BACKGROUND IMAGE: iSTOCK/GETTY IMAGES
With more and more companies adopting software as a service (SaaS) applications, there is a growing need for cloud-to-cloud backup services -- and an opportunity for managed backup providers to grow their business.
Unfortunately, many customers don't understand they need backup protection for their SaaS-based data. According to analysts, managed backup providers should add the service to their line card but plan on doing their fair share of customer education.
"The reality is, companies of all sizes -- but particularly midsize organizations -- are moving to SaaS as quickly as they can, and for the same reasons someone would want to go to backup as a service -- because it gets rid of daily management. It's wonderful for that -- it's wholly empowering," said Jason Buffington, senior analyst, the Enterprise Strategy Group. "But half the legacy backup solutions don't back up SaaS. You go from being well protected and poorly managed to everything is well managed but unprotected."
While many of the legacy backup products don't back up SaaS-based data, neither do the SaaS providers themselves. This is giving rise to a new breed of backup solutions that do cloud-to-cloud backup.
"The cloud-to-cloud backup market is a very small space just getting established," said Henry Baltazar, senior analyst, Forrester Research. Some of the vendors include Asigra, Cloudfinder and OwnBackup. Others, like Backupify and Spanning were acquired by Datto and EMC, respectively, in 2014.
"There are a lot of backup service companies and backup software providers that are floundering because they have to figure out [cloud-to-cloud backup]. Until they do, every time a customer of any size moves from on-premises to SaaS, in many cases, they will not be able to use the existing backup solution, which means their current backup vendor loses them," Buffington said.
Meanwhile, the business opportunity presented by cloud-to-cloud data protection and backup continues to grow. "Microsoft's move to Office 365 and pushing people to cloud services will only increase the market opportunity, and if you look at where file shmigraaring is moving, it's moving from the consumer to small business, to platforms, and more people using file sync and share. The cloud-to-cloud backup opportunity just gets bigger and bigger," Baltazar said.
Unfortunately, many of the backup service providers we spoke to are not prepared to seize this business opportunity. While they all acknowledge the need to back up SaaS applications, for various reasons the majority are not yet offering cloud-to-cloud backup.
Henry Baltazarsenior analyst, Forrester Research
"We've looked at cloud-to-cloud backup, but [don't offer the service] yet," said Chip Reaves, president of Clever Technology Solutions, an Anderson, South Carolina-based IT service provider. "We have a lot of customers who are on SaaS apps, but for the most part the SaaS providers say they're backing up on their side. We haven't had any problems where they say they back up and there's an outage and it turns out they haven't been."
Jeff Zdan, vice president and network systems engineer, DataServ Corporation, has also considered the need for cloud-to-cloud backup services. "I'm sure I'll execute it when I find it's a necessity. I do understand with Office 365 and those types of cloud services you're putting 100% confidence in those providers that they're taking care of [their] customer's data."
VeriStor's customers aren't yet asking for the service. "I think most customers assume they are protected," explained Jay Waggoner, director of business development, Cloud Services at VeriStor, an infrastructure and storage solution provider based in Duluth, Ga. "When they go into Office 365, there's the presumption that Microsoft is protecting their data properly."
Analysts confirmed Waggoner's suspicion. "The perception is still that it's in the cloud, so it's protected," Baltazar said. Unfortunately, that isn't completely true. "While data in the cloud is protected, it's not protected in the way that companies assume it to be," he said.
Eric Slack, senior analyst, Storage Switzerland, said cloud providers back up their SaaS applications as a means of self-preservation. "The cloud providers are backing themselves up as protection against a catastrophic loss, not for the customer to recover files or recover from a user error."
Buffington agreed, "You're backing up for the scenario where a user deleted an email and he needs it back, or he shared files with coworkers, and they wrote over it. It's the daily operational stuff that SaaS does not back up."
Slack explained, "The traditional onsite infrastructure backup has always been about recovering individual files versus systems that blow up. People assume that the cloud guy has their back, and in reality they don't. [Cloud providers] will charge extra money to provide file-level backup, and a lot don't typically have retention times that are advantageous for the user."
Backup providers must set the story straight
Chad Whaley, co-founder and CEO of Indianapolis-based Echopath, said his team does "a hefty amount of education as part of the sales process" for its cloud-to-cloud backup services. "There are a lot of misconceptions, or people don't stop to read the fine print. We're all busy. They think things are happening, but they aren't happening at the same level we want them to for our own organizations. Office 365 does backup to a degree, but [customers] want to go beyond that. They want to save email forever," he said.
According to analysts, the onus is on service providers to educate their customers about the need for cloud-to-cloud backup. "This is something [service providers] have to get in front of, and it's an education issue. [Customers] don't know they aren't protected," Buffington said.
If customers aren't asking about cloud-to-cloud backup, that's all the more reason for managed storage providers to present it to customers as an option. "It's important to tell your customers things they don't know," Slack said. "This is your stock and trade if you're a VAR." He said f service providers wait for customers to ask for a service, the provider will be too late to market.
"As a trusted advisor, they are being relied upon to provide data protection. If customers are running SaaS that's a good opportunity, as a reseller, to say 'Maybe you ought to think about this because you're not as protected as you think you are.' Even if the reseller doesn't sell anything, their value goes up in the customer's eyes," Slack said.
A must have: Cloud-to-cloud backup
Sooner or later, service providers will have no choice but to offer cloud-to-cloud backup. "Absolutely, they'll need to do something in the future. If you're trying to sell data protection or business continuity and resiliency, then you have to care about all data, not just data on-premises," Baltazar said.
The advantage, however, will fall to those who offer cloud-to-cloud backup services first. "There are a number of other players in backup right now trying to figure out how to transform their business because backup alone doesn't interest customers. To broaden their availability, SaaS and cloud backup would make more sense and a nice addition to the on-premises backup they already do," Baltazar said.
If a service provider's current backup vendor doesn't offer cloud-to-cloud backup, Buffington said they shouldn't wait for the vendor to do so. "I think most customers can't wait. VMware took nearly 10 years to have a legit backup infrastructure of its own. You can't tolerate that," he said.
Slack agreed. "If I'm a VAR or solution provider, I don't wait for anything," he said. "That's how I get my current provider to get off their butt and give me what I need -- I go get it from someone else."
Buffington doesn't see any problem with offering backup services from multiple vendors. "My personal opinion is you start with handling the immediate problem. In this case, the immediate problem is the brand new SaaS implementation is not backed up. Solve that. Get a SaaS backup solution and even if it doesn't do anything else, that's more than OK," he said. "The average enterprise has more than one backup solution in play. Having another solution for SaaS is not unreasonable."
Learn about Asigra's cloud-to-cloud backup feature
Explore AMAG Pharmaceuticals use of cloud-to-cloud backup