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Low-investment cloud backup solutions for VARs: The sales-only model

This is the second in a series of tips on cloud data backup for VARs and MSPs. The first piece, "Cloud backup

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solutions for VARs, MSPs: Three approaches," defined the space to some extent, breaking out the types of cloud backup options into those that into those that the VAR can simply sell; that the VAR or MSP can sell and manage; and that the VAR or MSP can host, sell and manage. This tip will focus on the first category, including some examples of companies offering those products. The next two tips will provide detail on the other two categories of cloud data backup solutions that are available to the channel.

Within the first category of cloud backup solutions for the channel, there are two main subtypes: independent cloud backup solutions and backup applications with a cloud storage option. We'll examine each of these in more detail below. 

It's worth noting that the options discussed in this tip involve a public cloud. The vendors offering these solutions to VARs and MSPs are essentially providing a backup service in which users' data ends up in the vendors' cloud data centers -- or in a data center that one of the big public cloud providers hosts. Another option is to sell private cloud infrastructure to companies that want to set up their own clouds. This is certainly a viable alternative, but outside the focus of this tip, which is identifying cloud backup solutions.

Independent cloud backup solutions

For smaller VARs or those that don't choose to provide after-sale support, there are software-only solutions that enable quick and easy backup to the cloud after downloading an agent. Some of these are similar to consumer products but are still appropriate for small business. VARs get paid a commission on licenses they sell, and the subsequent renewals, but don't have to get involved after the initial sale. Later, if they move to more of an MSP model, most cloud vendors will allow them to upgrade their engagement, enabling increased support, more detailed monitoring, customized interfaces, among other upgrades. The following are three examples of these types of products:

  • SpiderOak installs a software agent on the host server and backs up over the Internet to their data center. But it also offers file sharing between users; synchronization between devices; and online storage, allowing users to access data from Mac, Windows or Linux devices with a centralized account. It employs a sub-file deduplication scheme and an encryption process in which SpiderOak has no access to keys. While it has an MSP program, resellers can simply funnel users to the SpiderOak website and get paid a commission.
  • Backblaze is focused on providing a solution that's "brain-dead simple" (the company's words) for users with no complicated user interface and no configuration of backups. It backs up everything on the machine by default, including external drives, but doesn't back up servers. And, it offers a flat-rate per-month pricing model per computer so users don't have to be concerned with monitoring capacity limits or understanding data pricing plans. The majority of its sales are direct via their website, but its channel business is growing. Its affiliate program has automatic renewals, pays resellers 10% for everything it sells and excludes distributors.
  • Zetta DataProtect is a software-only cloud backup solution that downloads and installs on client computers and servers running Windows, Mac and Linux, as well as VMware. It backs up files or Exchange and SQL data automatically to Zetta's cloud data centers but can also be used to transparently copy files from any directory to the Zetta cloud using snapshot-based replication. This provides an effective disaster recovery (DR) functionality for file systems and backups, plus an off-site archive for the price of cloud backup.

Backup ISV cloud options

For VARs that are actively selling traditional, on-premise backup solutions, a cloud product that can leverage that on-site infrastructure, or at least is available from one of these independent software vendors, can be an appealing alternative. Several well-known backup software applications have added a cloud storage option, with and without tie-ins to their on-site products. Here are three examples:

  • Symantec's Backup Exec.cloud is a standalone cloud backup application that uses a client software agent for each computer or server being backed up. It doesn't interface with a traditional Backup Exec implementation. Administrators can manage policies and monitor backup history via a Web browser, and users can initiate recoveries, which can be sent to any client machine. Licensing is by subscription and is priced based on machines backed up and capacity used.
  • CommVault's Cloud Connectors are representational state transfer (REST) application programming interfaces (APIs) that enable CommVault's Simpana software to send backups to public cloud providers, like Amazon, EMC Atmos, Nirvanix, Windows Azure and others. With Cloud Connectors, CommVault users can add a cloud storage destination to their existing Simpana system, providing a DR functionality to a traditional backup environment.
  • Acronis Backup & Recovery Online is a cloud service Acronis runs that can be used as a cloud storage destination for existing implementations using the same Acronis console as their traditional on-site product. Or it can be set up as a standalone, cloud-based solution for new users. Acronis supports Windows physical servers and virtual machines running on Hyper-V and VMware platforms and is sold on a per-server and capacity basis.

Eric Slack is a senior analyst with Storage Switzerland.

This was first published in July 2012

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