Backup has become a fairly innocuous method for companies to use to test the capabilities of a Managed Service Provider (MSP) and start companies down the path of outsourcing some of their storage services. However the task of selecting an MSP should go well beyond just determining how well it backs up data.
Outsourcing backups is likely just the first step for most companies in a larger journey that companies are embarking are towards outsourcing more of their storage management requirements. So it behooves companies to regularly analyze their MSP to determine what steps it is taking to improve the management of its backup data stores and keep its data storage costs down long term.
MSPs face the same challenges that their clients face – managing massively growing backup data stores. Job 1 for an MSP is backing up their clients’ data. But managing the data after the backup is complete? That’s a totally separate discipline and one that companies should not assume that their preferred MSP is appropriately managing.
Most MSPs (probably all) store and keep their clients’ backup data on disk, at least initially. However the storage management problem that MSPs face is very similar to the one their clients face: Placing backup data on the right tier of storage and pricing it accordingly. This may sound trivial but as their clients’ backup data stores grow, the data stores at the MSPs also grow. These growing backup data stores force MSPs to make a hard decision – keep buying more of the same type of disk; or create a tiered storage infrastructure and place the client data on the appropriate tier of disk and then extend that to pricing strategies to lower customers’ costs.
What does that look like in backup data stores? In the case of backup, MSPs will want to keep the data from the most recent backups on SATA-based storage systems (or Fibre Channel or SAS disk drives). Most client recovery requests (over 80%) occur within a week of the backup and keeping it on disk expedites those client recovery requests. The problem that emerges is that companies typically create weekly and monthly backups that they may keep for months, or even years, and MSPs have to cost-effectively satisfy these client requirements which they can not always do by placing data initially on disk.
Keeping all data on disk can quickly become cost-prohibitive – both for the MSP and its clients – not because of the cost of the disk but because of the growing power costs associated with keeping these disk drives constantly spinning. While MSPs will want to keep the recently backed up data online and accessible, backup data over a month old likely belongs on most cost-effective media. Failure to mange data in this way means increased backup storage costs for the clients that use this MSP’s services since the MSP is keeping all data on one tier of disk and not putting infrequently or never accessed backup data on lower cost, backend storage – such as MAID storage systems.
Companies looking to outsource their backups need to hold their MSPs to a higher storage management standard lest companies find their backup storage costs steadily creeping up over time. Backup stores are constantly growing and companies should verify that their MSP is taking appropriate steps on the back-end to manage their backup data to meet their availability and accessibility requirements while controlling costs and aligning the price of the service with the value of the backup-data as it ages over time . Those MSPs that use Asigra Televaulting as part of their service offering and use its Backup Lifecycle Management (BLM) feature already have a means to answer this question. We’ll get into more details of how BLM works and how it keeps end-user costs down in forthcoming blog entries.