The ABCs of Managed Services – B is for Cloud Backup
Welcome to Part III of the series, The ABC’s of Managed Services, focused on B for Backup, including cloud backup and online backup services. As some of you undoubtedly know, I work for Intronis. This blog, however, is more about building a backup and disaster recovery practice, and less about the specific tools you use to get there.
If, as a result of reading this, you want to learn more about Intronis, check us out at www.intronis.com to learn more. OK – the shameless plug is over, let’s talk about backup and disaster recovery, business continuity, your customer’s data, and why you are on the hook for it from the moment you walk in the door (or maybe from the moment you sign a contract).
Why is your customer’s data so important? We all know the answer. Data is the lifeblood of a business. Billing, collections, intellectual property, project status, and virtually everything else is part of your customer’s data. When a customer’s network is down, people focus on getting it back up and running as soon as possible. When a customer’s data is potentially lost, people panic…which includes the usual hair pulling, nail biting, litigation contemplating panic. So yes, having a complete, restorable and current backup is important. As an MSP, building an effective and clear backup practice is core to the total value you offer.
So, first things first, pick the tools (products, services, providers) that you are going to use to deliver BDR and Business Continuity. This is not like selling a printer or a computer…
- Evaluate options, get feedback from your peers, and expend as much time and effort as it takes to make a decision on what tools you will take to market.
- Then, invest the time and dollars necessary to make the tools you pick part of your solution. Train your people on the capabilities of the product(s).
- Build an SLA that speaks clearly and directly to the capabilities of your solution.
- Build appropriate marketing materials and train your sales team thoroughly on the solution.
- Make sure that your sales effort includes a demonstration of how you can backup, restore, and positively impact your potential customer’s business on a day-to-day basis as well as in the case of an emergency.
In a phrase, build a backup practice. All your customers require a reliable strategy for backup and recovery. All too often I see resellers who are trying to build an MSP business looking for the customer opportunity first, and the solution second. This is one of those places where understanding the solution first will reap rewards both in the quality of the service you provide, and the number of customers you work with.
Second, make sure you know what your customer is expecting in terms of recovery, and that your solution is able to deliver against those expectations. There are a number of ways to accomplish this, but in my experience it is best to start the conversation with your own SLA, and work from there. Very often the potential customer cannot easily answer questions about their RPO (Recovery Point Objective) and RTO (Recovery Time Objective), and find it even harder to answer “what are your backup and recovery expectations” without a list of criteria as follow-up. So, make it easy. Either walk them through your SLA and explain it in detail, or put together a check list of questions and go through it together. Either way, take notes and make sure your proposal clearly reflects the conversation.
Third, when you have earned the backup business, it is important to remember that backup is one of those services that generally hides in the background, that no one really looks forward to using, and is generally only visible when disaster strikes or the bill comes due. It is important to remind your customer of the backup value you are providing on a quarterly basis (during your quarterly business review) with reports of current backup status, number of backups completed, and amount of data protected. It is also a great idea to do a trial restore at your customer site on a quarterly basis and report the results. If you allow the value of the backup services you perform to get lost over time, you risk losing the business, which is bad for both you and the customer.
Finally, it is important to remember whether or not you have explicitly contracted with your customers to backup their data, there is every likelihood that in the event of loss you may (unfairly) end up stuck with some of the blame. Many MSPs today will not engage with a customer if backup is not part of the solution, and interestingly enough, these same MSPs quietly enjoy more margin on their backup solution than the rest of the industry. The lesson here is clear – those MSPs who lead their customers towards sound and best practices are often the most successful at least in part because their customers sense a level of competency and thoroughness from the MSP, which lets them sleep more comfortably at night.