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Solution providers looking to either take their first steps into managed services or those already involved that want to expand their offerings are finding the best way is to adopt the other SaaS: Storage as a Service.
Storage as a Service has come a long way from the heyday of the first dot-com bubble and the original managed storage service providers, who invested millions of dollars in building storage infrastructures in the misplaced hope that enterprise customers were ready to trust the storage of their data to what was then an unproven model.
Today's provider of online storage services is instead likely to be a small-business solution provider that has invested only a couple of thousand dollars, if that much, in integrating the storage service technology from one of a variety of channel-friendly vendors into its own hardware and/or services offerings.
It could very well be someone like IS Support Inc., a Houston-based MSP whose typical customer is a company with 10 to 30 employees.
Steve Combs, president of IS Support, said his clients have been quickly adopting online data protection since his company signed up with eFolder, an Atlanta-based provider of software, to allow small-business VARs to offer online storage to customers.
While online data protection is still a small part of his company's revenue, it is a big part of its ability to develop deep business ties with clients, Combs said. "It's one more service we provide our clients where we can get our name in front of them," he said. "It's one more value in front of us."
Once a small business finds it can do things like protect the data for applications like QuickBooks in a secure off-site location for about $3 per month, they begin asking IS Support about bringing in the service, Combs said.
"Until recently, small businesses didn't understand the value of a backup, let alone disaster recovery," Combs said. "Now a lot of them are coming to us and asking for options for backing up data."
Online data backup and recovery have helped Guardian Angel Computer Services LLC build a data protection business catering to financial and medical companies—many of which are classified as small businesses with maybe 10 employees despite having annual revenue of $100 million or more, said Laura Steward, CEO of the Norwalk, Conn.-based solution provider.
For those clients, online protection of their data is becoming a must-have, as government compliance regulations are forcing them to not only back up their data but also adhere to rules related to how and when data can be deleted, Steward said.
"They need to be compliant," she said. "It's one thing to purge the data, but another thing to know when to purge. We act as our customers' IT person. No IT people have been called in by the government yet because of compliance issues, but it could happen. We are our clients' virtual CIOs."
Helping ensure that customers are compliant with changing government regulations has contributed to the success of Guardian Angel's online storage offerings. That includes knowing when to not take on a client, Steward said.
"We've let go of clients," she said. "We told them, 'This is what you need to do.' If they say no, we say, bye-bye. One was a $3 billion company."
Guardian Angel offers two online storage service options to customers. The first, AngelSafe Offsite, is based on eFolder technology. It lets customers send data off-site to a secure facility, and keep a copy of the backups locally for fast restores. The second, AngelSafe BDR, uses the online storage capabilities and the local storage appliance from Zenith Infotech Ltd., Mumbai, India, and Warrendale, Pa. That appliance has the ability to automatically build and host a virtual server in case a physical server goes down.
Alvarez Technology Group Inc., a Salinas, Calif.-based MSP, leverages its managed services to get small businesses to sign up for online storage, said Luis Alvarez, president and CEO.
Existing customers who add online backup get it at a 25 percent discount, a discount the MSP can offer because of its healthy markup on the backup service, Alvarez said.