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07 Nov 2010
(4.5 Stars out of Possible 5)
Reviewed on November 7, 2010
The Asigra Universe
Asigra Cloud backup is a product of choice for service providers; IT constrained organizations and industries with compliant mandates. This product–created by Asigra Inc– enables service providers to hit the ground running and go to market with ease. It offers a solution that is built around reliability, accountability, efficiency and security. Complexity is leached out of the backup environment as the powerful backup engine, agentless architecture with a central management console, data de-duplication capabilities, compression, encryption, archiving, protection of virtual or physical environments and laptops in the field offered in a single turnkey solution. The product also has significant advantages over traditional solutions by virtue of its agility in adopting and integrating the latest technical breakthroughs in protecting the evolving IT environments at a very low risk to the end user.
The latest version 10 of the software takes a technological leap forward by providing groundbreaking and comprehensive protection for laptops, desktops, servers, and data centers. While exploiting the potential of all the latest technologies in the market to create its product, Asigra allows clients the freedom to opt for private or public cloud environments or use the hybrid model to their advantage.
The tiered storage and recovery options meet stringent Recovery Time Objectives (RTO). The agentless, virtual environment friendly, end to end backup and restore facility offers a superior business model that makes the multi-client service provider’s business easier to operate; manage and grow. The secure, tiered storage and recovery software is primarily built for multi-tenant environments like the cloud and supports heterogeneous platforms. The product is customizable and scalable through the use of open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), extensively used by Asigra Service Providers (SPs) to integrate their own or third-party applications to extend their customer reach and create new revenue opportunities for these SPs.
Asigra, Inc is a privately held, vibrantly futuristic backup storage and recovery company headquartered in Toronto, Canada. The company, established in 1986, is always a step ahead– nay a whole era ahead (according to backup analysts)– in creating and deploying backup systems that anticipate every need of its 100,000 sites protected via 1,000 partners, across the globe.
The idea of designing and developing a Cloud backup software that would help backup service providers and MSP’s become instantly distributed era ready, was seeded by David Farajun, the CEO and founder of the company. Nearly three decades of innovation and strategic partnerships have resulted in the development of a product that offers the best of the breed backup storage and restore software; support services for new and existing service providers, IT constrained organizations and industries with compliance mandates.
David and the team at Asigra have invested a lot of time and energy in providing thought leadership in backup technology standardization forums and platforms. The unwavering focus has remained on harnessing, streamlining and integrating a number of new technologies and marketing tools seamlessly into its product to advantage its clientele and reduce risks of new technology adoption.
Asigra Vision & Mission
ASIGRA means ASSURANCE, and the name was derived from the Latin, Asigura, which mean insurance. The vision and mission of the company is to create a reliable, accountable, flexible, multi-tenant backup storage/ restore technology that can be deployed by MSP’s as a service or sold as a product by resellers. They aim to be the cloud backup experts who enable Managed Service Providers (MSPs) to provide Data Protection (DP), Disaster Recovery (DR) and Business Continuity services to enterprises of all sizes, regardless of whether they are looking for a public cloud (off-site), private cloud (on premise) or hybrid cloud solution. To this end, they offer a turnkey solution Asigra Cloud Backup.
The current team consists of:
Asigra Company Profile
Name: Asigra, Inc.
Asigra Service Providers and Channel Partners Include:
HP, CDW, Terremark, SunGard, Bell Canada, Cincinnati Bell, Telecom Italia, British Telecom, Vodafone, Backup-Technology, Storage Guardian, CoreVault, SecurStore, DataStorageCorp, Amerivault, DataBarracks,Â eTegrity, E-Ternity, BackupMyInfo, Consonus, OnCoreIT, FifoSys, Consonus, Yotta280, and hundreds more.
Customers using Asigra include: The British Red Cross, Save the Children, Liverpool Football Club, Masterlock, Trump International Hotel, and many others.
Key Features of Asigra Cloud Backup
An Agentless Backup Architecture
Asigra is unlike most traditional backup software. It is agentless! Traditional backup software requires the installation of software agents on all host servers and application servers that need to be backed up. Software agents are small programs that control other programs and enables decisions on appropriateness of an action initiated on the system. The agent management is complex and riddled with difficulties as multiple operating systems and revision level managerial issues need to be handled. The complexity is enhanced when other software deployments demand agent installations on the same host server causing agent pollution of the worst kind. Most agents cost money, require manual upgrades (in case of hot fixes or version upgrades), are resource intensive using up hardware resources of the server they reside on and are a security risk because they require an open port on the firewall. By removing the need to have an agent installed on the host server, Asigra has, in one stroke, removed a vast amount of operational complexity.
So, what exactly is installed and where? The Asigra Cloud backup software installs on a single host inside a LAN and is accessible from all systems connected to it–whatever the platform or application that is in use. This architecture makes it non invasive and centrally administrable. All upgrades can be applied silently using the central console and troubleshooting can be localized to the host machine. Service Providers can also mass-deploy and silently install Asigra software to hundreds and thousands of remote sites within minutes.
Virtual servers can be protected, just as individual machines, on the network, can enjoy the freedom from unnecessary installations of backup agents.
Asigra offers military grade security to end-users. It is FIPS 140-2(1) certified. This implies that Asigra Cloud Backup meets all the stringent requirements, measurements and technology standards that have been laid down by the National Institute of Standards (NIST). It also satisfies the cryptographic or encryption standards of the Federal Information Processing Standards Publications (FIPS PUBS). Interestingly, Asigra is the only agentless cloud backup platform to receive this certification. Asigra software supports password rotation, key escrow management and military grade encryption to provide multiple layers of security demanded by multi-tenant cloud environments.
State of Art De-duplication Techniques
One of the efficiencies that distinguish Asigra from other backup storage and restore software options is the state of art de-duplication techniques that have been built in. The de-duplication efforts are initiated even as data is captured, ingested, stored or transmitted over the network. A number of methodologies are pressed into service to achieve the desired data capture efficiencies for data volume reductions such as de-duplication, incremental backup; compression; iterative data comparisons and referential storage of information wherein common data is stored at a single location and changed data is stored with a stub or pointer to the original location. This results in large-scale space saving at a local as well as a global level.
The important thing to understand about Asigra’s de-duplication is that it happens on two separate levels.
The first level is local de-duplication whereby the client de-duplicates all data that it can see on a site, reducing backup windows and the amount of bandwidth required. Because Asigra’s de-duplication works on digital signatures (even if files have different names), Asigra still recognizes that it is a duplicate file.
The second level is global de-duplication or common file elimination, which occurs when the customers’ data is stored in the DS system. Not only does the DS system need to store only one copy of each operating system, but it will also de-duplicate data across all DS clients for each customer. This two-stage de-duplication significantly reduces data sizes, resulting in cost savings for the customers.
Mass Deployment Functionality
Asigra is a user aware product that effectively reduces operational costs and human capital requirements. While incorporating the mass deployment functionality, Asigra ensures that IT operators do not have an uphill task. The IT Operators and end users are empowered by the product itself, in creating, deploying and configuring the software across desktops, laptops, virtual machines and remote sites. Microsoft Active Directory and MSI files can be leveraged to an advantage by administrators for the installation of DS-Mobile clients.
The XML configuration files (that can be generated, edited and saved) ensure flexibility of installation, automation and configuration of DS-Client software. Templates are generously integrated for standardization, ease of administration and troubleshooting. The silent mode installation for MSI-DS-Mobile client makes for reduced installation parameters, as many of the values are pre-defined for standardization and for provision of low-touch technology.
Continuous Data Protection
The highlight of the software is the Continuous Data Protection (CDP) Feature. Asigra’s Cloud Backup enables Point in Time recovery through this feature. CDP is an automatic initiation of backup of data every time the data changes in real time with a time stamp for every change. Point in time recovery implies that users can recover their data from the point at which the data crash occurred by merely selecting the relevant time-stamped backup of the data.
Significantly, Asigra allows the Administrator to set the granularity of change that can be backed up by the system on a continuous basis. Since there are no set backup schedules, backup windows or other backup associated issues, the numbers of Recovery Point Objectives (RPO) are infinite and there is a continuous monitoring of changes to the specified target files. This backup option can also be applied to email systems with equal ease. The visible advantages of the CDP system are: increased Service Level Agreement (SLA) compliance, Flexible RPO’s and immediate real time protection of critical data. Data saved on to the backup system can also be simultaneously saved on to local storage and transported off-site physically to a central repository.
CDP can be used to significantly benefit customers in a Disaster Recovery scenario. Asigra can backup Exchange at Database level and individual email level. So, it is possible to combine a daily Exchange data base backup with a CDP set, protecting the individual emails. For instance, if the customer’s Exchange fails at 4PM in the afternoon, Asigra’s software would recover the Exchange Database from the previous night’s backup and then recover the individual emails on top with CDP, up to the point in time of the failure. This feature is very critical; and not many companies offer this service.
Bare Metal Restore
Asigra’s Bare Metal works on dissimilar hardware. This means that so you can recover from old hardware to new or from new to old. This flexibility is key in a disaster recovery. This is one of the features that make Asigra stand out from the crowd.
Customer On-Boarding is a feature that also distinguishes Asigra Cloud Backup from other traditional backups. Service providers can deliver profitable cloud backup services with lower operational costs and almost no Time-To-Market (TTM) deployments.
Managed Service Providers (MSPs) see great value in Asigra software. The software allows the MSP create multi-level service options with different SLAs and price levels of their choice. Using MSI installations and templates they can administer hundreds, even thousands of laptops, desktops and virtual machines from a central location. They can host web portals that allow their customers create/manage accounts or backup data on to a central vault of the MSP. If the MSP chooses, they can opt for the consultative features of the software that allows them a more hands on approach to customer requirements. In short, Asigra allows the MSP to customize the software in accordance to their needs.
Service providers attempting to distinguish themselves in the competitive backup service market will find Asigra’s customizable APIs a huge advantage. These APIs facilitate tight integration of 3rd party applications that MSPs have or are developing with existing Asigra product to extend the MSP’s reach and define new revenue yielding avenues.
The Web Portal API allows the MSP to incorporate management functionalities into the web interface or to manage the DS-System.
The DS Client and the DS Mobile Client API GUI can be redefined to reflect the brand of the MSP, while retaining the basic features of the original application, reducing the time required for training or learning. The documentation, too, is sufficiently detailed and in an easy to read format. This helps the development team get off the ground almost instantaneously.
DS System / DS Client
Asigra’s DS-System and DS-Client are the core of the cloud backup system architecture. It is this system that enables Asigra Cloud Backup function without agents and also makes it extremely scalable. It is composed of two major components– DS-Client installed at the edge of the cloud and DS-System that is installed at the vaulting location on Windows, Mac or Linux Operating systems.
Additional backup loads, multiple operating systems, servers, databases, applications and storage environments can be integrated and supported seamlessly. A number of heterogeneous network backup requirements can be addressed and data can be transmitted securely to the DS-System on-site or off-site via an IP WAN. Normally, administrator privileges are defined on the DS-Client and any number of DS-Clients can be installed on a LAN/WAN, as no licenses are required [except the End User License Agreement (EULA)]. A number of additional components are also available in the software to enhance the functionality of the already powerful system configuration.
Standalone DS-System configurations are also permitted when the DS-system is installed on Windows or Linux operating systems. The DS-System software manages the online storage. This system requires a license and the license will determine the capabilities of the system and the services that are available to the user. The license may authorize the DS-System to be used to provide backup/restore services to a single or multiple DS-Clients associated with a single account or multiple accounts or operating on different operating systems. Standalone DS-Systems are secured in a remote location with a storage architecture that may be Direct-Attached-Disk, SAN or NAS depending on the DS-System type and how high you wish to scale the system.
N+1 DS-Systems can also be installed on Windows or Linux platforms and is extremely scalable to allow for incrementing the backup service. Multiple N+1 DS-Systems can be made to work together. The architecture allows the MSP to add more nodes in the N+1 configuration and also increase storage using the Extensible storage functionality. The purpose of this architecture is to facilitate survival of the system in the event of failure of some nodes in the backup service.
Asigra Support for Virtualized Environments:
Asigra is cloud ready backup software. While some traditional backup/restore software fail to deliver service at a granular level, the Asigra solution supports both physical and virtual machines at increasingly granular levels at cost structures that are advantageous and attractive.
Hyper-V, VMWare and XenServer environments are impeccably supported by the agentless Asigra solution. A number of existing installations stand testimony to the claim. Agent installations, agent management, agent pollution, agent overheads, security risks arising from agent installations or impacts on Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) performance are problems that do not exist in the Asigra universe. The feature set is tailored to the virtual environment and is completely focused on information protection and recovery management. The DS-Client and DS-System transform themselves into Virtual appliances in a virtual environment; and the resulting architecture is simple to implement, operate and manage.
Asigra Cloud Backup also removes many of the hassles that are associated with protection and recovery of data stored in virtual machines and meets many of the data protection mandates that industries face. The software recognizes new guest virtual machines; centralizes backup configuration and management, minimizes initial backup job configurations and eases ongoing management, supports multiple backup sets and provides broad application and operating system support. All this, is further buttressed by the agentless backup system, the CDP feature, incremental backup capabilities and virtual machine based backup forms.
Supports All Platforms
Asigra Cloud Backup supports all operating system platforms including Linux, Mac and Windows. Asigra also supports Novell, AS400, HP-UX, DB formats (SQL, Oracle, DB2), Email formats (Exchange and individual emails), GroupWise, Lotus Notes and more.
The famed flexibility of Asigra Cloud Backup extends to the tiered recovery framework. The system acknowledges that different users need to categorize their data in different ways. Therefore, users are permitted to define and set different Recovery Point Objectives (RPO’s) and Recovery Time Objectives (RTO’s) for different categories of data. This is further facilitated by the multi-tier recovery system that integrates with the Backup Lifecycle Management (BLM) and the Local Backup systems. With the right mix in place, the channel partner can rest assure that they will get the best of the deal.
Increasing Efficiencies: Asigra Tools
Technology alone is insufficient. Technology needs to be managed. Asigra Cloud Backup consciously integrates management efficiencies into the system; and provides access to performance tuners for the different components of the backup/restore technology.
Integrated Backup Lifecycle Management (BLM)
The integrated Backup Lifecycle Management (BLM) system is designed for efficiently categorizing and managing data lifecycles. Critical data that requires more frequent backup can be identified, flagged and backed up to higher performance devices, while less active data can be relegated to lower performance devices. Older versions of files can be transferred to slower devices to save on costs.
Integrated Replication is another offering of Asigra Cloud Backup that ensures data security and redundancy of backup for disaster recovery. Asigra Cloud Backup allows end users copy data off site to a secure location with ease. It also maintains several versions of files as security against man-made or natural disasters. The data can be further protected by replicating one DS-System data vault to another DS-System data vault. The Integrated replication process makes for and allows redundancy, high availability, application specific replication, support for dissimilar hardware and platform configurations, data replication at file level or block level and more. The cost of replication is also not tied to the amount of data replicated; and hence opens up revenue opportunities for backup vendors, who use Asigra Cloud Backup.
Integrated LAN Storage Discovery
Integrated LAN Storage Discovery is another feature that goes a long way towards increasing efficiencies of Asigra Cloud Backup. The Asigra LAN Storage Discovery tool is useful in determining what type and volume of data exists in an organization and optimizing data storage after analyzing data growth over a period of time.
Since all data does not carry equal value in the eyes of the customer, this capability allows the MSP to balance value of their customer’s data to the cost of protecting that data by offering descending cost for older (less valuable) data using BLM.
LAN Discovery can also be run at intervals to gauge data growth or shrinkage within the entire customer environment.
A number of reports can be generated to keep track of changes in volumes within the customer environment and the metrics help understand and forecast backup requirements in unprecedented ways. This feature is valuable to the service provider /enterprise in categorizing data for long-term archive or online vault storage and to balance costs with reference to data value. It has also been pressed into service as a pre-sales tool by several service providers who wish to size data and quote to end users subscribing to their service.
With this Integrated LAN Storage Discovery tool, Asigra’s MSPs can gauge their customer’s environment and accurately provide quotes to end users, saving significant amount of money to the customer, as the customer will only pay for the data that need to be backed up, and avoiding duplicate files.
Integrated Local Only Backup
Local only backup is another value-add to Asigra Cloud Backup. Vendors, who plan to store some data in local vaults, can use this add-on-tool to offload data at a local level. Apart from providing cost savings, local only backups are useful for high speed, low cost restores.
The Local Only Backup feature is offered as an agentless alternative to tape. The process backs up data to the DS-Client via the LAN in compressed formats. The DS-System and the WAN bandwidth are not involved in any way. The backups are stored as independent sets on the DS-Client and can be restored independently. The backup set can also be migrated off-site at will. Further, the Local Only Backup helps the enterprise or service provider align value of data with the cost of protecting it.
Integrated Web Portal
An Integrated Web Portal provides advantages to the service provider or IT constrained organization by providing a single window for all their activities. The service allows service providers/subscribers manage their storage vaults over the Internet. The technician can download and configure the required software on-site. The service provider can access logs, accounts and archive files using the web interface. Browsing, packaging and downloading archives made possible through the Asigra Backup Lifecycle Manager GUI. Resellers can sell vault space to other service providers; or third party service providers can create customer accounts, DS-Client configurations piggyback on another service provider, powered by Asigra Cloud Backup.
Integrated Laptop protection
Asigra Cloud Backup Laptop protection is an offering at the altar of the mobile computing world. It ensures that mission critical data generated, stored and moved around on laptops do not get lost in cyber space. DS-Mobile Client automates the process of laptop backup with a number of intuitive wizards. The built in data reduction techniques perform block level de-duplication and compression activities before transmitting data in encrypted formats over the WAN connection. The simple GUI allows MSPs self brand their products. The mass deployment tools help reduce costs, support backup/recovery and bandwidth usage.
Asigra’s Partner Ecosystem
Asigra’s partner ecosystem has been carefully nurtured and protected by Asigra. The company truly considers its customers, partners’ since they do not sell direct or compete with partners’ and they believe that sharing and caring helps growth all around. The partners’ Managed Service Providers and Resellers, powered by Asigra, include very large billion dollar organizations and very small organizations, too.
Asigra takes pains to network all these partners and encourages them to share their experiences and their woes with each other over the Internet in partner forums and user platforms such as the Cloud Backup Partner Summit that is held annually. Consequently, the partner ecosystem becomes self-supportive and gives user’s access to resources on an unimaginable scale. Additionally, the Cloud Backup experts at Asigra offer consulting services to seekers.
Asigra’s Partners Comments
We asked some of the Asigra partners for their comments as to why they chose to partner with Asigra. The comments seem to confirm with our review and conclusion.
To add to all the pluses, Asigra has put in place a wonderful, committed support system for the benefit of its customers. The profitable, low-risk partner ecosystem created by the company allows clients network strategically with each other and also participate in annual hands on sessions that help them go-to-market at the shortest possible time.
Expert implementation teams and consulting professionals are also deployed by Asigra to assist their clients for on-site deployment of the product.
The Interoperability Testing and Certification Lab is placed at the disposal of clients who wish to test the compatibility of the product before use. Asigra’s training support facilitates learning and helps learners develop skills in the use of the software.
The technical support options include email support and telephonic support on all working days between 9 A.M. EST and 5 P.M. EST or 24/7 support services (subject to Pre-Paid Contract). FAQs, user manuals, technical reports, training classes, software upgrades, and online trouble ticket tracking services are offered on its web portal http://websupport.asigra.com.
The company product is made all the more attractive by its capacity based tiered pricing model. This model aligns the price of data protection to the value/volume of the data to be protected. The “pay-as-you-grow” pricing model ensures that users only pay for the space that they actually use to store their data. This puts the customer wholly in control of their backup storage expenses, while exploiting the most comprehensive service delivery platform that is available in the market.
Multi-Dimensional, Multi-Tiered Billing System
Asigra is conscious that the bottom line is revenue. The greater the revenue their partners earn, the greater their loyalty to the company; and the greater their own bottom lines. So, Asigra has taken great care to ensure that the Asigra Cloud Backup software provisions for a multi-dimensional, multi-tiered billing system that will save the MSP time and expense and will enable them get to market instantaneously.
SLA Monitoring and Management
Asigra Cloud Backup SLA (Service Level Agreement) monitoring and management tool is an add-on that makes SLA management a breeze. Service providers can now track their subscribers and the SLAs without investing thousands of dollars on creating automated systems that will help them accomplish this time consuming chore.
Asigra Cloud Backup is security aware software. User roles can be assigned, and access to the data vault can be secured via the user management interface. Business users such as the CEO or VP can be given different rights and permissions from technical operators. Multi-level security can be built in at the User Admin level with ease.
The Future Roadmap
Asigra does not wait for the future to manifest itself. It defines the future. Asigra’s market strength lies in it is ability to deliver what it promises; its agility in adopting the latest technologies and seamlessly integrating them with the backup/recovery software and ensuring security, reliability and absolute accountability at all times. In short, the direction of growth of the backup and storage software industry will be mapped by the way in which innovations are adopted, absorbed and integrated by Asigra.
Asigra has remained a proactive and futuristic company throughout its existence. It does not seem to lose the drive to excel. Every lacuna identified fuels new research and every new technology entering the market is seen as an opportunity for improving the product. It is no wonder that ten major versions of Asigra Cloud Backup have been released since Asigraâ€™s incorporation in 1986.
The customer list at Asigra reads like a “Who’s Who” of the backup and storage industry. Household companies like HP, Microsoft, Red Cross, US Air Force, CDW, Terremark, SunGard, Bell Canada, Cincinnati Bell, Telecom Italia, British Telecom, and Vodafone; and renowned Global 2000 enterprises, have partnered with Asigra in reducing Total Cost of Ownership and advantaging themselves with the transformational, cost effective solutions that have been provided by Asigra.
Leading online data backup and recovery companies like, Backup-Technology, Storage Guardian, CoreVault, SecurStore, DataStorageCorp, Amerivault, DataBarracks, eTegrity, E-Ternity, BackupMyInfo, Consonus, OnCoreIT, FifoSys, Consonus, Yotta280, Terremark, and many others, have also partnered with Asigra to provide online cloud data backup and recovery services.
Improved security, unlimited scalability, support for virtual environments, and throughput that support business requirements, while enabling low cost long-term data retention, make Asigra a product of choice.
The Backup Lifecycle Management (BLM) and other built in tools that increase backup efficiencies and align the data value with the storage medium provide high performance storage options that are wholly desirable. The fact that Asigra has not had a single disaster in the 26 years of its existence also stands as a testimony to the robustness of its product.
Asigra has been hosting a great resource summit for its community members to meet on a yearly basis in Toronto. This event has helped not only Asigra, but also the entire network of its resellers as they share their experiences. Not all online backup software developers and enablers offer such services.
Asigra sees its resellers as very valuable partners; Asigra, long ago, understood that without its community members, it wouldn’t be where it is today. Many professionals in the backup industry consider Asigra as the “Microsoft of backup software”. MSPs, Resellers and customers of Asigra can have no regrets. As an online data backup service provider, if you have chosen to board the Asigra bandwagon, you have chosen well. Asigra is your partner in progress.
As a company planning to become an Asigra reseller, as with any software, partners will need to have a higher level of IT skills and expertise as platform customization is required in the backend. However, end users will have no problem using the software. Asigra has been refined through the years based on the feedback of its partners; and it really doesn’t have any major feature lacking.
It is because of all of these features and strengths that many online backup companies, powered by Asigra, have mainly made and continue to make our top 75 online cloud backup picks in our monthly rankings.
(1) FIPS 140-2 is the standard for security requirements for cryptographic modules by The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). NIST is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Federal Information Processing Standards Publications (FIPS PUBS) are issued by the NIST.
© November 2010 BackupReview.info
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