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Cloud backup providers must build trust

Channel executives say trust is the key to selling managed cloud backup services, which often means reselling a service from an established vendor.

Managed cloud backup providers have a lot to offer customers.

Not only do they eliminate hardware investments, they also allow customers to offload onerous backup administration and management tasks. However, moving one's data to the cloud is no easy decision. For the majority of solution providers, the key to establishing trust with customers is to resell an established vendor's cloud backup offering.

One of the biggest challenges channel companies have when selling managed backup services, according to Jason Buffington, senior analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group, is establishing credibility. "The channel partner may be the trusted confidant of the SMB [small and medium-sized business] customers for integration and delivery. But that doesn't mean that the same customer will trust the channel partner to run their own data center and manage their own service," he said.

Michael McCarthy, president and CEO of Armada Backup, a managed backup service provider based in San Diego, Calif., agreed that trust is key when delivering managed cloud backup services. "Data effectively represents money for an organization. It is their lifeblood nowadays … Organizations are very cautious about who they entrust their data to," he said.

Armada Backup resells Asigra, but pairs the vendor's service with its own proprietary software on an appliance. McCarthy said this helps reassure customers who are hesitant to put their data in the cloud. "For the majority of our customers, we are either their first experience having any data in the cloud -- or they've never had as much data offsite as they do with us. The relationship we have with them is facilitated by us having our blue box [appliance] in their rack. It represents us for them," he said.

According to Buffington, most traditional channel partners resell cloud-based backup services rather than white label. "At the end of the day, what the channel partner brings in value is not only technical expertise but an intimate understanding of the customer's environment," he said. "A lot of resellers, when they do it right, are simply reselling the service as a pass-through while being the trusted confidant, which allows them to be more strategic."

Relying on a vendor's reputation

The majority of the cloud backup providers we spoke to agreed that reselling is the way to go. For example, [email protected], LLC, a managed cloud and service provider, based in Lake Charles, La., resells backup services from Zetta because it gives customers a "warm and fuzzy feeling," said Micheal Goodwin, technology director.

Data effectively represents money for an organization. It is their lifeblood nowadays.
Michael McCarthyPresident and CEO, Armada Backup

Many of [email protected]'s customers are in the financial services and healthcare verticals -- heavily regulated industries. It is therefore important that Zetta is SSAE-16 audited, and HIPAA and Sarbanes-Oxley Act compliant. "We rely on Zetta's reputation to give our customers comfort. To white label that would negate some of the advantage we get working with Zetta," Goodwin said.

Jeff Zdan, vice president and network systems engineer, DataServ Corp., takes a firm stand against white labeling. "I have an issue with white labeling products, to be honest, because it's not your product. I don't like to put my name on something that's not mine," he said.

But reselling is more than just an issue of integrity for Zdan. "The client trusts that you've picked a good solution. But when you put your name on it, all of the burden is on you. You can't say [the vendor] is having a problem or there's a service outage. You take complete ownership of that in terms of the service quality, and I don't know if I could trust any company that much," he said.

Cloud backup providers differ on partnerships

Jay Waggoner, director of business development, cloud services at VeriStor, based in Duluth, Ga., said the infrastructure and storage solution provider likes to advertise its partnership with Commvault. "We like customers to know that when they engage with us, we are committed to an SLA. But it's about our ability to deliver an SLA -- what's under the covers -- that matters. We're very proud that according to Gartner and Forrester, we're using the technology platform that is the leader in the market and continues to innovate. We're proud to advertise that fact, and it resonates with customers."

Clever Technology Solutions, based in Anderson, S.C., views the issue a little differently. The company white labels CloudBerry Lab and primarily sells its managed cloud backup services to mom-and-pop shops. "It's not that we're not proud of the vendors we partner with," said Chip Reaves, president of the IT service provider. "We don't hide it -- if somebody asks [who our partner is], we tell them -- but we don't want people to think they're buying Cloudberry from us. They are buying online backup from us, and we happen to use Cloudberry for that."

Clever Technology Solutions' customer base is different than the other solution providers we spoke to in that Reaves said customers recognize consumer-grade products, but not enterprise-grade products that solution providers resell.

"Customers pay us for taking care of their data. They don't care how we do that," he said.

Next Steps

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