The Inside Scoop on the Datto Backup Agent

by | Mar 15, 2017

Over the last few years, we’ve witnessed some major changes within the business-continuity landscape. If you follow this industry closely, then you’ve probably seen one name popping up again and again: Datto. The company’s rise has been nothing short of remarkable. On thousands upon thousands of servers across the globe, you’ll now find the Datto backup agent, working to sync data locally and in the cloud.

But why, exactly?

10 years ago, Datto didn’t exist. Today, it’s rapidly becoming the go-to solution among a wide range of organizations that are taking their data protection more seriously—especially with the increased threat of ransomware (a threat that virtually nobody was talking about only a few years ago).

So, what makes Datto different from other business-continuity solutions? And how do you know if its products are right for your organization’s needs?

There’s a lot at stake for businesses in our increasingly data-centric world. It’s critical that IT managers and stakeholders dig deeper into their options. Without a clear understanding of the differences between today’s leading data recovery solutions, you could be leaving your systems at risk.

Today, I want to take a closer look at Datto’s solutions to examine what I see as the most striking features that businesses (and MSPs) should be aware of—and where things are headed from here.

The Need for Better Disaster Recovery

No analysis of data protection is complete without first considering the reasons for it. Businesses face many threats today, both digital and in the physical world. Cyberattacks, fire, flooding, hurricanes. All of these can lead to a major data loss. And by some estimates, a staggering 70 percent of companies who experience such a loss go out of business.

The challenge is pretty clear:

  • Problem: A risk of losing data in a critical event, resulting in costly operational downtime.
  • Solution: A secure way to safely back up data and restore it quickly when needed.

The question is: how close can you get to actually achieving that solution?

That’s where the differences lie between various backup solutions.

Agent vs. Agentless vs. the Datto Backup Agent

First, let’s consider the differences between agent-based and agentless solutions. While this isn’t necessarily a million-dollar question, it’s a good place to start as you begin considering your options.

  • Agent-Based: These backups employ lightweight software that’s installed on each protected machine or server.  The agent lives at the kernel level to detect block level changes (thus, a file system scan is not needed to determine changes for incremental backups). Agent-based backups are pretty standard in physical server environments.
  • Agentless: With no software to install, agentless backups can be slightly easier to monitor and deploy, especially in virtual environments that experience lots of changes. In such environments, an agentless backup operates at the hypervisor level, thus ensuring that newly created VMs don’t go unprotected. Another benefit to agentless backups is they offer better CPU resource utilization.

As you might expect, many organizations find they need the flexibility of both options (or the need to choose one over the other without having to go through multiple providers). This is where Datto stands out. Datto’s SIRIS 3, for example, supports both physical and virtual systems via agentless and the Datto Backup Agent software.

As Datto explains, “Agentless protection enables fast and easy pairing of any number of VMware systems or templates,” while the Datto backup agent “provides scalable backup for all of your physical devices.”

Inverse Chain Technology

This is where things get interesting at Datto.

The company has patented a solution that it says eliminates the most commonly occurring problems in the backup chain. In simplest terms: the backups are not dependent on previous snapshots. Instead, Datto devices use “Copy-on-Write snapshots to create application-consistent recovery points of protected servers.” So, for example, you can delete backups without needing to reset the backup chain. And, you can keep different recovery points locally and in the cloud.

Another key aspect: each backup is a fully bootable machine. Specifically, Datto notes, “All recovery points are image-based backups in a fully constructed state, which can be booted quickly to run applications from the Datto device or in the Datto Cloud.”

The end result is a much smarter, more efficient backup process that’s less intensive on your infrastructure. And the recovery is ridiculously fast.

Datto is blazing a new trail in this space. Inverse Chain Technology is exclusive to Datto and deployed in all of its solutions.

Hybrid Cloud

Many businesses are still debating, “Should we be backing up locally or in the cloud?” But these days, for the best protection, the answer is actually both.

Datto has been leading the charge in this space, too. Hybrid cloud – which is the idea that backups are seamlessly stored both onsite and offsite – has a few key benefits.

For one, storing data offsite provides extra insurance against disasters that could occur on your local networks. In a critical onsite event, data can be fully recovered in the cloud.

But also, by keeping backups locally as well, you can ensure an even faster recovery.

Here’s what that looks like specifically for Datto:

  • Onsite servers are protected with Datto BDR appliances
  • Everything is mirrored automatically to the Datto Cloud
  • This improves fault tolerance and also increases available resources for various disaster-recovery scenarios
  • Administrators have immediate access to all retained backups

And remember, with Datto your entire infrastructure can be virtualized, instantly. So, as the company claims, you’re always “6 seconds away from your data.”

6 seconds. That is a big departure from traditional backup methods, which can sometimes take days and are notorious for failure.

Consider that most businesses face two days of downtime after a major data loss. And by some estimates, that downtime costs an average of $8,581 per hour. This alone explains why many organizations are switching to hybrid cloud technology like Datto’s.

Insight into Backup Status & Integrity

Remember those recovery failure rates I mentioned above?

While the actual rate is often debated, it’s no secret that data is often corrupted during the recovery process. (Or, in many cases, the integrity of the backup is compromised before recovery even begins!) In other scenarios, files are lost, accidentally deleted and modified, making recoveries more difficult and time-consuming.

Datto knows these are concerns of many IT administrators, so they’ve responded with a few effective solutions.

The first is something they call Backup Insights. It’s an interface that lets you check on the state of backups and the files within them. For example, if two backups are different, you can quickly view what has been modified or deleted between the two. What’s more, files can be restored directly from that interface.

So, let’s say Jim from Accounting comes to you and says, “Whoops, I deleted that spreadsheet last week and don’t remember what it was called.” With Backup Insights, you simply select two recovery points, and the platform shows every file that was modified, created or deleted in that time.

The time-savings for IT departments is huge.

Datto’s second tool is known as Screenshot Verification. This is an automatic process that regularly validates the integrity of the backups. Each backup is virtualized and test-booted to ensure it can be recovered without problem. Backups can be verified up to every 5 minutes, even across large quantities of servers, with no impact on performance. A screenshot of the image backup is emailed to administrators to show that everything is OK. And if the mock recovery does detect a problem, details are provided on where/why the errors are occurring.

Recovery speed is irrelevant if your backups can’t be restored. Datto is ensuring that such issues are resolved long before disaster strikes.

Ransomware Protection

Last November, Datto announced that it was taking measures to combat the $1 billion-a-year ransomware threat. By some estimates, ransomware is costing businesses another $75 billion a year in downtime.

Ransomware is a unique threat in which malware encrypts data on your machines and demands a ransom payment in exchange for the decryption keys to restore it.

Having a dependable backup system can prevent a business from having to pay the ransom. All you need to do is restore a clean backup. But timing is crucial.

Datto is now integrating ransomware detection directly into its products. It automatically identifies ransomware at the first sign of an attack and notifies administrators to rollback to an earlier recovery point.

Just this week, an Australia-based IT company announced it had used Datto’s back-up technologies to save one of its clients, Civil Contractors Federation South Australia (CCFSA), from a potentially disastrous ransomware attack. Had Datto’s solutions not been deployed, the likely downtime would have cost CCFSA an estimated $65,000 AUD. Instead, everything was restored within 30 minutes.

This is a prime example of how Datto is actively solving a serious problem for organizations worldwide—and why they’ve become such a trusted name in the IT world.

What’s Next?

Datto has already been setting itself up as a one-stop shop for all-things-BC, regardless of business size or industry. The company has made several acquisitions over the last few years, including cloud-service Backupify, UK-based Paradeon Technologies, and most recently, Open Mesh, a provider of cloud-based networking solutions.

The acquisition of Open Mesh is striking because it represents a departure from strictly data-based business continuity. It’s an expansion of “Datto Networking,” which is focused on providing uninterrupted network availability via WiFi and 4g LTE. The move is also meant to strengthen its offerings for the MSPs who offer Datto’s solutions to clients.

In a March 9 press release, Datto called the MSP community a “top priority for Datto” as it announced a new Global Partner Program, aimed at accelerating MSP growth with co-branded sales and marketing support.

Going forward, look for Datto to continue to make additional acquisitions that will enable the company to provide an even wider range of infrastructure and connectivity solutions to businesses and its MSP ecosystem.

Request More Information

To learn more about data-protection solutions from Datto, contact the business continuity experts at Invenio IT. Visit, call (646) 395-1170 or email us at

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Tracy Rock is the Director of Marketing at Invenio IT. Tracy is responsible for all media-related initiatives as well as external communications—including, branding, public relations, promotions, advertising and social media. She is one busy lady and we are lucky to have her!

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