Starting an MSP Backup and Recovery Service: IT Partner Options

Backup and recovery has always been a critical IT issue but in the wake of a plague of crippling ransomware attacks, data protection is now a top priority for almost every organization of any size. That creates a stellar opportunity for managed service providers (MSPs) – and indeed, backup and recovery was the top opportunity for MSPs in a recent survey. This is the first in a series of articles on how MSPs can build a backup services business, including potential channel partners.

The challenge small-to-medium businesses face is they typically don’t have the IT expertise required to ensure that their data is sufficiently protected. After all, there’s a lot that can go wrong when backing up data. It’s not uncommon for files to be corrupted during the backup process, or for the same malware that infected the IT environment in the first place to be copied along with the other files being backed up – a disaster that leaves an organization little choice but to pay a ransom and hope to get their data back. In fact, the one thing most organizations regularly fail to do is test their backup and recovery processes.

MSPs that specialize in data protection have the expertise and experience required to consistently backup and recover data. Not surprisingly, given the increased appreciation for the threat posed by ransomware, managed data protection services are in high demand.

Choosing an MSP Backup Platform

The challenge MSPs face when selecting a platform to deliver these services comes down to cost and how quickly their end customer needs to recover. Many MSPs today routinely rely on data protection platforms provided by IT vendors that allow MSPs to deliver a service without having to invest a massive amount of capital. Other MSPs opt to implement backup and recovery platforms they either acquire or build themselves.

The decision to go one way or another is often driven by the recovery time and recovery point objectives of the end customer. It can, for example, take a significant amount of time to fully recover files from a cloud service if the applications being employed are running in an on-premises IT environment. Conversely, the cost of storing backups in an on-premises IT environment is a lot higher than it is in the cloud – and may not be sufficiently distant from primary data to survive a physical disaster like a hurricane, fire, flood or earthquake. In most instances, MSPs are trying to strike a balance between recovery and cost in an IT services sector that is fiercely competitive from a pricing perspective.

As a rule, organizations should have three copies of their data on two different media, with one copy off-site for disaster recovery, otherwise known as a 3-2-1 backup and recovery strategy. However, there are plenty of instances when given either the business value of the data being backed up or simply its age that a single backup copy that doubles as an archive is sufficient to meet the needs of a small business.

Best Backup and Recovery Platforms for MSPs

Here are some of the top choices for MSPs looking for a vendor partner to start a backup and recovery service.

Acronis

Acronis protects more than 20 workload types, including Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle DBMS Real Application clusters, and SAP HANA, from a single console using a cloud service or on-premises edition of the platform. Acronis products are available through 50,000 partners and service providers in over 150 countries.

Barracuda Networks

The Barracuda Networks Intronis Backup offering is based on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform that is made available to MSPs for a fixed cost per SMB customer site. It supports both physical and virtual machines, with the latter recoverable in minutes. There is also a separate Cloud-to-Cloud Backup offering for Office 365 data. Both offerings can be integrated with the remote monitoring and management (RMM) tools the company provides.

Datto Holding Corp.

Datto makes its SIRIS data protection software available on both physical and virtual appliances. Files can be stored locally or in the cloud, while proprietary Inverse Chain Technology reduces failure rates associated with traditional incremental backups. All backups are scanned for ransomware.

Kaseya

The Kaseya Backup & Disaster Recovery platform provides real-time automated disk backup, disk imaging, file-level backup and bare-metal restore for Windows servers and workstations. It creates an image of an entire system state to enable MSPs to rebuild a system in less than an hour. A Kaseya Unified Backup console centralizes the management of the backup and recovery process. The company also owns Unitrends, a provider of physical appliances for backing up and recovering data. And in what may turn out to be a positive in the long run, certainly no vendor has more experience with ransomware.

N-Able

The N-Able Backup platform is based on a private cloud service spanning 30 data centers. It provides a variety of recovery options, including bare metal restores, physical-to-virtual recovery, continuous recovery, and recovery to your own alternate location. The N-Able platform doesn’t require a dedicated appliance in the on-premises IT environment to be acquired and installed.

NovaBACKUP

The company provides a console through which MSPs can manage backup and recovery enabled by NovaBACKUP software. It includes a FastBIT capability that performs a block-level comparison between files already backed up and files on a client machine being backed up. Once determined, FastBIT prepares and sends only the differences at the block level between those two files to minimize bandwidth consumption.

Quest Software

The Quest Rapid Recovery platform leverages image-based snapshots up to every five minutes to enable MSPs to achieve recovery point objectives. It tracks changed blocks to accelerate backups and reduce storage and includes built-in data deduplication tools to reduce data storage costs regardless of when data is ultimately stored.

StorageCraft Technology Corp.

An arm of Arcserve, the ShadowXafe data protection platform provides both agent-based and host-based protection for virtual machines (VMs) across an unlimited number of endpoints. There are currently more than 4,000 MSPs that employ various StorageCraft data protection offerings.

Cloud Platforms That Have MSP Partner Programs

Also consider cloud platforms that offer MSP partner programs – here are five worth evaluating.

Arcserve: Provides access to an Arcserve Unified Data Protection (UDP) software for bare metal and virtual machines that is integrated with security software from Sophos to thwart ransomware attacks.

Carbonite: A unit of OpenText, the company’s channel program provides access to a suite of data protection tools capable of orchestrating backup and recovery across multi-tier applications.

Druva: Created an MSP program to expand adoption of its namesake SaaS platform for managing backup and recovery.

Rubrik: The Rubrik Services Deliver Partner Program provides access to a SaaS platform that MSPs can brand as being powered by Rubrik.

Veeam: Currently provides a range of data protection tools to more than 400,000 customers often delivered via more than 35,000 technology partners, resellers and service providers.

On-premises Platforms that Have MSP Partner Programs

Finally, here are three top-tier data storage vendors that have MSP partner programs.

Commvault: Has a dedicated managed service provider program through which it provides access to on-premises appliances that are integrated with cloud services. The company also has a separate Metallic SaaS platform that MSP can employ to manage backup and recovery.

Dell Technologies: Via the Dell Service Provider Program, MSPs are provided with access to a wide range of storage solutions that include data protection appliances that can be integrated with back-end cloud services. An MSP Accelerator portal is accessible from Dell PartnerDirect web site.

Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE): Fresh off acquiring Zerto, a provider of a platform for automating the management of backup and recovery, the scope of the data protection platforms from HPE that MSPs can employ through its channel program are growing.

MSP Backup Options

There is no shortage of options for MSPs that want to deliver data protection solutions to SMBs. In some cases, MSPs may even decide to employ white boxes to build their own service. In other cases, vendors will allow the MSP to “white label” their platform in a way that doesn’t require them to disclose to end customers what underlying platform they are employing.

MSPs will also need to consider to what degree they want to build a service themselves versus reselling so-called “as-a-service” platforms through which IT vendors are delivering their own branded managed services. In fact, the number of resellers of these platforms that are now marketing themselves as an MSP creates a competitive challenge for MSPs that to varying degrees have historically built their own data protection platforms.

Most MSPs, of course, support multiple data protection platforms simply because different SMB customers might prefer one platform over another. In many of those cases they will employ a central console capable of managing the data protection process across data protection platforms from multiple vendors. Many MSPs also provide disaster recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS) capabilities that for a higher cost provide near instant access to duplicate IT environments that are generally provided via a cloud service.

Regardless of approach, however, demand for managed data protection services continues to expand. The challenge MSPs face is determining how best to profitably deliver those services.

Michael Vizard
Michael Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist, with nearly 30 years of experience writing and editing about enterprise IT issues. He is a contributor to publications including Programmableweb, IT Business Edge, CIOinsight, Channel Insider and UBM Tech. He formerly was editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise, where he launched the company’s custom content division, and has also served as editor in chief for CRN and InfoWorld. He also has held editorial positions at PC Week, Computerworld and Digital Review.

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