[Podcast] Talking RoundTrips with Bill Chellis

Dec 16, 2016

[Podcast] Talking RoundTrips with Bill Chellis

BY Kevin Williams

BCDR

You finally set up your first Datto device, but now you need to get your base image offsite; what do you do next? In this episode of the podcast, I sat down with Bill Chellis, our RoundTrip Manager, to discuss the RoundTrip Process, as well as some tips and tricks for our partners!

Transcript

Kevin Williams:
Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Datto Partner Technical podcast. My name is Kevin Williams. I'm Partner Media Manager here at Datto. Today we're joined by our very own RoundTrip manager Bill Chellis. Bill, thank you very much for joining us again.

Bill Chellis:
Kevin, thanks for having me over.

Kevin Williams:
Of course. Now, today we wanted to talk about the RoundTrip process, and give our partners some insight as to what actually happens when a RoundTrip is ordered. Jumping right into it, for partners who have never heard the term before, Bill can you just give us a breakdown? What is a RoundTrip?

Bill Chellis:
Sure thing, Kevin. The RoundTrip is a process we at Datto here call our C Drive. C Drive is a industry practice where you want to get large amounts of data from your clients out in the field, and you want to bring it over, and import it over into the cloud. I jokingly call that the parcel protocol, because instead of moving stuff over the wire, it's going down the highway at 55 miles an hour. You may have seen in the past week or something too, where Amazon was talking about their Snowmobile. Their Snowmobile is a tractor trailer with a removable shipping container on the back, and that shipping container is nothing but server racks.

Kevin Williams:
Oh wow, no, I didn't hear that.

Bill Chellis:
So if you have petabytes of data that you need to move in a short period of time, well maybe you want a Snowmobile. The Snowball is the smaller version they use too if you're moving terabytes of data, which us mere mortals still do. The Snowball process is actually very similar to what we do here in RoundTrip every day, but Snowmobile is definitely a sight to behold for Amazon. You see that thing driving down the highway, it's 18 wheels of raw data.

Kevin Williams:
Oh. Well let's see then.

Bill Chellis:
So it's a C Drive in a nutshell.

Kevin Williams:
Okay.

Bill Chellis:
RoundTrip is Datto C Drive process. It's both the product name and the process in which we work with it.

Kevin Williams:
Now transitioning from that explanation to the process itself. Can you give us a breakdown, a high level overview of how the process works?

Bill Chellis:
Sure. Clients who deploy one of our devices for the first time often have large data sets that their internal internet bandwidth can't get off to our off-site cloud. They'll determine that they need a RoundTrip Drive in order to see the data off-site if you will. There's a couple ways that can happen. First of all, they can place the order themselves through their partner portal.

Kevin Williams:
Okay.

Bill Chellis:
Or they can be in contact with our technical support team, or even their sales executive for some reason if need be. The order could be placed through a Datto representative, or the partner portal. Once that occurs, an order ID and an invoice is created on our site. There are instances where RoundTrips are charged, either way an invoice goes to the client, and an order is placed in our RoundTrip queue. Depending where the device is located, it will tell us which data center will service that order. If it's the United States, it'll be out of Pennsylvania. If it's in Canada, it'll be out of Toronto. If it's for Australia, it'll be out of Sydney. If it's somewhere in Europe, it'll come out of the UK. All of that gets factored in as to where that order will ultimately get fulfilled. The order will appear in the queue, a shipping label is printed, a Drive enclosure is assigned, we then pack it for shipment, then at the point of a common carrier, whether it's FedEx, UPS or someone, DHL, will deliver the Drive from our data center to the client who has determined that they need the RoundTrip Drive.

Kevin Williams:
Okay.

Bill Chellis:
Then at that point, the Drive is unpacked by the client. They will go ahead and do the sync process. We have sync wizards within the Datto device interface that will allow us to copy that Datto off the device, on to the RoundTrip itself. The partner can choose the entire device, they can choose specific agents, they've got some options in there that they want to do. Once the data has been synchronized, they'll be notified via an e-mail that they have entered into the reporting process, "Hey. Your sync is complete. Please disconnect the Drive, send it back to Datto." We have included a return shipping label, all expense paid in that one, so they just need to repack the Drive in the box that they received it. That's important, hang on to that packing material, because you're going to need it again.

Kevin Williams:
Yep.

Bill Chellis:
Then at that point they have to arrange either for UPS, or they drop it off with FedEx whatever, get it in a drop box, or if it's part of your regular work flow in the office, get it into the parcel stream so it can return back to the data center.

Kevin Williams:
Okay.

Bill Chellis:
Once we get it back at the data center and we unpack it, we scan it, and then we get it into the queue for synchronization. Depending on the kind of Drive it is it can be fully automated, from the USB and the smaller RoundTrips up to the NAS devices which we refer to as RoundTrip NAS, or RT NAS. Those we still sync manually because they're large devices, but we turn those all around on the day we receive them.

Kevin Williams:
Okay.

Bill Chellis:
Depending on how much data it is, we quote a terabyte a day in terms of sync. We do have faster transfer rates than that at the data center, but when you factor in the time it spends in transit, the time it spends sitting on a dock somewhere, it all works out to about a terabyte a day from start to finish. At that point, once the data has been transferred off of the RoundTrip device, we will merge it with your live data set, and you should start seeing that appear in your portal with your off-site-

Kevin Williams:
Your off-site points being caught up to date.

Bill Chellis:
Right. And then at that point, your local data device on your local network, if you're working with tech support they will re-enable off-site from the device at that point, and then instead of sending off the full image, because right now you have some sort of parity between the local and the off-site, it's only sending over your incrementals which you should be able to keep up with at that point.

Kevin Williams:
Right. Now, if we can go for a deeper dive.

Bill Chellis:
Sure.

Kevin Williams:
I'm in the partner portal.

Bill Chellis:
Yeah.

Kevin Williams:
I went ahead and filled out the form, the address, everything and then I've hit submit.

Bill Chellis:
Mm-hmm.

Kevin Williams:
From our perspective, what's actually happening?

Bill Chellis:
What's happening is, is you are filling out an HTML form. You're populating our database with the appropriate information. An order is then generated, the invoice, and then the queues that our RoundTrip fulfillment teams watch are then updated with the new order. We're able to, at that point assign a Drive, print the Drive labels and then complete our part of the fulfillment. Not only do we print the outgoing label at that time, we print the return label as well, and we've associated your device serial number, we've associated the Drive that we're sending, those tracking numbers and the date with also the re-seller identity. All of those things are happening under the hood at the time the order is placed.

Kevin Williams:
Okay.

Bill Chellis:
Then there's a clock that starts ticking too, on the RoundTrip order, the period of time from when you will get a notification that the Drive's been ordered, how long you've had the Drive, if you've kept it longer than the grace period, and if you go beyond that you can ask for extensions. We have the ability to do that. If the Drive is returned within the grace period, there's no notification about, "Hey, return the Drive," unless occasionally, human error, we don't have 100% scan rates. Sometimes we miss a bar code on the way in. You may get a notification even though you returned the Drive. That happens occasionally, but generally we can fix that, just send us an e-mail, reach out to tech support, reach out to your sales exec and we'll correct the error. You can even contact RoundTrip directly, all of our contact information is out there as well. We'll clear up that error in that case if we miss a scan. I'd say that probably happens twice a week out of 250 Drives. I mean, it happens.

Kevin Williams:
Let me ask you something. Partner feedback, if you've got partners reaching out to you guys specifically, how does partner feedback affect the RoundTrip process overall?

Bill Chellis:
Well Kevin, I'd say it's had a huge impact on the RoundTrip process. I started here in 2011, five years ago. At the time, RoundTrip was a very painful process. We were growing so fast and we didn't have the best procedures in place to ramp up with the volume that we were facing. We learnt very quickly under fire to streamline processes, to automate as much as we could, and a lot of that came not only from our experiences in trying to fulfill this, but hearing how unhappy partners were. Partners didn't like that they had to wait a week to get a Drive. They didn't like that it took too long to sync a Drive. They didn't like that the boxes weren't up to snuff in transit like, "Hey, how come we got a banged up device?" They didn't like the quality of some of the early hardware choices we made. All of these things we heard, we listened to, and it's been iterative process over time, but we think we've been fairly responsive, very responsive, I would say more than fairly to these concerns.

RoundTrip, not every device has a RoundTrip, not every partner needs a RoundTrip for their device. A lot of our devices are smaller, and the smaller devices hold smaller agents which typically can sync quicker over the internet. With the RoundTrips though, we have partners who are anxious to get that data off-site, because their bandwidth can't necessarily push all of that over it in a timely fashion, so there's an urgency there for them, and we've heard that too. We try to make that onboarding process with RoundTrips as painless as possible, and as responsive and as pleasant as possible, because we're setting a tone here. We're also setting a tone with all your future Datto experiences. If they have trouble setting ... and seeding the off-site data is part of setting up your device. Your device could be in place for a year, but if you haven't off-sited you haven't taken full advantage of what Datto's offering.

Kevin Williams:
Of course.

Bill Chellis:
In terms of your off-site protection. We look at seeding the off-site as very much an onboarding process, and we want that onboarding process to be a good experience, because we want to set a tone, and we want to set an expectation that we are there when you need us, and if you can't even get the data off-site easily, it starts to make you wonder about the choices. We've had those painful experiences in the past, we've learned from them. The partner feedback has been invaluable in my opinion, in getting us over those initial hurdles that we faced on in the early areas. That's not just my opinion, back at the last Datto Con in Nashville we did have a survey, and I think that when I may have talked about this in a previous podcast, but we did get feedback from roughly 50 partners at the conference on RoundTrip specific questions. We had a few things that came back that we could improve on, but overall I'd say 89 to 90% of the responses were very favorable about where the process is today.

Kevin Williams:
That's great.

Bill Chellis:
Again, the feedback that wasn't what we were hoping for was so valuable, and those are things that we're either still working on, or that we have planned in the pipeline down the road. In terms of improvements to come, we still want to have even faster turnaround times. I'd say probably 90% of our orders go out on the day they're ordered. Obviously, that doesn't count Saturday and Sunday because we do have partners place them, but they'll go out on the next business day which would be typically a Monday, but we'd like to have things turnaround even quicker. The largest NAS devices are not as plentiful in the inventory as I would like them to be, but we try to keep that wait time down to two to three business days max. Occasionally we run into a snag, typically at the end of a quarter, people do a lot of archiving, businesses are doing compliance ... requirements where they have to have local copies of that data. They'll use those RoundTrip Drives in those capacities that's aside from the off-site seeding, but they'll do things like that with the RoundTrip Drives as well.

Yeah, we hear you. If there's a part of the process out there that you don't like, that you don't feel is working well for you, I want to know about it, my team wants to know about it, Datto wants to know about it, because we can't fix it if we don't know about it.

Kevin Williams:
Of course, that's absolutely right.

Bill Chellis:
We can't give every wish that comes our way from a partner, but we'll give it serious consideration, and we'll work to make that experience more in line with your expectations.

Kevin Williams:
That's fantastic. Well, I also wanted to mention, in early 2017 Bill and I are going to be traveling to Pennsylvania to give our partners a sneak peek of one of our data centers, and we're also going to be covering a day in the life of RoundTrips, just to see a visual representation of what's actually happening and how that Drive gets to you. Bill, thank you so much for all the information. As always, a pleasure to have you here.

Bill Chellis:
Kevin, I appreciate it. I'm looking forward to it. It's literally going to be the dock in the morning to the dock at dusk, and everything in between, and, yeah, a little sneak peek at the primary data center in the process and everything that the team works hard down there to make RoundTrip a reality.

Kevin Williams:
Stay tuned. You're definitely going to be seeing that on Talk Nerdy To Me in early 2017. Thanks for listening in. Tune in next time.

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