As Web 2.0 offers up online applications for businesses -- not just consumers -- many VARs are looking at how they may leverage the trend to create new business opportunities and generate additional revenue. One such opportunity may be clear: online backup services.
Software as a Service (SaaS) is not new, but it can be complex to deliver and a hard-sell to companies used to having applications in-house, completely within their control and internal infrastructure. However, online backup and storage provides a clear value proposition. Online backup can enable any organization to reliably back up data within its budget and staff constraints. It's an ideal option for firms that need to optimize onsite data storage by archiving old data offsite; meet regulatory requirements and adhere to internal policies; enable small branch offices to back up easily and reliably with no onsite IT support; and most importantly enable data to be retrieved and restored quickly and reliably to minimize downtime in a world where everything must run in real time.
Online backup is not just about hardware, software and connectivity. A good online service provider also has the proper processes in place to manage backups -- processes that often go overlooked by internal IT departments with conflicting priorities and limited resources. An online backup provider's core business is to safeguard data and its No. 1 goal is to have a reliable, proven infrastructure to store customer data. Systems and backups done by customers must always be tested to make sure data is easily retrievable in the event of a data-loss incident at a customer site.
Online backup also provides VARs with a great opportunity to get their feet wet at selling and delivering managed services. By partnering with an online backup provider, they can deliver this service to customers rather than make capital investments in technology and equipment.
Any VAR looking to partner with an online backup provider should take a number of things into account, both in terms of technical capabilities and business management.
- Online backup providers should be working with a technology platform that has a strong reputation in the marketplace, particularly in terms of reliability and scalability.
- The platform should take into consideration what types of end-users will be supported. Will it support consumers who want to safeguard personal files such as photos or tax documents, or enterprises backing up a large amount of corporate data?
- The technology platform should also go beyond Microsoft Windows. Can it support multiple operating systems, including different flavors of Unix and Linux? Can it support both desktop applications, such as Microsoft Outlook, and enterprise applications, such as Exchange, DB2 and Oracle?
- Does the online backup offering go beyond simple backup? Does the provider have additional service offerings, such as email archiving for compliance and a focus on high-quality data protection to meet your customers' future needs?
- Any online backup provider should provide both technical and sales training, as well as channel representatives who can support you directly to help secure deals and work with you in special situations.
Of course, before entering any new partnership, you should make a point of getting references and speaking to other partners as well as some direct customers.
Ultimately, your online backup partner should be able to address both your needs and those of your customers, both in the short term and strategically over the long term.
About the author: Steven Rodin is president and CEO of Toronto-based Storagepipe Solutions, which provides data protection services, including online backup and recovery, data and email archiving and business continuity. For more information, visit www.storagepipe.com.