Thinking outside the firewall for mobile storage protection

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How do large organisations with thousands of users protect their mobile data outside the firewall, keeping it constantly backed up and recoverable? Typically with difficulty – not least because of some technical challenges which do not apply in traditional data centre environments. That is what Druva set out to address head-on a few years ago.

Vendors in the crowded data storage and protection market have not addressed mobile too well, leaving an opening for a start-up with a design to directly address this. Druva was well-placed, having first gained a name by specialising in endpoint backup, typically for PCs; so mobile was a logical progression, especially as each user may now carry multiple data repositories including one or more laptops and smartphones. 

As Wynn White, Druva’s chief marketing officer (CMO) told me, “Outside [the firewall] you need a different mousetrap”. It is for this reason that many large businesses are prepared to use Druva’s different approach to protecting the mobile business data to the applications focused on data behind the firewall.

The way it manages the data on these devices is based on a clever backup process that includes its own specialised de-duplication. Underpinning this is a centralised cloud (using Amazon cloud resources), so the total storage capacity needed, or where it is located in the world, is not a problem. However, as White pointed out, keeping the total data pool small ensures its Amazon bill is lower – which is one contributor to Druva’s competitive edge.

A small footprint agent is uploaded to every business phone, tablet, laptop and the like to be protected. Then an initial device backup is made into one cloud “file” shared by all the devices, with the de-dupe process splitting data and metadata; crucially, this ensures that all the business data common to many devices is held only once.

Thereafter, every change from each device is captured transparently to the device user (a continuous data protection (CDP) process); there are typically tens of thousands of devices,but each individual device data pipe is small; users are unaware of the automatic backup process (and experience no latency).

With this approach, recovery for one device – when some device data or the device itself is lost – can be made from any point in time (with snapshots not needed). A lost or stolen device can also be remotely “zapped” and the data restored to its replacement. The whole system is managed from a single pane of glass (dashboard); data governance, audit reports and e-discovery are spin-off capabilities that leverage the metadata.

To my mind, it is hard to envisage a conceptually simpler approach able to do this job well. More to the point, it has been proven to work in the field.

Druva’s continuing popularity is reflected in its recent fifth round of VC funding since formation in 2008, with White explaining “Endpoint backup built our street-cred”. There is good growth and entrenchment, some 3,000 customers including very big names that span a wide range of industries, and White estimating that 35-40% of new business (in value terms) was coming from upsell. (We may well see Druva IPO as early as next year.)

However, the company knows that a key to its future success is innovation. So, for example, 200 of its 325 staff worldwide work in development (much of it in a crack team in India). In the longer-term, Druva may well extend its offering to cover all devices back behind the firewall (despite then being head-to-head with a huge number of vendors); if it does so, we can be sure it will include some more innovation.