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Migrating customers to online data backup services

Online data backup services are a viable option for your SMB customers.

Service provider takeaway: Online data backup services are a good play for service providers working with small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) because of familiarity and cost reductions.


The outlook for online data backup services has never been more favorable. They entered the enterprise through the back door, ushered in along with sites such as the consumer-centric and YouTube, which essentially provide online storage for low or no cost. It was only a matter of time before businesses jumped on the online data backup bandwagon. And as the cost per megabyte of storage decreases, online data backup should become even more appealing to your customers.

Within your customer base, SMBs are the most likely prospects for online backup: They have to pay for backup somehow, whether the backups and archival happen onsite or offsite. There are the traditional software, hardware and operational support costs with on-site backup, but also hidden costs for consistent and reliable backup, such as tapes degrading and new technology training. Small companies will often opt to offload the hassle of such a job to someone else. That's where online data backup services come in. They offer a pay-as-you-go approach that eliminates many of the hardware and operational costs.

Online data backup services have traditionally been impeded by the lack of ubiquitous network access and security controls as well as a general reluctance to do things over the Internet. The primary demarcation point for online data backup services acceptance is network reliability and overall bandwidth. While these concerns have been resolved to some extent, some customers still believe a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush. Like all technology, availability risk must be managed.

Service providers interested in bringing online data backup services to SMBs should work with software vendors that have services tailored toward service providers and experience with their business models. Service providers should steer clear of online backup solutions targeting single-use end users, like Mozy or Carbonite. They offer backup solutions, but aren't designed to scale to an SMB business model yet.

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Instead, work with online backup vendors that offer software directly to service providers or managed service providers (MSPs) that in turn host the data and manage the backup infrastructure. For instance, if you want to become a managed backup service provider (MBSP) yourself, contact companies such as Asigra or Remote Backup Systems. If you're not interested in running the operations yourself, use those vendors' Web sites to find an MBSP that works with service providers who want to resell licenses and support, but not run the backup operations.

Customers are likely to turn to VARs or MBSPs for online data backup services after recovery failed because a botched process or latent backup window caused irreparable data loss. VARs and MBSPs can be proactive with current and potential customers by stressing the point that backup is data insurance customers can't afford to be without; online data backup services provide insurance that customers can access immediately to recover lost data, reduce hardware costs and ensure business continuity.

SMBs with onsite backup systems spend considerable capital on software and hardware to support their backup environment. Even small businesses need up-to-the-minute recovery, but managing a real-time backup system is difficult for them. With online data backup services, your customers' licensing costs would be about the same as for an on-site system, but their hardware costs would be lower, and they'll gain the operational expertise of the backup provider. The downside risk is minimal, but exists in the form of network outages or perceived data breaches. How your clients view the risk of network availability and security related to the online data backup services will vary. As a VAR you should work with your MBSP to address those risks.

Offering your clients better recovery and regular recovery points will ensure that your customers make the move to online data backup services; just make sure you are the one offering them.

About the author
Joshua Konkle has been working with email and data management products and service providers for more than 10 years. At DCIG, Joshua manages relationships with archive, backup and electronic data discovery vendors. He can be reached at

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