Can the cloud remake the SMB backup market?

Can the cloud remake the SMB backup market?

Summary: Everyone needs backup yet its still a widely underutilized service that is often poorly understood. Can cloud vendors educate their consumers and still offer the level of service that used to be the domain of enterprise-only facilities?

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Backup is one of the most common topics of conversation I have with my SMB clients. If there is a backup mechanism out there targeted at SMB customers, one of them is probably using it. From heavily advertised services like Carbonite backup and file sharing service Dropbox, to mixed cloud/hardware appliances, you would get the impression that there is already a very clearly identified market for the SMB customer to find their solution in the cloud.

But you would likely be surprised by the lack of understanding in this space about what it is they are actually using to back up the data that is their business' lifeblood. Few, if any, have ever tested the ability to restore on a large scale, the term SLA is meaningless to most, and their data protection rarely fits their needs completely, instead being a situation where a popular one-size-fits-all solution has been adopted.

This isn't true with all my clients in the SMB space, but I have found that is almost universal in one small, but significant segment. That segment is the small, high-revenue business. With usually fewer than 5 employees these are businesses whose revenue streams exceed $1,000,000 per employee. They don't have complex IT environments, but depend on computers and a particular data set to keep them in business. They want solutions to their problems, not IT departments, and in many cases have absolutely no IT support other than what was offered by the vendor that sold them their computers or an industry specific application.

They need solutions that just work, so the cloud seems like a perfect match for them, but it's not quite that simple. When you look at cloud backup solutions, from an IT perspective, they for the most part look pretty good. But perspective is everything.  Where an IT guy looks at an application and says to himself "Wow, their web interface looks really good, gives me the information that I need, and lets me manage my backups" , but these types of users could care less what the web interface looks like, don't want to actively manage their backups, but would be really happy to simply get a daily status email that told them that everything was working fine and that their data was being backed up as specified.

These customers aren't the home user; their business depends on those backups being up to date and available. But they also aren't computer techies, who understand the nuances of the issues they are likely to face. A few these clients called me for recommendations for backup solutions not when they had suffered a catastrophic failure, but when some condition occurred that brought to their attention that their backup process wasn't working, and in most of the cases, hadn't been working for an extended period. These clients were on the edge of panic with the sudden realization that they could have been put out of business had a local drive failed while their backup vendors wasn't backing up.

I'm not selling these clients any sort of backup service; most of them are connected to me because I was involved in some very narrowly focused technical project they had needed outside assistance with. So when they call me they get a quick lesson in what to look for in a backup services, how to find a solution to meet their needs, and most importantly, what questions they absolutely need to ask the solution vendors before they commit their business to these cloud -based services.

The cloud has changed the game for SMB customers, especially in storage and backup, but there is still a lot of education that needs to be done to make sure that customers are making the proper choices for their business.

Topics: Storage, Data Management

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9 comments
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  • RE: Can the cloud remake the SMB backup market?

    Great article David, and I agree that customers need to learn a bit more about the market and the technology before making any major leaps in this area of IT, if they don't have dedicated IT staff to take care of it for them.
    Bates_
    • RE: Can the cloud remake the SMB backup market?

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  • RE: Can the cloud remake the SMB backup market?

    A totally useless article.
    chris_black
    • RE: Can the cloud remake the SMB backup market?

      @chris_black A totally useless comment, as well? *nods*

      I found this article very informative. Thank you, David.
      amorefelina
      • chris_black is too terse

        @amorefelina <br><br>I can't find any useful info in this article at all. It just seems to say "be careful" with no insight whatsoever as to "of what" or "how to".<br><br>I'm clueless as to what insight you think it had.<br><br>Please enlighten me.
        johncpm@...
  • i agree

    this article could have been 1 - 2 sentences long and conveyed the same amount of information. Was this article spun by a seo program?
    mrefuman
  • RE: Can the cloud remake the SMB backup market?

    The article covers what may be a life and death decision made by many very small businesses: To rely on advertising to decide what their disaster recovery system will be. Companies with 5 million revenue should outsource their IT to another small business that can act as their trusted IT adviser and manager. They should view that company/person as important as their CPA and perhaps even as their attorney. They should pay that person to run a disaster recovery simulation drill. <br><br>Since some readers felt that nuts and bolts were missing from the article I'll layout what I think these very small businesses should be doing. They should step back right now and look at whether a 100 percent cloud based approach will work for them right now and if so start that transition right away. In my opinion that's where things are headed - the sooner you get there the better off you'll be. Servers that remain on premise should either themselves be virtualized or their backups should be VM images that can quickly be restored to generic server hardware. Backups should be both local and cloud. For local we use hot swappable eSata rack mount drive units that mirror the drives so the owners can pop one of them out and take it to the bank or home. At the same time they put back in an older backup drive which then catches up. See www.high-rely.com (no affiliation except I use their products). At the same time they should also be backing up to a cloud solution that is a best compromise of their their volume, time-to-restore requirements and budget.
    dougs.zdnet@...
    • RE: Can the cloud remake the SMB backup market?

      @dougs.zdnet@... we are looking at high-rely as our current tape system is not sufficient to backup all our data on 1 tape. We love the potential of this "simple" solution. Have you had any issues with High-Rely? Is it as straightforward as it seems? Would love to hook you up with our IT guys. Not sure this is the right forum for that. If not I apologize. We are a growing company w few IT resources and need simple effective solutions desperately.
      Stabby91
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