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Zerto update adds ransomware defense and simplifies backup

Zerto 9 rolls out immutability for Amazon S3 and rapid VM recovery as anti-ransomware measures, and expands the platform's automation and long-term retention capabilities.

Zerto's 9.0 update became generally available this week, with features aimed at ransomware defense and automating key backup processes.

On the anti-ransomware side, Zerto added immutability for Amazon S3 environments and the ability to restore production VMs within minutes using a local journal. The immutability uses Amazon's S3 object lock APIs to make selected data stores unchangeable for a period of time, preventing malware from making changes to customers' data.

If a ransomware attack is successful and large stores of data are rendered unusable, Zerto's new rapid VM recovery lets customers revert production VMs back to an earlier point in time. This feature enables in-place restores from the local journal instead of failing over to a secondary site first.

Zerto's journal is installed on production-grade hardware, so this recovery can happen in minutes. It also allows customers to quickly revert to other journal checkpoints if there are problems with the initial restore point.

Additionally, since Zerto's journaling technology continually captures the state of environments, recovery points are very granular, allowing customers to revert to a point in time seconds before an outage occurred.

Immutable doesn't mean undeletable, said Gijsbert Janssen van Doorn, director of product management at Zerto. No single tool or feature, or even combination of them, provides full protection against ransomware attacks. Therefore, the best anti-ransomware tactic is to layer a variety of defenses and recovery features together to ensure that customers have options both for preventing the attack and for restoring data after a successful one, van Doorn said.

It's important to have as many layers as you can, and immutability is one of those layers.
Gijsbert Janssen van DoornDirector of product management, Zerto

"It's important to have as many layers as you can, and immutability is one of those layers," van Doorn said.

Zerto 9 also introduced support for more S3-compatible environments, including Cloudian, Amazon S3 Infrequent Access, S3 Glacier, Azure Blob Cool and Azure Archive, to provide more options for long-term retention. Customers set retention policies for their data sets in Zerto's interface, and the software automatically puts them in the most cost-effective tier.

Additionally, Zerto's new rapid VM recovery feature can pull directly from long-term retention repositories if needed, though this will not be as fast as recovering from the local journal.

Zerto backup management was also simplified in this update. Zerto 9 can detect newly added VMs and assign backup policies to them via tags (such as VMware vSphere tags). Instead of manually configuring protection for each one, customers can apply the right tags while onboarding new workloads and Zerto will automatically protect them.

Screenshot of Zerto 9
Zerto 9 enabled immutability through Amazon S3's object lock APIs.

Alongside this, Zerto introduced a new type of virtual protection group (VPG), which are sets of recovery-related configurations and processes to which VMs are assigned. The new VPG is specifically aimed at backup use cases, skipping processes such as failover and testing found in the disaster recovery-oriented VPGs. This allows customers to logically assign VMs to the right VPG based on how critical their recovery needs are.

Although it started as a disaster recovery (DR) vendor, the new support for colder tiers of cloud storage and features to support backup use cases show that Zerto is "encroaching into the traditional backup and recovery space," said Christophe Bertrand, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, a division of TechTarget. The line between DR and backup is becoming blurred, and ultimately, all customers need to consider for their workloads is how quickly they need them recovered, he added.

Zerto, like many of its competitors, is building itself out to be able to serve all customers on the entire continuum of recovery needs, Bertrand said. Customers value being able to use a single data protection vendor for DR, operational backup and long-term retention.

"Zerto is expanding its coverage in a very balanced fashion in all of the areas that the market cares about," Bertrand said.

It is unlikely HPE's recently announced intention to acquire Zerto had any impact on Zerto 9's release, Bertrand said. Both companies are mandated to operate as usual during the regulatory approval period, and some of Zerto 9's features were unveiled to industry analysts as early as ZertoCon 2021 in April. There is simply no way companies can time major releases with merger and acquisition events, Bertrand said.

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