MSPs with Data Protection Expertise Are in Demand

Backup and recovery has historically been considered something of a chore within small-to-medium businesses that should be done if remembered. With the rise of ransomware, however, the demand for data protection services has soared. Managed service providers (MSPs) that have the expertise required to ensure that a pristine copy of an organization’s data is always available are now highly sought after.

As SMBs rely more on MSPs to protect their data, the percentage of backup and recovery solutions that are consumed as a service rather than deployed and maintained by an internal IT team have significantly increased, thanks in part to the need to reliably recover data. In fact, a recent survey of 3,000 IT decision makers conducted by Veeam Software, a provider of data protection software, found that 58% of data recoveries fail. For a tool that’s critical for recovering from ransomware attacks, that’s well, a disaster.

Backup Vendors Woo MSPs with Partner Programs

Not surprisingly, providers of the platforms the MSPs employ to secure data have been falling all over themselves to recruit MSPs. Since the beginning of the year, providers of data protection software have made major revisions to their MSP partner programs to make it easier and cheaper for MSPs to use their platform to create turnkey services for customers. Here are some of the channel program improvements from some big names in data protection:

Acronis added a no-cost version of Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud that doesn’t require MSPs to make any upfront investments to deliver backup and recovery services. After raising an additional $250 million in funding that saw its valuation soar to $2.5 billion, Acronis also added Advanced File Sync and Share pack tools to the platform as well. Those latter capabilities include the ability to notarize files using a blockchain platform based on Ethereum technology.

Druva, which offers a software-as-a-service (SaaS) data protection platform, launched a channel program specifically aimed at MSPs. Designed around a service center console through which partners can create unique service plans for each customer based on how much storage is consumed, recovery objectives, and the sensitivity of the data being protected, the program is designed to spur adoption of a platform that can be configured on behalf of a customer in less than 15 minutes.

Commvault revamped its MSP and Aggregator Partner Advantage Programs to provide MSPs with more incentives along with additional marketing support and technical resources to deliver “Commvault Powered” services to their end customers. The two-tier program also provides flexible licensing and consumption options that include both subscription and utility agreements. Commvault also plans to add Metallic for MSPs, a SaaS platform it provides, to its Partner Advantage Program later this year.

Datto has enhanced its Global Partner Program to include Datto Help Center and a set of revamped support processes via a unified Datto Community. It also added Datto Academy and is making available a marketing automation platform to partners as part of the relaunch of Virtual SIRIS (vSIRIS), a version of its data protection software that can be deployed anywhere as a virtual appliance.

ConnectWise launched a platform that enables MSPs to manage backup and data recovery (BDR) processes using multiple third-party applications. ConnectWise Recover Complete BDR provides MSPs with a management console to monitor and manage backup and recovery via the ConnectWise network operations center.

Barracuda Networks announced it has rearchitected its cloud-to-cloud backup platform for MSPs to include support for Office 365 and a range of other SaaS applications as part of an effort to make it simpler to scale backup and recovery of cloud applications.

Further reading: Starting an MSP Backup and Recovery Service: IT Partner Options

Making a Backup Service Business Model Work

Finding a way to deliver data protection services isn’t much of a challenge these days for MSPs. The real issue is delivering those services in a way that is most profitable. A recent survey of 419 MSPs conducted by Barracuda Networks finds backup and recovery (90%), endpoint security (82%), email security (80%) and network security (80%) are the four managed services most commonly provided.

Competition among MSPs for business is fierce. The more costs an MSP can offset, the more profitable they are likely to be. Assuming all capabilities are relatively equal from a technology perspective, MSPs need to carefully evaluate the total cost of standardizing on one data protection platform or another. Those costs include not just setting up of the platform, but also how much effort it takes to market and sell it.

Competition From Vendors, Resellers

MSPs also need to take into account how many other MSPs are selling the exact same service and to what degree providers of those platforms that also sell direct are competing with their MSP partners.

That latter issue is becoming more complex with the rise of so-called as-a-service platforms through which vendors such as Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Dell Technologies are providing managed data protection services to on-premises IT environments.

In fact, many channel partners that simply resell those services are now positioning themselves as an MSP. Other MSPs have decided that the level of capital investment required to deliver their own managed services doesn’t make financial sense when they can resell a services platform that they don’t have to build and manage.

The Future of Backup Services

Longer term, MSPs will also need to watch to see if data protection services simply become a feature of a wider range of cybersecurity services to combat ransomware, or perhaps part of a data management platform that is being employed to enable organizations to drive digital business transformation initiatives. That could make it tougher to be a standalone backup services provider.

In fact, those two trends are driving a wave of industry alliances that can result in MSPs finding themselves forced to partner with vendors that might not be their first choice. More challenging still, the convergence of data protection and security and data management is already driving a wave of mergers and acquisitions. MSPs can easily wake up one morning to discover the data protection platform they are relying on is now owned by some other entity that may have a much different agenda.

In the meantime, MSPs that have data protection expertise are in a position to make considerable demands from the providers of the platforms they employ. So as long as that remains the case, there has arguably never been a better time than the present to be an MSP that specializes in data protection.

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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