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Selling business continuity services and data recovery services to SMBs

Business data recovery and business continuity efforts were once reserved for large enterprises; now SMBs are getting in the mix. Find out why and how you should be selling business continuity and data recovery services to SMBs.

Business data recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) have been traditionally associated with large enterprise mission-critical applications. Today they are just as applicable to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) given the affordability of product offerings, awareness of applicable threat risks to data and growing dependence on information availability. Now is your opportunity as a channel professional to offer business continuity services and business data recovery services to meet previously unaddressed needs.

Depending on threat risks to a particular SMB, business data recovery and business continuity efforts will vary from insuring regular and effective backups with data stored offsite, to replicating data real-time to a secondary hot site for rapid recovery and restart. Given that the SMB market faces many of the same threats as larger businesses, there are plenty of opportunities to sell such services, granted on a smaller scale. Similarly, the needs of remote offices and branch offices (ROBO) provide an opportunity to work with larger organizations.

As a channel professional, your options for selling business data recovery and businss continuity services to SMBs range from a la carte point products and services to complete turnkey solutions encompassing hardware, software, network bandwidth, facilities and associated services. Which approach to take will depend in part on your specific business model, focus and experience, not to mention the types of customers you engage and their requirements. The following tip will help you plan and sell your offerings.

   Justify business data recovery and business continuity spending
   Stimulate data recovery and business continuity awareness
   Understand your customers' needs
   Know your service provider competition
   Set your clients' expectations
   Data recovery and business continuity sales options

  Justify data recovery and business continuity spending  Return to Table of Contents

Unlike other technologies and services geared toward capacity resource consumption (more servers, storage or network bandwidth) for delivery of IT services, data recovery and business continuance offerings typically need additional justification. A client may be able to find funding for more storage, network bandwidth, servers and software-license upgrades, but finding budget dollars for business continuity may be elusive. You have an opportunity to identify "self-funding" and other approaches to justify and fund initiatives."Self-funding" would be to justify the expense in the same way you'd justify the expense of servers and storage by shifting maintenance dollars to purchase dollars. For example, look for opportunities to tie upgrades for server, network, storage and software along with enhancements to support business data recovery and continuity where possible. Also look at existing network bandwidth services costs, if they exist, to see if you can provide a more cost-effective solution to free up budget dollars.To sell these technologies to SMBs, you must help them make the connection between business and data value, and protect against various threat risks. Some of your clients may be under regulatory requirements; to comply they may need some form of business continuity and business data recovery for certain applications and data. But don't simply pin your sales projections to the compliance argument, as different applications and businesses will have varying needs and may not fall under a specific regulatory requirement.For example, an SMB may not fall under a specific compliance regulation, but to stay in business they may need to access customer information and process orders, or risk losing customers and sales to a competitor. Other factors for selling business continuity and recovery include local or regional seasonal or recurring threats, including tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, flooding and electrical power outages among others.

  Stimulate recovery and business continuity awareness  Return to Table of Contents

Your efforts may involve a custom and focused mailing or outreach campaign to help stimulate awareness and lead generation. This campaign can be accompanied by a webcast, podcast or traditional in-person seminar by yourself, with business partners or perhaps with an industry or subject-matter expert as a draw.

  Understand your customers needs  Return to Table of Contents

Take time to understand the risks and threats to your clients' or prospects' data and applications. If you are not already doing so, perform some level of business impact analysis (BIA) service to identify the importance of different applications and associated threat risks. If you do not have the in-house capability for performing indepth BIA, partner with consultants who can help you on a one-off basis or help you build your own practice.When providing a BIA service, should you charge your client or give it away? That's a classic dilemma. Whether to charge for presales services or not is debatable with good arguments from both perspectives. Having been on both sides of the table, as a vendor and a IT customer, it was sometimes frustrating to see work being given away, as well as seeing work that should have been complimentary being charged for.

  Know your service provider competition  Return to Table of Contents

Knowing your competition is important and can be a differentiator. If you are competing with another firm that gives away services, you may need to match and give away some services so clients see your enhanced value. Ultimately they may find your services better and will pay for them. Likewise, if your competition is charging for basic systems engineering presales services, your opportunity to get in the door is to offer some services as part of the cost to win the customer and business.

  Set your clients' expectations  Return to Table of Contents

Make sure clients know what they'll get for their expense -- then overdeliver. There is always the tried-and-true method of charging for services upfront and applying service dollars to future purchases. Also consider how indepth your BIA must be, the deliverables and who retains the rights to deliverables. For example, if you produce a BIA document for your customer at no charge, what is to prevent your client or prospect from using the information in the BIA to shop elsewhere?Data protection management (DPM) tools help you determine the effectiveness of backups and data protection tasks being performed by rapidly identifying problems and performing cross technology domain event correlation analysis to maximize resource usage. Installing DPM can be done in conjunction with a BIA or data protection audit assessment to help identify vulnerabilities in existing environments. It should go without saying that a basic technology you should be selling is some form of backup and recovery software.

  Data recovery and business continuity sales options  Return to Table of Contents

Business data recovery and business continuity plans are founded on regular and effective backups and disaster recovery capabilities. Backup and recovery software must be sent someplace either locally or remotely. You can sell backup hardware, including tape, autoloader or stackers and robotic tape libraries, as well as disk-based virtual tape libraries (VTLs) and appliances. Depending on your area of expertise and business model, you can sell preintegrated hardware and software solutions or integrate VTL software, the software's server appliance and disk storage. Learn more about VTLs and DR in this tip on preparing for next-generation backups.Another option is to either host a service for your clients to backup or replicate data to your location, or partner with a local or regional managed backup service provider. If you are not sure where to find local or regional managed backup service providers, check with software vendors to see who they recommend (Several example vendors are listed in this tip on determining SMB storage options.Other technologies that you can sell include local and remote replication and snapshots using host software, switches and appliances in the network, or the storage system. To complement remote backup and replication, you can partner with bandwidth providers who may also be in the business of providing hosting services, to provide your clients with a complete package. Data security is another area to keep in mind, including encryption tools and techniques for securing data in transit.Needless to say, there are many opportunities to sell business continuity services and business data recovery services to SMBs, and many technologies and services to help differentiate your offerings from your competition. If you are not currently providing recovery and business continuance services to your clients, now is the time to explore implementing them or seeking out partnerships to strengthen your current offerings. On the other hand, if you already provide these offerings, explore how you to extend them. Feel free to drop me a note if you have any questions.About the author: Greg Schulz is founder and senior analyst of the independent storage analyst firm the StorageIO Group and author of the book Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier).

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