As a managed service provider, you probably hear variations on this question every day: “What kind of backup do we need?” It’s a perfectly natural question for customers to ask, but more often than not the conversation will quickly turn away from backup to recovery.
For this reason, it seems to me we should flip the question and ask instead, “What kind of recovery do you need?” Not only will this resolve issues about the right backup more quickly; it’ll force us to consider what processes are most important to the success of a business.
Protect business processes, not just files
Let’s face it: we live in a world where file-and-folder backup simply doesn’t meet all of an SMB’s needs. File data can be strategic, even mission-critical. Increasingly, however, it supports more complex business operations such as supply-chains, customer and patient management, product testing and development, and accounting and finance.
From this perspective, file backups only partially protect business operations. To truly safeguard your customers, you need the ability to regularly back up process data and to restore this data as needed after a failure, an outage, or any other unforeseeable disruption.
The best way to back up this process data depends on a combination of factors, including the application platforms used, the nature of the information, its churn rate, and whatever legal or regulatory factors surround its collection and processing. The answer may also differ based on the risks these processes are exposed to: hardware failure, power outages, human carelessness, or vandalism.
This is why starting with a customer’s recovery requirements often offers the fastest path to choosing the right backup solution. If you determine that an SMB needs bare metal recovery (BMR) to maximize business uptime, then you know they need the image-based backup that supports it. If that same business needs the ability to restore individual VMware VMs, then VMware-native backups clearly need to figure into a multiservice strategy.
A portfolio approach to business continuity
In fact, it’s safe to assume that most SMBs today would benefit from a mix of two or more recovery techniques. This is because every business faces varying degrees of risk from multiple scenarios, ranging from accidental file deletions to floods and fires. Certain situations (database corruption, accidental deletions) will call for recovery from local backups, while others (floods or fires, for example) will require recovery from the cloud. So it’s important to take a hybrid approach.
In a sense, focusing on backup is a bit like choosing between driving or flying before considering the final destination. No matter how much you love your Lamborghini, it’s probably the wrong vehicle to get you from Atlanta to Los Angeles for a two-day business trip. Similarly, you may be a huge fan of image backups, but it’s probably the wrong approach to backing up the one indispensable SQL database that runs alongside four others on a VMware VM.
Of course, any business continuity decision will involve numerous factors and what-if scenarios, and that’s perfectly fine. Flipping your clients’ perspective from backup to recovery will help you instill confidence, uncover vital information that your client might have considered irrelevant, and open the door to conversations about your whole portfolio of data protection and business continuity services.