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How to get in the backup and disaster recovery service game

Backup and disaster recovery (BDR) services can be a great addition to a managed service provider’s portfolio, but it requires a deep level of trust from your customers. Learn about the risks and rewards of this solution for MSPs.

Are you considering expanding your services into managed Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR)? You’re not alone.

A perfect storm of customers’ painful internal IT staff failures combined with new technologies in outsourced data protection make BDR a perfect new line of business for the enterprising MSP.

Because tapes and tape drives have only been seen incremental improvements instead of anything revolutionary, customer backup activities have inadvertently become rote and mechanical. Unfortunately, that loss of excitement sometimes also drives a lack of attention. Backups become “just another part of the infrastructure”, and suddenly they’re “running themselves”.  Without constant attention, they’re ripe for mistakes and ultimately data loss.

Because of the popularity of disk-to-disk technologies and cloud services, BDR technologies have become less stagnant in recent years. Cloud computing is growing to become a trusted source for IT services, and Internet connections from even the smallest businesses are growing to speeds fast enough to support remote BDR’s needs.

Rewards and hazards of offering BDR services

Many businesses have learned from past internal BDR issues and want to offload daily activities  to someone else.  Productizing your services suggests a greater level of attention and a more solid data loss prevention guarantee. Customers aren’t likely to get that type of concentration out of their existing, and likely overburdened, onsite staff.

BDR, however, as a service doesn’t arrive without risks to your own credibility and introduces a set of inherent risks to the enterprise MSPs. In short, your customers will trust you with their data protection needs, but only with the understanding that you can never make mistakes with that data. Keeping zeroes across the board in both downtime metrics and past mistakes are fundamentally important towards engendering the kind of trust potential customers are going to need.

This means your practices must be fully matured before you set out looking for sales, and the technologies you use must be bomb-proof. They must also have a MSP-specific design, which includes multi-tenancy features and remote support that aren’t part of the typical packages sold to internal IT.

Avoiding those track record-ending mistakes begins by scoping out your BDR offering correctly. Building a BDR practice, despite what’s included in the acronym, doesn’t necessarily need to start with servicing both needs. For many customers, simply offloading the tasks associated with backups is a compelling enough argument to form a relationship. The “B” in BDR is also arguably the easier of the two activities, particularly in terms of the surrounding processes you’ll need to create, implement, vet and tune.

Accepting the risk for your client’s data protection requires perfecting its storage and preservation across the range of possible situations that might occur. That perfection won’t occur overnight, nor will it occur in a void of customers. Only by having client data to work with can you quantitatively locate the weak points in your service delivery. Finding those weak points up front with simple backups gives your business the experience it needs in later expanding efforts into DR.

Achieving BDR success with long-term customers

Clients must trust your BDR services -- that they won’t go down, that they deliver on SLA promises and that they can be relied upon when data problems pop up -- if they’re to ever consider paying you for them. This is why BDR services are often best delivered to existing customers with whom your relationship has already been cemented through repeated successful engagements.

Taking advantage of that existing trust that is the third portion of BDR’s perfect storm. MSPs with existing client bases, a good work history and well-defined relationships are perfectly positioned for BDR’s horizontal portfolio expansion. You’ve earned that trust; now go out and sell it.

Never forget, however, that incorporating BDR into your services portfolio requires not just processes but also technologies that enable those processes to function. The right solution enables you to gather client data from their location. It protects that data against inappropriate exposure, even in many cases including exposure to your own eyes. It also prioritizes the restoration process with just as much emphasis as the backup process – if not more.

Successful, easy-to-sell BDR practices allow potential clients to see their data at every step in its lifecycle. It also gives them the zero-effort ability to resurrect that data from your location whenever they need. Ensuring complete visibility in the tools you provide is an absolute must, because those tools effectively represent the face of your company when data restoration becomes necessary.

Building a BDR practice and actually making money at it is a measurement of trust just as much as technology. Maintain that trust, and you’ve got annuity income you can count on for the very long term. Make mistakes with it, even just one time, and that income will quickly move elsewhere.

About the author
Greg Shields, MVP, vExpert, is a partner with Concentrated Technology. Get more of Greg's tips and tricks at www.concentratedtech.com
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This was last published in July 2011

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