Australia’s BackupAssist formally launches in North American market

BackupAssist has timed a new channel initiative in North America with Version 10 of its software, which adds several enterprise grade features to its SMB-focused solution.

Linus Chang, BackupAssist’s founder and CEO

BackupAssist is an SMB- and Windows-focused backup and disaster recovery provider based in Australia, which has an office in Boston, a presence in Canada, and channel partners all over North America. Now, however, with the launch of Version 10 of their software, they are also formally launching into the market, with a re-invigorated channel strategy.

While the company and senior executives are Australian, the vast majority of their sales come from elsewhere. While they don’t sell retail, they do sell online as well as through channel partners, and so have developed a strong non-Australian business. 95 per cent of their sales come from outside that continent.

“The solution provider channel has been only one of our routes to market, but we are pivoting towards the channel,” said Linus Chang, BackupAssist’s founder and CEO. “We anticipate a lot more growth through the channel.”

BackupAssist has several thousand partners globally, and more than half of those are in the U.S., but most have been doing relatively little business for them.

“In the U.S, we have been selling mainly through our Web sales, in part because of the high quality of support we provide,” Chang said. “We have reached the market mainly through Search Engine Optimization. We have never done any PR work, although we used to do SMB Nation back in the day. We deal directly with partners and a lot that we got are through work of mouth. Most of our advertising has been through search engines, and we have optimized the site for SEO.” They do have distribution in Canada, through St. Thomas Ontario-based C&C Software. In addition, while they began selling perpetual licenses, they launched an MSP channel a year ago.

The focus is on the sub-250 seat market.

“We measure it by the number of servers, typically 1-5 servers per site,” Chang said. “When the customer has multiple sites, we push a little further up in the market. The most important thing though is that it is priced at SMB level.”

Price is a key differentiator for Backup Assist, but not the only one. When Chang originally designed the software, in 2002, he sold it for $50 from his website.

“This was back when backing up a Windows Server with a tape drive and backup was expensive, and the competition was over $1000,” he said. “We have been growing organically ever since, and have never needed investor funds because we have been cash- flow positive. Today the price is no longer $50 dollars, but it’s still roughly half the cost of the bigger players.”

The low cost gives partners room to add their own higher-margin services.

“Since customers have a ballpark price in mind of what they are willing to pay, it means that our partners can add more of their own services, and get revenue from that above the cost of the software itself,” Chang said.

Chang said the challenge is providing the right features at the right price point, with the product’s simplicity also being a selling feature.

“A major asset is that the product is very simple, and it works,” he said. “In addition to being cost-effective, it is also modular, so you only buy what you need, and licensing is per host. We consider our strong support a strength, and our technicians answer the phones.”

With BackupAssist 10, the company introduces some new features which provide differentiation in the market, responding to research on the top customer concerns. The most noteworthy innovation is likely cloud storage independence, which allows the customer to choose their own cloud backup source, with Amazon AWS S3 and Microsoft Azure being the available options.

While this gives the end user the flexibility that Chang says came up as a top priority in their research, it also is a major plus for the channel.

“A lot of our partners are already either Microsoft Azure or AWS partners, so this will enable their customers to back up with those providers, and will allow the partner to get benefits from their channel programs,” he said. “We try and listen to the channel and give them what they want, and offering the choice of where the data is stored breaks down a lot of barriers. We don’t sell storage, so we aren’t conflicted, and we let the partner make the profit stream there.”

Another new feature is the ability to create fully insulated encrypted backup containers.

“These respond to customer privacy concerns, as now in addition to being able to choose their cloud provider, they can have their own separate data container,” Chang said. “They use fully insulated AES 256 end-to-end client side encryption. All the data are in their own private nodes, and each has a different encryption key. The cloud provider can’t see the contents, and the software guarantees no deduplication by cloud provider. This is especially ideal for industries like health care with stringent privacy regulations.”

Version 10 also adds enterprise grade deduplication and compression.

“We have been working on this for several years, to create our own engine which addresses the challenge that dedupe and compression take a lot of RAM and memory,” Chang said. “For the SMB market, we wanted to avoid this. Our first attempt to do this failed completely, but the second was successful, and we believe that it is state of the art. It is designed to run on entry level hardware with limited RAM and memory, so that it provides enterprise capability at an SMB price point.”

Chang also gave a preview of BackupAssist’s 2017 road map.

“We will provide more support for different public and private cloud options,” he said. “We will be adding additional public cloud providers to AWS and Azure. In addition, large MSPs may want a private cloud option to host in their own data centre, and we are working on that, for the really privacy conscious.”

Upcoming new features include focused protection against ransomware, and a new imaging engine coming out to support the next generation of Windows OS.

“We are also pivoting our license model to switch from perpetual licensing to subscription, and we are about half-way through that,” Chang said. “It will affect direct from web site sales, and two-tier distribution.”