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Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are increasingly interested in safeguarding their data, but solution providers aren't taking a proactive approach to selling cloud backup services, instead relying on a breach, downtime or customer concerns about data security to initiate the conversation. That's according to a recent survey of 350 managed service providers, VARs, systems integrators and IT solution vendors titled "2013 State of Cloud Backup," conducted by Intronis Inc. and The 2112 Group.
While respondents to the survey said they do target their efforts at SMBs (73% said that they aim their business continuity and disaster recovery efforts at companies with as many as 250 employees, with more than half of that 73% focused on companies with 25 to 250 employees), their marketing endeavors around small-business backup aren't responsible for many new conversations with customers, according to the survey. Only 9% of respondents said that inbound or outbound marketing efforts were key initiators around cloud backup.
The report suggests that SMBs don't respond to marketing efforts around cloud backup because they have underlying concerns about data security and integrity, bandwidth availability and recurring costs, to name a few associated with cloud computing. But if they suffer a loss of data or downtime, their perspective changes; 23% of respondents cited those factors as key initiators of cloud backup conversations. Another 21% cited concern about unprotected systems, the single largest factor in the survey. About 17% of respondents indicated the trigger for small-business backup to the cloud as customer interest in cloud technology advantages, 13% cited customer interest in cloud pricing advantages, and 8% cited customers seeking lower costs.
When it comes to the primary reasons why SMB customers move from conversations about cloud backup to the actual deployment of it, about 34% of respondents cited a desire for improved data protection and business continuity as the most important motivator; 20% cited better overall IT reliability; and 16% cited reduced operational costs.
One solution provider we spoke with, Michael Capps, CEO of Integrated Technologies of Kansas (itKansas), a managed services provider based in Witchita, Kan., said the core driver for most of his clients looking for cloud backup and recovery is "either regulatory need or simple business continuity," such as having access to what they need in a timely manner to continue to function without hindering workflow.
Larry Ondovic, president of IT services company Macs At Work Inc. in Shrewsbury, Mass., said his customers "know they need to protect their data, but they generally procrastinate for many reasons." But, the cloud has become an easy sell in terms of safely protecting data, he said, explaining that his company uses both on-premises backup and off-premises cloud, where he stores mission-critical data that can be protected from fire, theft and flood.
The survey also explored which types of data solution providers' customers are most likely to store in the cloud. Data needed for disaster recovery came out on top, cited by 30% of respondents as the most common data type. Following close behind was user files at 28%, and then line-of-business applications (such as customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning) at 19%, remote and branch office data at 14%, and mobile device data at 5%.
While there are many possible objections to cloud storage use, solution providers are taking a number of tacks to overcome those objections. Twenty-five percent of respondents indicated that, most often, they combine cloud and on-premises offerings into a hybrid solution. Another 18% turn to demonstrating security features as their primary method for overcoming objections, while 16% offer a trial engagement, and another 16% demonstrate reliability features.
ItKansas' Capps said that solution providers have to do their due diligence. "Overcoming the concerns of encryption and accessibility comes down to who you are partnering with. Vetting a solution provider before partnering with them is a good start. Check references, ask questions," he said.