After my recent post about SMBs turning to cloud backups, I reached out to Matt Kowalski, senior manager of product management for Intronis, a provider of cloud backup and recovery service for managed service providers (MSPs), to ask a few questions about MSPs and cloud backups in general.
Kowalski listed these services as most typical of those for which small to midsize businesses turn to MSPs:
- Managed print services
- Hardware/server maintenance, break/fix, and replacement
- Antivirus, patch management, and network security
- Network monitoring
- Software licensing
For those SMBs who have yet to use an MSP, Kowalski explained how these providers perform cloud backups:
Typically MSPs partner with a vendor that provides them with the software and often the offsite storage facilities for the backed-up data. MSPs are charged either a license fee for the service or for the storage itself. The most comprehensive and MSP-focused vendors allow the MSP to completely brand the vendor’s offering as their own to keep the MSP’s brand integrity and personalize the customer experience. Intronis provides not only this level of branding, but a number of MSP-focused management tools including a central web portal to manage all customers as well as deep integrations into the most popular Professional Services Automation tools.
I asked Kowalski what types and what sizes of data are generally backed up via the cloud, and if there were limits. He responded:
Customers will back up their entire breadth of data to the cloud, including full VMware server images, Exchange and SQL data, and all of their important files and folders.
Intronis does not impose any limits on the data backed up to the cloud. It is our philosophy to ensure full data protection over pruning data or setting hard limits. Our robust retention policies allow customers to determine the amount of historical data they would like to save according to their budget, compliance requirements, or archiving needs.
I wondered how easily and quickly an SMB could expect to have files recovered and restored. Kowalski explained with an example:
The short answer is very easy and very fast. For example, MSPs that use Intronis can give their SMB customers the ability to start a restore on-demand back to their site through a Web portal. Intronis also keeps a copy of the customer’s data in a local vault to provide even faster local recoveries for all non-disaster recovery scenarios. If there is a disaster onsite, Intronis can also provide a recovery hard drive with all of the customer’s data and overnight that hard drive to expedite full site/server recoveries. Finally, if a customer is protecting their virtualized servers with our VMware backup, our QuickSpin recovery can provide near-real-time failover to recovery VMs in case a server goes down at the customer’s site.
An all-important worry of any company is data security. I asked Kowalski about the security of cloud backups and he offered this reply:
Very – if the MSP is using the right product. For example, Intronis provides the most secure backup offering by dual encrypting our data. We encrypt all data on the customer machine first using AES-256 encryption and then send it offsite via an encrypted channel. The data is always encrypted at rest whether stored at the customer’s site or in the cloud. In addition, Intronis offers partners the ability to use a private encryption key that only the customer knows – even if anyone tried to compromise our cloud storage, only the customer could access the data.
Finally, I asked Kowalski if he had recommendations that he could offer to an SMB looking for an MSP for disaster recovery services. For example, what should they look for? What questions should they ask of the MSP beforehand? He explained a couple of important topics that should be covered:
An SMB should ensure that the data is stored in a secure manner. This not only includes the security and encryption protocols used, but also storage redundancy. The most ideal cloud solution is a hybrid solution – storing data locally at the customer site for quick recoveries as well as in the cloud (and in more than one geographic location).
An SMB must ask the MSP to run through the recovery scenarios for their most important data. The MSP must be able to answer the question ‘How would I recover [example] data or [type of] application if [a disaster] happened?’ for all business-critical data to a degree that meets a customer recovery time objectives.