MSP Advice Project: Article - Backup

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A solid backup solution is critical for business success. In this video, our MSP Advisors discuss how they hold conversations with clients about backup, both to protect the client and themselves.

November 05, 2018


Question: Do you require that your customers have a backup solution in place in order to work with them?

Chris Taylor: Yeah, the backup piece is a big piece of our total technology conversation.  That's one of the things we look at right away: what is your backup strategy? How are you doing it today? Who's managing it? How do you know what's happening? how do you read? I mean, there's a lot of things behind backup, right? And a lot of customers will say, “Yeah, we’ve got a backup,” and we'll ask what it is and if it’s ever been tested. And then they say, “No.” So, we do talk about a fully managed backup platform that we sell. We talk about a co-managed platform and then we generally want to understand what they're doing for backup - what their expectations around recoverability are, how they're getting it off-site. If they don't want to do some of that, we will ask them to sign off that we're not taking responsibility for a backup we can't control. So, it's a group effort around how it really comes from the top of that organization down. What is your backup stance, when do you want it, how fast do you want to be back on the data, and the recoverability - how much you want to spend on doing that because it becomes a real time and expenditure balance you have to meet there in the backup space.

Jamie Wolbeck: When we first engage with an organization, backup is one of the first things that we take a look at it through our normal assessment process. What we discovered through that assessment process is generally that their backup is out of alignment somewhere. Well now what we do when we engage with those organizations is that we give them a set of guiding principles.  Those guiding principles really show them what a good backup should look like, and what expectations they should have. And then we say, here's where your backup stacks up, and then a lot of times after that conversation they didn't really even know what their backup was capable of or is capable of and so we realign them and then they make the jump. Like they say, okay, well that isn't what I expected at all. How do I get it to good? And even if they don't work with us, they still have that set of parameters that can show them this is what good looks like. So, we educate them that way so they're not going out thinking that these subpar backups are still okay when they might be lacking. When we look at backup itself, we incorporated in our guiding principles is what good security around a backup looks like. So, it needs to be encrypted in transit and at rest. If they have a site like a secondary site or something like that where they want to replicate to, we actually don't recommend that anymore because all of those vulnerabilities are accessible from whatever secondary site they might be using. We're talking about: here's what good security looks like in the cloud; here's what you should be looking at as good for your backup; and here's what we're going to start moving towards. I would say it's not a showstopper for us. That doesn't mean we can't do business together. So, we do have engagements that work like that. They usually change over time. We are trying to educate them on what good looks like by using those guiding principles. When they have an understanding of what good should look like, and they're still okay with where they're at, then we put some sort of language in place. We have had them sign contracts before that says, “This is what your backup looks like now, you understand that, and we don't take any sort of accountability for that” in those particular cases. So, if they do call in and need to restore, if they don't have an internal IT person, it's kind of a best effort type approach. But again, that doesn't prevent us from working together where it's all kind of a continual process. If they understand what good looks like, it usually only takes one problem, and then they switch right over to a better backup.

Fred Alonzi: We also required our contract before we'll touch any of their systems, that they have to have a verified backup. Now, of course we offer backup services, but it's an option. For some of our clients who operate their own backups, we put it right in our contract that before we'll do any work on their system, they have to have a verifiable backup system. Now I think again, that's a much better process for a managed service provider. And in fact, I look back 25 years ago when I started this, typically I'd go out to a client once a month to do some preventive maintenance and find out the backup hadn't been working for 25 days. So, we don't like that. And I think that's again, a great feature of a managed service provider that we're always mining the backups and we can assure them, through our managed service portal that everything is in order, backups are happening, they're getting off-site in case of a disaster - a large disaster or a small one, like you just accidentally deleted a file. We can do the restore for them that quickly. So highly important. And again, that's part of our contract also.


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