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Alcion applies AI, security focus to Microsoft 365 backup

Alcion launches to combine backup and security for Microsoft 365 protection. The backup-as-a-service vendor's CEO sees a gap in data protection.

Niraj Tolia and Vaibhav Kamra are no strangers to the backup market. In 2017, they founded Kasten, a Kubernetes backup and disaster recovery company that Veeam acquired in 2020. Now they're at the helm of a new backup company, Alcion, which focuses on Microsoft 365.

Alcion emerged from stealth on Wednesday with $8 million in seed funding and an AI-forward, security-heavy take on backup. AI in the backup as a service (BaaS) product helps administrators perform intelligent backups and detect malware. Features include predictive recovery point objective reduction, integrated threat detection, automated responses and delete protection.

Alcion CEO Niraj ToliaNiraj Tolia

SaaS users have started to realize that their data needs protection. Top competition for Alcion includes Commvault's Metallic and Veeam's Backup for Microsoft 365.

"This is about how to do AI-driven data protection that combines backup and security for the customers' primary motivator being cyber threats," said Tolia, Alcion CEO. Kamra serves as the company's CTO.

Customer praises simplicity, recovery

Kesta I.T., a technology staff augmentation and consulting company based in Salt Lake City, had been using GoDaddy for Microsoft 365 hosting and backup. However, the company wasn't getting any good backups and needed simple backup for its Microsoft 365 data, said Ryan Elliott, vice president of business development and client solutions at Kesta I.T.

Kesta I.T. was approached by a client – an Alcion employee -- about testing out the new backup product.

"We knew there were better products out there for backup and recovery," said Elliott, who is also CEO of Kesta LLC, Kesta I.T.'s parent company. Kesta I.T. only considered Alcion before hopping on its private preview.

"The biggest perk in my mind of their product is ease of use," he said. "I'm not a technology guy. I'm a sales guy. But the nature of running a small business, you end up wearing a lot of hats. You don't need to be a technologist to use this product."

For example, it's clear whether any backups have failed, Elliott said. The product provides real-time updates about the status of backups.

"Knowing that it's running in the background without me having to monitor it or worry about it is amazing," he said.

Kesta I.T. uses Alcion to back up SharePoint, Exchange and OneDrive for nine users three times a day.

Elliott said he's curious if Alcion will add backup for websites like his company's site. "As of right now, I think we're taking advantage of everything that the product offers."

About a month ago, the product was put to the test when one of Kesta I.T.'s employees had problems with his system. Elliott performed a successful recovery from Alcion to rebuild his Microsoft 365 environment.

The fine print on Alcion

Kesta I.T. was one of about 10 customers using the private preview of Alcion, which moved to public preview Wednesday. Tolia said he is hoping the product will be generally available early in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Alcion's focus is on the higher end of SMBs and the midmarket. It will make a bigger enterprise push going into 2024, Tolia said.

The new product sets up Tolia to compete with Veeam, who he worked for after it acquired Kasten, although Alcion doesn't compete with the container data protection piece that he co-founded. Tolia likened leaving to watching kids grow up.

"It was hard on a personal level, but I really do believe that Veeam was and is a great home for Kasten," Tolia said. "So that gave me a little bit more confidence about being able to do this."

This is about how to do AI-driven data protection that combines backup and security for the customers' primary motivator being cyber threats.
Niraj ToliaCEO, Alcion

Tolia said he feels the security-oriented features Alcion provides are enough of a differentiator in the market.

Alcion supports integration with extended detection and response such as Microsoft 365 Defender for proactive backups.

The intelligent backups provide adaptive backup scheduling based on modification patterns to minimize the potential data loss window, according to Alcion. The threat detection can recognize ransomware attacks based on data modifications indicative of mass encryption.

"Just to be clear, we are not going to say we are also a security company," Tolia said.

The BaaS product is based on Corso, Alcion's open source Microsoft 365 backup tool, which debuted earlier this year.

Alcion chose Microsoft 365 in part because of the massive volume of data organizations have on the platform and continue to add to it.

"That's also a place where I see a large gap in data protection," Tolia said. "People [may not] know it's a very frequent target of malware and ransomware."

Alcion covers the core services of Microsoft 365 except Teams. The vendor is working on Teams protection and plans to release it later this year.

Alcion, which has 22 employees and is headquartered in Santa Clara, Calif., expects to add more SaaS protection but is focusing on Microsoft 365 at least through the end of 2023, Tolia said.

Pricing starts at $2.52 per user per month.

Paul Crocetti is an executive editor at TechTarget Editorial. Since 2015, he has worked on TechTarget's Storage, Data Backup and Disaster Recovery sites.

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