Startup of the Week / Ctera: Backing Up Data In-house- and in the Cloud

The company places a giant hard disk on site, and also backs up the data at remote servers.

A few days ago, Gartner Research published its Cool Vendors report for 2013. One of the companies that made it in was Ctera Networks, even though it works in data storage, which is hardly cool.

Imagine you have a computer at your company and that every file you save on its hard disk gets saved somewhere else too. Somewhere remote – like on the server of your Internet service provider. That is exactly the service that Ctera supplies – essentially, remote backup for enterprises.

Ctera was founded in 2008 by former employees of Sofaware, which was partially purchased in 2002 by Check Point Software Technologies. The company's technology boils down to a box (really a giant hard disk) located at the client enterprise onto which all the enterprise's digital data gets backed up. But more than that: the Ctera box then backs it up again in "the cloud," which means on remote servers located somewhere else entirely.

“Sofaware put a security box in the customer’s home. Customers could manage the box on their own or through a service provider. We do the same thing for in data storage," says Rani Osnat, the company’s marketing VP. "We provide hardware installations called cloud storage gateways that act like network-based storage, but they’re connected to the cloud at the same time.”

soSimply put, anyone who buys a Ctera box gets both local hard-disk storage and backup in the cloud.

The company’s most basic product provides four terabytes of storage, while the top of the line provides 32 terabytes.

“The product also does timed backups of all the software that’s defined for it, and also allows for file sharing within the enterprisesays Osnat. File backups can be done in a public cloud, like Amazon’s, or a private cloud that the company builds for itself in its server room.

There are plenty of cloud services today, like Dropbox and Google Drive. What’s special about yours?

“Those solutions aren’t relevant to enterprises. Businesses want to know where the data is, and they want to know that it’s not getting mixed up with someone else’s data. Services like the ones you mentioned are so efficient precisely because they do de-duplication of everyone’s information. Businesses also want SLA compliance and cloud encryption.

"At our company, all information that leaves the device is encrypted. We also make sure that the information that passes is only the delta — the change in the file — so it’s very efficient.”

Ctera does not market directly to the customer, but through partners. Its strategic partners include EMC, IBM, Amazon and Cisco, says Osnat, some of which have invested in the company.”

Companies such as EMC work with Ctera, using the product in their branches, while back-up takes place in a private, central cloud on EMC’s servers. Amazon uses a similar arrangement to increase storage volume in its own public cloud.

“That’s how they sell more terabytes,” Osnat says, referring to both types of customers. Another kind of distributor are the communications companies. For example, in Israel, both Bezeq and Bezeq International market the solution to their business customers, using a model where the data is stored in server farms. Other Ctera clients include Swisscom , Spain's Telefonica and Orange in France.

So, how much money has Ctera raised? Ain't saying, says Osnat. But he does tell us that the company’s investors are Benchmark Capital, Venrock (the Rockefeller family’s venture-capital arm), and Cisco, and that the company raised several million dollars. “We’re approaching 70 employees, most of them in Petah Tikva, with a presence in the US and Western Europe as well. The company has already become profitable, and last year our revenues increased sixfold in comparison with the previous year, which also had a sixfold increase over the year before that.”

Eliahu Hershkovitz