You are asked to wear many hats as an MSP and the trusted IT advisor for your customers. Protect Suzy in accounting from the catastrophic consequences of being infected by the latest Cryptolocker virus. Ensure that Joe, a small business owner with limitless expectations and a limited budget, can access all of his data from anywhere at any time. “Easier said than done Joe, but I’ll make it happen,” says the MSP. However, of all the IT hats you are asked to wear, the one that involves backing up your customers’ critical digital assets is arguably the most important.
Remember Joe, our demanding small business owner? When he’s vacationing in Bora Bora and his computer is stolen while he naps on the porch of his seaside villa, Joe expects that the data that disappeared along with his computer was backed up. And when the server that runs all of his business’s CRM, accounting and payroll systems crashes, Joe assumes that his critical business systems will be restored momentarily. In neither case would Joe ever consider, and rightfully so, that his data would be lost. Sure, there is going to be a slight hiccup in operations while the data is restored, but that is a far cry from a data loss event that could potentially put Joe out of business.
Gillware Inc., a data recovery lab that specializes in recovering data from all types of data loss events has a statistic that might scare an MSP into revisiting their current data backup offering. According to Brian Gill, CEO of Gillware Inc., roughly half of Gillware’s data recovery customers had a backup solution in place when their data was lost.
Then why, you might ask, did they need professional data recovery services?
The answer is the backup solution they were employing was insufficient or improperly administered. For example, they were using a file-based backup solution to protect laptops and desktops, but not the main business server or file-share. Some had a robust backup system for the company server, but were doing nothing to backup individual laptops and desktops. Others had sourced and implemented the exact right backup solution that “could” have covered all their bases, but it was configured incorrectly and no one was testing the backups. In short, most MSPs are doing the right thing and offering their customers some form of data backup protection as part of their service offering, but the protection they are providing has holes.
Building a truly comprehensive backup offering is not an easy task for an MSP. This is certainly not due to a lack a data backup solutions available on the market. In fact, the exact opposite is true. There are so many options for an MSP to choose from that determining the best path forward is difficult. As a data recovery and backup provider, Gillware suggests their MSP partners cut through the noise and consider four primary factors when selecting products or services to build their data backup offering.
- Backup Type: The two most common types of backup are file-based and image-based (full volume) backup. Oftentimes, MSPs choose one or the other but Gillware strongly recommends doing both. Using an image-based backup solution to protect servers and file-shares and a file-based solution to protect laptops and desktops reduces any potential holes through which data can be lost.
- Coverage: All too often Gillware runs into Partners that did everything right and were properly backing up their customers’ critical servers, laptops and desktops when the unthinkable happens. Fires, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes can strike at any time and oftentimes without warning. Extending backup coverage to include both on-premise (local) and off-premise (cloud) backup is essential in today’s business climate.
- Cost: There is a delicate balancing act between what it costs for an MSP to offer a truly comprehensive backup solution and what customers like Joe are willing to pay. MSPs are usually for-profit businesses and need to offer services to their customers that can generate meaningful profit.
- Features: Backup providers love to include all kinds of technical information about their products on marketing materials, websites and in webinars, but the information provided usually misses the mark. All reputable backup providers, regardless of the backup type, will move data from point A to point B, will do so in a secure and encrypted format, and will do their best to conserve space and bandwidth in the process. As we have already covered, MSPs are in business to make money. The features that impact the true cost to the MSP, and, in turn the customer, are the ones that involve how the solution is deployed, configured and monitored. Failure to assess these key product feature categories can result in choosing solutions that appear flashy on the surface, but are time consuming to monitor and impossible to scale. The end result is turning what was supposed to be a profit center for the MSP into a sunk cost.
Providing your customers with complete backup coverage at a cost that makes sense for both you and the Joe’s of the world is not easy, but it can be done. Take your time and consider all the options. When it’s all said and done, your efforts will result in happier customers and a healthier MSP, financially and mentally, knowing with a great deal of confidence that you are offering a truly comprehensive data backup solution to your customers.
EDIT: As of September 2016, Gillware Online Backup has been acquired by StorageCraft. Click here to learn more about their backup solutions. Click here to learn more about becoming a StorageCraft Partner.