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Acronis Seeks to Disrupt the Enterprise Backup-Restore Software Space

After all these years where companies have used backup and restore software products, you would think that some market equilibrium among the vendors would have been achieved and that there would be little room for market shifts. That may not be the case. A recent CA-sponsored study showed that an emerging approach to backup-restore processes called "recovery management" might cause companies to shift vendors. In the CA study, about 70% of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed to the statement "You would consider switching your backup solution to one that integrates with your replication solution." So a strategy for upsetting current market equilibrium is to replace straight backup-restore with broader recovery management solutions.

In contrast, Acronis is attempting a different strategy. The company is a player in SMB backup and restore, but with a new product introduction is attempting to not only maintain its traditional strengths in the SMB space, but also to make significant inroads into the enterprise.

Acronis' approach qualifies as "disruptive innovation," a term coined by Clayton Christensen and popularized in his seminal book "The Innovator's Dilemma." In one example of disruptive innovation, a company at the bottom of the market moves up by offering a product that may be simpler than competitors' but delivers "good enough" performance with compensating benefits, such as lower price.

Now purists may debate whether or not the Acronis approach really qualifies as "disruptive innovation", but, if it succeeds, the distinction may be moot. And of course there are significant challenges in the way of the company's success, such as trying to gain traction and mind share in the face of larger and better financed competitors. But regardless of the outcome (and Acronis may not have to acquire that much market share in the enterprise space to justify its entry), it is still illustrative to look at what the company is trying to achieve.

Acronis' traditional product is called Acronis?? True Image Echo, which focused on the backup and restore needs of SMBs although enterprises could use it in remote and branch office situations. Now the company is offering Acronis?? Backup & Recovery??? 10, which it describes as an evolution of and replacement for Acronis True Image. Existing customers will find 100% of the functionality of Acronis True Image in the new product and can upgrade to Acronis Backup and Recovery 10 as part of their existing maintenance agreements.

However, about half the Acronis Backup and Recovery 10 code is new and Acronis also describes the product as using a new architecture, a necessary point because the company claims that Acronis Backup and Recovery 10 scales to 10X the number of machines over Acronis True Image Echo. That makes sense as SMBs typically do not require the horsepower that enterprise-class backup and restore installations provide.

While necessary, however, increased scalability alone is not sufficient to play in the enterprise space as well as among SMBs. Additional functionality is also required, and one Acronis Backup and Recovery 10 enhancement is in the ever more popular area of data deduplication. From a pricing perspective, Acronis claims to be the first vendor to bring affordable deduplication to the masses by simply offering it as an optional add-on charge on the workstations or server side rather than on the storage side. The result is a known fixed cost (based on which advanced workstation or advanced server version of the software is used) instead of a variable cost which grows as the need to protect more data expands.

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