Transparent Cloud Backup
Intronis Product Analysis
By Colm Keegan, Senior Analyst, Storage Switzerland
As demand for cloud based storage services continues to increase, the number of Managed Service Providers (MSPs) offering cloud backup services is rising as well.
To date, there are some 50,000 MSPs globally providing backup as a service (BaaS).
With such a wide field of competitors, it is daunting for MSPs to truly differentiate their BaaS offering with the various SLAs, compliance requirements and application level intelligence customers’ demand, while remaining both cost competitive and profitable.
Indeed, the complex nature of managing hundreds if not thousands of different clients within the same operational cloud environment can potentially result in uncontrollable management costs.
MSP focused backup software providers like Intronis, have developed a mature, intelligent backup framework which addresses the Windows application and server virtualization backup and recovery requirements of small to medium sized businesses (SMB). By providing both a feature rich backup and recovery service that dramatically simplifies day-to-day backup and disaster recovery management, Intronis enables MSPs to lower their cost per managed GB and maintain a profitable BaaS operation.
Time is Money
A good illustration of Intronis’ simplicity of use, is the amount of time it takes to come up to speed with using the product. The typical ramp-up time or learning curve with most backup applications is anywhere from 4-5 days while with Intronis’ offering, new backup operators can begin managing the product after only one hour of training.
For MSPs that are maintaining more than one backup product, the time spent in training alone, much less day-to-day management, can be a burdensome expense that can directly impact the bottom line.
Another big time consuming chore for administrators is opening trouble tickets with the backup software vendor’s technical support organization. It is not uncommon for administrators to endure multiple, protracted phone calls with tech support engineers in locales all over the globe in order to get resolutions to software bugs or functional software issues.
Intronis, on the other hand, maintains a US-based technical staff that commits to answering the phone in 35 seconds or less and then resolves problems quickly and efficiently. Over the course of a year, the potential time savings realized by having the ability to quickly remediate technical problems across a vast customer base could be a boon for MSPs.
No Cloud Required
MSPs that are preparing to enter or are in the early stages of entering the cloud services market, can leverage the cloud storage resources embedded within the Intronis cloud environment to offer a fully managed offsite backup solution for their clients.
In this scenario, MSPs would still provide all the value-added services for managing the backup process, however, they wouldn’t have to postpone moving their clients into the cloud while their own cloud infrastructure was being built out. Naturally, MSPs that have their own fully functioning backup cloud can still utilize the Intronis cloud for a DR copy of data or as an auxiliary cloud backup resource when their data center assets are over subscribed.
Work Flow Integration
Many MSPs have invested in Remote Management & Monitoring (RMM) and Professional Services Automation (PSA) tools to streamline workflow and data center operations tasks.
Intronis integrates with RMM and PSA software technologies to “snap-in” to monitoring, trouble-ticketing and customer billing utilities to further simplify management. It can also be used to upload Exchange and SQL application version information into a configuration management database (CMDB) to track which customers are lagging behind on required application upgrades.
To further simplify integration, the MSP doesn’t have to make any changes to their internal infrastructure to utilize the Intronis remote management portal for managing client backup/restore jobs or to view backup history. They merely have to open an http port to gain access.
Compliance and Best Practices Automation
Ensuring adherence to industry specific regulations, like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability ACT (HIPAA) or Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX), when backing up and archiving data has generally been tackled by end users by just backing everything up and saving it forever. While this blanket approach to data archiving more or less addresses compliancy concerns, it is far from cost effective.
By taking a targeted and more cost-efficient approach to data archiving, Intronis can potentially help MSPs attract customers bound by regulatory requirements. The Intronis backup software has built-in customized templates that follow industry compliancy best practices. MSP partners can granularly select which data sets need to be archived for the specified regulatory duration and apply the appropriate template to ensure compliance; thus only archiving the required compliancy data sets rather than the whole backup payload.
Likewise, when Intronis is configured to backup applications like SQL and Exchange, Microsoft best practices are applied towards protecting the database logs and Exchange information store. For example, when MSP partners conduct weekly full and daily incremental backups of Exchange, the Intronis software will run full database integrity checks to protect against log corruptions. In addition to providing real-time monitoring of backups, Intronis can in effect, “self-heal”, by restarting failed backups rather than waiting for manual operator intervention.
If a full Exchange restore job is kicked off, Intronis automates the application of all required incremental backups and can restore directly into the Exchange information store. Through fully automating all of these tasks, Intronis greatly simplifies the backup and recovery process, making it easier for MSPs to meet customer SLAs.
DR and Sandbox Recovery
Regular DR testing is something many organizations struggle with finding the time to do. The time to plan, configure and conduct DR testing in parallel environments that don’t impact production is complex, costly and fraught with risk.
In light of recent natural disasters, however, more MSP clients will require regular DR testing to be part of their managed service. Since Intronis integrates directly with the VMware application programming interface (API), it can facilitate rapid “sandbox” recovery testing.
MSP administrators can spin up a virtual machine image through VMware and use the Intronis backup software to select a vmdk server image template, along with the corresponding application data, to enable non-disruptive, near instant DR testing.
Likewise, in the event of a real recovery scenario, MSPs can perform a full VM recovery from Intronis’ cloud to the customer’s data center location or to the MSP’s data center facility. Intronis’ backup cloud can also be utilized by MSPs as a tertiary backup and recovery site.
In the event of a VM recovery, Intronis leverages the native change block tracking (CBT) feature in vSphere to speed up recovery and minimize the amount of data traffic sent over the network to the customer’s site.
Storage Swiss Take
While BaaS is a logical point of entry into the cloud for many businesses, it is especially attractive for SMBs lacking the IT staff and the financial capital to build a robust backup and DR infrastructure to protect their critical business data.
MSPs that can provide a cost competitive, feature-rich BaaS offering, will be in a better position to attract, retain and sell additional cloud services to their clients. By enabling MSPs to lower their managed cost per GB with a feature-rich cloud-enabled backup solution, Intronis is demonstrating market leadership in this space.
Storage Switzerland is an analyst firm focused on the virtualization and storage marketplaces. For more information, please visit their web site: www.storage-switzerland.com.