Interview with Amit Walia & Brian Greene, Symantec

By on March 11, 2012
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We talk tough about backup practices in the region.

Last week Symantec announced a bold initiative to change the way that backups were being run, specifically targeting businesses in the region that were at risk of losing valuable data due to incorrect data backups. I sat down for a chat with Amit Walia, VP of Product Management and Brian Greene Senior Director of Product Management with Symantec to find out just how the company was looking to make this ‘backup revolution’ a reality.

You’ve recently announced Symantec Backup Exec 2012 – the software is already an industry leader in backup and recovery, so what could you possibly have added to make it even more robust?
We launched BackupExec 2010 two years ago, and we usually don’t wait two years for a release; we release a new version every year. We literally redesigned the user experience from the ground up. To give you an example, BackupExec has been around for more than thirty years and we know how our customers use our product, we know the best practices for backup policies, and we know the biggest pains that hinder our customers. We’ve been adding new technologies to our products year on year, and it’s made the entire experience extremely complicated. SMBs for example don’t have the expertise that Enterprises will have with dedicated staff. They just want to run their backup and that’s it.

So we thought about spending two years and redoing the user experience from the ground up. If you look at the product now, we’ve eliminated the process of running jobs. So what we now focus on is the resource that you’re trying to protect, so each resource or server now becomes a logical unit in the product. You can then club these servers by a site, by location, by importance, by type, whatever you need. We’ve made it just so easy to manage your servers and resources that anyone can get into it. Changing user experience is always the hardest thing to do because users are familiar with the interface and don’t want to switch to anything different. But the response we got and keep getting is that we did the right thing.

You had a public beta for BackupExec 2012 running from December – what kind of feedback did you get from that?
We were, for lack of a better word, nervous. We’re making it simple but we’re changing something fundamentally – we’re creatures of habit and it’s not always easy to adapt to something that looks or behaves differently. But the feedback we received from the beta was extremely positive – before we released it to the public for testing we gave it to our QA engineers, and after the first day they remarked that they never wanted to see the old version ever again! The same thing happened to our customers who had been using BackupExec for a really long time; after they tried out the product they realized that all that feedback that users had been giving us ended up in this version of BackupExec. So we’re really glad with the results from the beta and where the product has reached. It has changed the way that people look at backups entirely and reduced the time spent actually running their backup.

Cloud computing and storage has come leaps and bounds in the last year – given that Backup is integrated into your 2012 edition, do you think a lot of businesses are now opening up to the idea of storing their backups and data in the cloud?
I think the answer is a yes and a no, and let me explain what I mean by that. In the large enterprise segment they won’t look at the public cloud obviously because of security reasons and the sheer volume of the raw data that would have to be pushed out. So those companies create their own private cloud so that they have the scale to get the benefit of the cloud. Where enterprises may look to public cloud would be for remote backup management or something similar – everything else will stay ring-fenced in their private cloud.

For the SMB the public cloud is absolutely something they can look at. I’m not saying that all companies will charge towards using the cloud, but the momentum is certainly moving quite rapidly. So we created for the small business customer and remote offices. Anything that’s non mission-critical can be put onto the cloud which is a great way of skipping the hassle and costs of getting a physical server up and running. Don’t forget that for the consumer side of things Norton Online Backup is another driving force – in total Symantec manages over 90 petabytes of data across consumers and businesses.

Brian Greene and Amit Walia

The rate at which both personal and corporate data is being accumulated is just staggering – do you think that current storage methodologies are going to be able to scale enough to keep up with this ‘data hoarding’? Or is it getting far too complicated?
I’ll give you a two-step answer to that. First when we mean ‘better backup for all’, we don’t just mean a solution; we also mean backup policies. 70% of data that’s being backed up hasn’t been accessed in 90 days or more. So many companies don’t understand the difference between archive and backup – they think it’s all the same thing. I think we’re still scratching the surface when it comes to backup and storage. The right policy in place can work wonders for an organization and really reduce the amount of time, effort, and cost that goes into running backups. If companies continue to backup and store data that is redundant, it’s going to severely cost them in the long run, not to mention making it difficult to retrieve individual parts of data when they need to. We of course have things like Enterprise Vault for more robust archiving, and recently we acquired a company called Clearwell that specializes in e-discovery to quickly locate a specific file rather than having to restore an entire backup and then look for the file. It’s all about minimizing the complexities of backup and recovery and making it as easy and as accessible as possible.

You did mention in your presentation that there are companies that are backing up to CD and DVD – do you worry that some companies are spending all this money and time on running backups but not actually running through proper policies or recovery situations where they can actually access the data?
I think I see the most problems happening with the small entry-level businesses. They know that they need to be backing up their data, but they don’t always go about it in the right way. They aren’t aware of the risks involved in running incorrect backups, or they assume that all backup solutions are very expensive affairs or technically cumbersome for them to implement. So BackupExec Small Business Edition and are squarely targeted to those customers who don’t have a proper backup strategy. We make it so that within ten minutes they’re able to be up and running their first backup – no hassles whatsoever. We’re not just educating them, but we’re also making it easy to buy and setup the right backup solutions. We’ve patented our processes so that no matter what you’re looking for, you can home in on a particular file or email and recover it in a matter of clicks. Even when it comes to virtual backups we’re making immense strides forward so that you don’t have to mount the entire VM to recover a file, and that’s what makes our customers feel confident when using our solutions.


A former IT & Marketing Manager turned full time Editor, Nick enjoys hurling fireballs and tinkering with the latest gadgets. Follow him on Twitter as @theregos

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