Replacing your backup solution: part one, learning why

There are five key reasons to change your backup solution: compatibility, performance, reliability, supportability, and cost. Eric Harless looks at how each area impacts your choice.

Eric Harless, head backup nerd at N-able

So, you’re thinking about replacing your current backup solution. Well, before you start requesting price quotes and comparing feature matrixes you should understand that a change can have both short-term and long-term impacts. The extent of the impact depends on several factors, including why your clients need backup, how those backups are being performed, whether they have ever experienced data loss, and how long they need to retain backup data.

Why do companies back up?

Finding a business without some form of legacy backup in place is becoming increasingly rare. However, that is not to say that a legacy solution still provides adequate retention and recovery options to serve their needs. Most organizations will be asking you to provide backup services for one or more of the following reasons. One, simply put, is because they have lost data. Whether this was small or large, recent or not, they do not want a repeat of this. Two, there is an expectation of losing data at some point in the future. Here, backups act like a data insurance policy, with the hope that they never have to use them. Three, because it is the law and organizations are bound by government regulations or industry standards that mandate it.

Backup is ideal for short-term, reactive recovery due to user error, virus, ransomware, or hardware failure. Remember, backups don’t prevent the incidents that cause the initial data loss, but they can hopefully help recover from it. Backup is effectively the last line of defense in a multi-layered security model.

Depending on the organization, backups may also be reused for long-term archival/retention of key data for regulatory and compliance reasons. The general expectation is that after a certain age this data would not be valuable for recovery of a failed system, rather its purpose switches to one that preserves a point-in-time “snapshot” of an organization that can be used if needed for legal discovery or to document and defend the organization’s actions.

A less common but growing use of backup is to provide a measure of recovery testing and sense of business continuity preparedness before a data disaster strikes. Simply having a backup in the cloud or a local standby VM at a remote data center is still lightyears away from having a comprehensive business continuity plan, but it is a good, inexpensive way to start.

Why make the change?

There is a short list of common reasons why an organization might consider replacing a backup provider. These generally come down to compatibility, performance, reliability, supportability, and cost.

1.  Compatibility

Compatibility is near the top of the list for why most organizations make a change, as it has to do with the desire to protect new and emerging platforms, applications, or data sources not yet covered by the incumbent solution. This is an ever-changing struggle as new OS versions and virtualization platforms come out. Sometimes you are better off not being an early adopter of technology and are better served by waiting until a platform is widely in use and your incumbent backup solution is compatible. If you must be an early adopter, however, then you may find yourself needing to add supplemental data protection products until your standard solution becomes compatible. The same can be said for EOL platforms, where the business need requires continued backup and restore even after the OS becomes unsupported.

2. Performance

Performance is another key reason, if a backup application’s resource footprint becomes too large, or the backup and restore duration is too long for you to maintain the desired Recovery Point Objective or Recovery Time Objective (RPO/RTO), then it may be time to consider a change.

3. Reliability

Failure to reliably recover from data loss can cause your customers to lose faith and have a lack of confidence in the backup solution and the MSP. To avert this, the MSP should be conducting periodic recovery tests and involving the customer so that they have confidence in recoverability before disaster strikes. If the MSP is not confident in how to best recover with the incumbent solution, then that is a fault of the MSP and additional training should be scheduled. If your incumbent solution can’t easily and affordably provide this sort of testing, then this is yet another reason to consider a change.

4. Supportability

Supportability is tied to your scalability and profitability as an MSP. This is a double-edged sword. With one side benefitting from the wide range of products, platforms, and solutions you aim to support for your clients and the other being the realization that with each new configuration you have added more time and complexity for your technicians to monitor, manage, and support. Simple day-to-day tasks of deploying and monitoring backups and basic restores are no longer standardized and could be costing you more workhours to maintain than you make in service fees. This is where reducing your number of supported backup products can help.

5. Cost

The recurring cost of the backup solution can weigh heavily on the decision when determining whether to continue with a solution. These could come in the form of recurring license fees, maintenance and support, server hardware, NAS devices, cloud storage costs, or bandwidth utilization. You should try to identify and factor in all these potentially hidden costs into the calculations before you make a switch.

Click here to read part 2 of this blog series: Replacing your backup solution: part two, understanding how

Eric Harless is the head backup nerd at N-able. Eric has worked with N-able Backup since 2013 and has 25+ years of data protection industry experience in sales, support, marketing, systems engineering, and product management. You can follow Eric on Twitter at @backup_nerd