There’s a scene I remember from the film Cocktail. Flanagan (Tom Cruise) is playing with one of the little paper umbrellas that are used to decorate cocktail glasses. He and his workmate speculate that the guy who makes them is probably a millionaire because he makes 10 billion of them a year.
The point, never lost on me, is that there is good business to be done and money to be made from the most mundane things, in any industry you care to mention.
Many data administrators I meet say the most mundane of storage-related activities is backup. It is mundane because it is boring, right? And because no one likes doing it, though everyone ought to do it, and no one likes having to justify the cost of doing it to his or her boss because it is difficult to persuade anyone that it is necessary to spend money on something you hope you never use.
Meanwhile, backup jobs tend to fail sometimes too, causing frustration.
Backups also get scheduled outside normal working hours, so if they do go wrong then someone’s weekend is rudely interrupted. It’s just, well, boring.
Let’s back up a bit ourselves. Why does backup continue to be the bane of the storage administrator’s life? I think it is more awkward, annoying and frustrating than boring.
Ordinarily, where there is technological annoyance and frustration, there is opportunity for resellers – opportunity to step in and alleviate the pain.
I believe customers find that backups take too long, are hard to validate, consume resources and generate uncertainty.
I suggest that, collectively, these reasons suggest a deep-rooted mistrust and consequent dislike of the entire concept of traditional backup. Is it, perhaps, an activity that gets described as mundane and boring as a cover for it being disliked and despised?
I certainly think so. Traditional backup software is an outmoded concept that only performs a single task – and not very well. Traditional backup techniques involve too many points of failure, too much opportunity for data loss and, in the SMB environment in particular, too much scope for human error.
The result is that we can see companies – especially SMBs – holding back from commissioning a robust, modern, fit-for-purpose backup solution, afraid that it might not work.
I’m not trying here to discredit the concept of traditional backup. In many cases, notably in larger organisations with larger budgets and more resources, it works very well indeed.
Instead, I want to focus on the new opportunities for resellers with those customers for whom backup does not, or has not, worked well – specifically, the SMB market. Like in Cocktail, there is money to be made in the most mundane – or in this case, established – activity.
We believe that the idea of backup is something that frightens away a proportion of potential SMB customers. You need to absolutely address the backup requirements of SMBs, but perhaps move away from traditional backup.
This makes it altogether easier to sell to a potential customer. It resolves the backup issue, but isn’t traditional backup, so it is likely to meet less ingrained resistance from the IT administrator.
That same administrator will, of course, be fully aware of the value of backup, and of his or her own need for it, no matter how much they dislike it. Put another way: it offers them a way to submit to the need for a backup capability but with their pride intact.
Of course, a customer could counter with: ‘But if it isn’t backup, how is going to overcome the difficulties that I actually have with the idea of backup or with my current product or service?’
A combined backup and disaster recovery offering that delivers instant recovery may prove desirable. Accidentally deleted or corrupted files can be retrieved, a system recovered, and entire remote DR sites can be brought online quickly with the right offering.
And all of this in a sphere of data storage that many people think has been ‘done’ and cornered - like the business of making 10 billion cocktail umbrellas a year. Nonsense. Now, where’s my cocktail?
Thomas Barrett is vice president of sales and operations for the northern EMEA region at FalconStor
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