N-able focuses on developing IT solutions for managed service providers (MSPs). It is best known for its RMM solutions, competing with Datto for example. However, N-able has put a lot of energy into a backup solution for MSPs, which it now offers under the name Cove Data Protection.

The company N-able has officially existed since 2000. It was acquired by Solarwinds in 2013 and eventually put under Solarwinds MSP. Then Solarwinds decided to divest the business unit in 2021 and make it independent under the name N-able. N-able is now completely independent; Solarwinds no longer has any influence over the company.

N-able generally presents itself primarily as an RMM solution. Customers come in via that product and are then asked whether they also want a backup and data management solution to go with it. That is now set to change. With the rebranding to Cove Data Protection, it now wants to actually bring in customers for data protection. According to N-able, it is a solid and mature product. It is no longer a byproduct.

Competing with Veeam, Acronis, Datto and Commvault Metallic

In the presentation we attended from N-able, the company stated it is really competing with parties that are big in mid-market or the MSP world. It even came up with examples of why Cove Data Protection would be better than Veeam’s solution. Names like Acronis, Datto and Commvault Metallic also came up during the conversation. According to N-able, it can win from all of those parties. The question is, can we agree with that?

What does Cove Data Protection offer?

Cove Data Protection offers a multi-tenant cloud solution (SaaS) for backing up and restoring data. That multi-tenancy makes it suitable for managed service providers (MSPs). You don’t need an appliance or file server for Cove Data Protection; all backups are stored in N-able’s data centers. In total, N-able has 30 colocations around the world. So there is a wide choice of locations where data can be stored. Companies that still want to store data locally aren’t forgotten. With Cove Data Protection, backups can also be stored locally, such as on a NAS.

Cove Data Protection can backup endpoints, but also, for example, Microsoft 365.

Agent at client level

What is unique about the solution is that it runs entirely from the client. It can backup Windows, Macs and Linux systems. It does this by installing a small agent on those systems. For laptops and desktops, this is all fairly straightforward. When we start looking at virtualized servers, it’s a different story.

Among MSP customers, N-able sees mostly Windows servers, Linux is in their words a minority. These servers are often virtualized but are not backed up from the hypervisor by N-able. Cove Data Protection backups on the client level through an agent. It means that backups are also made at the file level and that, according to N-able, is where the power lies.

According to N-able, making backups at the file level brings many advantages. It claims it enables more efficient backups. To start with, it excludes many files that don’t need to be backed up. For example, by default it does not backup browser history, logs and generic operating system data. It also keeps metadata of all the files it backs up. This makes the backups location-independent. If a user moves large amounts of files or the system is defragmented, it does not affect the backups. Finally, it only backs up the changed bytes in a file and not the entire file.

This all adds up to make the backup solution very efficient. The incremental backups Cove creates are much smaller than those of competitors, the company claims. For example, it showed examples showing that incremental backups are often only 10 to 20 percent of the total changed size of files. So if 2GB worth of files has been modified, only 200 – 400MB ends up being backed up.

Microsoft 365

In addition to endpoint backups, the backup of SaaS solutions is also on the radar. They started with Microsoft 365. Although N-able gives the impression that Cove Data Protection can backup Microsoft 365 completely, this is not the case. It can backup Exchange, Sharepoint and OneDrive, but Microsoft Teams is not included for now. The same goes for Microsoft Dynamics 365.

After some urging, it also became clear that Google Workspace and Salesforce, for example, aren’t really on the roadmap either. At least, in 2023 customers shouldn’t expect on support for those services. The focus now is on improving and expanding Microsoft 365 support. So backing up Teams is coming.

Restore at the file or VM level

We also asked questions about restoring. You can simply select files and restore those. As for VMs, you can also restore them in their entirety. Cove Data Protection is able to turn those files into a Hyper-V or VHDX image that you can then easily restore to a Windows Server or VMware environment. If a customer uses Nutanix, it will have to manually import the VHDX. Because Cove has no control of hypervisors, it cannot facilitate this.

Restore testing and Standby image

Two other features on restoring are restore testing and standby image. Cove Data Protection can test VM restore procedures and see if a Windows server or client image actually boots up and displays a login screen. In Cove Data Protection’s cloud portal, you can view a screenshot and also see which services have started.

Another feature is Standby image, in a normal restore procedure the backups are stored in a certain format, compressed, encrypted and applied with deduplication. If you want to restore quickly, things like that slow down the restore process. With Cove Data Protection, you can solve this with standby images. Certain images are continuously kept ready for the restore process. These can be restored immediately without having to go through processes such as restoring deduplication, decryption and compression. That has already been done.

Overview

NameN-able
Founded2000
IndustryEnterprise software, Managed Service Providers
LocationBoston, Great Lakes area
Employees1000 – 2500
Founder(s).Gavin Garbutt, Jeff Grammer
Venture Capital
NotesN-able was acquired by Solarwinds in 2013. In 2021, N-able split off again and is now an independent publicly traded company.

What’s the differentiator?

For N-able, the differentiator is that it wants to bring enterprise technology to SMEs through managed service providers. In doing so, it focuses not on the Fortune 500, but on the Fortune 5 million, as the company puts it. The fact is, however, that those managed service providers are extremely important for growth.

If we look at Cove Data Protection, in our opinion, its distinguishing feature is its file-level backup on the one hand, and on the other hand, its pricing. It has set a low price to convince MSPs. According to N-able, it can offer a competitive price because of its efficient way of backing up. Perhaps that is why it is a lot slower in adopting SaaS solutions, where it cannot offer that efficiency. So we wonder how prices will evolve in the long run compared to the competition.

Replacing Veeam at many MSPs and providing an all-in-one cloud-based backup platform isn’t as easy as N-able wants to make it look, as far as we’re concerned. Veeam has gotten its hands on that mid-market and is not going to give it up without a fight. Furthermore, Datto is getting the necessary investment from Kaseya and Commvault Metallic is already ten steps ahead of Cove Data Protection when looking at SaaS support.

Where is the focus?

Cove Data Protection’s focus right now is primarily on improving Microsoft 365 support and bringing in new customers and MSPs. As far as we are concerned, the roadmap may focus more on supporting more SaaS solutions. Think Microsoft Dynamics 365, Salesforce and Google Workspace.

What is it doing in Europe?

N-able has already opened quite a few offices in Europe for Sales and Support. There is even another office in Emmeloord, the Netherlands for development. So for local support and sales there is enough manpower available.