eWeek: Online backup strategies for the channel

As more small businesses expand, they need to make sure their data is protected in case of disaster, theft, or unintentional user error. A number of online backup companies have entered this market, and some even have well developed channel programs and begun recruiting VARs. Companies like Asigra, Zmanda, LogMeIn, StorageGuardian, Vembu Technologies and Intronis are leading the way.

There are three important issues for VARs to consider before selecting their backup partner. First, how much data is going across the Internet and how long will the initial backups take? In certain cases, sending a great deal of data over the Internet could take days to backup several tens of gigabytes. It might be better to make image copies locally and then do incremental backups across the Internet – or upgrade a client’s Internet bandwidth.

“The sweet spot is someone who has less than 4TB of data because of the high cost of large amounts of additional bandwidth,” says John Leek, who is the director of technology for NetStandard in Kansas City, Mo. “Any more than that and you will need more bandwidth to get the data backed up nightly.” Net Standard is a managed services provider and outsourced data center that also sells its own Asigra-based backup solution called Data Safe. They have more than 60 TB of protected storage under management currently.

Todd Wahl, with Technology Force, Inc. of Norcross Geo. resells LogMeIn’s backup services. He cautions VARs to understand how much data is being protected. “When you have a large amount of data, you can be waiting days or weeks to get it restored.”

Second, who owns the storage servers, how will the data be stored on them and where will they be located? What Wahl likes about LogMeIn is that he can own the storage repository, which offers more security to his customers. Other backup services, such as Elephant Drive or JungleDisk, make use of Amazon’s S3 storage repository. This gives them a low-cost means of providing protection, but they are also dependent on Amazon’s data centers to maintain these servers. This is all well and good until they go offline, as what happened earlier this year for more than a day.

Also important is how the customer data will be stored, preferably encrypted and compressed. “Our clients like our solution because they have regulatory requirements that require encrypted and offsite data storage,” says Leek.

Finally, is backup part of a general managed services offering or will the VAR be a specialized backup-only provider? There are pros and cons of both approaches: a general MSP can offer additional services and revenue opportunities, while a specialty backup provider can focus on this particular issue and develop deeper expertise that includes support for non-Windows clients as well as server-based data too. It really depends on the direction that the VAR wants to go towards. “The ideal VAR customer for us is someone that has a lot of managed services customers and is looking for something more reliable than tape, and has financial or medical vertical clients,” says Leek.

Vembu, based in Chennai, India, is “placing our betas on regional service providers to drive online backup adoption amongst SMBs,” says Lakshmanan Narayan, the co-founder of the company. “In our experience, SMBs looking at online backups are essentially buying peace of mind – their regular IT service provider is probably best placed (and trusted) to provide them this service.”

Wahl suggests that VARs offer additional services, such as the ability to create DVD copies or next-day delivery of a new hard disk with the data pre-installed.

Clearly, online data storage is a technology who’s time has come. “We have reached the point where online disk storage is cheaper than tape,” says Leek.

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