In-Depth

Backup and Recovery -- What Are SMBs Waiting For?

In the battle to get customers to pay attention to backup and recovery offerings, it's important to know your enemy.

Having a disaster recovery plan is important. I know it, you know it, and I daresay your customers know it ... even if they aren't willing to do much about it. The statistics that should encourage companies to implement backup and recovery plans are pretty compelling:

  • The average cost of a single incident of data loss: US$10,000, according to Gartner
  • The percentage of companies that never re-open after a large-scale data loss: 43 percent, according to the Contingency Planning Research and Strategic Research Corporation
  • The percentage of companies that reopen after experiencing significant data loss, but close within five years: 93 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor

Still, most SMBs only pay lip service to the issue. Why is that?

At the core, your enemy is apathy, usually resulting from one or more of the following factors:

Factor 1: False Optimism
The corporate culture may be such that "only good news is reported upward," resulting in an unrealistically rosy outlook on the state of the systems.

Factor 2: Competing priorities
To some, the concepts of "security" and "backup" conflict. In other words, security policies ideally make it difficult to gain access to data; backups are optimized to make data access, for the purposes of recovery, easy.

Factor 3: Lack of Focus
Like many projects that require thought and input from divisions across an organization, backup and recovery projects often lack focus and leadership.

Factor 4: Deprioritization
Backup and recovery often take a back seat to primary business goals, especially in tough economic times when the corporate mantra is "do more with less." It's hard enough to handle day-to-day tasks, much less prepare for some crisis that might hit (or might not -- see Factor 5).

Factor 5: Avoidance
The random nature of disasters makes it easy for some small business owners to close their eyes to the danger and hope the worst-case scenario doesn't happen to them.

Factor 6: Paralysis
At the other end of the spectrum from avoidance is the fear that there are so many things that could go wrong, in so many different ways, with such damaging effects, that the company couldn't possibly effectively plan for a disaster.

"Most small business owners have thought about disaster scenarios," says Brian Gardner, president of MSP BBTech Solutions. "They're aware of the problem, but haven't done a lot about it." The painful truth is that many SMBs won't pay serious attention to backup and recovery until there's a crisis -- and then it's too late. As a managed service provider, you are in a position to help, but how do you get them to listen?

The best strategy, as with all seemingly insurmountable problems, is one step at a time. If you've educated your customer on the problem, the next step is to present them with a backup and recovery package that is simple for them to implement because you're handling all the details. As an example, BBTech Solutions offers its DataHive Offsite Backup Service. The customer determines how often backups run, and BBTech handles the rest. However, BBTech doesn't do it alone. Behind the DataHive offering is Zenith Infosystems' disk-based BDR and 24x7 NOC services.

Of course, it's important to set clear expectations during the sales cycle and in the service level agreement. A backup offering will protect data, but the customer needs to understand there's more work to do:

  • Securing their work site in the event of fire, flood, earthquake, hurricane, etc. In the event the work site can't be secured, is there another possible back-up work site? Are employees equipped to work from home for a short period of time?
  • Understanding which employees have unique knowledge of the business, and requiring them to document that knowledge in the event they are incapacitated.
  • Creating a PR plan so the customer base feels confident things will return to "business as usual" after the crisis has passed.

These are just a few of the next factors to consider. Still, your customer can feel proud that they've taken an important first step in protecting their data. Once they've seen that disaster planning isn't as overwhelming as they thought, it will be easier for you to help them add the next necessary layers to their plan, making you an integral part of their business.

About the Author

Christa Ayer is a freelance technology writer based in Seattle, Wash.