Sometimes the old-fashioned approach is best

In an era when many service providers are trying to become all things to all people, AssureStor’s philosophy is remarkably simple, and successful – to be really good at just one thing: Extreme Data Protection. DCSUK talks to Jason Reid, AssureStor’s Managing Director.

  • 10 years ago Posted in


Please can you provide some background on AssureStor
– when /why was the company formed, and what has been
the progress to date?

AssureStor was established in December 2012 by myself and Thura KT Win as a new service provider focused on delivering cloud-based data protection services. After working at a broad spectrum VAR for over 17 years I wanted to create a business that could really focus on one area, delivering the best technology and service to its user base.
The initial months were focused on putting in place the core infrastructure and processes for the business. As a new start-up
we wanted to ensure that we took the lessons of over three
decades’ cumulative experience and applied them from the very beginning.
With our desire to ensure our service was the best it could be we also opted to make sure the business was ISO certified. Within the first three months of operation we achieved a hat trick in ISO certifications, currently holding ISO 9001, 27001 and 22301.
As a pure channel-focused provider we have worked hard to take on resellers who can really integrate our portfolio into their offering. To date we have five active resellers and are constantly talking to other IT companies about becoming an AssureStor reseller.

Who are the key personnel involved in AssureStor?

I currently hold the position of Managing Director for AssureStor. Prior to starting AssureStor my previous role was as CTO at CloudXL (formally Network Resource Group) where I had been based for over 17 years. After starting as an engineer I designed and developed our first move to the service provider sector creating System Online, initially one of the first business-only ISPs selling dial-up and ISDN circuits within London. The success of System Online continued and after 15 years of service the business had evolved into a full featured Cloud service provider.
Thura KT Win joined AssureStor at its inception as Operations
Director. Thura brings a high level of business knowledge and
experience having worked at board level as CIO for Little, Brown
Book Group, a leading UK publisher.

The combination of our experience from both the supplier/service
Provider and end-user perspective ensures that as a management
team we understand the importance of delivering a cost effective,

innovative solution with a strong focus on customer service.
How would you describe AssureStor – as a storage company,
as a service provider, or something else?

I would describe AssureStor as a Value Added Service Provider (VASP); unlike larger global service providers we focus on ensuring our services meet our resellers’ and their end-users’ needs. Whilst many service providers deliver a broad range of services, AssureStor is focused on data protection services, delivering Backup/Recovery and Disaster Recovery services in the Cloud.

By having such a strong focus on one area we are able to deliver an exceptional service and ensure that our platforms are always based on the best technology available at the time.

Is such a label helpful, or as we’re moving into an era when
seemingly everyone involved in ICT can offer almost any
technology or service, does it really matter?
I don’t think labels help, and in reality would question if they ever did. We can all call ourselves what we want and with the ability these days to mask your business behind clever marketing and the vast array of media channels we have access to, it is all too easy to make bold statements and not have the capability to deliver them.
I think that we are in a transition phase for how technology is delivered. The lines between the end-user, reseller, service provider and vendor are all being blurred. Everyone wants to be a service provider these days, and we see the traditional resellers re-positioning themselves now as services providers and at the other end of the spectrum how many vendors now have their own service provider arm taking their products to market as a managed service.
The key now will not be what we call ourselves, but the quality and reputation of the service we deliver.

AssureStor majors in ‘Extreme Data Protection’ – presumably
not the same as extreme sports (!) - but what is the definition?
No, in fact unlike extreme sports that focus on increasing the danger and risk our mantra is to reduce risk for our end-users. We use ‘Extreme’ to reference our ability to deliver unparalleled levels of recovery, not previously seen or even thought possible within the Cloud.

How does Extreme Data Protection differ from the products/
services available elsewhere in the market place?
Our flagship service, Data Protection as a Service (DPaaS), delivers a unique unified backup and Disaster Recovery platform.
By using patented technology from NetApp and Syncsort we have created a Cloud platform that addresses two of the major concerns regarding data protection, speed of backup and recovery.
Unlike many other backup or replication solutions we track data changes in real-time, so when it comes time to move that data to the cloud we don’t need to spend time or resources scanning for changes. The second element of the service that differentiates us is our capability to recover not just data but complete systems and sites in minutes and even seconds. For example, DPaaS can recover 100TB in under 60 seconds, and without using quantum entangled SSDs (as they don’t exist, yet…).

AssureStor has three core offerings, the first one being Backup
as a Service (BaaS) – can you tell us a little bit about this?
The BaaS platform is based on technology from Asigra delivering an enterprise backup platform for organisations of all sizes. BaaS can be delivered as a Cloud-based service, a hybrid Cloud service or a pure local-only deployment. We also have a tiered storage model using Asigra Backup Lifecycle Management (BLM) technology that allows for the service to identify and move old data to a more cost effective storage array for long term retention and eventually destruction.
Unlike many backup solutions BaaS can protect data from almost every source including servers, NAS devices, desktops, laptops and even tablets or smartphones. We also provide backup protection for data stored in the Cloud, delivering a Cloud-to-Cloud backup model allowing you to protect services such as Google Apps, IBM SmartCloud and Salesforce.
And the complete service is managed from a central management portal providing a single pane of glass for data protection across the whole organisation.

What about the Data Protection as a Service (DPaaS) product?

DPaaS is our flagship service and is based on technology from NetApp and Syncsort. The service delivers a unified backup and disaster recovery service allowing us, in a single-pass, to protect data and complete systems for rapid recovery. And again, unlike many other solutions DPaaS can deliver the same level of protection and recovery for both physical and virtual environments.
With many Disaster Recovery services seen as an all-or-nothing recovery option the value of these services is diminished as events affecting a complete IT estate are not common. By using DPaaS end-users benefit from our 360 degree recovery model allowing rapid recovery of everything from single files and applications through to complete servers and sites. Protected data is stored directly on NetApp enterprise arrays as full recovery points, meaning we can go back to a point-in-time within seconds and give end-users access to this data without delay. The Bare Metal Recovery (BMR) technology employed within DPaaS is extremely powerful, so when a protected physical server needs a full recovery we can push the complete server image back to different hardware or a new virtual platform. And all recoveries are backed by industry leading SLAs including our guarantee to recover any size volume in under 60 seconds and complete server recoveries in under 1 hour.

Finally, what about the Instant Protect offering?

Instant Protect is a service that organisations can make use of when they require additional levels of protection for their data. This could be for a variety of reasons: a major infrastructure upgrade, an office move, construction work nearby to the primary data centre and so on. The fact is that many organisations don’t have robust backup or recovery solutions in place.

It has always been the case that you don’t really know if you’re safe until you recover your data; a green icon saying the backup completed successfully does not mean you will be able to recover that data!
With Instant Protect companies can subscribe to the service on a month-by-month basis with no long-term contracts or commitments. Once subscribed, the relevant IT systems will be replicated to a local vault and replicated to the cloud ensuring that both data and systems can be recovered, 100%.

AssureStor references ‘360 degree recovery using NSB’ a
fair amount – how does this fit in with the product set outlined
360 degree recovery is the recovery model delivered by DPaaS, which is powered by Syncsort NSB technology. 360 degree recovery blurs the lines between backup and Disaster Recovery, allowing organisations to recover files, applications, volumes, servers and complete sites, all via the one service.

AssureStor works with some key partners, can you tell us a little
bit about each – NetApp, Syncsort, Asigra, VMware and Level 3?
NetApp creates innovative storage and data management solutions that deliver outstanding cost efficiency and accelerate business breakthroughs.
Dedication to the principles of simplicity, innovation, and customer success has made NetApp one of the fastest-growing storage and data management providers today.

Syncsort provides customers around the world a smarter, more efficient and reliable way to manage and protect ever-growing data volumes. Syncsort DPX delivers the fastest and most resource efficient backup and recovery for physical, virtual and cloud environments, with fully integrated disaster recovery and BMR.
Asigra is the leading cloud computing software vendor focused on backup, recovery and restoration with more than 550,000 global installations. Asigra Cloud Backup transforms the way businesses manage and protect their data by delivering seamless end-to-end data protection that efficiently scales and easily adapts to any IT environment.
VMware, the global leader in virtualisation and cloud infrastructure, delivers customer-proven solutions that accelerate IT by reducing complexity and enabling more flexible, agile service delivery. VMware enables enterprises to adopt a cloud model that addresses their unique business challenges.
Level 3 Communications are an international communications company, and are one of only six Tier 1 Internet providers in the world. Ranked as one of the most connected Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Level 3’s expanding assets have solidified its position as one of the largest IP transit networks in North America and Europe.

What is it that AssureStor does to add the value to these
partner offerings?
By combining the technology and services from these vendors in a proven, robust configuration, AssureStor delivers a pre-built platform that can be utilised by organisations with no up-front investment in infrastructure or skills. In addition we wrap all of our services with our support and experience to ensure that partners
and end-users can have piece-of-mind and the reassurance that
their data is protected securely with guarantees that it can be recovered, 100%.

How does the AssureStor portfolio fit in with a customer’s
storage requirements – are you offering a total Cloud
replacement, or more of a service that compliments a
customer’s own physical/virtual storage environment?
AssureStor only offers secondary storage to protect the customer’s existing on premise or cloud based storage. However, unlike some other Cloud backup vendors we do offer live recovery services allowing for the data we hold to be presented as fully operational servers for Disaster Recovery.
Security is clearly critical in a Cloud environment, how does
AssureStor address this?
We take security very seriously and have ensured that we
take precautions at all levels to ensure that the data we hold
remains secure.
AssureStor operates from Tier 3+ data centres which include security measures such as perimeter fencing, 24/7 manned security, CCTV, biometric access and more. In addition our primary data centre, Sentrum VI, holds List X certification, further validating the high level of physical security for this location.
We also ensure that our platforms offer the best levels of security; all data sent from a customer’s site to our Cloud platform makes use of SSL for in-flight encryption. The BaaS platform also adds FIPS140-2 at-rest encryption ensuring that only the end-user has access to the data.
Finally, security is not limited to the data centres and technology. One of the first ISO certifications achieved by AssureStor was ISO 27001. By passing the rigorous requirements and audit for this certification AssureStor demonstrates its commitment to security for all elements of the business.

What is the AssureStor route to market – Channel, direct, a
AssureStor operates a 100% channel model with a mixture of resellers and agents. All leads generated by AssureStor or its agents are passed to the authorised resellers who engage with the end-users.
As a channel-based service provider we provide marketing, pre-sales, sales and aftersales support to our channel and when needed directly to the end-user. In addition we put a lot of investment early on to ensure that we had a comprehensive partner portal with downloadable resources, allowing our partners to take AssureStor services to market with minimal effort.

What can we expect from AssureStor over the coming months
– any major new technology/service announcements, or, more
simply, updated versions of existing products?
As a service provider we are constantly looking at ways we can improve our existing services and for new services that can add additional value to our current portfolio. We recently (September 2013) announced the launch of a new service, Filer as a Service (FaaS). This new service targets users of existing NetApp storage devices and provides an extremely cost effective option to replicate critical data off-site to one of the AssureStor secure data centres.

Our flagship service, DPaaS, continues to be developed; plans for future releases include the development of a mobile app allowing end-users to enact their Disaster Recovery plans automatically at the touch of a button, watching a real time console as each server is brought online and published for secure access.
We also benefit from the advancements in the technology from our vendors. We recently applied the latest Asigra update adding support for protecting Google Apps and further expanding our Cloud-to-Cloud backup capability. And with future releases due soon we can expect to add further cloud vendors to our support matrix.

Over time, how do you see AssureStor fitting into the rapidly
evolving ICTG landscape, where telcos, service providers, the
Channel, storage vendors, networking companies and the
major IT vendors are all competing for the same, Cloud space?
“Mighty oaks from little acorns grow”
Looking forward is always difficult, even more so for the world of ICT as it evolves at such a pace. How will AssureStor continue to differentiate itself from others, including some of the larger players?
By maintaining a strong focus on its core business, data protection, and offering the best levels of service possible to its partners and end-users. So watch this space as AssureStor is here for the long game, and intends to make extreme data protection available to all.


Any other comments?
Over the past decade we have seen a trend towards IT resellers and service providers moving towards offering all-encompassing services for the complete IT estate. Whilst superficially this appears to be good for the end-user, reducing the complexity of the supplier chain and allowing them to negotiate high discounts through a single provider, it can also lead to poor service levels and solutions that don’t fully meet the end-users requirements.

AssureStor has an almost old-fashioned objective in that it does one thing – Extreme Data Protection – and does it really, really well!