Q: I’m trying to decide what type of backup to sell to one of my potential customers. I’ve typically been selling appliance-based backup, but now I’m looking to offer cloud backup as an option. I also want to be able to take more of a hybrid approach for some of my customers. When should I sell an appliance, and when should I sell cloud backup? Can you provide some example SMB use cases to give me some guidance?
There are a number of different factors that will determine when you should sell appliance-based backup and when you should sell cloud backup. To figure out the best option for each of your small business customers, you’ll want to gather as much information as you can about their business and make a decision that will support their specific backup requirements and needs. Finding the right option will depend on each customer’s IT environment, their business needs, recovery time objectives (RTO), and other factors like their location.
It’s great to hear you’re offering both options because some customers will benefit more from appliance-based backup and others from cloud backup. Also, offering both backup options will help you satisfy more use cases and support a more diverse range of small businesses. And that will help you grow your MSP business, support more customers, and differentiate yourself from the competition.
To help you determine the best option for each of your customers, we spoke with Kyle Marsan, one of the solutions engineers at Intronis MSP Solutions. Here’s Kyle’s advice for when to offer up appliance-based backup versus cloud backup to your customers:
When to sell an appliance
From my conversations with Intronis MSP Partners, we’ve determined a few instances where it’s best to offer appliance-based backup. For starters, it’s a good idea to offer appliance-based backup to a customer with nothing in place currently. Also, if you want to reduce the hardware management time for your MSP, an appliance would be a good option. This way, you’ll be less responsible for the hardware, leaving it to your appliance vendor to manage and monitor the hardware.
Additionally, if you don’t want to use customer machines’ processing, appliance-based backup would be a better option. Many cloud backup options require an MSP to install an agent on their customers’ machines, taking up some processing power on that machine. If you’re servicing customers with limited processing power on their machines, appliance-based backup is the way to go.
Another benefit to offering appliance-based backup is that it allows you to have total control over your customers’ backups as an MSP. With cloud backup options, the customer could potentially access the software and change settings on the agent. So, in cases where you want to have another level of control, use an appliance.
When to sell cloud backup
Cloud backup options also offer MSPs and their customers clear benefits. One example of this is where a customer already has a NAS or SAN device in place that they can reuse for backup. This reduces the upfront cost for the customer by using something they already own to store their data locally. If you’re working with a customer who’s pushing back on price, offer cloud backup as the best option for their off-site storage in addition to their local copy.
Also, if you’re working with a customer who has a number of mobile or remote users, it would make the most sense to use cloud backup. In this case, you’d want to install agents on their devices to back up to the cloud because they aren’t necessarily going to be able to access the storage device regularly while on the road. With cloud backup, the mobile user can easily connect to a hotel’s Wi-Fi, for example, and run a backup, without having to be on a network and connect to a specific piece of hardware.
Another use case is when a customer specifically wants their data to go directly to the cloud. With cloud backup, the customer will not be tied to any hardware. Also, if the customer doesn’t want to pay for local storage, you could install an agent and use cloud-only backups to meet their needs.
Benefits of a hybrid approach
While there are specific instances where MSPs should use either appliance-based backup or cloud backup, there are also other scenarios where you should take a hybrid approach. If your MSP is working with a range of small businesses with varying needs, offering both cloud and an appliance would help you to satisfy more use cases.
If you have a specific customer with a range of backup needs, for example they have servers that need a locally stored copy but also have mobile users on the road, taking a hybrid approach would work well.
The major benefit to offering both options is that it gives MSPs the flexibility to choose which services to offer. Additionally, it helps you cover more ground and use cases, allowing you and your customers to agree together on the best option for their business. Whenever you’re trying to decide which backup method to deploy, consider your customer’s individual needs and choose the option that satisfies their requirements.
Ask an MSP Expert is a weekly advice column answering common questions from MSPs and IT service providers. It covers topics ranging from pricing and selling to marketing and communications—and everything in between.