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DR as a service: an emerging SMB market for the channel

The cloud has made disaster recovery more affordable for small businesses, opening opportunities for channel partners offering DRaaS

For many years, the peace of mind that came with a robust business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR) strategy was reserved for only large enterprises that could afford to stand up and maintain a backup site.

Thanks to the cloud, that's no longer the case. By eliminating the need for a secondary data center, the cloud makes disaster recovery viable for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and, as a result, disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) becomes a viable business option for solution providers.

"The cloud makes BC/DR viable for customers who in the past couldn't afford it," said Jason Buffington, senior analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group. "SMBs have always understood that they depend on their data as much as enterprises do. The difference is they never thought the kinds of approaches for DR that enterprises use could ever be viable for them."

The convergence of virtualization, which makes servers portable, and the cloud, which provides an economic second location, "makes DR a no-brainer for midsize organizations," Buffington said.

The benefits of DR as a service

Echopath, an Indianapolis-based cloud backup provider and Asigra Managed Service Partner, is witnessing this trend first hand. "We're starting to see the SMB and midmarket implement DR solutions … which means they've become more viable and affordable for smaller-sized corporations," said Chad Whaley, the company's co-founder and CEO.

Jay Waggoner, director of business development, Cloud Services at VeriStor, an infrastructure and storage solution provider based in Duluth, Ga., agreed. "It's almost always true that we can deliver DR as a service cheaper than a customer can build out their own secondary site," he said.

But affordability is just one of the benefits customers see when they move disaster recovery to the cloud. "We deal with a lot of customers who have tried to do DR themselves. Even with the budget, there are a lot of complexities involved in setting up a real DR site, and testing and validating it," Waggoner said. "We can do it less expensively and typically, do it better and get it right."

According to Adam Oruclar, business development manager, cloud and managed services, for Calgary-based Long View Systems, cloud-based DR is "the perfect solution for customers that don't have the in-house skills or expertise needed to plan and execute disaster recovery … Until they talk to our architecture team, a lot of organizations don't quite understand what their DR plan should look like and how that ties into a broader business continuity plan."

In addition, he said, "The flexibility of DR as a service allows customers to keep their business and disaster recovery plan in tight alignment when their business requirements change."

Customer perceptions of DRaaS

Perhaps even more importantly, customers are aware that DR is a viable option for them because of the cloud. "More and more folks are getting to the point where they do understand this is real," Buffington said.

The flexibility of DR as a service allows customers to keep their business and disaster recovery plan in tight alignment when their business requirements change.
Adam Oruclarbusiness development manager, cloud and managed services, Long View Systems

Whaley said Echopath's customers are asking for DRaaS. "They are curious about it," he said.

However, that doesn't mean customers are always ready and willing to pay for it. "Customers know they need to do DR," Oruclar said. "It's an insurance policy they need in the background -- but people always hate paying for it."

Consuming DRaaS allows companies to allocate operating expenses to cloud-based DR, as opposed to traditional DR, which requires capital expenditures. But that doesn't change the nature of DR's return on investment (ROI). "There is no return on this investment no matter what kind of dollars you spend -- capital, operating -- there is no ROI unless you need it. Then the ROI is incalculable," Waggoner said.

When customers express concern over the cost of DRaaS, Whaley said he boils it down to annual profits and asks the customer how well the company would survive if it couldn't do business for five days. "When you size things up in the affects to the business, it becomes a much easier sell," he said.

The problem, according to Waggoner, is that DR is simply not a priority for many companies and it therefore doesn't get the resources it requires. "The story sells itself. When we talk to IT people, sys admins, managers, directors, they all get it. When we tell our story, it always resonates well. The challenge is one of committing it to the project list as a priority and then building a case internally to get the proper budget allocation," he said.

He continued, "For most customers, DR is like joining the gym and getting in shape. We all know we need to do it, but we never seem to get around to it. Few companies take the time to make the budget priority to do it and do it right," Waggoner said.

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