There’s plenty of buzz these days about cloud services and cloud-based backup is no exception. To learn more about the technology, we talked with Kent McIntosh, Senior Director, Product Marketing & Strategic Market Development for Asigra. Asigra provides the backup software used by various cloud backup providers, including NTT America. In this Q&A, McIntosh talks about why companies are attracted to cloud-based backup services and some of the crucial questions to ask when selecting a cloud backup provider.

For an expanded version of this interview, listen to our podcast with McIntosh at the bottom of the page.

Can you tell us a little about what Asigra does?

Asigra’s been in the cloud backup, recovery and restore business for over 25 years. We provide public, private and hybrid backup and restore solutions, through a broad base of managed service providers like NTT America.

I’ve been reading lately about an increase in the number of threats targeting mobile devices, and Androids in particular. A story I read on said during the first half of 2011 about half a million Android users were infected with some form of malware. And the number of infected Android apps went from 80 in January to more than 400 by June. What kinds of things should companies be doing to protect their users’ mobile devices?

The same data protection that exists in the enterprise – mainly backup, recovery and restore services – also needs to be provided to those end point devices. They can contain the same vital corporate data that exists in the enterprise.

I also recently read Gartner’s latest Magic Quadrant report on Enterprise Backup and Recovery. They said in 2010 they saw a trend toward consideration of a cloud-based recovery implementation, especially for midsize companies but also for enterprises, such as for remote offices and desktop and laptop data. And Gartner said in coming years they expect cloud-based recovery solutions will increasingly be evaluated by organizations of all sizes. Why do you think cloud-based backup solutions are becoming more attractive now?

I would say business continuity and cost. On the business continuity side, cloud based backup, recovery and restore solutions should provide data integrity checks, recovery tests, low-touch operations, short recovery times to any point in time, extended support for mobile workers, scalability, centralized management and most importantly, by partnering with an MSP like NTTAmerica, a company can leverage that rich expertise for all their backup, recovery and restore operations. An organization can adopt a public, private or hybrid deployment for data protection based on their needs.

On the managed cost side, cloud-based backup, recovery and restore solutions should enable users to store their old data on cheaper equipment and even older data on the cloud. That minimizes labor-intensive operations and tunes the operational and capital expenditures mix, engaging the MSP and their public, private and hybrid deployment approach.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about cloud-based backup?

The biggest misconception is that the data’s not secure, that it’s not safe in the cloud.

And how would you respond to that and assure people that it is secure?

If the backup data collection is agent-less, for starters, that effectively closes the door on a hacker. If the 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard is used for stored and transferred data. If the backup, recovery and restore vendor is Federal Information Processing Standard certified, in our case 140-2. And if the vendor uses a policy-based backup destruction with digital certification, then the data is very safe, very secure. There should be no worries about that at all.

What are some of the key questions customers should ask when choosing a cloud-based backup provider? You went through a number of good ones with respect to security but what are some other questions they should be asking?

There are two parts to that, really – the service provider is one series of questions and then there are technology vendor questions. On the service provider side, does the service provider have a good reputation? How long have they been in business? How many customers do they have? Those kinds of questions get at credibility. What kind of customers do they have? Are they similar to the kind of business that you’re in, is there a vertical alignment there?
From the technology vendor side, where Asigra comes in, is it feature-rich? Can it perform continuous data integrity checks? Can it perform demonstrable and auditable recovery checks? Do you have an agent-less data collection architecture with low-touch operations and no disruptions? Do you support incremental forever processing which only transfers file changes as data blocks for backup? Do you support de-duplication for common file elimination? Do you compress the data to be backed up at the source? How fast can you recover my data, to which point in time? It should be any point in time. Can you support end point devices for mobile workers? Is it scalable? Do you have tools for centralized management? Can I switch between a private, public and hybrid deployment? Can you help me as my business requirements evolve? Can I switch between those different deployments? We talked about security and regulatory compliance kind of dovetails off that. So what measures are in place to address that? And can I leverage my existing infrastructure investment, which is a very important point. The last point I’ll make is, can you support tiered backup storage and archiving? We mentioned it earlier, where you align the value of the data with the cost of backing it up, that’s another important aspect.

That’s a lot of good stuff to think about. I assume Asigra can do all that but I wanted to give you the final word on what some of the differentiators are for Asigra in this market.

As I mentioned at the beginning, we’ve been in business for 25 years. We have a track record of success through innovation and a unique go to market strategy through a channel of highly competent MSPs like NTT America. The agent-less architecture that we have for backup data collection is significant as a differentiator. We have very flexible deployment between private, public and hybrid approaches. We have something called autonomic healing which deals with data integrity and guarantees data integrity. We combine that with restorability validation, which does the recovery test and furthers the pursuit of data integrity by removing data corruption and various problems with data. We support mobile end point devices. Again, that’s a strong differentiator. With regard to meeting recovery time objectives and recovery point objectives we support single path recovery and restore of databases, email servers and files to any point in time. It’s a highly scalable architecture for physical and virtual environments. We have something called backup lifecycle management, BLM for short, for tiered backup, storage and archiving. And to close off I’ll say we’re FIPS 140-2 certified for regulatory compliance across multiple vertical markets.


Kent McIntosh by NTTCom.TV

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