At first we didn't believe them, but we quickly learned otherwise. Sometimes, we talked our way into more, but we heard "2 is the limit" a lot. We started doing "drive math": 2 drives a day per store, times 3 stores per day, times 5 "farmers", times 7 days a week is 210 drives. That would be sufficient, but in reality it didn't work out that way. Stores were stocking out of drives on a regular basis and we really couldn't farm everyday, but we kept at it. One Wednesday afternoon, after working all day at Backblaze, Yev circled the San Francisco Bay hitting local Costco and Best Buy stores – 10 stores, 46 drives, 212 miles on his Nissan.
Naturally, with the holidays coming up, Best Buy and Costco wouldn't let a couple dopes keep buying up all of the externals in their stores, and they started banning them from from buying hard drives. Again, kind of like meth cookers. So they started asking friends and family to help buy up drives, and coming up with other crazy ideas, like driving a rental truck around the country and buying thousands of drives at places without a purchase limit.
Ultimately, the hard drive shortage subsided, and 1900 bargain basement hard drives later the company is doing just fine. It's a story packed with ingenuity—unless you were trying to buy a 3TB external hard drive last holiday season. Then this is the story of the jerks who ruined your Christmas. [Backblaze via GigaOm]