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Top data backup news of 2018: Ransomware, multi-cloud, CEO shifts

There's a lot to back up these days. Data backup vendors in 2018 enhanced products to protect many different types of data and tackle some of the top security issues of the day.

From the implementation of the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation to the still constant threat of ransomware and other cyberattacks, it was a busy year in data backup news.

IT administrators had a lot of data protection concerns to track in 2018. As data volumes keep growing and spreading out across multiple clouds and platforms, the tolerance for downtime keeps shrinking. So administrators need to make sure they are properly backed up and can recover fast.

And while data protection vendors worked on tackling the issues of ransomware protection, multi-cloud backup and data management, some of those companies went through major changes, ranging from CEO switches to acquisitions.

Here we provide some of the top data backup news stories and topics of 2018.

Ransomware protection stays in the spotlight

While there were fewer large-scale, headline-grabbing ransomware attacks in 2018 than in 2017, malicious behavior continued. For example, a ransomware attack cost the city of Atlanta more than $5 million. In addition, a recent trend is ransomware infiltrating backups.

While a comprehensive backup and recovery plan is important for successfully responding to an attack, implementing proper security is critical as well. Data protection vendors in 2018 continued to add ransomware-specific backup and security features and enhancements to products. Here's a sampling of that data backup news:

  • Acronis has been out in front of the ransomware protection movement, and the vendor added to its feature set this year. Its Data Cloud 7.8 for managed service providers includes updated Active Protection that uses machine learning to identify ransomware. Active Protection can find ransomware hidden in backup files. In addition, Acronis True Image for consumers, home offices and SMBs upgraded its defense against ransomware, now protecting data on network shares and NAS.
  • Asigra is another data protection vendor on the front lines of ransomware protection. Its Cloud Backup 14, also called Cloud Backup Evolved, embeds malware engines in the backup and recovery stream to prevent ransomware from getting into backups. The Asigra TrueNAS Backup Appliance launched this year includes Cloud Backup Evolved software.
  • Newer vendor Imanis Data strengthened the anomaly detection of its ThreatSense anti-ransomware software.
  • Polaris Radar, from Rubrik, monitors on-premises and cloud data that an organization has within Rubrik's flagship Cloud Data Management platform, and generates alerts for suspicious behavior. It uses machine learning algorithms for analysis, helps users identify affected files and automates recovery.

Vendors stress management, multi-cloud

As organizations seek to streamline their data protection and management operations, vendors strive to provide as many all-in-one services as they can. It can prove difficult, though, to get a handle on all of an organization's data in physical, virtual and cloud locations. A desire to have data in multiple storage clouds only adds complexity to data management and protection.

Vendors have responded with enhancements to products that highlight management capabilities. Veritas, for example, launched a new Predictive Insights data management tool that uses AI, machine learning and telemetry data. Igneous Systems, which closed a $15 million Series B funding round in January, put its focus on unstructured data and moved beyond data protection to more management features. And Veeam redefined its platform as "Intelligent Data Management for the Hyper-Available Enterprise."

In the multi-cloud data protection and management market, startups/frequent competitors Cohesity and Rubrik launched products, with, respectively, the Helios SaaS app and the Polaris SaaS app. In addition, Veritas upgraded its CloudPoint snapshot management software, adding versions that integrate with Azure and Google Cloud.

Vendors undergo major changes

Data backup news of 2018 also included changes to the structure of the vendors themselves. There were a few surprising CEO moves. And continuing a trend from the last couple of years, the market experienced a lot of acquisitions.

Here is some of the biggest news:

  • Veeam Software had a busy year. In January, the data protection and management vendor said it acquired N2WS, which provides backup and recovery of data in AWS. In September, the company said that human error caused millions of email addresses in a database to be visible for two weeks. And in November, Peter McKay stepped down from his position of co-CEO and president, and co-founder Andrei Baronov became CEO. McKay listed the nonstop nature of the job and time away from family as major reasons for leaving, and said the breach did not play into his decision.
  • Legacy data protection vendor Commvault is going through a shakeup at the top, with Bob Hammer stepping down from the CEO position after 20 years. Hammer in May said he would retire following a letter from activist investor Elliott Management that pushed for fundamental changes. Commvault has since launched several new products, including cloud-based data protection services, but has yet to find a new CEO.
  • Jamie Lerner took the reins at Quantum in July as its fifth CEO in eight months, and Austin McChord said he is stepping down from his CEO position at Datto, the backup and recovery company he founded.
  • Cloud data protection and management vendor Druva acquired AWS data protection company CloudRanger, and integrated its technology into the Druva Cloud Platform. Newcomer Cloud Daddy also jumped into the AWS data protection market in 2018, offering data protection, security and infrastructure management.
  • IT management provider Kaseya acquired two backup vendors in 2018. It bought Unitrends, which provides backup and recovery software and hardware, and cloud-to-cloud backup vendor Spanning. Both companies run independently within Kaseya. CEO Fred Voccola said he anticipates Kaseya will make several more acquisitions in 2019.
  • Carbonite bought Mozy, one of its oldest cloud backup competitors, from a subsidiary of Dell Technologies Inc.
  • Rubrik made its first acquisition, picking up Datos IO, which protects data in cloud-native databases and big data file systems.
  • Finally, a couple of companies made data backup news with major funding rounds. Secondary storage vendor Cohesity closed on $250 million, while Actifio, which calls its technology "data as a service," completed its second $100 million round in four years.

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