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Can Cloud Backup MSPs Avoid Vendor Lock-In?

Jun 7, 2018, 18:00 PM by Trenton Baker

Cloud Backup MSP

Only a couple years ago the question was, what is the cloud? Now you can’t attend a VeeamON conference, VMworld convention, or Microsoft Ignite event without overhearing, “The cloud is normal. What’s next?”

Cloud managed services are now the de facto business model. Take for example the service provider that likely started out as a product reseller and would have followed the “80-20” rule. Basically, these early MSPs generated 80% of revenue from hardware sales, and 20% of gross profit, while 20% of revenue came from services and generated the remaining 80% of gross profit.

The evolution of cloud management services has caused the focus to shift from on-premises products towards cloud services. As the pendulum swings so does the transition for MSPs, now finding themselves reselling once again. This time, they are reselling services.

The hyper-scale nature of the cloud brings a new meaning to automation, elasticity, and scalability — redefining how solutions are delivered. Because of the cloud, SMBs and CIOs are demanding a new way to think about data security and IT resiliency. Cloud-enabled MSPs are now expected to be a trusted guide in all aspects of the cloud journey.

Some MSPs, out of need or by inexperience, try to push extended service contracts or tie you into a legacy technology to maximize monthly recurring revenue. This strategy creates a race to the bottom; these MSPs rarely offer higher value services that require investments of significant time or money. Without a healthy relationship with their customers, some MSPs fail to meet different customer needs. Even within a given customer, there can be a wide variety of disparate needs between the road warriors through the multi-location VM architect.

Successful MSPs differentiate themselves by building a practice around diversity, automation, and cloud scalability. The long game for the prosperous MSP is to offer affordable services complementing flexible solutions and not compete merely on price. Service providers can ensure high-value solutions by offering cloud-based backup and disaster recovery (BDR).

However, there is an issue: If you are an MSP who only offers a single BDR platform from a software provider, you are probably losing customers. The problem? Vendor lock-in.

moving to the cloud

Courtesy of RightScale, The Skinny on Cloud Lock-In by Thorsten von Eicken

One Partner or Several?

Some MSPs prefer to choose a single BDR vendor, who in turn backs up to a single cloud provider – sometimes the MSP’s own megacloud account. There can be advantages to this choice. There are less moving parts because the MSP is only dealing with one BDR vendor or a single cloud platform. This oversimplification allows the MSP to support customers on that single platform.

In survey after survey, BDR customers express concern about being locked-in to single BDR and cloud providers. Cloud services orchestrator Stratoscale released a 2017 Hybrid Survey where 26% of IT executives were highly concerned about cloud vendor lock-in – and that percentage is rising as more companies move their data protection workloads to the cloud.

When SMBs and companies approach MSPs about BDR, they are not only looking for scalability, security, and affordability. They are also looking for flexibility. They want to be confident that if another BDR or cloud provider offers better service for the data protection workloads, or can better meet a particular subset of their overall needs, they can pivot with minimum time and expense. Wouldn’t you go with the MSP who affords flexibility?

choosing cloud providers

Courtesy of CloudTweaks by David Fletcher

Ensuring Flexibility for MSP Customers

MSPs can significantly benefit from developing a partnership with a cloud provider that will vet and manage several BDR vendor’s products. In doing so, they want to ensure that none of their BDR vendors are themselves tied into a single cloud -- or if they are, the MSP should find out if the workloads are easily portable to enable migration of customer data to a different platform as needed.

  1. Offer more than one BDR service. Do the same due diligence you would do for a single BDR vendor but widen your search into various software providers. Also take a step further and ensure that the cloud backup software is engineered for a cloud environment and is not just an on-premises backup extension. This sounds like a substantial effort, and usually can be remedied by partnering with a custom cloud solution provider that offers best-of-breed solutions.
  2. Invest in a multi-cloud strategy. Successful MSPs also provide their customers with an array of cloud services based on optimizing workloads. If you run with a megacloud vendor or have your own microcloud, strongly consider giving customers a customizable cloud solution. More on multi-cloud benefits here.
  3. Ensure workload portability from your BDR and cloud partners. Understand how simple or complicated it is to stop one service and start another, how data migration works, and if it meets data compliance levels. Solution flexibility is a necessity and knowing if a new backup service can recover existing backup files is a great start but ensuring comprehensive data protection is a must.

public cloud challenges

Courtesy of LogicMonitor, Cloud Vision 2020 report

Partnering with the KeepItSafe Flexible Cloud

Finally, a holistic cloud strategy is not only dependent upon workload portability, multi-cloud and multiple BDR vendors. It also depends on a backup cloud provider’s flexibility.

Consider a cloud partner program with a solution provider like KeepItSafe, customized for heterogeneous BDR environments. It is important to note that flexible BDR solutions must include rapid recovery, backup acceleration and verification, failover services, multiple geo-locations, workload portability and customized service levels for individual customer needs.

  • Multiple cloud data center locations. Flexibility includes multiple data center locations. No MSP wants a single cloud data center located down the street from customers in a hurricane zone. KeepItSafe operates numerous geographic locations around the world and automatically replicates between locations while maintaining regional data sovereignty. KeepItSafe also monitors where data resides to adhere to strict compliance and privacy requirements.
  • Customizable service levels. Public megacloud providers cannot afford to customize service levels for every one of their millions of customers. They tend to set blanket service levels at metrics that work for them or charge through the nose for customization. KeepItSafe is trusted and global cloud that tailors BDR service levels to meet regional partner and customer needs.
  • Flexible management. Some customers want their MSP to administrate BDR for them. Fair enough. However, many customers prefer to manage some or most of their BDR environment. Conversely, some partners want to focus on their core competencies and yield the backup administration to KeepItSafe. The cloud provider must be flexible in offering different management permissions. KeepItSafe supports its MSP partners and their customers with an advanced platform that is easily administered.

We purpose-built KeepItSafe on the principle of avoiding vendor lock-in by offering our MSP partners, and their customer’s solution flexibility by providing best-of-breed platforms available to test drive, mix and match.

Readers of this blog post are also interested in this webinar:

The Role of the MSP in the Multi-Cloud

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