Is Online Backup A Commodity?

As I look into 2008, I'm starting to think that online backup has become a commodity -- a managed service that every MSP has to offer as part of a larger suite of services. Thanks to heightened competition, the days of offering online backup as your one and only managed service are over.

Dozens of companies specialize in online backup. Big companies have purchased their way into the online backup game (example: Seagate acquired eVault in December 2006). And established software companies are now moving into the market (example: Symantec Protection Network will likely launch in January 2008). And let's not forget about CommVault's new online backup service. And there's also Asigra, which says its Televaulting software now has 50,000 remote sites under protection.

So how can smaller MSPs compete in this very crowded market? I see two clear opportunities. First, push beyond traditional servers and Windows desktops to support Mac OS X and Linux. This could be a particularly popular approach if you deal with K-12 schools and universities.

Second, I'd drop the "backup" term and lead with "contingency planning" or "disaster recovery" instead. Show customers how you can keep them online -- or get them back online fast -- in the event of an emergency. Include backup services as part of your broader contingency planning or network protection service.

With so many competitors in the market, the days of selling online backup in a vacuum appear over.

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