Dialing up the Right MSP for Online Backup Requires More than just Picking up the Phone

In an earlier blog
entry
, I took a look at why more IT managers are choosing to rent, rather
than build, their backup infrastructures by outsourcing their backups to
managed service providers (MSPs). However as the number of MSPs proliferate,
the decision about which MSP to dial up gets harder, not easier, since more and
more VARs are jumping on the SaaS bandwagon to offer Managed Backup Services.
Further, companies need to quantify their own needs and expectations as they
select an MSP. Below are some examples of questions that they need to ask and
answer internally and externally before making this important decision.

Internal Questions

  • What are the RTO and RPO
    requirements for my applications?
  • Do you have current data
    retention policies in place?
  • How long does each type of
    business data need to be retained for?
  • After a certain period of
    time, should the backup data be moved into an archive for longer-term
    retention?
  • What sort of backup SLA do
    you need to provide to your customers?
  • How
    often is your organization going to perform Disaster Recovery testing?

Questions for the MSP

  • What backup software have
    you deployed in your data center to enable the managed backup  services?

This question is the key because all the features and
functionality you will be leveraging when running backups and recoveries is
ultimately tied to the platform they are running internally. MSPs like
AmeriVault who leverage Asigra’s Televaulting platform are able to offer the
market leading functionality at a low cost – which is the primary reason for
the success in retention and growth of their customer base.

Other questions you can ask include:

  • How many customers are
    using your backup and recovery services?
  • How long have you been
    providing this service to you customers?
  • Do you own or lease your
    data-center facility?
  • What type of facility will
    my data be living in? (SAS-70 Compliant, DC type, Network, Security, 24×7
    operations support, generator backup, UPS, Fire suppression etc)
  • Can we take a tour of your
    facility?
  • Can we meet some of your
    support engineers?
  • Do you offer a replication
    option, to ensure my data exists in at least two locations?
  • Can I speak to some of
    your customers? (Especially ones in your vertical if possible)
  • Can you show me your
    metrics for uptime on your backup and recovery infrastructure down into
    the facility?
  • Can
    you show me some metrics on recovery times for different types of file
    sizes and entire systems?

There are many other questions that can be asked but you
really need to base them on your specific situation. Feel out the service
providers you are talking to in order to understand what specific market they
are seeking to satisfy and use that information to attempt to find one that
meets your specific needs. For example, you may not need a superior facility to
house your data (based on your business needs, of course) while some
organizations may need a Tier-4
data center. In whatever circumstance you find yourself, make sure before you
only pull the trigger after you fully understand what your MSP is going to
provide you.

Determining what the cost structures are for this
deployment is equally important to the decision. Weigh the cost of how the MSP
will charge you for its services, whether that is by TB backed up, backup jobs,
restore jobs, etc. Further, do they provide multiple facility types and do your
costs go down based on the robustness of the facility your data is housed in.
For example, maybe your company requires a very stringent data integrity, which
would probably push you in the direction of a more hardened facility.

The real positives about outsourcing your backup and
recovery environment to a well respected MSP can save you substantial amounts
of money and headaches – if you choose the right one. Managing your own backup
and recovery infrastructure requires you manage multiple moving parts (tape
Libraries, tape drives, network performance, virtual tape libraries, etc.), as
well as the people, media and offsite storage facilities. So when calculating
an internal versus external cost models, make sure that you are dialed into and
accounting for all those aspects in mind because as you do, the rationale for
going with an MSP for your backup and recovery environment can makes a lot of
sense in many circumstances.

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