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As more small businesses expand, they need to protect their data in case of disaster, theft or user error. A number of online backup companies have entered this market, and some even have well-developed channel programs for which they are recruiting VARs. Those companies include Asigra, Zmanda, LogMeIn, Storage Guardian, Vembu Technologies and Intronis Technologies.

Before selecting a backup partner, VARs should consider three important issues.

First, how much data is going across the Internet and how long will the initial backups take? Sending large volumes of data—say, tens of gigabytes—over the Internet may take days to back up. It might be better to make image copies locally and then do incremental backups across the Internet—or upgrade a client’s Internet bandwidth.

"The sweet spot is someone who has less than 4TB of data because of the high cost of large amounts of additional bandwidth," said John Leek, director of technology for NetStandard. "Any more than that, and you will need more bandwidth to get the data backed up nightly." NetStandard is an MSP (managed services provider) and outsourced data center that sells its own Asigra-based backup solution called Data Safe. The company currently manages more than 60TB of protected storage.

Todd Wahl, president of Technology Force, resells LogMeIn’s backup services. He cautions VARs to understand how much data is being protected. "When you have a large amount of data, you can be waiting days or weeks to get it restored," Wahl said.

The second issue to consider when looking at a backup services partner is data storage. Consider who owns the storage servers, how the data will be stored on them and where it will be located.

What Wahl said he likes about LogMeIn is that he can own the storage repository, which offers more security to his customers. Other backup services that he resells, such as ElephantDrive and JungleDisk, use’s S3 storage re­­­pository. These services give Technology Force a low-cost means of providing protection but also make the company dependent on’s data centers to maintain these servers. This is fine until has an outage, which happened earlier this year for more than a day.

When the customer data is stored, preferably it will be encrypted and compressed. "Our clients like our solution because they have regulatory requirements that require encrypted and off-site data storage," Leek said.

Finally, consider whether backup is part of a general managed services offering or if the VAR is a specialized backup-only provider. There are pros and cons with both approaches: A general-purpose MSP can offer additional services and revenue opportunities, while a specialty backup provider can develop deeper expertise that includes support for non-Windows clients as well as server-based data.

"The ideal VAR customer for us is someone that has a lot of managed services customers and is looking for something more reliable than tape and has financial or medical vertical clients," Leek said.

"[Vembu is] placing our betas at regional service providers to drive online backup adoption among SMBs," said Lakshmanan Narayan, co-founder of the company. "In our experience, SMBs looking at online backups are essentially buying peace of mind. Their regular IT service provider is probably best placed and trusted to provide them this service." Wahl suggested that VARs offer additional services, such as the ability to create DVD copies or next-day delivery of a new hard disk with the data preinstalled.

David Strom is a freelance technology ­writer, consultant, blogger and podcaster and can be reached at