Here’s the terrifying truth: according to industry analysts Gartner Group, in this recent article, only 35% of small and medium businesses have data backup in place for disaster recovery (DR) - and 70% of them do not believe that their backup and DR operations are well planned!
So that’s 65% of SMBs just waiting, apparently, for IT channel partners to sweep in with a convincing new backup or DR solution, and swathes more of them looking to the channel to help them either replace or improve the solutions they are already using.
Only it’s not quite that simple. Firstly, there is a fast-changing regulatory environment, which is outpacing many of the DR and backup solutions available.
Secondly, end-users are clamouring for unprecedented ease of use. Forget complex on-premise applications that suck up admin resource; in Gartner’s words, today’s business users want one simple data backup solution that meets all their RPO (Recovery Point Objective) and RTO (Recovery Time Objective) requirements.
A big ask?
Backup and recovery challenges: is MSP the panacea?
On the face of it, backup and DR services delivered in an MSP model would seem to be a great fit for these eager but choosy end-users.
Rapid to set up (often within an hour or two), easily scalable (so the service builds margin and profitability for the channel partner as it grows), the MSP approach also removes complexity from the mix, smoothly delivering viable alternatives to partners whose long-standing offerings have too limited a scope for their business today.
And as the MSP model is naturally compatible with the cloud, it helps get the thorny mechanics of backup and recovery off hard-pressed IT managers’ desks, slashing on-premise risk and admin overheads.
But beware - there are dizzyingly stringent forces at work in the background, potentially challenging many MSP backup and DR solutions’ licence to operate. EU data protection directives are now being reworked and will become regulations – that is, they will assume uniform force of law across the 28 signatory countries – by 2017.
Make no mistake, for MSPs and other service providers, these changes are a big deal. They make MSPs, as data processors, explicitly responsible for breaches in any data they have “touched.”.
Fines may be as high as €100m or 5% of global revenue (whichever is higher), in stark contrast to the current UK limit of £500,000!
Backup & DR: the MSP proof points
Clearly, the data regulators are upping the ante, so here’s how to ask questions that will help to identify the MSP backup and DR solutions that can be profitably delivered in this newly draconian environment - without engendering insane levels of legal and reputational risk!
1) Data centre - citadel or sitting duck? Firstly, Is the data all in one centre, or is it mirrored between different sites so that data can instantly fail over to another centre in the case of an outage? Is the data centre elsewhere in the EU, or in the UK, where it’s ultimately more manageable?
At the very least, the data centre should be ISO 27001-certified. But additionally, consider what physical security there is on site, and how long the generator fuel will keep the centre online in the event of a power failure.
(If all this seems like nitpicking, remember that €100 million fine for the consequences of getting it wrong…)
2) Speed, frequency, and data volume – Some 80% of businesses experience a shutdown if they can’t get to their data.
Yet the fact is that, often, when backup software is tested against large, complex data sets that emulate those of a real-world production system, the time it takes for the backup to complete - despite even the most ample computing, I/O and bandwidth resources – does not fit within the required backup window.
And that window is shrinking. Indeed, as Information Age recently put it, “with today’s expectation that services will be available around the clock, every day of the week and with an increasing data volume, the back-up window is constantly being squeezed… more than ever before.”
This raises another pertinent point. When uploading of data is not an option, due to bandwidth constraints, can large data sets be “seeded” to the solution provider instead? And will this attract extra fees that will eat into partners’ margins?
Likewise, does the solution make it possible for the partner or end-user to instantly access large amounts of data without the prior need to download it in its entirety? The most powerful MSP backup solutions use clever technology to eliminate this latter bottleneck.
3) Security – In a multi-tenant cloud MSP environment, global encryption keys and space-saving deduplication (each of which can be used to unlock customer-confidential data) should frighten partners and their end-users alike!
Partners need to be sure that their solution providers’ offerings use both source-side and global deduplication. This makes the data tamper-proof by ensuring that each customer’s unique encryption key remains valid only for their own data set, whilst intelligently managing the shared data pool as it changes.
Finally, solution providers should use the latest, government-standard 256-bit AES GCM encryption technology, both for data in transit and at rest.
Settle for nothing less!
4) Cost, effort, and complexity – Managing hundreds of DR and backup end-users manually does not scale, invites security errors and, ultimately destroys margins. Partners need to quiz solution providers about whether they offer integrations that simplify customer and technical management, including remote monitoring (RMM) and “single pane of glass” operating consoles.
Likewise, when things do go wrong, where is the support coming from? Chasing it down across continents and timezones is stressful, time-consuming, and, therefore, expensive. Prefer a service provider that offers UK-based support, 24/7.
The size of the MSP backup/DR opportunity
So with regulations stricter, but end-user expectations higher, than ever before, is there still money to be made from managing the provision of a MSP backup and DR service?
The answer seems to be a resounding “Yes”! Analyst MarketsandMarkets, for example, predicts global growth in the DR service market from $1.42 billion last year to $11.92 billion by 2020, a compound annual growth rate of 52.9%.
But, like everything else in business, it’s about backing the right horse - so choose your tipster wisely.