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Dialing up the Right MSP for Online Backup Requires More than just Picking up the Phone

By January 6, 2009Asigra Inc

In an earlier blog

entry, I took a look at why more IT managers are choosing to rent, rather

than build, their backup infrastructures by outsourcing their backups to

managed service providers (MSPs). However as the number of MSPs proliferate,

the decision about which MSP to dial up gets harder, not easier, since more and

more VARs are jumping on the SaaS bandwagon to offer Managed Backup Services.

Further, companies need to quantify their own needs and expectations as they

select an MSP. Below are some examples of questions that they need to ask and

answer internally and externally before making this important decision.

Internal Questions

  • What are the RTO and RPO

    requirements for my applications?

  • Do you have current data

    retention policies in place?

  • How long does each type of

    business data need to be retained for?

  • After a certain period of

    time, should the backup data be moved into an archive for longer-term


  • What sort of backup SLA do

    you need to provide to your customers?

  • How

    often is your organization going to perform Disaster Recovery testing?

Questions for the MSP

  • What backup software have

    you deployed in your data center to enable the managed backup  services?

This question is the key because all the features and

functionality you will be leveraging when running backups and recoveries is

ultimately tied to the platform they are running internally. MSPs like

AmeriVault who leverage Asigra’s Televaulting platform are able to offer the

market leading functionality at a low cost – which is the primary reason for

the success in retention and growth of their customer base.

Other questions you can ask include:

  • How many customers are

    using your backup and recovery services?

  • How long have you been

    providing this service to you customers?

  • Do you own or lease your

    data-center facility?

  • What type of facility will

    my data be living in? (SAS-70 Compliant, DC type, Network, Security, 24×7

    operations support, generator backup, UPS, Fire suppression etc)

  • Can we take a tour of your


  • Can we meet some of your

    support engineers?

  • Do you offer a replication

    option, to ensure my data exists in at least two locations?

  • Can I speak to some of

    your customers? (Especially ones in your vertical if possible)

  • Can you show me your

    metrics for uptime on your backup and recovery infrastructure down into

    the facility?

  • Can

    you show me some metrics on recovery times for different types of file

    sizes and entire systems?

There are many other questions that can be asked but you

really need to base them on your specific situation. Feel out the service

providers you are talking to in order to understand what specific market they

are seeking to satisfy and use that information to attempt to find one that

meets your specific needs. For example, you may not need a superior facility to

house your data (based on your business needs, of course) while some

organizations may need a Tier-4

data center. In whatever circumstance you find yourself, make sure before you

only pull the trigger after you fully understand what your MSP is going to

provide you.

Determining what the cost structures are for this

deployment is equally important to the decision. Weigh the cost of how the MSP

will charge you for its services, whether that is by TB backed up, backup jobs,

restore jobs, etc. Further, do they provide multiple facility types and do your

costs go down based on the robustness of the facility your data is housed in.

For example, maybe your company requires a very stringent data integrity, which

would probably push you in the direction of a more hardened facility.

The real positives about outsourcing your backup and

recovery environment to a well respected MSP can save you substantial amounts

of money and headaches – if you choose the right one. Managing your own backup

and recovery infrastructure requires you manage multiple moving parts (tape

Libraries, tape drives, network performance, virtual tape libraries, etc.), as

well as the people, media and offsite storage facilities. So when calculating

an internal versus external cost models, make sure that you are dialed into and

accounting for all those aspects in mind because as you do, the rationale for

going with an MSP for your backup and recovery environment can makes a lot of

sense in many circumstances.

Tim Anderson

About Tim Anderson

Tim serves as a Senior Analyst HA/Infrastructure for DCIG

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