Acronis: Backup as a basic need

Monday 2 May 2016 | 10:33 CET | Background

IT company Acronis sees a significant growth opportunity in cloud services, the company reported during the Acronis Summit in Munich, an event for partners and distributors. Acronis wants to transition from a 'pure' provider of backup and recovery to becoming a cloud provider for SMEs, with a portfolio of complementary services such as mobile content management and BYOD. Acronis founder and CEO Serguei Beloussov targets a 30 percent market share in a market that globally will amount to USD 100 billion per year.

In the coming years, demand for storage will grow rapidly, analysts expect. The number of mobile connections has grown beyond the number of people in the world and in a few years almost everyone will be online. In addition, the rise of the Internet of Things and Big Data leads to major changes in many industrial and social sectors.

These trends will in the coming years contribute significantly to the growth of cloud services and the emergence of cloud service providers. Data protection, including backup and recovery is growing in importance.

Backup and Recovery

Since 2003, Acronis offers a backup solution that creates a complete copy - "image" – of a server, rather than a backup of a file. Acronis Backup 11.7 is available in 14 languages in 145 countries, and the company is market leader in the Germany-Austria-Switzerland region (DACH) and Japan. In North America, Acronis is a smaller player.

About 15 percent of its revenue comes from the consumer market, 60 percent from SMEs and 25 percent from the enterprise segment. Consumers and small businesses often purchase a managed solution using Acronis itself or through a partner/reseller or service provider.

The cloud services are offered in different configurations of storage on premise, in a private or public cloud. The Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS) is offered at different levels, depending on how quickly the customer will have access to data. Traditionally, backup and recovery is done on- premise, but this model is changing too.

New backend under construction

Acronis is driven by the vision that, eventually, all software will go to the cloud. In addition, the price per unit of storage continues to drop. Acronis has invested the last three years in the development of a new backend, Acronis Anydata Engine, to be able to offer added services and increase margins.

"We back up a corporate network. That means we have a touchpoint with each file," said Jan-Jaap Jager, General Manager Global Sales Cloud. Acronis is building multiple data centres in Germany and Switzerland, partly to show customers that the servers are in European territory and subject to local legislation.

The philosophy is to be vendor-neutral and to integrate the platform with any data centre hardware and software. "Many pure cloud companies find that they are not flexible enough in supporting hardware. A customer must have a choice," the company said.

Mobile Content Management

Backup is therefore the foundation for a number of aligned services: archiving, backup, cloud storage, disaster recovery, E-Discovery, File Service and Monitoring Service.

Acronis develops Mobile Content Management solutions designed for companies who want to offer their employees access to the company network, using multiple mobile devices. A solution must support all sorts of devices, explained Volker Mannel, Sales Engineer Mobility Products. 

The corporate data must be kept confidential, but also be shared with other employees and customers. He cites working on a presentation as an example. Typically, each version will be passed on to multiple employees, and each time a copy will remain on the servers. Acronis is working on a solution to not only index and deduplicate those files, but also to allow employees to work in a single file. 

Acronis has built an app that can retrieve a file from the corporate network and open it in an application that runs on a smartphone or tablet. That way, Office and PDF files can be edited from the app, or running in a browser on PC, Mac, iOS and Android devices. Users can also synchronize and share files and run the apps on privately owned devices while maintaining a link with the corporate network.

Some of the software is still in development or in beta testing as the functionality of the app will be gradually expanded. The company plans to migrate all existing services to the new backend in the course of 2016 and introduce new services as well. Acronis provides APIs and SDKs to create integration with other software.

Services for business ISPs

Service providers can deploy cloud services to upsell services and to reduce churn, said Markus Galler, responsible for European cloud services. The market for (wholesale) business IT services is suffering from consumerization, making the added value of the service provider less clear. Traditional hosting for the business is under attack from big companies like Amazon AWS, Google and Microsoft.

Business providers can reduce churn by upselling cloud services. In the German market, Acronis already offers backup and file syncing in a bundle with office DSL internet access. 

Acronis provides these services from a common platform, under its own name or as a white-label solution. Acronis plans to greatly expand the number of partners and resellers, from 250 to over 2,000.

Growing in cloud services

The Hybrid Cloud meanwhile has been growing "almost exponentially," said founder and CEO Serguei Beloussov. The number of users (both customer numbers and units) of the Acronis Backup Cloud grew by 800 percent from 2014 to 2015. The managed storage volume grew in 12 months from 200 TB to 2 PB, with an expected further increase to 10 PB in a year.

A total 39 percent of company revenue comes from services, said Beloussov, "out of nothing". It's only a matter of time before cloud services revenue will overtake revenue from existing services. In the next ten years Acronis wants to become the market leader in Storage Service Solutions, a market with an estimated size of USD 100 billion annually. Acronis wants 30 percent of that. But, he says, "SMEs remain in our DNA."

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