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Managed services providers working with Continuum Managed Services will soon be able to test a new backup and recovery offering that employs recently acquired software and IBM's SoftLayer cloud.
Continuum's Continuity247 platform will gradually replace the remote monitoring and management (RMM) software company's Vault product, which it has offered in partnership with Datto, a cloud backup and disaster recovery (BDR) vendor, since early 2012. Continuity247 is currently in limited beta release but will soon be offered to the company's entire manage services provider (MSP) base for testing, according to a company spokeswoman. General availability is slated for the second quarter.
Michael George, CEO of Continuum, said the company's Vault offering met the needs of the market, noting that MSPs acquired new customers with the platform and grew their revenue. But he noted that that particular BDR product is more than three years old at this point.
"The market has evolved quite a bit," he said.
Michael GeorgeCEO, Continuum
That evolution has seen competition in the BDR space intensify, prompting backup providers such as Continuum and their channel partners to consider different technology architectures and pricing models to maintain an edge in a crowded market. Software-centric and cloud-based backup approaches, as opposed to traditional hardware-dependent models, are lowering infrastructure costs for MSPs looking to persevere in the market.
Jeff Kaplan, managing director at THINKstrategies, a Wellesley, Mass., cloud consulting firm, said the newer BDR approaches have the potential to boost MSP margins, since they reduce upfront capital investment and reduce deployment cycle time.
MSPs, Kaplan said, "can accelerate the rollout of new services while lowering the service overhead costs."
Building a new offering
With Continuum Managed Services' Continuity247 offering, backup agent software resides on each server the customer wishes to protect. Data from the servers is backed up to a local appliance, which runs Continuum's Server Backup Manager software. Data housed on the appliance may be replicated to the cloud.
This setup departs from Continuum's Vault in a couple of ways. For one, the offering doesn't depend on Datto for software or appliances. Instead, Continuity247 uses R1Soft technology, which it acquired in 2014, as the product's core backup software. And MSPs can run that software on their own servers, as opposed to a purpose-built appliance.
"They can source hardware from their vendor of choice," George said.
Gary Harlam, president of Technology Advisory Group, a Continuum MSP partner based in Warwick, R.I., noted that the new BDR platform offers greater flexibility and cited the elimination of the middleman scenario as an important plus. With Vault, Continuum acted as the liaison between Datto and the MSP. If a question on backup surfaced that Continuum couldn't immediately answer, the company would go to the backup vendor for a response and then relay the information to the MSP.
"It really is one-stop shopping now," Harlam said.
Harlam also cited the ability to independently source server hardware as a difference with Continuity247. But Harlam noted that the hardware must meet Continuum's minimum requirements. He said Continuum's backup software wouldn't load on one of the MSP's older Linux boxes, for example. The range of hardware options that will work with Continuum's BDR software, however, is expected to broaden by the time the platform is released, he added.
In addition, Continuity247 permits MSPs to add and remove software agents on a month-to-month, pay-as-you-go basis. Vault requires one-year agreements with respect to agent software licenses, Harlam noted. That approach creates a challenge when a customer doesn't abide by the one-year term. In that scenario, the MSP would be stuck paying for the licenses until it could resell and redeploy them at another customer location, he explained.
Other improvements in Continuity 247 compared with Vault include more flexibility in the programming of data retention policies and the removal of capacity limitations, Harlam said.
Technology Advisory Group is in early beta test mode with Continuity247, having installed the software about five weeks ago. Harlam noted that the software currently runs on in-house servers and has not been used much in production yet.
Continuum Managed Services' George referred to Continuity247 as a software-defined offering that lets MSPs allocate storage from a pool using Continuum's portal.
"The platform is scalable all the way down to the smallest configuration you would want to back up to the largest one you can imagine," George said.
Other backup providers have also moved toward software-defined technology. Asigra Inc., a Toronto-based cloud backup software vendor, last year introduced a Software-Defined Data Protection architecture, which the company said reduces storage infrastructure costs.
Contiuum's revised BDR strategy also includes a cloud component, which SoftLayer will provide. George said the company will eventually offer MSPs additional cloud options such as Microsoft Azure, Google or Amazon Web Services.
The idea, he said, is to enable MSPs to store data in the particular cloud that "will most benefit their clients and their margins with their clients." The ability to tap multiple cloud vendors could provide MSPs the advantage of comparison shopping.
"[Cloud providers] are in a price war, and we ought to benefit from that," George said.
MSPs may use Continuity247 as a standalone offering that has its own management capability or add Continuum's RMM software and associated network operations center. That linkage provides alerting, integrated ticketing, remote control, scripting, patch management, antivirus software and reporting, according to the company. In general, Contiuum positions Continuity247 as managed BDR: The company said it will provide monitoring, troubleshooting and backup validation.
While Continuity247 will become Continuum Manage Services' flagship BDR offering, Vault will continue to see support. Continuum and Datto will support MSPs' installed base of Vault appliances through May 2019. Sales of Vault will continue through June 30, 2015.
George said the number of MSPs that have deployed Vault approaches 1,000. Continuum's MSP base is about 3,500.
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