Seven questions for backup and disaster recovery customers

To determine whether your customers need to outsource their backup and disaster recovery services, they need to answer these questions, such as when was their most recent backup test, and allow you to explain the value you can provide in each area.

Backup and Data Recovery (BDR) may not exactly be directly on the minds of your customers.

Drop into a customer’s facility and bring up BDR, and you may find yourself with a conference room full of blank looks.

Why? For many businesses, the perception that the “backup problem” has been solved means their attentions are likely focused elsewhere. Yet those same customers probably don’t realize that those backup issues actually haven’t been dealt with properly. With an IT industry that has lacked primary focus on backup technologies for a long time, their backup solution may be the best that they’re aware of.

Despite the stagnant nature of data protection tools, the technologies and the approaches that wrap around them have evolved dramatically in a very short period of time. With a focus on the end of tape’s reign as the only storage option available, the move to disk and now cloud-based backups may be news to many potential customers.

As a result, getting potential customers to listen may be a tough proposition, particularly if these are net new relationships. The challenges of building new customer relationships for selling outsourced backup and disaster recovery are based primarily on trust. Unless your MSP name is immediately recognizable to customers, new relationships can make it hard to get started with a BDR engagement up front. Developing that level of trust through a series of less-risky successes will turn a significant sales challenge into an opportunity.

But selling BDR to potential customers tends to follow a fairly recognizable playbook that leads them through the storyline of outsourcing this critical service.  This story should focus on the cost of not outsourcing and point out that internal IT staff may be making mistakes without even knowing it in the data protection systems. Those fears are played out as “very real” and actually come to fruition time and time again as their businesses experience loss events, only to discover backups haven’t run in a very long time.

With this in mind, my company Concentrated Technology developed seven questions that constitute our opinion of what that playbook can be. (Full disclosure: Concentrated Technology is an IT analyst firm and does not sell outsourced BDR services.)

These questions are meant to assist your sales staff in customizing your own storyline that will help you engender the trust a successful BDR engagement requires. In asking these questions, you may find that your potential customers are in greater need for your services than they actually realize:

1. When was the last time you tested your backups?
Not just data backup, but a full system backup through to its ultimate recovery? The answer often resembles something akin to “We don’t know.” With a sizeable percentage of companies that experience a disaster and don’t recover, not knowing this answer should scare anyone.

2. How long did that test restore take to complete?
Or, more appropriately, how long did it take to return your last failed server to operations? Too often companies don’t realize the externalities, neglecting to include the time required for finding tapes, having them shipped and laying data over existing operating systems. With data recovery, the externalities are everything.

3. How long can that server be inoperable before your business suffers an impact?
With their most critical server in mind, does the answer here mesh with the answer from question two? If not, then their existing infrastructure and processes don’t meet their requirements.

Admittedly, mission-critical server losses don’t happen all that often, and employing the scare tactic of their potential loss only gets you so far. Smaller disasters that happen every day, such as users losing documents, servers, email or database entries, are more likely to get the attention of a potential customer.

4. How much time do you need to restore a single file or folder during everyday activities?
Question four directs customer attention to their abilities in resolving regular nagging issues. The cost for handling these issues can be substantial when all the factors and the actors are included.

5. How much data are you backing up?
This may seem like a softball question, but its correct answer isn’t often known because of the potential for data duplication that exists with some backup solutions enterprises employ. Tapes were particularly notorious for this behavior, but even disk-based solutions can have an effect. Clients who don’t follow best practices may discover that their sensitive data is more exposed than they expected, which creates an entirely new form of exposure to risk.

6. Do you know how dynamic your data is?
That exposure risk is highlighted by the answer to this question. Some data changes all the time, affecting backup operations, while other data that hasn’t been touched in years and costs the company long past the lifecycle of its tangible value. A central value proposition you provide in the outsourced BDR relationship is in bringing measurable control to that data.

7. Would outsourcing your backups improve your data protection posture while reducing the overall costs?
Here is the punch line: Rare is the client that can definitively answer this question, so providing quantitative data that shows the capital expenditure (CAPEX) to operational expenditure (OPEX) conversion in making the move completes this conversation.

As I’ve previously stated, selling BDR services is all about selling trust. When customers trust you, your practices and the technologies you bring, accomplishing the task is easy. When they don’t, that same task is nearly impossible.

Finding the right technologies that support the MSP model is of primary importance in building your BDR practice. Linking those technologies with failure-proof processes is its second step. Only then do you have the trustable items in place that enable beginning those long and profitable relationships.

About the author
Greg Shields, MVP, vExpert, is a partner with Concentrated Technology. Get more of Greg's tips and tricks at www.concentratedtech.com

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