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.
- 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, 24x7 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.