For many new managed services providers (MSPs), one of the first sources of recurring revenue comes from selling BDR services (followed closely by security). The fact is that most companies have some backup software already (e.g., Apple and Microsoft include backup software with their operating systems), but that doesn’t mean they don’t need your services. Consider these alarming stats:
- A Kroll Ontrack study of nearly 600 IT administrators found that one-third of IT managers have lost data while migrating between devices or upgrading operating systems.
- Kroll Ontrack also found that while 57% of respondents had a backup solution in place, 75% were not able to restore all of their lost data, with more than 23% unable to recover any data at all.
- In its 2017 Cost of Data Breach Study, Ponemon Institute posits that the average cost of a lost or stolen record containing sensitive or confidential information is $225 per record. These figures grow significantly when data is breached rather than merely lost.
There’s much more that could be said about the causes of data loss and subsequent costs—direct and indirect. There’s lots to be said about the human factor in data loss, too, such as accidentally deleted files and manual backup procedures that require a person to run an application, remove a local backup from the premises and testing backups.
BDR vendors recognize the above data backup and recovery pitfalls, and many of them have added features that automate processes, make it easy for MSPs to remotely monitor backups and identify missed backups. Through the use of virtualization technologies, validating backups is easier than ever before, too.
For our inaugural issue of XaaS (“Everything as a Service”) Journal, we solicited feedback from seven BDR vendors in the IT channel—Acronis, Axcient/eFolder, Barracuda MSP, Continuum, Infrascale, Sky Data Vault, and StorageCraft—and we asked them 20+ questions about their products. You can see the full matrix of questions and responses at in this Excel spreadsheet. However, below is our summary of highlights and observations.
Virtualization Isn’t Just a Nice-to-Have, It’s a Must-Have
Although virtualization has been around for several years, it’s evolved over the past few years to the point where it’s competitively priced and can give MSPs a competitive edge. What makes virtualization so important is that it overcomes the “one physical server for each application limitations” of physical machine environments.
In a virtualized environment, a virtual machine (VM) backup can be performed using a customer’s existing hardware, enabling the customer to have a local copy of their data without requiring them to purchase a dedicated BDR appliance. Additionally, in a virtualization environment, multiple servers and operating systems can run on a single physical machine (called a host), which cuts down on hardware costs. And, although a VM backup is technically considered an image, it offers the same granularity capabilities of a file backup system.
Each of the seven BDR vendors in our comparison supports VMware and Hyper-V VM backups, most also support Citrix XenServer (except Sky Data Vault), and some support additional hypervisor formats.
If Your Customers Use Macs, Pay Attention To This
Unlike some of the other categories where there are lots of similarities among the seven vendors, the Apple laptop/desktop backup category highlights differences. For instance, Acronis offers “fully-featured backup and recovery” for Mac products with operating systems as old as Mavericks 10.9 (released June 10, 2013) to the latest macOS High Sierra. Sky Data Vault has backup support for devices running OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard (released June 8, 2009), including file and folder backup but not full virtualization. StorageCraft’s OneXafe, Axcient/eFolder’s Replibit, and Continuum BDR offer no Mac support.
According to research from Statista, Mac OS X adoption in the workplace is around 13%. Some companies, like Cisco, a formerly anti-Mac company, now has about 20% of its users (35,000) on Macs. If all Mac users are accessing and storing files on a network server that you’re backing up, perhaps that’s a viable workaround to using a BDR product that doesn’t backup Mac laptop and desktop hard drives. If, on the other hand, you have Mac users who connect to the network infrequently and store data locally often, this could become an important feature.
What About Mobile Users?
In today’s BYOD (bring your own device) age, a majority of users have at least some business apps running on their personal smartphones and tablets, most of which are running Android or iOS operating systems. Among the seven BDR vendors, only Acronis’ and Infrascale’s products offer backup support for these mobile operating systems. Mobile backups are an important component of MDM (mobile device management), which is another service MSPs should consider offering. Sticking to the BDR theme, however, MSPs need to know whether any data is being stored locally on users’ personal devices. If it is, you should back up those devices.
One of the biggest issues companies wrestle with when it comes to personal devices is what happens when an employee leaves the company. If each mobile user is responsible for backing up their personal devices (i.e., to iCloud or Google Drive), the owner has a much more difficult time separating its proprietary data from the device owner’s photos, videos, and other data. By using an enterprise-grade BDR (or MDM solution), company-owned assets can be separated from personally-owned assets.
Know Your Customers’ RTO and RPO Requirements
Another key consideration MSPs should consider before selecting a BDR solution is the product’s RTO (recovery time objective) and RPO (recovery point objective) capabilities. RTO is the maximum tolerable length of time that an application, system or computer can be down after a failure or disaster occurs. Depending on your customer, RTO can range from a day to as short as a few minutes. RPO refers to the amount of data that’s at risk when a server or computer fails. The BDR vendors’ products offer backup intervals ranging from 1 minute to 1 hour (i.e., the RPO). Determining the RTO for each vendor isn’t as black-and-white since we’d need to know other variables related to the network, internet bandwidth and speed, the BDR appliance specs (e.g., CPU, RAM) and type of restore being performed (e.g., physical system restore vs. VM restore).
RTO and RPO are critical to discuss with your clients because they help clients understand the value of their data—and the cost of downtime, which is a necessary first step to choosing a professional BDR service over cheap (and unmanaged) backup software.
Don’t Compromise Your (Backup) Integrity
Here’s another essential nugget to keep in mind with your BDR offering: It’s only as good as your last tested (and secure) backup. Endpoint security provider Barkly surveyed IT pros from more than 300 organizations in May 2016. It found that nearly 100% of respondents reported they were backing up their data and the 81% of respondents who hadn’t (yet) experienced a ransomware attack were confident they could recover any data that was encrypted following an attack. However, among those who did suffer a ransomware attack, only 42% were able to recover their data entirely.
There are two things you need to keep in mind to ensure your customers are fully protected: First, make sure your backups are 3-2-1 compliant, meaning you have three copies of your customers’ data in two locations, one of which is off-site.
The second tip is that you need to test the integrity of your backups, and here’s where an enterprise-grade BDR product like those listed in this comparison report standout from their consumer-grade counterparts. Not only does each product offer some integrity checking feature, but many of them also provide automated testing and confirmations, which means your technicians don’t have to manually perform a full data restore to validate the success of a data set.
Final Comments And Conclusions
Testing multiple BDR products to determine which one performs best is a daunting task (Trust me, I’ve been there). However, comparing product features is an excellent place to start. Also, although we haven’t talked about product pricing structure, partner support, and partner programs; these are significant considerations to weigh before making a final determination. All of the vendors in our comparison report sell through the channel, they offer 24/7 support, and there aren’t any minimum purchase requirements to become an authorized reseller. If you’re comparing one of these seven vendors to a BDR vendor not included in this list, be sure the contender also upholds these same standards. When you run into a difficult situation with a backup or restore—and you will—the last thing you need to worry about is an unresponsive vendor partner.