50 Smartest Companies of the Year 2023

An innovator delivering excellent, one-of-a-kind backup storage: ExaGrid

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The daily news is all we need to glance at to become aware of the growing risk posed by cyberattacks. We have seen a significant increase in cybercrime in recent years, which has been largely attached to the popularity of remote work. Emerging technologies like 5G and AI, as well as the rising collaboration among and between cybercrime groups, are a cause for concern. Whatever justification you choose, it is obvious that data backup is crucial for your company. And while notable hacks at well-known companies may be the most widely publicized, no company is completely risk-free.

How quickly can your company recover if data is lost as a result of a breach or due to any other reason? Data backup is essential for protecting crucial company data for every organization. Additionally, while data backup won’t shield you against a cyberattack, it will allow for your recovery. Globally, there are various companies delivering excellent data backup products and ExaGrid stands out from the rest. ExaGrid heard organizations’ frustration with “typical” industry support practices and created an innovative approach to customer support. ExaGrid was founded on the concept of creating a company that is focused on improving the ingest performance, restore performance, scalability, security, disaster recovery, and the cost of backup storage. No other company was 100% focused on this, and today, ExaGrid is the only company solely focused on backup storage.

In conversation with Bill Andrews, President and CEO of ExaGrid

Q. What was the motivation behind starting ExaGrid?

The motivation is that we didn’t see it then, and we still don’t see, any company focused on backup storage. What do I mean by that? When you look at backup storage, you tend to either see people take the primary storage that they use for files and try to use it in backup, which does not translate well, or they buy inline scale-up data deduplication appliances, which reduces the amount of storage, but the way they do deduplication is not good for backup performance, scalability, security, etc. So, we thought there was a need or a gap in the market for a company to focus exclusively on backup storage.

We decided to create a product that solves all of the issues that organizations face with backup storage, including: fast ingest for backup jobs, and fast restore performance so you can get users up to speed very quickly if you have to restore data; scalability, so the backup window stays fixed in length as data grows; Disaster recovery, so that organizations recover after any kind of man-made disaster or natural disaster, like an earthquake, fire, or a tornado; comprehensive security, with the ability to recover from a ransomware attack. And a way to control the cost of storage as you do this. In backup, you keep a lot of retention—you keep weeklies, monthlies, and yearly reports for regulatory reasons, financial audit reasons, and legal discovery reasons. As a result, the backup storage really grows, and therefore you want to be able to contain those costs.

Q. Can you explain about your services in brief?

ExaGrid provides Tiered Backup Storage appliances for IT data centers, IT Outsourcers, and Managed Service Providers. We sell backup storage appliances which sit in the data center rack. We sell to larger organizations, in the upper mid-market through the small enterprise into the enterprise and large enterprise, and we sell to organizations in all verticals from insurance companies to banks, healthcare to retail, national and local government, education, etc. Our appliances sit behind a backup application, and we bring fast, cost-effective, scalable, and secure backup storage to those data centers.

Q. What are the significant challenges that you have faced in this sector and how did you overcome those challenges?

Traditional backup storage solutions are typically either primary storage or inline scale-up data deduplication appliances which are not designed for backup and therefore are slow for backups and restores; don’t scale, resulting in expanding backup windows; use network-facing connections, which compromises security; and are very costly due to long-term retention.

Q. How do you maintain the affordability of your products?

ExaGrid’s affordability is the result of our unique approach to architecture and deduplication. Our architecture uses a distributed approach. Each appliance has a processor, memory, networking, and storage, as a result, we’re able to distribute that across a number of appliances.  Up to 32 appliances can be used in a single scale-out system, and

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that allows us to use a lower-speed processor because we’re adding processors with every group of disks. On top of that, we provide data deduplication. So, we take the data in the back end of our appliances for long-term retention, compare it to the previous backup, and only save the changes which allows us to save on a much smaller footprint of storage, which also greatly reduces the amount of storage required.

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Q. How do you deal with the privacy concerns surrounding the use of storage devices?

ExaGrid Tiered Backup Storage includes comprehensive security features and is the only backup storage solution with a non-network-facing tier (tiered air gap), delayed deletes, and immutable data objects to ensure the highest security.

Q. There are other experts in this field. What makes you unique/do you have an “it” factor?

ExaGrid is the only Tiered Backup Storage provider and our appliances offer a unique front-end Landing Zone for the fastest backups and restores; a scale-out architecture to maintain a fixed-length backup window as data grows; providing the only non-network-facing Repository Tier to store all long-term data with a tiered air gap along with delayed deletes and immutable data objects to be able to recover from a ransomware attack; and offers industry-leading disaster recovery options.

Another quality that sets ExaGrid apart is its unique Customer Support model. ExaGrid’s industry-leading level 2 senior support engineers are assigned to individual customers, ensuring they always work with the same engineer. Customers never have to repeat themselves to various support staff, and issues get resolved quickly. In addition, all of the support engineers are ExaGrid employees, and we have support engineers located in each region (Americas, EMEA, and Asia Pacific) that speak the local languages.

Q. High upfront cost has always been a major concern in the storage segment. How affordable is your product?

ExaGrid has advanced data deduplication to greatly reduce the amount of backup storage required, based on long-term retention, which greatly reduces cost. Most backup applications offer a 2:1 to 5:1 data deduplication ratio. ExaGrid offers an average of 20:1, which is far more storage-efficient. ExaGrid can actually take in deduplicated data from backup applications such as Commvault and Veeam and further deduplicate the data. This is yet another ExaGrid exclusive.

Q. What are the future trends to watch out for in the storage segment?

In the backup storage segment, many customers believe the SSD (Solid State Disk) will speed up their backups. However, most SSD is optimized for small database transaction files and not for large backup jobs and therefore is actually slower for backups than ExaGrid. In addition, SSD is very expensive per terabyte, and due to long-term backup retention (keeping weekly, monthly, and yearly backups), the cost becomes exorbitant for backup.

Q. Do you have any new services ready to be launched?

ExaGrid will be releasing new features in August/September 2023, and then again in December 2023. We look forward to announcing the new features at that time.

Q. What does the future hold for your company and its customers? Are exciting things on the way?

ExaGrid’s future product roadmap is the most exciting that we’ve ever had. The market is huge and ExaGrid’s goal is to have a revenue top line of $1B (one billion). I’ve been here a long time, and I am more excited about our roadmap from now until the end of 2024 than I’ve been about any other period of time. We’ve got a lot coming out in the next year and a half.

Q. Is there anything you would like to tell our readers before we wind up?

The one thing we want to tell everyone is that there’s a lot more to backup storage than what meets the eye. You just can’t simply throw any storage into backup. The storage architecture you choose makes a huge difference on the performance of your backups and restores, your ability to scale, disaster recovery, and security.

We highly encourage two things:

  1. That everybody should test the product they choose. Lots of products make big claims, and we’re confident enough that we believe everybody should test them, including our product. If you test first, I think you’ll be shocked at how many of the big claims out there aren’t true. And we’re willing to stand behind our claims by having customers test before they buy.
  2. Be aware that vendors, without mentioning names, constantly mis-size the amount of storage people need, and then organizations run out of storage in three, six, or nine months when they thought they were buying for three years.

So, customers need to be very wary or concerned when they get quotes for a certain amount of storage for a backup, because often it is undersized and there’s not enough storage. And one of the things ExaGrid prides itself on is our sizing tools and our ability to size correctly. And we’ve got hundreds of customer references that will attest to that.

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About the leader behind the success of ExaGrid in his own words

Bill Andrews, President and CEO

I’ve been in the high-tech industry at software and hardware companies for over 30 years, only selling and marketing to the IT data center. My whole expertise lives and breathes all around the IT data center. I spend all my time talking to IT folks, building products for IT folks, and making sure we support IT folks. I’ve never sold products targeted at Finance, HR, or marketing departments. Every product that I’ve worked with in my career has always been an infrastructure product for the IT data center. And I think that expertise has translated to the innovations we have made at ExaGrid. We have a leading backup storage product and leading customer support. We know what customers want, how they want it, and how they want to be supported. And I think that just comes from years of experience by listening to IT staff.

“With ExaGrid’s Tiered Backup Storage, each appliance in the system brings with it not only disk, but also memory, bandwidth, and processing power – all the elements needed to maintain high backup and restore performance.”