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Graham Russel, Marketing Intelligence Director, Own: The key and the successful factor is how effectively, efficiently, and swiftly an organization can restore data from backups.

May 2024 by Valentin Jangwa, Global Security Mag

Graham Russel, Marketing Intelligence Director, Own, met online along with A3 Communications and Sophie McEwan (Senior Communications Manager at Own), explains Own’s technologies and growth strategies.

Global Security Mag: Thank you for your time. Could you please, introduce yourself, and tell us about your journey at Own?
Graham Russel:
I am the Director of Market Intelligence. I’ve been with the company since November 2020, so a little over three years now. Joining in the middle of the pandemic was an interesting time to transition to a new business. This is, for me, the best job that I’ve ever had. I’ve worked within the Salesforce ecosystem since 2015. Prior to Own, I worked for another Salesforce ISV, a company that was called FinancialForce, but it’s since rebranded to be called Certinia. And prior to that, I was in media. I worked for several national newspapers and then regional newspaper publishers within the UK and Ireland. In terms of my journey here at Own, I have four main responsibilities. I’m responsible for our competitive intelligence, so understanding who we’re facing in the market and how we compare and how they differentiate and their Go To Market models versus ours. I’m also responsible for analyst relations, so delivering briefings and engaging with analysts including Gartner, Forester, IDC, and many other organizations.
I drive several of our research projects as well. One of my greatest pleasures is our win-loss research program which means every week I get to speak to new customers, and we review what brought them to us and the process that result of them deciding to work with us. I also speak with prospects who have decided to go in a different direction, and I get to understand firsthand why that was. I drive various other research programs. Last but not least, I evangelize about Own Company.

Global Security Mag: Can you tell us more about Own, its technologies and Growth, especially regarding what is new?
Graham Russel:
We are approaching our ninth anniversary and as an organization we have annual recurring revenues more than 200 million US dollars. We were founded in 2015, and we are a SaaS data protection and management business. We help users of SaaS applications like Salesforce, ServiceNow, and Microsoft Dynamics 365 to avoid the painful and damaging consequences of SaaS data loss and corruption. We have a suite of solutions that are currently used by over 6 ,700 customers globally. And they use those solutions to protect the information they’re keeping in and on these platforms. But a little more than that, it’s also about delivering extra value from the data that we help them to protect. and I’ll elaborate that in a little more. So, data loss happens. It is commonplace and therefore it’s really damaging and costly. It can result in organizations losing data completely. That data might be customer records, it might be contracts, it might be notes on the projects and services that they’re delivering. It can make them be in breach of data protection rules like GDPR. It can mean they’re in breach of compliance regulations such as those in financial services or healthcare or pharmacology and so on. And so, data loss and corruption are real, damaging and our core solution prevents those damaging consequences. How does it work? Simply we take a daily backup every day, it can be more frequent if customers wish it, right down to every hour. We have alerts within our tool that will advise and proactively notify customers of changes in their environment that may indicate a data loss event and most importantly we have tools that make it really swift and simple to identify what data may have been affected by a loss or corruption and then to swiftly and precisely restore just that affected data, files, attachments, metadata and such like. And we do that for Salesforce, for ServiceNow and for Microsoft Dynamics.

Our other solutions for Salesforce include an archiving product that allows customers to take data out of their live Salesforce instance and as the name says archive it. Three benefits to that. First, it means they can save money on storage. They don’t have to buy more stores from Salesforce. Secondly, it means that they enjoy system benefits. The systems usually will operate and run more swiftly. You press a report and instead of being faced with a little spinning circle of doom whilst you wait for something to happen, the report runs. Third, and I think this is the most important one, it helps them to be compliant. So, thinking about those standards and regulatory needs that they must meet. We help them to keep the data they’d have to keep; we help them to remove the data that they must remove and therefore that keep them compliant and it’s particularly important for the regulated industries. We have a security product called Own Secure that is used by organizations to classify the sensitivity of their data in Salesforce, all the different fields but also to manage who has access to what. In a recent study we ascertained that 84 % of Salesforce users have access to sensitive data. We do not believe that their organizations would wish them to have access to that sensitive data. And so, it’s an own security, effectively a SaaS security posture management tool that makes it very simple for Salesforce administrators to see who has access to what, the nature of the access, read, write, edit, copy, and then to put the controls in place to manage that. And finally, on existing products is a solution called Own Accelerate. Within the Salesforce world, developers, it’s an open architecture. Salesforce want people to develop on that platform. And most of that development happens in sandboxes. Putting data into the sandboxes, you would think would be simple and straightforward. It is not. It’s a real time consuming and manual process. It’s also prone or has limitations around anonymizing the data that is copied across. So, at the heart of Own Accelerate, we remove those problems. We make it simple for our customers to populate their sandboxes with anonymized data, to refresh those with whatever frequency they wish, to maintain the data relationships and architectures in their live production or such, so when their developers are doing their work, they’re releasing applications which have far fewer bugs than they would ordinarily have, and they don’t have to invest time and energy in populating the sandboxes.

In terms of the corporate overview, it’s worth you knowing that we’re headquartered in New Jersey, in the United States. We have seven offices just now, we’re also in San Diego in the U.S. We have a significant presence in the UK with an office in London and over a hundred people I think now in the UK, we have a strong and growing presence in France where we have an office in Paris. We have several people working out of Tel Aviv, in Israel, we’re in Hyderabad in India and last but not least in Australia where we have a small team, but that team subject to investment just now so we’re growing our team there as well. In terms of our customers, they truly span every industry sector and every segment. So, when I say every industry sector, I really mean that if anybody is using one of those SaaS applications we covered, like Salesforce, then they are a potential customer of our services. And when I say every segment, yes, we do have some customers who might identify small businesses, but we go through to global multinational enterprises. Indeed, we have over 150 customers on the Fortune 500 list of the 500 largest organizations incorporated in the U.S. At present, we have just over 800 people located across those different offices. And that’s a number that also continues to grow.

Regarding the solutions that we currently offer and the problems that they solve, we have four existing products, which is about to become five. Our fundamental or our core solution is a backup and recovery product that is used by users of Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics or ServiceNow to back up the information that they’re keeping in or on those applications. And I think it’s worth taking a moment to ponder why is that even necessary?
Most SaaS vendors like Salesforce operate what they call a shared responsibility model. And those SaaS vendors that will take responsibility for protecting the network or the infrastructure of the application, they take responsibility for making sure the application is up, is available 99 .99 % of the time, and they work very hard and spend a lot of money to make sure that cyber attackers are kept out and no harm comes to the application. But the shared part of the responsibility is these vendors are also very clear with their customers that the customers themselves are responsible for protecting the information that they put into Salesforce servers now and such like. Why does that matter? Well, SaaS data loss and corruption is unfortunately commonplace. It tends to be driven by one of four factors. Human error is the number one factor. Mistakes happen. People can miss key things. People, you know, Salesforce admins may make errors in their work and unfortunately there isn’t a magic undo button that easily allows to unpick such errors. Other causes of data loss can be bad coding, integration errors, let me pause on that one for a moment. Applications like Salesforce are designed to integrate with other enterprise technologies but in the process of setting those up it just needs to be one field to be miss-mapped and it can drive data loss and corruption. And I mentioned cyberattacks a moment ago, you know that is the other common cause of data loss and corruption. Interestingly personally I would shout out there that those cyberattacks aren’t always from outside the organization, but what we are talking about is a new product we’re bringing to market called Own Discover. The basic premise is that within those backups, there’s
value. So, we have historical data for our customers because we have a storage model that says we will never delete their backups for them. Unlimited retention. And what Discover does, it makes it easy for our customers to access those backups and put it into a format that they can either feed into a business analytics or BI tool like Power BI or Tableau or feeding it into a machine learning model or an artificial intelligence model. Now, this is really powerful, because if you think about that artificial intelligence, because we have this really detailed, historic record of data in a format that even the likes of Salesforce can’t report on, and being able to take that and feed it into machine learning or AI means that the recipients at the end can make much better, much swifter decisions than without that data. Let me give you an example, sales pipeline. So, you’ve got the customer who’s using Salesforce and they’re managing all their sales opportunities and contracts and such like. By using the historic data and feeding it into an AI or machine learning tool, you can instruct that tool to offer advice on accurate revenue forecasting going forward. Based on what we’ve seen in the past, we have these opportunities open just now, what is the likelihood of our revenue predictions and spinning that data out? Now, revenue forecasting is important for any organization, so being able to leverage the power and the value of the backups to bring a precision to that forecasting going forward is going to be valuable for our customers. Where we are with Discover is we’ve got through pilot with several customers, all of whom reported incredible results and been making fantastic decisions on the back of having access to this historic data. So, we’ll be bringing that to market shortly and that I think would be the headline I would offer you around AI. It’s about how we help to feed the AI model with pure historic transactional data.

Global Security Mag: Can you summarize the key Own’s differentiators?
Graham Russel:
number one, we have a unique portfolio of solutions. Nobody else can offer, for example, backup and recovery for Salesforce and for ServiceNow. It’s unique. And within the Salesforce world, nobody else can offer the suite of solutions that we bring to market. But it’s more than that. If a customer is just interested in backup and recovery, they’ve got 20 plus options now in the Salesforce world. So, why do customers buy us? Our user experience is second to none. It’s supported by over 500 five stars reviews on the AppExchange. The restoration capabilities, again, are second to none. Let me give you an example of that. Some of our competitors offer backup and recovery at the record level. So, it restores an entire record. We go right down to the field level. If you only want to update the email address or the phone number, we can facilitate that. All the other fields will stay intact with some of our competitors. All the other fields will be overwritten back to whatever the previous state was whenever the backup was taken. We have a very strong support offering. Our support engineers are all 100 % certified Salesforce administrators. That means that they have a deep understanding of Salesforce architecture, not just an understanding of our solutions, which, in the midst of a data emergency, is really valued by customers because they know that they can call us up in regards of time of day or day of week, we will answer, the call will be answered by an expert who will have lots of experience at resolving data losses. I feel as if I could carry on talking differentiators, but I hope that gives you a flavor.

Global Security Mag: What is your Go to Market strategy?
Graham Russel:
We historically have primarily been a direct sales led organization, so selling directly to users of those various applications I mentioned. However, we are putting increasing emphasis on partners and channels as part of our 2024 strategy. We’ve always had partners, whether resellers or referral partners, SIs, GSIs, but we’re doubling down efforts there as well. Why? Because we simply believe it’s going to help us to reach more of the market more quickly than just through our existing direct sales efforts.

Global Security Mag: What are your key messages to our readers?
Graham Russel:
Number one would be a message we already touched on. SaaS data loss and corruption is real and it’s incredibly damaging. And therefore, message number two, you must act. It’s remarkable that still we believe the vast majority of SaaS using organizations have not taken proactive steps to protect themselves against loss and corruption. So, we continue to evangelize about that message. We do not want any organization to suffer SaaS data loss and corruption, whether they use our solutions or not is almost irrelevant. Our mission is to prevent that. So, number one, it’s real and it’s commonplace and damaging. Two, you need to be proactive, and three, look for solutions where there’s as much emphasis on restoration capabilities as there are on. The key and the successful factor here is how effectively and efficiently and swiftly are you able to restore data from backups? And so, we have several guides that we make available to SaaS users, to guide them on what to look for when they’re weighing up their options.

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