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This content is part of the Essential Guide: Essential guide to disaster recovery and business continuity

Asigra cloud backup software switches to recovery-based licensing

Asigra develops 'novel concept' for licensing cloud backup software -- it charges customers according to how much data they restore.

In an attempt to better compete with commodity cloud backup providers, cloud backup software vendor Asigra this week unveiled a new pricing model that charges customers according to how much data they recover, rather than how much they back up.

Asigra Cloud Backup software is sold through service providers. The Toronto-based vendor claims to support 1 million customer sites across six continents, but is facing increased competition from new entrants into the cloud backup market. Along with its Recovery License Model, the vendor also released Asigra Cloud Backup 12.2 this week, which includes backup and recovery for Google Apps.

Asigra has used a per-GB capacity licensing model since 1992, about two decades before most other popular backup apps switched from agent-based licensing to capacity licensing. Asigra is agent-free, so agent licensing was not an option.

Now that most competitors also license by capacity, Asigra Executive Vice President Eran Farajun said, "We think that model has run its course and is unsustainable over time. The growth of data is just too fast, and as customers back up more data, the cost goes up and up. Customers come back and constantly ask for discounts. That's not good for customers, and not good for the industry."

Asigra does still charge for capacity backed up, but at a reduced rate. Most of the cost will be for the amount of data that is recovered. The higher percentage of data recovered, the higher the per GB cost.

"We felt the industry was again pricing on the wrong metric," Farajun said. "It's not fair. Customers back up for recovery, and nobody recovers all of their data. Our model is based on how much -- or really how little -- data you recover."

Under the new model, Asigra places minimum and maximum caps based on the percentage of data recovered. The highest rate is 50 cents per GB per month for customers who recovered 25% of their data over the previous six months, and the lowest rate is $0.167 per GB per month for customers who recovered 5% or less. The maximum cap keeps license fees from soaring if a catastrophic event causes a customer to recover all or most of its data in a short period. Farajun said the 5% minimum is "because Asigra still needs to make money."

There is a sliding pricing scale for customers who recover between 5% and 25% of their data. The cost for backup is fixed at $0.166 per GB per month. Asigra also offers scheduled disaster recovery drills at seven cents per GB. Customers can purchase the drills as part of the license and schedule them one month in advance.

Asigra provides an example of a company backing up 10 TB. Based on list price, its recovery license is 50 cents/GB (the maximum) for the first six months for $5,120, and its backup license is $0.166 per GB for $1,699 per month. That totals $6,819 per month for six months. If a company recovers only 5% of its data over those six months, its recovery costs drop to $0.167 per GB for the next six months. That comes to $1,710 for recovery -- counting drills -- plus the $1,699 backup license for a total of $3,409 per month.

A company that recovers 25% over the first six months would stay at the $6,819 per month rate for the second six months. Even the worst-case pricing is roughly the same as the current industry list price average of 66 cents per GB, Farajun said. He claimed the new pricing model will bring customers savings of around 40% immediately and 60% in the long term.

The amount of data recovered is measured by the Asigra Recovery Tracker analytics engine, which the vendor makes available to its service providers and enterprise customers. It shows the number of recoveries performed, the amount of data recovered, the source of data losses and the reason for restores.

"You pay according to how much you restore. That's a novel concept," said Dave Simpson, senior storage analyst at New York-based 451 Research. "The question is: How will Asigra's partners react to it?"

Farajan said Asigra's service provider customers can stay with capacity pricing if they choose, but he doesn't expect many to do that.

One Asigra partner, Backup Technology CEO Simon Chappell, called the change a "big gamble" and "really ambitious," but said he is strongly in favor. U.K.-based Backup Technology claims to protect more than 10 PB of data in private and public clouds, mostly in the U.K. and U.S. Chappell said the new pricing will help him compete with small cloud backup providers who win deals strictly on pricing, even if their services can't match some of Asigra's higher-end features.

Chappell said the change won't immediately affect most of his current customers, who are under contract from one to three years. It is aimed mainly at attracting new business.

"This will help us in deals where we've been losing on price," Chappell said. "I hope we can start winning some of those back. A lot of commodity low-end providers are selling at 10 cents a GB. No matter how hard you try to differentiate yourself, customers still say in the end, 'It's 10 cents a GB'; now we have an answer for that."

Latest version protects Google Drive

Asigra's 12.2 software upgrade includes cloud-to-cloud recovery for Google Apps, single-pass recovery for Microsoft applications and enhanced virtual disaster recovery (VDR).

Asigra now backs up data that customers store on Google Drive, as well as email, contacts and calendar information. Backups can be performed by administrators or end users, and can restore all data or individual items. This is the second app Asigra supports for cloud-to-cloud backup -- it added backup in November 2012.

Asigra's VDR feature for quick recovery of failed virtual machines now supports incremental restores for faster failover and failback, as well as LAN-free backup and recovery using the storage area network. Asigra claims recovery speeds up to 2 TB per hour.

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