How to Update a Customer's Data Protection Plan

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If your customers are using tape to protect their data, it's time to have a conversation on how they can best update data protection and backup plans. Here, Angerer, senior vice president and general manager, data protection at Quest software, offers five tips to help modernize antiquated data protection strategies.—Jennifer Bosavage, editor

Today’s ongoing and emergent IT trends—unprecedented data growth, shrinking recovery time and recovery point objectives (RTOs and RPOs), and the proliferation of virtualization and cloud—are making backup and recovery needs ever more complex. Traditional data protection strategies are quickly becoming obsolete. Some customers are protecting all of their data in the same way: relying mainly on tape and using tools and strategies devised for the purely physical world. It’s time for solution providers to discuss how to update their data protection and backup plans. The good news, though, is that it doesn’t have to be difficult. Below are some simple steps to help them make it happen.

1. Step Back and Assess
First, your customers need to understand the business value of their applications and data. Since not all data is the same, they need to develop a data protection strategy that reflects their specific business needs. Too many customers make the mistake of buying a technology first, and then trying to figure out what they really need.

Related: How To Safeguard Small Business Data In 10 Steps

So, your customer should first step back and truly understand the needs of their business – what percentage of their data is truly mission-critical? What IT services are most critical to the business? What are their data retention requirements? Encourage them to seriously review their SLAs – or, better yet, the service level expectations of company leadership. Once they know these expectations, they will know what their true data protection needs are, and be in position to decide on the right backup solution for the business.

2. Think Virtual First

Virtualization has permanently changed the way organizations need to approach backup and recovery, and if your customers haven’t already reached the point where most of their infrastructure is virtualized, they likely will do that soon. Many companies’ virtual environments are larger than their physical environments, so it’s imperative that protection of that virtual environment be the top consideration when developing a modern data protection plan. Backup and recovery strategies that make sense for physical servers just don’t work as well for virtual servers. For example, backup software for virtual environments must be agile, so it can detect the machines it needs to protect quickly, and protect them at the right level. Also, because the virtual host lacks the spare CPU and network bandwidth that usually exist in physical environments, the virtual backup solution cannot create a lot of overhead on the server. So, encourage your customers to think “virtual first” when modernizing their data protection plans, and not simply settle for a plan that makes sense for the physical environment but is just “good enough” for the virtual one.

3. Open Your Mind to New Technologies
Many customers, especially those in the SMB space, tend to think that “modern” data protection technologies, such as snapshots, replication and true continuous data protection (CDP) solutions, are just for the enterprise. They think those solutions are either too complex or too costly to deploy in their own smaller production environments. But, that’s really not the case. So, as partners and resellers, we should be sure that our customers understand data protection technologies, as well as the ways in which they can realistically be integrated into their backup plans.

4. Devise a Tiered Recovery Strategy
The operative word here is strategy. It’s important for your customer to strategically align their backup and recovery approach for a given set of data or services with the criticality of that data and/or service to the business. There is no one-size-fits-all data protection approach that works for all data. Help your customer understand that they shouldn’t rely on tape for mission-critical data they would need to recover right away, or waste resources employing frequent snapshots and replication on data that isn’t business-critical and only has to be maintained for long-term compliance reasons. Encourage them to think about how fast they will need to recover every piece of data they’re backing up, in the event of an outage or loss. It’s called backup and recovery for a reason. In fact, it probably should be called recovery and backup, because backup is a given. Recovery is where the rubber meets the road. Your customers should plan accordingly.

5. Get Your Head in the Clouds
Even if they aren’t ready for it today, encourage your customers to at least consider how cloud backup might fit into their overall data protection strategy. Some may find the cloud to be a great replacement for traditional tape backup for long-term data retention needs. Others may consider replicating data to the cloud to facilitate disaster recovery. Cloud is a key component of the modern backup strategy, and it is only going to become more prevalent in the months and years ahead. By encouraging customers to start thinking about cloud now, you’ll help them to get a jump on truly modernizing their backup strategy.

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