Robert Kneschke - stock.adobe.co
Paul Evans is the CEO of Redstor, an international data management software-as-a-service (SaaS) business. He has grown Redstor from a two-man startup co-founded in the dining room of childhood friend Tony Ruane in 1998, into a market-leading, multimillion-pound business with more than 100 employees in the UK and South Africa.
During that time, Redstor has undergone four evolutions, from systems integrator, to cloud distributor, to a backup SaaS company, and now a business that provides a smart, cloud-native, all-in-one data management platform.
Recently registered as a Microsoft Strategic Worldwide Gold Partner, Redstor is now sold via an online marketplace with an audience of 40 million. Growth, which now tops 40,000 customers worldwide, is exclusively driven by more than 400 partners.
Having successfully navigated a recession, the burst of the dot com bubble and the financial fallout of 9/11, by adapting to help companies transition to the world of online applications, Evans is convinced Redstor is again well-positioned to thrive in difficult economic conditions.
He answered some questions, covering the typical challenges facing CEOs, the early lessons he learned, how Redstor is rapidly expanding its partner base during a global pandemic and why he feels the “new normal” offers unprecedented opportunities.
What made you start your own company and how tough was it at the beginning?
Tony and I had been friends since primary school and we always wanted to start a business together. We saw a gap in the market for a consultative data management reseller that was not focused on “shifting tin”, but was able to build bespoke solutions around backup, disaster recovery and archiving.
It was not easy from the outset. In the first few months, we had to fall back on selling antivirus software, but eventually, our “consultative” approach paid off.
Why did your company succeed in those first few years when others failed?
We always believed there was a better way to do data management and we won out over our competitors because we really listened to our customers and tailored solutions to their needs.
How did you go about building on that success?
Redstor was never satisfied with providing just backup. The vision was always to deliver a smart, all-in-one data management platform. We now offer backup, recovery, archiving, disaster recovery and migration, supported by search and insight – all managed through a single web-based control centre.
“Redstor was never satisfied with providing just backup. The vision was always to deliver a smart, all-in-one data management platform”
Paul Evans, Redstor
We also firmly believe in the world of streaming. Everyone does that at home to watch films and, unlike most of our competitors, we take advantage of those technologies. Users stream data and recoveries in real time, much like they use Netflix. We don’t think it makes sense that you should have to copy or mirror everything to access the data. You wouldn’t download Netflix’s entire film catalogue to watch one film or pick up from where you left it.
Redstor works the same way, allowing users to work on priority data while the rest recovers in the background. Whether data is on-prem, in the cloud or stored in a hybrid environment, our pioneering technology provides on-demand access. Customers love that because downtime is not something they have to worry about anymore. It also means no hardware to invest in, manage or refresh every so often.
What has been your biggest achievement over the past 22 years?
Ensuring the business continually evolves in line with the industry’s pivots and, as a supplier, acquiring software vendor Attix5 so that we became better as the one company.
What advice would you offer to any budding CEO?
Dream big, but remember that building a business is a series of steps and things are never as good or as bad as you think they’re going to be. If you hope for the best and plan for the worst, you won’t go far wrong.
Obstacles are often the catalyst for changes that see you emerge stronger. The last financial crisis gave Redstor the impetus for improvements that led to some of our best ever years and I can see history repeating itself. The key is surrounding yourself with great people and teams.
How has the data protection market changed in recent years?
The focus used to be on securing on-prem data. Now it is all about the capability to protect and have oversight of data in multiple clouds and from multiple marketplaces.
Although the same questions remain around the value of data, what you are prepared to spend to protect it and how quickly you need to recover it, there’s no doubt that data has grown in importance to the point where it is shaping our lives.
We live in a data-driven world. The biggest companies – Amazon, Facebook, Netflix and Spotify – are all data companies. As data is moving to the cloud, Redstor is building out more connectors to those sources such as Microsoft 365 and Google Workplace, Xero, Intuit, Sage and Salesforce.
Has the market changed even more as a result of the pandemic?
Everything is going online, but that has led to a rise in cyber crime and security concerns. For remote users, the expectation is that they can work wherever they need to, whenever they need to. Managed service providers [MSPs] know they need simpler and smarter solutions to protect customer data if they are to enjoy recurring revenue and enduring relationships.
Paul Evans, Redstor
The latest cloud data management platforms are perfect for the Covid-19 world as they are quick to demo and deploy. Eliminating the need for hardware avoids maintenance costs and site visits, which may be difficult in the current climate. Businesses can also scale up or down easily as demand changes.
To outdo competitors, though, MSPs need to move fast to differentiate by helping companies regain control over their data.
Since Redstor started an online marketplace that enables MSPs to accelerate their entire sales journey by onboarding, converting, provisioning and billing faster, we have seen an 11-fold growth in the protection of 365 data. In a matter of weeks, we have gone from protecting tens of thousands of users to hundreds of thousands of users, and it’s been a similar story following the launch of protection for Google Workspace and Classrooms.
Has that affected the way Redstor operates and serves customers?
We were pioneers of the cloud, having built one of the first true cloud backup platforms in the UK back in 2005 so Redstor was always well prepared for the world of online because all our systems are cloud-native.
The pandemic has accelerated pre-existing trends and that online strategy is paying off. I have never seen the company working at such a pace and we have taken on more new starters in the space of a year than ever before.
What will be the biggest challenge facing organisations like yours in 2021 and why is Redstor well placed to succeed?
The relentless pace of change in a data-driven world requires businesses to adapt quickly and constantly. Keeping up with that is not easy, but really you need to be working out ways to anticipate the market. There’s a race for the right SaaS. We have seen a lot of new partners migrating off legacy tech. We’re moving from support for online servers and virtual machines through to containers, which is why we’re launching support for Kubernetes on Azure in December.
Redstor has the benefit of being nimble and agile so when we make decisions, we can act quickly and deploy quickly with a rapid release cycle. We’ll have new functionality for migration to Azure, with support for blob storage and Azure SQL, and we will also provide our partners with a malware detection product in the new year.
Where do you see Redstor and the data protection market going in the next 10 years?
Data is going to become even more powerful. If you are not data-driven, you are toast. Covid-19 is as much a data crisis as it is a virus crisis because we need better data to make more informed decisions to build tailored responses and solutions.
Redstor’s aim has always been to make data management simpler, smarter and safer for our customers. We’re doing this with a platform that can discover, manage and protect all customer data. Data is going to the cloud and that is where the money is heading too. As a company, we are looking to attract more investment that brings more development and more routes to market.