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DattoCon 2018: New storage features, development schedule

Datto partner companies got a slew of new data protection features, a cloud storage product beta and updates on business management software at the recent DattoCon event.

AUSTIN, Texas -- At DattoCon 2018, Datto discussed new data protection features and offerings, committed to an accelerated software development schedule and talked about prospects for cross-selling in light of the Autotask combination.

Datto's annual partner meetup marked the first major North American forum in which the company has detailed its product strategy since completing its merger with Autotask in December 2017. The deal created a product line that brings together Datto's data backup and networking products with Autotask's remote monitoring and management (RMM) and professional services automation (PSA) wares.

On the data protection side at DattoCon 2018, Datto unveiled Rapid Rollback, a feature that compares the last known good backup to the existing system files on a given device, such as a laptop, and then restores only the changed files rather than completely re-imaging the device. The feature is available on Datto storage platforms such as its Alto 3 and Siris 3 lines.

In addition, Datto announced new backup verification features that supplement its screenshot verification process, which checks whether a device's backups are working by providing a screenshot that confirms a successful boot. The additional automated checks include system integrity volume and Volume Shadow Copy Service checks, and application and service verification.

Austin McChord, founder and CEO at DattoAustin McChord

As for new storage products, Datto launched a beta of an image-based backup offering it's calling Direct to Cloud. Direct to Cloud deploys agents on the devices to be backed up and doesn't involve hardware appliances. The current beta is open only to DattoCon 2018 attendees but will expand to the general Datto partner population this summer, with the product debut slated for later this year.

Austin McChord, founder and CEO at Datto, said the pricing is still being worked out, but suggested the goal is to pricing close to $10 per device, which he said would let partners resell Direct to Cloud at the $25 per machine price point.

Chart summarizing DattoCon 2018 highlights
Datto partner firms encountered a range of technology and business themes at DattoCon 2018

DattoCon 2018: Partner reaction

Brian Weiss, CEO of ITech Solutions, a managed services provider (MSP) and Datto partner in San Luis Obispo, Calif., said features such as Rapid Rollback can provide differentiation for service providers. He said failover to virtualization in the cloud or on premises is a great capability, but still requires downtime in order to restore operations to the primary equipment. However, Rapid Rollback saves time since the restoration process can get underway while the customer is running on a backup appliance, he added.

Datto's new backup verification checks, meanwhile, increase "the ability to trust your backups" since they include a check on vital services in addition to a verification via screenshot, Weiss said.

Direct to Cloud also interests Weiss, who is currently using the Autotask Endpoint Backup product, which backs up files and folders to the cloud. Direct to Cloud, on the other hand, backs up images in the cloud, which boosts the speed of recovery. If a server is lost due to a fire, for example, the availability of a full image in the cloud results in less downtime than restoring an image from file and folder backups, Weiss noted.

Weiss said Direct to Cloud's ability to maintain images off site could benefit ITech's customers in the wine and agriculture vertical market. Companies in that market operate in remote rural areas and may be subject to fire or server theft. He said Datto's proposed price point of less than $10 per agent is "pretty amazing," and would be even better if the Direct to Cloud offers unlimited storage as does Autotask Endpoint Backup.

ITech was originally an Autotask partner and subsequently became a Datto partner, tapping the Siris platform for backup and also using Datto's networking products. Other Autotask partners, particularly those that have invested in their own backup offerings, may not be as quick to adopt Datto technology.

Valiant Technology, an MSP in New York, uses Autotask products and has reviewed Datto's backup and disaster recovery offering.

Thomas Clancy Jr., CEO at Valiant Technology Thomas Clancy Jr.

"We think they have an excellent product," said Thomas Clancy Jr., CEO at Valiant. "At present, the price tag is too high for us to flip from our own internal product to theirs."

Valiant has developed its own appliance-based disaster recovery product and said the feature sets of the company's product versus Datto's offering are "functionally identical."

Elaborating, Clancy said "the extra bells and whistles they offer we don't care about, and the ones we added they don't have, so it's roughly a wash. If they amend their pricing model, or we get tired of managing our own storage systems, we'll have a conversation."

Rob Rae, vice president of business development at DattoRob Rae

Rob Rae, vice president of business development at Datto, believes it a matter of time before MSPs offering their own backup service decide to outsource that aspect of their business. He acknowledged it's hard for MSPs to walk away from their infrastructure investments. But he suggested service providers who built their backup operations a few years ago will eventually face an expensive upgrade.

"There is going to be a significant investment in refreshing hardware," Rae said. And on top of that outlay, MSPs must also deal with the time it takes to manage customer backups, he added.

Cross-selling considerations

As Datto looks to win over Autotask partners not currently using Datto products and, conversely, convince Datto partner companies to adopt Autotask's business management software, the latter may prove the more difficult transition. For an MSP selling a third-party backup solution instead of its own, the shift to Datto is a matter of swapping one product for another. But Rae said adopting a new RMM or PSA is the harder change -- those products automate core MSP operations.

You know you are not falling behind the curve with the products we are using.
Brian WeissCEO, ITech Solutions

"PSA and RMM are the backbone of everything they are doing to manage their business," Rae said of MSPs. "It is a difficult tool to switch out -- [MSPs] have to be highly motivated. They really have to have pain in order to switch."

However, Rae said Datto can win RMM and PSA business though innovation. To that end, Datto executives at DattoCon 2018 said the company will speed up the product development cycle, providing quarterly release of its PSA product, for instance.

Weiss said the increased frequency of product releases is a good move and one that helps an MSP stand out among others.

"You know you are not falling behind the curve with the products we are using," he said.

Clancy said he is "thrilled that Autotask's team is embracing Agile and will be patching the holes, adding features and addressing the needs of the community."

He also anticipates more developments with regard to the product roadmap.

"I expect that in the coming months the product roadmap laid out by Pat Burns [former vice president of product management at Autotask] will be effectively completed, and Adam Stewart [Datto's senior vice president of engineering] and his team can begin laying their own roadmap."

Read our additional report on DattoCon 2018, which focuses on MSPs and SMB growth prospects.

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