Q&A: Peter Groucutt, Databarracks, Discusses Cloud Services

Peter Groucutt

Databarracks provides secure, Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Backup-as-a-Service and Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service from UK-based, ex-military data centres. Databarracks is certified by the Cloud Industry Forum, ISO 27001 certified for Information Security and has been selected as a provider to the G-Cloud framework. We spoke to Peter Groucutt, MD of Databarracks, to learn a little more about the company and understand its approach to cloud services.

So, give us a bit of background on Databarracks?

At Databarracks we provide secure, Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Backup-as-a-Service and Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service from UK-based, ex-military data centres, with our central offices in Clapham, south London.

We have been providing backup services for over ten years, so we understand the importance of complying with strict data storage regulations, as well as the challenges of protecting and managing the increasingly high volume of information being generated by businesses. Data security is at the forefront of our cloud offering, and remains the primary focus of each of our services. The rapid recovery of business-critical data that we provide allows companies to manage their IT with as few disruptions to their organisation as possible, whilst minimising financial loss.

As a customer focused company we employ only the best software, hardware and data centre infrastructure available. Our focus is on providing an excellent customer service experience and we achieve this by pro-actively engaging with our clients. By gaining a technical understanding of their business needs, we can provide a service tailored to each organisation.

Give us an outline of your business today and where you see yourselves in five years?

In the decade since our inception, our services have seen a natural progression, evolving from backup, to disaster recovery and now IaaS.

Computing has become a utility, and adoption is increasing because of internet connectivity and distribution. Ten years ago most businesses had very slow, unreliable internet connections that would struggle to handle a backup service. We now have far more reliable internet connections with far greater capacity, so for a customer of cloud services, the process is much less painful.

For the next five years our focus will remain on innovation. We are pushing forward with SLAs on quality of service so customers can be confident that their most important applications will perform outside of their own server room.

What separates you from your competitors in this highly competitive industry?

We see the two key differentiators being security and support. Security is paramount to our business ethos and we pride ourselves on our ability to keep our customers’ data safe. Our ex-military, Tier 4 data centre in the Kent countryside is an hour outside of London and close to Kent International Airport for easy transport links from London and Europe.

The Bunker, as it is known, is an impenetrable fortress, situated on 18 acres of land. It has concrete walls three metres thick and steel blast proof doors weighing over two tonnes. All systems are inside faraday cages, which protect against Electro-magnetic Pulses (EMP) and tempest (digital eavesdropping). Backup and storage servers are protected by an in-rack gas fire suppression system.

Layered on top of this physical inaccessibility is a 24-hour watch with guard dogs, CCTV and a series of sophisticated access controls that offer the ultimate in protection from a myriad of attacks. These include crackers, terrorist attack, electro-magnetic pulse, electronic eavesdropping, HERF weapons and solar flares, making it one of the most secure non-governmental data centres anywhere in the world.

From a support perspective we pride ourselves on embracing a culture that genuinely cares about what we do. We strive to go that extra mile for our customers and this is reflected by our customer retention figures – they stay with us because they know they are looked after.

Our personal approach means our technicians work directly with IT departments, and have been known to spend up to 20 hours straight in a customer’s server room getting systems up and running after a catastrophic failure. We man our freephone telephone support lines with trained engineers 24/7/365. We can support on-site anywhere in the U.K. and also offer remote and telephone support across the globe.

When it comes cloud deployment what are the factors that are often overlooked?

Disaster recovery – as computing moves away from on-site server rooms to cloud services and Cloud Service Providers (CSPs), disaster recovery becomes much more complex. Hosting your infrastructure across multiple locations spreads the risk of disruption by not having all your data in one place. However, it ultimately can make it more difficult to keep services protected.

Managing disaster recovery for your business when you use several different technologies from several different providers is a complex task. To further add to the complexity, different CSPs offer different levels of redundancy and backup that customers need to be aware of.

What are often the misconceptions held about CSPs when it comes to disaster recovery?

In an ideal world, the standard backup and recovery solutions provided by your CSP should suit your exact needs. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. It’s important to realise that not all cloud services have backup and recovery options that will suit you. IaaS, PaaS and SaaS providers might have an SLA in place for uptime but in the event of a loss they might accept no responsibility. This may be to keep the service cost low, with backup and recovery options available at an additional price.

You must also consider the risks in using the same CSP for your DR as your production system. For example, if there is an issue with that CSP, what is the impact on your business and your ability to backup and recover? While there are complexities in using multiple CSPs, it does allow you to reduce risk.

How important are your technology partners to the success of your business? How do you go about selecting the right companies and fostering these relationships?

They are vital to our business. We are a service provider and we want to provide our customers with a service that fixes a problem, be that backup, DR, email or infrastructure. In reality, for us to deliver these services we have to be using the best technology.

We need to have the technology that allows us to offer premium SLAs on storage performance or comprehensive backup of SANs, VMs and remote offices, as well as tablets and laptops. A big part of our success depends on using the right technologies to really solve our customers’ problems. It is key to work with technology partners who have an excellent product, but they also need a good eye for the emerging issues and a roadmap that matches our own vision and plans.

Do you believe your experience in disaster recovery and backup gives you an edge over other CSPs moving into the IaaS market?

Yes, we believe so. Historically, we have been very successful running massive storage systems, supporting 1,000s of customers of different sizes. This has allowed us to grow and evolve our services, all while enhancing our knowledge of multi-tenanted cloud environments; providing our customers with a fantastic service supported by industry experts.

This all combines to provide an unparalleled level of service. We treat our customers as we ourselves wish to be treated, and we frequently receive letters of thanks from customers who appreciate this ethos.

How do you see the cloud services market evolving in the next five years?

In the next five years we expect the cloud services market to continue evolving. Major players will continue to compete on price, but we will see a move from commodity public cloud services to higher value enterprise offerings. This will likely result in fewer niche providers, as those without the knowledge may struggle to capitalise on the revenue opportunities of these high-value services. We will also see more cross-provider clouds, both in terms of end-user procurement and CSP partnerships offering complimentary services.

The future of cloud will not be dictated by technology, but by political and regional policies, as data moves from private local companies to public cloud services. More software vendors will offer SaaS solutions whether they re-code for cloud platforms or host a pseudo SaaS service via IaaS with pay-per-use.

There will continue to be multiple technology stacks as opposed to a homogenous cloud platform to drive competition. We might even see some consumers move away from cloud services, favouring internal ownership over outsourcing as business economics inevitably strengthen and cloud becomes commoditised. The difference will be that today the most common cause of reticence is a fear of the unknown, in future reverting to an on-site model will actually be based more solidly on cost comparisons.

Christian Harris

Christian Harris is editor and publisher of BCW. Christian has over 20 years' publishing experience and in that time has contributed to most major IT magazines and Web sites in the UK. Christian has a BA (Hons) in Publishing from the London College of Communication. In his spare time Christian can be found in a gym or slumped in front of his Xbox.

Our latest thought leaders