Selling backup and recovery: fear vs. comfort

How do you convince clients they need backup or dissuade them from free consumer storage options? Strike a little fear in their hearts, then bundle it in a service they love

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During a recent presentation on the value of business continuity and data recovery services, the moderator threw the virtual floor open for questions from the audience. The solution provider crowd was an engaged and chatty bunch, but the questions stayed pretty tightly focused in two areas: How do I convince clients they need backup? And how do I dissuade customers from the free consumer storage options available?

No easy feat in either case.  And the two queries highlight very different cases faced by plenty of service providers in the field.

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To the first point, there’s almost no better answer than fellow presenter MJ Shoer, president of solution provider Jenaly Technology Group Inc. in Portsmouth, N.H., gave without hesitation. How would he handle a customer questioning the basic value of backup? “I’d run away as fast as I could,” he said. “This is not a customer I want to do business with.”

Humor aside, Shoer is not far off. We should be getting past the days of evangelizing on the need to safeguard important business assets. And yet, sadly, we’re not. If you’re a solution provider who prefers to shake some sense into a reluctant BC/DR lead, consider laying some of these hard truths on them.

Some 15,000 hard disk drives fail every single day. Yes, we put about 650 million of them into service every year, so they are surprisingly reliable little guys. But still, that’s like a lottery with 1:118 odds. This is not a lottery you want to win.

If your clients lose their data – and they will lose it – and they are unable to get it back they are in big, big trouble. Consider this: 94 percent of companies that suffer a catastrophic data loss and haven’t backed up do not survive -- 43 percent simply do not reopen and  51 percent close within two years, according to a study by the University of Texas.

Think you’re safe with old-school backup? The Boston Computing Network found 77 percent of businesses with tape backup have flaws that could impede recovery and half of them have been provably shown to fail in restoration attempts. 50 percent of tape backup flat out fail to restore, according to Gartner Inc.

And despite knowing all of that, 96 percent of business workstations – that’s pretty much every single one -- is not being adequately backed up, according to a study by Contingency Planning and Strategic Research Corp. Which seems crazy because Gartner tells us that about a quarter of them are going to fail, not because they are hit by an earthquake or a tsunami, but because they are computers. Simple, fickle machines.

So if you haven’t taken Shoer’s advice and run away from the client (which remains a perfectly legitimate response) there’s your short list of tragic outcomes that await those who won’t take business continuity and data recovery seriously. Once you have their attention, you can hit them with this little nugget. According to industry data 82 percent of significant network disruptions could be reduced or avoided by proper data recovery and business continuity planning.

Let the contracts be signed and the assessment phase begin.

But what of the folks that want to know how to talk clients away from the free consumer services and toward a legitimate business-class BC/DR solution? The talking points are many, mostly revolving around reliability, security, manageability and integration.

Some of the features that typically differentiate a legitimate business-grade BC/DR offering, especially the increasing number of cloud and hybrid backup services available to solution providers, include a combination of offsite local backup options, rock-solid and certified data centers, data encryption with a private-key option, broad applications compatibility, scalability and the capacity to handle large files across the entire service.

Any one of these professional-service advantages can move the conversation toward making the sale, that is, if you aren’t already taking MJ Shoer’s sage advice and eschewing individual backup banter by making the service a solid part of your core offering in the first place. Don’t undersell the value of BC/DR, says Shoer. De-emphasize the cost and bundle it. If it's a part of a service they already adore, they are very likely to accept the upgrade and be thankful for the opportunity to better protect their organizations.

That’s good advice. And it highlights the difference between the two camps of potential clients: those who need to be convinced of the value of backup and those who just want to make sure they are getting the best available service. At least in the latter case, those sniffing around consumer-grade services are showing some interest and some awareness of the value of BC/DR.  How much easier is it to talk someone out of Dropbox than it is to explain the concept of business backup from scratch?

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