From Traditional BDR to Hardware-Free Direct-to-Cloud: How the Remote Workforce is Guiding Digital Transformation

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic forced employees worldwide to work from home (WFH), more organizations were embracing remote workforces than ever before. According to one Harris Poll survey, by early April 2020, more than half of all workers in the U.S. (51%) had shifted to virtual working. Even with safety restrictions now loosened, and once social distancing requirements lifted, nearly all studies indicate an increase in regular remote work. One Gartner poll showed 48% of employees are likely to work remotely at least part of the time after COVID-19, versus 30% before the pandemic.

To accommodate the uptick in remote work access, cloud-based services such as Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace are seeing their highest number of active users ever. Additionally, “32% of organizations are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers as a cost-saving measure,” according to Gartner. Part-time, contract, or short-term employees can increase data exposure if they’re not issued a company laptop or mobile device, don’t take part in regular security training, or are unaware of internal best practices around data organization and access.

Ransomware and phishing attacks have also risen sharply since the start of COVID-19. Combined with more people working from home outside the corporate firewall and on personal devices, the risks of data loss have never been higher.

Fortunately, innovation continues to rise to the challenge. Axcient Direct-to-Cloud is giving MSPs (Managed Service Providers) the tools necessary to meet the security needs of SMBs, regardless of their environment.

Direct-to-Cloud for Endpoint Backup and Hardware-Free BDR

Axcient Direct-to-Cloud is addressing the data risks of today’s dispersed workforce with advanced technologies. In-office employees have access to optimal security and backup conditions, including corporate firewall protection and the ability to quickly back up to a dedicated, local BDR server. Remote workers however typically have a less sophisticated security infrastructure at home that does not include dedicated firewalls. These workers may not be able to contact corporate networks to perform regular backups, or can only do so through cumbersome VPNs, leaving their data more susceptible to loss.

The increase in regular remote workers severely limits the feasibility and protection of traditional appliance-based BDRs. Instead of picking and choosing what and when to back up, Direct-to-Cloud provides backup protection with similar recovery point objectives (RPOs) and recovery time objectives (RTOs) as appliance-based backups, but without the costs and limitations of hardware appliances. Axcient Direct-to-Cloud performs image-based backups of remote worker systems directly to the Axcient Cloud, which can be used to quickly recover anything from a single file to an entire system in an instant. Direct-to-Cloud makes it simple to add protection, allowing MSPs to silently deploy backup agents via their RMM with zero configuration. All volumes on each endpoint are protected automatically. These comprehensive image-based backups, plus Axcient AirGap, provide a last line of defense against ransomware and various disasters. You and your clients will never have to worry about losing data or paying a ransom.

Additionally, Direct-to-Cloud can be used as a full replacement for a hardware-based BDR appliance. Instead of servers backing up to an appliance, Direct-to-Cloud hardware-free BDR backs up directly to the cloud. Cloud virtualization is self-managed, near-instant, and provides a 1-hour RTO for environments of all sizes. Comprehensive network connectivity options include port forwarding, client VPN, and site-to-site VPN. Axcient’s unique local cache technology allows you to store an extra copy of backed-up data on any accessible local storage device (e.g., external USB disks or NAS devices).

This local cache, plus our new recovery technologies, enables instant local virtualization of any recovery point using Hyper-V, instant virtual export to VHDX/VMDK, file/folder recovery, and bare-metal recovery. So all the same restore options you expect from a BDR appliance are still available. You get the benefits of chain-free backup technology, including a 15-minute RPO, pooled storage and retention, plus self-managed cloud disaster recovery, but without any of the maintenance requirements, costs, and hassle of local BDR hardware.

Many MSPs have two tiers of clients – historically requiring different backup vendors.

  1. Cost-sensitive clients who won’t pay or don’t want a dedicated backup appliance. They use something simple such as file-level backups or chain-based image backups to a USB disk or NAS device.
  2. Business-driven clients who will not tolerate downtime and are willing to pay for a turn-key BDR appliance for local and cloud business continuity.

There’s no vendor who can meet these disparate client requirements, as well as the need for endpoint backup, in only one solution – until now.  Axcient has invested years of R&D with over 30 technology patents, as well as our experience with appliance-based backup, to solve this industry challenge. We are excited to deliver the full value of business continuity without the hardware or pains of chain-based approaches. Axcient Direct-to-Cloud capabilities, combined with best-in-class appliance-based options, give MSPs one platform to cover the business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) needs of all clients:

hardware-free BDR

BDR Evolution: The End of an Era

Seeing how these technologies have progressed can shed light on how we arrived at hardware-free Direct-to-Cloud. We’ve come a long way from the days of tape- and disk-based file-level backups, which required a painful multi-day system recovery process at best. We’ve moved through the era of chain-based image backups, to turn-key appliances, and now to hardware-free, chain-free backups. This new approach combines the ease and functionality of turn-key appliances without the cost of hardware or the management complexity and data risks of chains.

Manual reseeding, storage overages, and expensive appliances have been replaced by chain-free backup, generous pooled storage and retention, and no hardware required. The chain-free backup agent doesn’t require a reboot to install or upgrade. Activating the local cache in the chain-free agent only requires 200 MB of RAM per TB stored. That’s 50x less RAM than typically necessary for copy on write or deduplicated storage. Of course, the only point of backup is recovery, which is why Direct-to-Cloud offers instant recovery from any recovery point, including through virtualization, virtual export, volume mount, or bare-metal recovery.

BDR evolution

Total Cost of Ownership

The pandemic has forced many businesses to rethink their original strategies for 2020, and cutting unnecessary costs is important to all SMBs. At the same time, MSPs need to deliver a compelling BCDR solution for their clients, while thinking of their own business growth and costs. Axcient Direct-to-Cloud accomplishes both of these goals while delivering important new capabilities to protect the remote workforce.

With hardware-free BDR, there are no extra or hidden costs related to leasing, maintenance, or client visits. We expect MSPs to experience significant savings with Direct-to-Cloud while continuing to protect client data, and hitting their RPO and RTO targets for servers, workstations, and laptops.

About the Author: 
Adam Preeo // Director of Product Management, Axcient

Adam is the Director of Product Management and is responsible for overseeing Axcient’s product strategy. With over 10 years of experience managing channel-driven SaaS products, he leads Axcient’s diverse Product teams focused on creating best-in-class Business Continuity products for MSPs.

Prior to Axcient, Adam worked at Act! leading the product management group that brought innovative marketing automation, email marketing, and CRM products from concept to market. As a proud Buff, Adam has a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder.