MSP360 beefs up anti-ransomware protection, performance in their Managed Backup Service

Immutable storage, a new and faster backup format, restore verification, consistency checks, and the addition of synthetic full backup for VMware are among the enhancements.

Brian Helwig, MSP360’s CEO

MSP360 started out as a backup provider when they were called CloudBerry Lab, but in recent years they have been aggressively building themselves out into a broader platform, including their recent introduction of an RMM service. Now, however, they have issued a new release of that core MSP360 Managed Backup Service [MBS] offering. The new additions include immutable storage for AWS to offer more ransomware protection, and synthetic full backup for file-level and VMware backups.

“The main theme is around compliance and ransomware and improved performance,” said Brian Helwig, MSP360’s CEO.

The enhancements begin with the addition of immutable storage for AWS to protect against ransomware by preventing deliberate or accidental deletion of data. Some other vendors have already introduced immutable storage and it has proven to be highly effective in preventing ransomware attacks that go after the backup. Recently some ransomware attackers have moved to data exfiltration as a result, stealing data to hold it for ransom, and bypassing the backup protection. Helwig said that protection is coming for that as well, although MSP360 will likely have to do it through partnership.

“RMMs are all about prevention, and you have to make sure day-to-day tools are up to date,” he said. “In the not to distant future, we will likely work with a partner to solve this problem. Backup is always the insurance policy. The RMM makes sure things are secure using best practices.”

MSP360 is also introducing a new backup format with this release, in which every data set is kept as a separate entity, so that no matter what type of backup an MSP runs, every backup plan with its data set will be stored separately from all other backups.

“This will make backups run even faster and be more secure,” Helwig said. “Our old agent before this release really only had a couple of threads, so it grabbed a large amount of files and pushed them up. Our new backup format uses in-memory compression algorithms and classifies the files differently, so it pushes more files and more data in one shot. We see about a 200% decrease in restore time as a result.” The new backup format also includes client-side deduplication, to reduce time, bandwidth and storage consumption.

The new release also implements a Grandfather-Father-Son (GFS) retention policy, that is based on keeping several full backup copies. These full backup sets have different retention routines: yearly, which is Grandfather, and is generally used for compliance purposes;  monthly, which is Father, and daily, which is Son.

Restore verification, a feature that allows MSPs to check the recoverability of system image backups, has been added for image-based backups, providing a similar kind of service to ones offered by Datto and Veeam. It provides a complete backup of everything on a PC or server, including operating system, installed applications, system settings, drivers, as well as files created or downloaded by users.

“We were able to manually allow an MSP to set up an image and verify it, and give MSPs with a Hyper-V server on premise the ability to take any image-based backup,” Helwig said. “It makes things faster and easier to use and reduces MSP operational time. This is the first step in our progression to doing this automatically in the cloud. It also comes at no charge, as it is included in the platform cost today.”

At the same step as restore verification, MSPs can enable another option: the consistency check. It helps MSPs check the state of data that’s backed up in customer storage and verify its consistency.

“It validates in the same way that in the CD world, you validate burned files,” Helwig indicated. “What we have done here is change the way verifications work and reduce the API calls, to make files consistent with the source”

Helwig said that synthetic full backup for file-level and VMware is another major innovation. After the first-generation full backup, only the changed data blocks get uploaded into the cloud, forming incremental backups. When a new full backup starts as scheduled, MSP360 MBS creates a new restore point based on the previous one. Synthetic full backup is enabled by default and works for the following cloud storage services: Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure, Backblaze B2, and Wasabi.

“This means that you don’t have to push an entire VM backup up to the cloud  any more, which  really saves a lot of time and traffic, because only changed data blocks get uploaded to the cloud,” Helwig stated.

Restore points themselves have been improved.

“We made it really easier to see restore points inside backup tab, which makes it easier to understand where they are,” Helwig indicated.

Other new features include faster purge speed, by deleting a data part, rather than a single file, faster synchronization, by reducing the number of API requests, and higher object size limits using data partitioning, increasing them from 5 TB to 256 TB, regardless of storage provider limitations.

MSP360 now also adds support for any filename characters and extra-long filenames, provides filename encryption, and adding a password hint for backup encryption. Block tracking for image-based backups has also been changed, to take much less time to identify modified blocks of image-based backups.

“At the beginning of October, we also launched a new flat-rate pricing structure of $23 per TB for backups with MSP360’s Managed Backup Service (MBS), powered by AWS,” Helwig said. “We had to work hard with Amazon to get that, and get rid of the API calls and data downloads and their cost.”

So what’s next for MSP360?

“Next week we are launching something with 7Taps, a simple easy-to-use training platform to train end users for compliance, which also provides a free record of training,” Helwig said. “They can build on tap of that to offer additional training.”

Helwig also said that the RMM business that MSP360 launched in June has been doing well.

“We launched it in late June and gave it away free for the first three months and got feedback,” he noted. “In the first few months we pulled in over 300 partners, who gave us some great feedback and we made some minor improvements based on that. The loved the simplicity. We have grown 250% since launch as people started paying for it in October, with unlimited endpoints for $60. We’ve also done a big improvement in remote deploy functionality, behind the scenes and people are starting to notice.”

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