Editor’s note: Unitrends provides enterprise cloud-empowered business-continuity solutions. Paul Brady, a veteran CEO, was brought on board to accelerate the company’s growth. He has a track record of success in establishing, growing and operating technology companies. Prior to Unitrends, he was SVP and general manager of the performance management business unit at Riverbed Technology, president and CEO of Mazu Networks, president of Guardent, SVP at Exodus, CEO at Cohesive Technology Solutions and founder and CEO of Business Technologies Inc. In this interview, he discusses trends in business continuity solutions and shares leadership advice.
As a former executive with seven tech companies, you’ve worked in the IT security, software and hardware spaces for years. What attracted you to the backup/continuity solutions segment? In what way do you hope to help shape this market segment?
I was interested in Unitrends because the company has a strong solution that addresses a very important problem. With evolving threats ranging from ransomware, the growth of data and changes in the foundations of IT, backup and recovery is critical to all businesses. The market size of backup is estimated at $6 billion or more, and I want Unitrends to be a visionary for change.
As CEO, my job is asking the right questions and setting a tone that allows for innovation. To start, we’re focusing on all-in-one backup appliances that combine software as well as hardware and cloud, giving our customers the shortest time to value.
What are the top one or two leadership lessons you have experienced (or observed in other leaders in your past companies) that are important to leading a company in a highly competitive space?
In my new role, I’m guided by the four competencies of management and leadership developed by Dr. Warren Bennis of the University of California. These are especially important as I lead Unitrends forward in a hugely competitive market.
The first is attention. You have to be able to get your people’s attention before they’ll listen to you. Second is meaning — what’s important and how that affects the direction of the company. Third is trust. To win someone’s mind, you first have to win their heart. And fourth is self. If you can’t lead by example, people won’t follow.
Self is probably the most important. I’m a big believer in leading by example and communicating with transparency.
What mistakes do you see companies making in their backup implementation and disaster recovery planning? What is your advice for someone trying to implement a disaster recovery plan?
The main mistake we see companies making is trying to self-integrate a backup solution with separate products. It’s too time-consuming and too distracting for a business to stitch together their own system of a server, operating system, storage and backup software. In fact, a recent Unitrends survey showed that businesses aren’t testing their recovery often enough, or worse, not at all, because they’re not aware of alternatives to burdensome manual testing. These mistakes affect companies both large and small.
From my perspective, when it comes to any project, people either look in the windshield or the rearview mirror. If you look in the rearview mirror, you’ll solve yesterday’s problems. When implementing a disaster recovery (DR) strategy, companies should look through the windshield, looking to the future and using their dollars to maximize the investment.
For backup and disaster recovery, looking through the windshield means making sure the chosen solution can scale up and out with data growth and can leverage evolving technology like cloud continuity.
How can companies protect themselves from new security threats like ransomware?
Ransomware is an increasing threat that’s a bigger problem to business than old-school malware. According to Gartner, “By 2019, despite increasing effectiveness of countermeasures, successful ransomware attacks will double in frequency year over year.” Of course, the main defense is to have backup in place so you can recover data without paying the ransom if you get hit.
Second, and this is something a lot of companies overlook, make sure your backup solution itself is resistant to ransomware. The best ransomware-resistant backup is a purpose-built backup appliance on a hardened Linux platform, instead of Windows-based backup software products, which are more susceptible to attack.
What is one thing IT administrators can do today to improve their backup strategy?
Implement an all-in-one enterprise backup and continuity solution, so you can work on other projects instead of worrying about backup or spending time stitching together multiple products on your own.
Where are we on the adoption curve for cloud-based backup solutions? Are most companies still focusing on on-premises storage?
Adoption rates for the cloud are picking up, but many backup vendors are still offering no or limited cloud integration. Unitrends is recognized by analysts as a true leader and visionary in this area, moving beyond traditional backup to IT resilience and continuity that leverages the cloud.
What is the biggest barrier to adopting a cloud solution, and what is your advice for companies still hesitating?
The biggest barrier to cloud adoption is that companies can’t afford the time and hassle of integrating another service into their IT environment. Therefore, it is important that organizations choose a cloud vendor that tightly and seamlessly integrates the cloud with their on-site solutions.
Backup products have been on the market for a long time, but threats are becoming more frequent and sophisticated. In what ways are we likely to see software companies innovating products over the next 12 to 18 months to address these new threats?
As I mentioned earlier, ransomware is a growing concern for the industry. New technologies (such as Unitrends’ Recovery Assurance) are becoming available and can help companies detect ransomware and other recovery issues through automatic recovery testing.
Hybrid cloud backup appliances offer even more sophisticated protection with built-in cloud integration for disaster recovery and failover, and the ability to automatically run a recovery test both on-premises and in the cloud.
As a CEO, what do you think are the most difficult aspects of a business to balance among differing priorities for focus areas and investment?
As far as the difficult task of a business to balance priorities, time and budget will always be limited. When choosing investments, look through the windshield instead of the rearview mirror for the best path forward for your business.
We’re at the start of a new year. And with a new U.S. president as well as increasing security threats, companies and industries are bound to see massive change. Are you excited about what 2017 may hold?
Business is increasingly global, and companies must be prepared for both new and existing threats. We’re excited for aggressive growth in 2017 for both our market and our ability to deliver what our customers need in a way that’s better than the old world of backup.
Paul Brady is CEO of Unitrends. He joined Unitrends from ObserveIT, where he served as CEO. Among his prior executive roles, he served as senior vice president and general manager of the performance management business unit at Riverbed Technology, where he grew revenue from $12 million to $250 million in five years. Visit the website or follow the company on Twitter.