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Friday, June 14, 2024

‘Acronis is much more than just a cloud service’

Photo: Arif Mahmud Riad

With a global presence and vast operation, Acronis is currently one of the most successful companies in cyber protection and hybrid cloud storage, which the company provides through its innovative backup, anti-ransomware, disaster recovery, storage, and enterprise file sync and share solutions. Enhanced by its award-winning AI-based active protection technology, blockchain-based authentication and unique hybrid-cloud architecture, Acronis promises to protect all data in any environment – including physical, virtual, cloud, mobile workloads and applications. Acronis says all of that are for a low and predictable cost.

Founded in Singapore in 2003 and incorporated in Switzerland in 2008, Acronis now has more than 1,000 employees in 18 countries. Its solutions are trusted by more than 5 million consumers and 500,000 businesses, including 79 of the top 100 most valuable brands. Acronis’ products are available through 50,000 partners and service providers in over 150 countries in more than 20 languages.

Senior Sales Director for the emerging markets, Maxim Mitrokhin, and Sales Engineer for the emerging markets William Too, of Acronis visited Dhaka last month. Fintech caught up with the duo to know more about the company and its work.

FINTECH: Give us a little bit of background on Acronis True Image. Was it developed as a single solution platform/software, or evolved to its current form?

William Too: We started the company with True Image. We first launched the software Acronis True Image for consumer backup, full user backup. We do full image backup but the home users may not be IT savvy, so we want to simplify it provide the backup for all the data. That is how we begun.

FINTECH: You have offices across many different countries. Where do you have the biggest presence?

Maxim Mitrokhin: We have offices in 18 countries, altogether 25 offices in 18 countries. When you talk about the biggest presence, it can be business wise or R&D wise to be specific. We have this interesting structure. Acronis was established in 2003 in Singapore but later it was incorporated in Switzerland in 2008. Right now, the corporate headquarters is in Switzerland but the business headquarters is in Singapore. This is the kind of business structure we have. We also have many offices all around the world, 25 offices in 18 countries. We started to build R&D centers.

Initially we had a big R&D center in Russia and still it is probably the biggest one where we have over 300 engineers. But starting from this year the company started to build other R&D facilities in different locations. We built one in Arizona and we just a few weeks ago announced the opening of the R&D office in Bulgaria where we have commitments to invest $ 15 million just for R&D.

FINTECH: You entered OEM partnerships with Intel, Western Digital, Seagate, Micron, and PNY in 2010. Tell us what that entails.

Maxim: I am probably not the best person to discuss the OEM partnerships, but what I can mention about the OEM Partnerships is that it is very natural for each and every brand who wants to move their solutions for the market because these partnerships make it is easier for leading organizations or companies to get a good reach of the markets. And of course speaking about Western Digital and other brands, they provide storage and the partnership is natural as we provide backup. Of course it is probably sometimes not 100 percent fully fledged for example not all the features because we still want to sell our True Image something separately.

Frankly speaking, what I noticed in the mass market, people don’t understand the notion of backup, they think it is copying and putting it in some other place. Actually for that reason, sometimes we have to compare ourselves with Dropbox or with other vendors who are providing this kind of service. We are more than that, because we are not just ‘take the file and place it in a different location’. It is not 100 percent backup, yes it is just copying but in terms of backup, if you have the task of making the backup periodically, it will be tedious work because just imagine you have hundreds or thousands of files, you cannot remember what kind of files you have already put in here or still in there. So, this copying and putting it in a different location really does not help because it will take you hours to understand what is already in backup or copied and what is not. So backup software in general not only helps to manage your data but at the same time helps you to reduce the space.

William: Let me explain the OEM Partnerships, what we had done with Western Digital. Western Digital provides external hard disks. The main purpose for external hard disk is to store data. Western Digital noticed that you can store data but what about the entire machine? If you have potential value in Acronis, we provide OM version, the basic necessity to complement Western Digital. When you purchase Western Digital hard disk, you not only purchase the storage space, but we are also providing data protection component inside the storage. Now, this is different from other hardware vendors. And this solution not only allows you to backup your files but your entire machine and can scan your basic schedule.

Now imagine if your system crashes, you got your backup data all inside the Western Digital hard disk. With a click of a button the Western Digital hard disk can restore all the data, and with Acronis, secured and schedule based. So this gives value to the hardware vendor. So we not only can have a partnership with Western Digital, we can have partnerships with hardware vendors like physical hardware servers, laptops to implement OM component inside the machine, provide value and complement the hardware distributor and our Acronis solution.

FINTECH: Tell us about Acronis True Image 2019 New Generation. How this product has been received so far? Is the mass consumer market more challenging?

William: So, right now we have launched Acronis True Image 2019. This has something very unique. True Image was our first software launch in the beginning, and we are evolving that technology which not only providing backup services but also provides more than that. Now with the premium edition we have anti ransomware capability. We do backup and we provide proactive file monitoring to prevent ransomware attack. If anything happens in your machine, automatically it will stop and detect ransomware, rebuild those affected files automatically. Not only that, we also provide sync and share service, like a drop box feature leveraging on the same backup software True Image. And apart from backup, file sync and share we provide one more additional service, we call it archiving. For example, some files you stored in your machine like photos or maybe previous data you don’t access that often, you want to move these files to a different storage like a cloud based storage.

So, you can backup, copy a local and do another copy you can do at home at cloud and archiving the same thing as well. Moving to a near storage automatically and then moving to cloud, you can do that. Apart from that True Image gives you more value like discloning. So that’s True Image 2019. You can backup your PC and Mac machine, but also iPhones and iPads, photos, contents and also backup your social media. With an account you can link your Facebook, backup all your videos, photos on Facebook. This is something very unique, very different.

William Too, Sales Engineer for the Emerging Markets, Acronis

FINTECH: You have used Blockchain technology in your products. Are you ready to adapt future disruption that will come from AI, IoT, etc?

William: Yes, in fact our anti ransomware is leveraging on artificial intelligence technology. To detect ransomware we study the behavior of the process, something out of the ordinary, our technology with machine learning will know and stop that ransomware from running and rebuild those files. Now talking about Blockchain, we have it in our software, we call it Acronis Notary, and in fact it is already in Acronis True Image premium edition. So, Notary allows you to ensure your data authenticity. All the files that you have or possess has a fingerprint, you know our fingerprints are unique, same as files. Let’s say you store some files, you want to make sure those files with original content cannot be tampered with, they can refer back to hash code and the certificate to re-generate back the code and ensure the file that is already missing.

Maxim: Or for example, you have a contract, maybe for litigation you need to provide some information to the court, and this can be used as evidence. The digital copy of the contract is genuine, or probably in the same way it can be used as a record for forensic investigation. Because actually, for example somebody was caught on the camera doing something wrong, later you can say that you tampered it, it is not original, but if it used through our technology like Notary, then it is the proof, it is stored in the Blockchain and you cannot simply change it.

William: I want to emphasize that Acronis is no longer just a data protection company, we keep innovating our technology, now you see we do backup in the first place but keep evolving, we are now anti ransomware leveraging on Artificial Intelligence, now we have Blockchain all inside our solution. So, we consider ourselves anti cyber protection, no longer just data, it is not enough. We provide file sync and share, we provide anti ransomware, everything altogether.

Maxim: File sync and share has a good future, because you can have some important files, it is not necessary to have these files, say for example on your phone. You can have these on the cloud and whenever you need you can get those, you can share it with your friends, etc. Imagine, you need to get the visa but you cannot go yourself to the embassy, your wife is at the embassy and she suddenly needs some documents from you. Where can she find them? If you keep these documents in the cloud, it can be passworded, we can simply provide you with a link, she will be able to download it and print it. In the same way you can share this link with anybody who you trust for any reason you might have.

FINTECH: Cyber security is obviously an important part of your service. Talk about that a little bit.

William: Cyber security has a range of topics to talk about, but we focus on data protection and anti ransomware. So, in a recent case one office in Singapore had its health system compromised by hacker. The government knows that someone had a tab on it and accessed their system, without authorization. Now how can you ensure those files are in their original state?

There is no way to validate if the hacker modified some of the files. But with Acronis Notary, we are able to detect some modifications; our alerts will say this such and such files have been modified. We also prevent the hacker to modify some files and also if they plant any ransomware, we are able to detect the ransomware, stop those files and notify this could be a ransomware. And let’s say the hacker does something illegal with the files, we do data protection, restoration of the files, and all of these protect the data in different ways.

Maxim: Cyber security is just a part of cyber protection. Cyber protection is about a lot of things. Cyber security is about the security of your data. Something can happen and you can lose your data, it is not only about somebody deliberately trying to do something with your data, steal it or tamper it. But still you can lose your data; cyber security does not give you any answer what to do in this situation.

Our company is providing a kind of solution where at least you know that you have a copy of your information somewhere, probably on premises or maybe in the cloud. So this gives you one copy or several copies, even if you have lost it, you don’t have to start from scratch. Of course it depends on how quickly you need the backup, if you access quite often, you will get the recent snapshot of your data which you lost. So we can also speak about the authenticity of the information, we can speak about privacy of the information, all these things are related to cyber security but cyber protection is much broader. Actually, we as a company are trying to work in the cyber protection model rather than just cyber security. However, as William just said, we have some solutions for cyber security as well, like anti ransomware.

FINTECH: Talk about your service in Bangladesh. What does this include and how to get them?

Maxim: Dhaka Distributors is our partner in Bangladesh. They have the ability to offer Bangladeshi end-customers not only the on-premise solutions but also cloud solutions. So, of course we are ready to provide our Bangladesh clients, especially in the private sector our storage and our data centers that we have all around the world.

There are 14 data centers and the closest to us is the Singaporean one. So, if you are speaking about data sovereignty because some countries especially governments have started saying for example data can be leaked to another country. Of course we are open for any kind of cooperation here in Bangladesh with some organization to build the data center. Even at this moment if we are not able to find someone who will be ready to build the storage for us, nationwide storage, then there is no problem because we have the solution which we can provide to our customers to have them build the so called ‘private clouds’.

William: The best practice for backup is that the first copy is stored at customer’s premises, another copy is replicated off site. If the customer has a remote office they can do it. If a customer wants to replicate off site but does not have a second location, he can leverage on Acronis Data Center. Like Maxim mentioned earlier there are 14 Data Centers with the closest one in Singapore. The customer can backup one copy here at his premises and another copy can be replicated at Singapore’s data center. If anything happens at the primary location, he can still have backup data at Singapore.

Now we have another solution, we call it Data Cloud. Data Cloud gives you the flexibility to do more things; you got backup, you got disaster recovery. If anything happens at the premises, you can power up the machine in Acronis Data Center. The third one we have is file sync and share in Acronis Data Center as well, all under the same console. We see the trend right now in impact; more and more users are hosting their machines at their premises, all moving to comp direction. So we cater that with comp readiness. In our comp data center, we give the customers the flexibility to choose how they want the comp software. If you want, everything can be hosted in Acronis Data Center with zero power investment at your site. The second model, because some governments are very strict, they do not want their data to go out of country, we give you the flexibility to choose hybrid models, which means your company’s data, when you backup, you can backup to the local place of storage in your own country. With the the third model, private part set up, everything is hosted off site.

Maxim: As William said, it is just not like backup of information in disaster recovery. If something happens to your machine, for example physical damage or whatever, but this machine is critical to you. It means that you are able to run this machine from the cloud. For example, thousands of customers are working through this server; let’s say stock exchange or whatever, a lot of transaction takes place in this server. Suddenly something happens to this server, it means that data is important but the problem is that, if you get the data, you need time to buy the machine, to make all the installations and everything. For you, if this server is very critical for your business, it means that you will be out of business for hours and you will lose a lot of money. So if something happens to this server, you are able to run a virtual machine which will be exact replica of this server, therefore all your customers will be redirected to the new server and while you are making changes, buying the equipments and installing everything, none of your operations will stop as long as you can work directly from the cloud. And then afterwards when you go back to normal, we can redirect back to your repaired server.

Maxim Mitrokhin, Senior Sales Director for the Emerging Markets, Acronis

FINTECH: You chose Dhaka Distributors to be your partners in Bangladesh. What made you decide on that?

Maxim: I will say Dhaka Distributors is a team of very skilled specialists and they know the market. They did a lot of development, contributed to the development of market in Bangladesh especially in cyber security. Right now they are taking another step in introducing new technologies. It is led by the talented businessman Prabeer Sarkar. Putting it in this way, I know what Mr Sarkar did for other brands in this country and of course I think that if you are seriously looking at the Bangladesh business he is extremely useful to say the least.

FINTECH: How can local cloud service providers work with/benefit from you? Are they your competitors?

Maxim: They are already benefiting from us. In the traditional distribution model, you have the distributor, you have the seller and you have the end-customer. When we are speaking about cloud, we call the same hierarchy in a different way. We call the distributor cloud reseller, the reseller is called the service provider and the end customer is end customer.

I’ll put it in this way, since you asked about how service providers can leverage; we provide our reseller with ready-to-use product. We are providing them with a platform and actually it is really good for them to use it because frankly speaking, to make business with Acronis, it does not require any investment from your side apart from signing the contract and starting to sell the product.

So all the equation which you need to have in mind is to make sure you have a customer. Because, for example today if you wake up and decide to be a service provider for Acronis, by midday you can be a service provider. If you already have a website in which you are selling some services to your client, it will be easy to integrate Acronis and your customers won’t even know it is powered by Acronis. You can have your name but it will be 100 percent Acronis without investment from your side.

We have another model where the service providers have some facilities for example, storage facilities, we can agree and of course it will be cheaper in terms of pricing for them to use this model so that when they store data on their site but still they will be able to use the console from Acronis. Again, of course from the point of view from investment, it will require more investment from your side but if you are already an established service provider, you probably have decided to invest on storage as well as other solutions. We have another thought that everything is on the side of the service provider and in this case it will be cheaper to buy the license from user for machine. It will be the biggest investment from the side of the service provider.

FINTECH: How susceptible is your system to piracy?

Maxim: What my experience tells me is that nobody likes to be a pirate. If you provide them with the right conditions where they can have affordable price, everybody will choose the original.

Speaking about Bangladesh, we have agreed as a company, we have provided Bangladesh a special pricing for the end customers, both for home users and businesses. Another thing which I am also going to mention is that once people understand keeping data in their premises is not enough, it is good to have something in the cloud, the cloud will grow and with the growth of cloud I think that the price will shrink.

FINTECH: Could you talk a about your future plans for emerging markets like Bangladesh?

Maxim: Speaking about emerging markets, we are already in the process, we have signed with partners who are as passionate as Dhaka Distributors about developing business. We signed new contracts, distributorships in India, in Indonesia, in Philippines. We will be signing very soon with partners in Myanmar, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. We will find out special partners in Nepal as well.

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