eFolder: Avoid Chain-Based Backups, Improve Automation For Better Data Protection

A new approach to backup and disaster recovery is needed to overcome the challenges of a technology that has not changed much over the years.

That's the word from Andrew Bensinger, founder of Replibit, a developer of data protection software and appliances that was acquired two years ago by eFolder.

Bensinger, speaking before an audience of managed service providers and solution providers at this week's XChange Solution Provider conference in Orlando, Fla., said traditional backup and disaster recovery, or BDR, appliances present a number of significant challenges.

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The XChange Solution Provider conference is hosted by CRN parent The Channel Company.

Among those challenges are increasing unreliability as multiple BDR appliances are cobbled together, as well as requiring more labor-intensive management to keep them up to date even as their performance slows as they scale to meet growing needs, Bensinger said.

Denver-based eFolder, together with Replibit, offers a four-part technology to manage those challenges while offering channel partners and customers a wide range of choices, Bensinger said.

The first is an end-user appliance that can either be based on eFolder hardware or on a customer's own hardware.

The second is an online data protection repository, which can be either eFolder's own multi-tenant cloud, a partner's cloud, or some combination of the two. "It's good to have local copies of the data," he said.

The third is a management portal that can be hosted either by eFolder or by the partner to provide remote control of all the BDR appliances with no other tools needed, Bensinger said.

The fourth are the backup agents that run on customer devices to automate the data protection, he said.

The eFolder offering takes advantage of technology developed by Replibit that eliminates what Bensinger called the backup chain, which is the traditional way of keeping a backup copy of the data along with incremental changes to the data. He said the problem with chains is the need to build a synthetic backup of data from the original backup and the incrementals in order to restore the data.

"With Replibit, there's no chain," he said. "There's no synthetic increments. So customers can replicate data from before or after a recovery point. So if after a backup is done and the customer gets a CryptoLocker attack, they can just delete the new [corrupt] files without doing a full reseeding of the data or a full recovery."

eFolder also helps channel partners provide data protection in other ways, including email alerts and health reports on the data, the ability to open and close service tickets and verify that issues were addressed in real time via the ConnectWise MSP platform or email, and ensure all tickets are closed when issues are fixed, Bensinger said. eFolder also verifies every backup and then alerts customers to that verification, he said.

While using the right technology to protect data is a good start,partners also need to adhere to certain best practices to make sure customers are protected, Bensinger said.

Partners need to make sure they have access to alerts about failed backups as they happen, and take advantage of automation of the backup and disaster recovery process to better manage data protection over time, he said.

They should also ensure that they have the right people handling customers' data protection requirements, Bensinger said. He suggested making sure senior people work on the initial backups of the data to get customers started, and then gradually move the responsibility to more junior people as more capabilities are automated.

"It's important to have the right guy on it, at least in the beginning," he said. "If you want to lose a customer, don't get it up and running on time. And [you should] often revisit your SLAs [service-level agreements]. Have the SLA conversation with them ahead of time."

During the question-and-answer period after Bensinger's presentation, one solution provider asked why eFolder felt it necessary to acquire Axcient, a provider of disaster recovery-as-a-service, after it acquired Replibit.

Bensinger replied that Axcient offers agent-based backups with recovery to the cloud while Replibit focuses on quick recoveries to local appliances.

Over the next couple years, eFolder will probably bring the two together into a more complete offering, he said.

When another solution provider asked whether eFolder backs physical servers to the cloud, Bensinger replied that its technology can move a backup to a virtual appliance in both VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V environments.

Replibit, as part of eFolder, has become an indispensable data protection tool, said John Hardwick, president of nXio, a Lenexa, Kan.-based MSP and solution provider and eFolder partner.

Replibit, because of its architecture that eliminates backup chains, has become a real time-saver for nXio's customers, Hardwick told CRN.

"We moved everything from our previous data protection vendor to Replibit after that company was acquired by eFolder," he said. "With chain-based backups, clients have bigger backups working with vendors like StorageCraft. With Replibit, the backups get smaller and recoveries get faster."