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Any business – whether big or small – can be damaged as a result of even a few hours of downtime. Lost revenue equates to loss of customers, not to mention permanent loss of data. Managed service providers (MSPs) are no exception to this rule and have a responsibility to put a strong back-up policy in place to mitigate any detrimental impact on the business and its customers from downtime.

As a starting point, David Weeks offers MSPs the following six best practice tips, which are fundamental for ensuring successful protection against lost data:

Keeping downtime to a minimum

For an MSP, it is simply unacceptable to not have the correct hardware to restore data when a failure happens. If the customer is using proprietary server hardware, MSPs should back up at the volume level using bare metal recovery. This will restore the server to almost any other equipment, and minimises the effect on the customer’s business.

Offsite backup

It isn’t ideal to have a conversation with a customer in which an MSP reveals they damaged a backup, or even worse, that the backup is lost. As it is not common practice for smaller businesses who perform their own backups to keep them offsite, a responsible MSP should keep the latest data available offsite to mitigate disaster brought about by a flood, fire or storm. Offsite backups allow SMBs / SMEs to get a replacement system working in a very short space of time, enabling them to pick up right where they left off with their data.

Saving on space

It is often the case that SMBs / SMEs which perform their own backups are limited to personal backups for each machine, which is a manual process that can take some time. Instead, MSPs can introduce scalable technology that brings with it a higher level of efficiency. Furthermore, leveraging incremental/differential backups can allow MSPs to only back up what has changed, and advanced features such as de-duplication will allow customers to avoid backing up duplicate data on image-based backups.

Monitoring backups

Whilst configuring automatic backups is relatively straight forward for customers to do for themselves, the MSP can add real value to their service by monitoring the status of backups to ensure they are working correctly. It’s worth keeping in mind that a failure to complete a backup if a device fails could incur a penalty, depending on the agreed service level. Maximising uptime and avoiding data loss should be at the forefront of any good MSP’s mind.

Backups need reporting too!

MSPs don’t have time to manually track everything for clients. The backup system should track every single file, while MSPs should review simple reports to check everything is working correctly, and be in a position to send reports on the status of all backups and report to the customer when required.

The customer is not the only one impacted when data loss occurs. It also spells trouble for the MSP. The biggest risk to an MSP’s business is offering managed backup services but not fulfilling obligations of providing insight and reporting. Regular reporting is the best way of demonstrating that the service level agreement is being met.

Testing backups before a problem emerges

Do customers test the data backups they perform themselves? Unfortunately, the answer is almost always no. Luckily, MSPs can test a restore in a more efficient way than the customer due to the tools available to them. It is highly advisable to schedule weekly or monthly times so that backups for the customers’ critical systems can be tested. This is a good way of ensuring the customer has full confidence in the process of restoring lost data.

To summarise, one of the major points of value offered to businesses from an MSP is taking away the headaches associated with the day-to-day management of IT, while simultaneously improving efficiency and performance. For business success, managed backup tools can streamline backup tasks to provide a high quality level of service at the lowest cost to the service provider.

While securing customer data and restoring it quickly should things go wrong should be the biggest priority, monitoring, testing and reporting on backups is of paramount importance in gaining and retaining client trust, and building a great working relationship.

About the author

As channel strategy manager for SolarWinds N-able, David Weeks works closely with the company's top tier partners and major accounts worldwide to understand their needs, provide insight into current market conditions, and offer strategic sales and marketing recommendations. A regular presenter at SolarWinds N-able’s global and regional summits, David is passionate about ensuring the success of SolarWinds N-able's partner base.

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