TL; DR: Backup solutions company Altaro launched in 2009 with a focus on Hyper-V and VMware backups. The company today also offers backup solutions for Windows Server and Office 365. Those solutions can help SMBs improve performance, reduce costs, and protect assets from disasters. Altaro’s model now supports the needs of managed service providers, with future enhancements planned to bring more MSP-specific tools, enabling them to help individual business customers.
Online backup solutions that focused primarily on backing up static datasets or differential database archives began to gain popularity in the early 2000s. However, backup providers mainly served enterprises — not small businesses.
SMBs may have the most to lose when disaster strikes and they need to return their operations to normal quickly. Data backups can help ensure entrepreneurs don’t go out of business because of a fire, flood, or ransomware attack. David Vella saw that market gap early on and set up a company with three other co-founders to develop a solution for SMBs — Altaro.
“When we founded Altaro in 2009, we chose to focus on backups, and that soon became a focus on backup for Hyper-V and later VMware environments,” said David, who also serves as Altaro CEO. “We selected small to mid-sized companies and organizations as our target market because we had observed, from our own experiences as a fledgling company, that they had been overlooked by established B2B backup vendors.”
David and the Altaro team found that the products on the market were expensive and complicated, and had features sets smaller companies did not need.
At the time, cloud-based solutions weren’t prevalent, and virtual machines were just starting to fill a niche with SMBs. Hosted VMs typically had a backup with the provider, but a local VM was a different story.
Entrepreneurs often need to power down those assets to transfer a static snapshot of the VM to their backup medium. As with most local backup technologies, where small businesses store their backups is also relevant for disaster scenarios.
“We set about developing a robust, reliable virtual machine backup solution to give them the security they needed without busting their budget,” David said.
After starting as a specialized backup provider, Altaro has expanded to incorporate Hyper-V and VMware backups, Office 365 backups, physical-to-virtual Windows Server and network endpoint backups. Now, it also offers comparable services targeted to managed service providers.
IT-as-a-Service Offers Efficient Tools for SMBs
The migration to a service-based product portfolio has characterized the tech industry over the last decade. Businesses see value in hosted software platforms and cloud-based storage, and many vendors now need a cloud strategy if they hope to gain traction. Yet this transition hasn’t been perfect. Some assets — including fully hosted applications or file shares — are easy enough to back up, as are transactional databases.
However, a grey zone exists with data that’s typically locally sourced, highly volatile, and doesn’t neatly fit into existing vendor offerings — including virtual machines.
“In recent years, resellers have been switching to delivering IT as a service,” David said. “Some of them have transitioned to this in full, while others prefer a blended model where they offer both options to customers. That has accelerated with the COVID-19 pandemic with ever more businesses and organizations moving to the cloud.”
Altaro has worked with VM backups from the start, and David said that expertise has informed everything the company does. Altaro VM Backup allows clients to start their first backup within 15 minutes. Competing products typically have a training program before someone can start using them. Altaro deals with data protection, emphasizing quality, reliability, high performance, and enterprise-class functionality.
Many small and medium-sized businesses rely on a mix of managed service providers for IT support, so Altaro built an infrastructure to support MSPs.
“We are a channel-centric company. Our goal is to make it easy for value-added resellers and IT consultants to sell our products,” David said. “That trend led us to develop backup solutions that are purpose-built for the needs of IT service providers. We offer the same tried and tested business continuity feature sets, but make them available as monthly subscription programs for managed service providers to provide their customers with reputable backup and recovery service.”
Fast Disaster Recovery and Responsive Business Continuity Support
That emphasis on speed and simplicity reduces the friction involved in backing up volatile data sources.
“Altaro backup solutions offer peace of mind. Users know their data is backed up and that they have quick and easy access should an event occur that requires them to recover that data — fire, theft, device loss, ransomware, viruses, or flooding,” David said. “Without solid backup solutions in place, the length of downtime and extent of the data loss would have a severe impact on the organization, on its ability to operate, and the avoidance of any potential liability.”
According to Cloudwards, 51% of surveyed businesses were hit by ransomware in 2020, with about 25% of those businesses making average ransomware payments of $5,900. Ransomware and related cybercrimes far outpace natural disasters in adversely affecting small businesses. But even in a federally designated disaster area, recovery and mitigation efforts are clocked in weeks and months, not minutes and hours.
For brick-and-mortar businesses, any disaster can disrupt business operations. However, a disaster affecting the office can hurt less when all the relevant data, including VM data, sits on a remote server not affected by the disaster. A simple hardware swap can get the company running again with relatively modest data disruption.
“Time and cost — and the impact both on and by operational agility, uptime, and performance rates — are a huge part of all this,” David said. “You can’t separate them because you can’t have peace of mind if you don’t have those aspects covered.
Altaro: Protecting Virtual Machines, Not Just Static Data
The industry’s move toward IT-as-a-Service models puts more data in more hosted environments. As is common in analytics firms, in-house solutions that rely on virtual servers to back up those VMs in a comfortable and cost-efficient manner plug a critical hole that most enterprise backup vendors miss.
However, Altaro’s focus on MSPs empowers the ecosystem of value-added consultants and specialty IT providers to offer backup services for VMs, Office 365, network endpoints, and Windows Server which they can manage through a multi-tenant management console across all their customers. Altaro’s infrastructure supports a single-pane-of-glass backup management solution package that works for unique client-vendor relationships.
The benefit of backups translates into more robust continuity and shorter downtime when recovering from cyberattacks or natural disasters — whether it’s individual companies or their IT vendors using Altaro’s solutions.
The COVID-19 pandemic will likely continue to affect business operations long after the vaccines roll out, so more businesses are moving toward a virtual or cloud-first mentality. Altaro is prepared to support that evolution.
“Currently, our Microsoft 365 backup solutions include unlimited storage in the price — making this a very compelling offer to customers and MSPs alike,” David said. “Although the included backup storage relieves them of hassle and headaches, some want to store the backups themselves. That’s why we are working on a self-hosted storage option, starting with the version for MSPs. That will kick off our schedule of releases for next year.”
The market has changed rapidly during the pandemic, but David is confident Altaro is well-positioned for success.
“We will continue developing and adding to our product set, and build further on our one-stop backup shop concept,” David said. “A core part of this stems from listening to our customers and our partners to ensure we are on track with delivering what they need and at a price point that’s reasonable.”