Backup software has traditionally been one of the stickiest products in organizations of all sizes in art because it has been so painful to deploy and maintain. After all, once it was installed and sort of working, no organization wanted to subject itself to that torture again. But in recent years as backup has become easier to install and maintain, swapping it out for another or consolidating multiple backup software solutions down to single one has become much more palatable. This puts new impetus on backup software providers to introduce new features into their products to keep them relevant and “sticky” in their customer environments longer term.
Since the start of 2015 DCIG has been doing background research in anticipation of releasing its first ever Buyer’s Guide on the topic of Hybrid Cloud Backup Appliances. In doing so, it is seeing many new features in the backup software that ships with these appliances that were never part of backup software in the past because these providers were still trying to get their software to successfully backup organizational applications and data.
The good news is that backup has largely been solved. In conferences and analyst summits that I have attended in recent weeks where end users have presented coupled with my own conversations with end users, most openly say their backups challenges are 99% solved. This is resulting in their organizations devoting fewer or even no IT staff to managing backup and re-allocating those individuals to solve more pressing, strategic initiatives in their respective organizations.
The bad news, at least for backup providers, is that solving backup is turning into a bit of mixed blessing. While they are grateful that their backup software now works in their customers’ environments and the number of support calls they receive is declining, they also face the “squeaky wheel gets the oil” dilemma. Since their backup software no longer “squeaks” in customer deployments, customers start to view it as a commodity solution that works and can be easily replaced by a competing product at a lower cost (which I already see evidence of occurring.)
This puts the onus on backup software providers to introduce new features that will keep their backup software “sticky” by having specific features that add measurable and quantifiable value to the organization over competing products. While the industry remains in the early stages of this transformation, there are four new features that backup software minimally needs to offer going forward for it to remain relevant and keep it “sticky” going forward:
- Connectivity to multiple cloud providers. Nearly every organization is looking to store some of its data with public cloud storage providers. While organizations are still in the early stages of moving data off-site, small and midsized businesses and enterprises are moving more quickly than larger organizations to adopt cloud connectivity as they are less likely to have a secondary site to store their backup data. Based on early results, organizations are most apt to want connectivity to one or more of the following cloud providers: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Rackspace and Google. Also, organizations should want backup software that supports multiple cloud providers so they have the flexibility to move from one to another should cost reduction or feature functionality justify such a change.
- Data copy management. Organizations no longer just want one or more copies of their data simply residing in a repository in anticipation of a recovery that they hope they never have to perform. They want to use the copies of data for other purposes such as testing, development or doing Big Data analysis. To accomplish this, backup software has to store copies of data in a format that may be easily accessed and used by other applications or the copy recovered without needing to use the backup software to recover the data.
- File sync and share. File sync and share is a relatively new feature that is already from providers such as Acronis (Acronis Access Advanced). Putting this feature in backup software capitalizes on the software footprint that backup software often has on many PCs and servers in the enterprise and utilizes backup software’s native ability to copy and replicate data. Further, many organizations would like to move away from file sync and share options such as Dropbox because of the inherent security risks they present. More organizations see backup software as a means to securely deliver file sync and share feature functionality to their users.
- Recovery in the cloud. Getting data into the cloud is great. However recovering one’s applications or even an entire data center is the new end game because if one’s existing data center goes away, having backups offsite with no place or means to restore them is pretty much worthless. Being able to recover data, applications or even data centers with a cloud provider and orchestrating the management of those recoveries through the backup software will help to make that backup software almost indispensable to organizations.