20 years of innovation

20 years of innovation

This year, Databarracks is celebrating its 20th anniversary, which for us, is quite astounding. We’ve been looking back and reminiscing.

The early years

Databarracks was founded to provide online backup services and we were one of the first true Managed Backup Services in 2003.

In the first few years, most of our customers were smaller businesses, acquired through a partnership with PC World Business. You could pick up a CD ROM in stores, install the backup software and set up your Databarracks (SmartBackup) account.

That’s a good illustration of technology at the time. The internet had arrived, but ecommerce was still getting started. Software was delivered on CDs. Internet connections were mostly measured in Kbps not Mbps. Backups were on tape.

In our first few years, Databarracks had several different backup products. A peer-to-peer consumer product, an SME product and an Enterprise backup product. By 2007 most of our success was with larger business customers so made the decision to shift our focus there.

A new way of backing up

Online backup was in its infancy. We didn’t call it cloud backup then, but it was really one of the first cloud services.

In that pre-chasm stage of tech adoption we were selling the concept of a new way of backing up data. It’s a given now that automated, off-site backups are more reliable than backing up onto a tape and remembering put it in your briefcase and take it away with you. That wasn’t the case in the early years. We had to overcome the status quo and prove the solution every day. The conversations we had were an interesting a precursor to conversations to the cloud computing conversations that would come a decade later.

Of course, there were other limiting factors in the early years too. Bandwidth and storage were still relatively expensive (we were charging around £15 per GB per month). As costs fell, online backup quickly moved from niche to mainstream.

Data Restoration Guarantee

One of our early efforts to allay fears was to launch a “£1m Data Restoration Guarantee”. It’s a concept that has come back in the last year or two with backup software vendors offering similar guarantees (albeit for $5m and $10m). Back in 2005, to have a £1m Data Restoration Guarantee was a big deal.

That guarantee was backed by our insurer. They were confident enough in our operations that they wouldn’t need to pay out because we couldn’t recover.

And it did the job. It reassured those early customers that this new approach really was a better way.

We ultimately stopped using the guarantee. They make for good announcements but aren’t very practical. The larger businesses we were now working with weren’t interested in a pay-out if we couldn’t recover their data. £1m, $5m and $10m aren’t much to companies with annual turnover of hundreds of millions or billions.

Targeting larger businesses was paying off and we were soon working with the some of the largest charities, law firms and financial services organisations in the country.

It’s a testament to the service that most of those organisations are still customers 15+ years later.

Moving beyond backup: Disaster Recovery

The next transformation was to expand beyond backup.

Just as online backup was displacing traditional tape-based methods, Disaster Recovery too was prime for disruption.

Fifteen years ago, very few organisations had real Disaster Recovery. DR meant replicating to duplicate hardware (very expensive), recovering at a service provider’s site or onto mobile data centres on the back of a lorry.

Virtualisation and P2V recovery meant that there was a new option. We could recover our customers onto a shared VMware environment in our data centres.

We launched VDR (Virtual Disaster Recovery) in 2008 – pioneering multi-tenant recovery. Again, this was long before we talked about cloud services or anything as-a-Service.

Again, we found ourselves at the cutting edge of tech adoption. It was so new that software providers didn’t yet have  licensing models for this kind of delivery. We ended up working with several large software providers to help develop new models (including notably Citrix which we used to deliver the service).

VDR eventually evolved into DRaaS, using replication rather than Backup for shorter recovery points and faster recovery. But, as with many cyclical trends in tech, it’s a model we are returning to as a defence against cyber threats. Watch this space…

The rise of cyber and launch of Cyber-DRaaS

From a resilience and continuity perspective, in the last 20 years, there’s been one big story: the rise of cyber.

In our first decade, the biggest recoveries we made were for SAN failures or floods in a server room. These incidents were infrequent and (in hindsight) easy to recover from.

In the last decade, we’ve seen an enormous increase in the number of major recoveries due to cyber incidents. Not only are these far more complex but organisations also now face a greater expectation of uptime. The need for dependable Backup and Disaster Recovery services has never been greater.

In 2016, we launched Cyber-DRaaS to address the growing ransomware threat. Replication technologies at the time typically didn’t allow for a long recovery window. If you failed over to DR, you would only ever use your last copy for the most recent recovery point (or perhaps the second-to-last in the case of a corruption).

For ransomware recoveries, you often need to revert to a much older copy prior to the infection. That meant a longer Recovery Point Objective. To make matters worse, it was often difficult to identify when the infection happened, to find your last clean recovery point.

Our solution was to automate recoveries and carry out recursive scanning with a secondary anti-virus system – writing checkpoints into the recovery journal to identify possible ransomware. The benefit was that if you needed to recover in-anger, we could find that most recent, clean recovery point. That would save hours (or days) of work and get businesses back online faster.

The benefit of being a smaller, agile business was that we have always been able to innovate quickly and bring new features and services to market quickly. Since we launched Cyber-DRaaS, we have been pleased to see these features (and more) making their way into backup and replication products, where they should be.

The future

Databarracks is an entrepreneurial, innovative company and we are constantly looking at how to develop and launch new services to improve our customers’ resilience.

As data and systems have become more dispersed, from on-premises, to SaaS and the cloud we’re adapting, protecting customer data wherever it lives.

As cyber threats continue to grow, we’re transforming our services for faster recovery from cyber-attacks.

Lastly, our experience of hundreds of recoveries for our customers has taught us that a solid recovery capability alone does not make you resilient. Technology recovery is just one piece of the puzzle. Resilience demands an integrated, comprehensive approach from the entire organisation.

Our next goal: making organisations Resilient by Design.

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Databarracks Ltd
1 Bridges Court
SW11 3BB

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