IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Why SMBs Need Cloud Backup in a COVID World and Beyond

The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the need for SMBs to adopt better cloud and data recovery strategies, creating an opportunity for MSPs to offer guidance and services. By Mark Pendergrast

As businesses continue to grapple with the realities of today’s “new normal,” opportunities are beginning to emerge for MSPs looking to provide added value to their SMB customers right now. Over the last few months, several trends have come to light that make having a cloud backup solution in a COVID-19 world an absolute must for SMBs. Spearheading this need is the demand for remote work environments, coupled with the rise in online threats that the coronavirus pandemic has unleashed.

Demand for Remote Work
The rapid and forced adoption of new working scenarios for many businesses has been well documented. As strict quarantines and work-from-home (WFH) orders early in the pandemic mandated remote work environments, cloud-based online collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams (with 75 million daily active users, according to Microsoft, and growing more than 37% in one week) have been rapidly adopted.

The downstream effect of this for MSPs is multifaceted. Initially, MSPs faced a surge in support tickets from end customers asking for help setting up and using new tools. Now, and more importantly, it means that at present, nearly all critical business data is exclusively created, shared, modified, and stored in the cloud. Data no longer only resides in the (relatively) safe confines of an on-premises corporate network. Workers are overwhelmingly accessing emails, files, and collaboration tools from home networks—sometimes over secure VPN, but oftentimes not. Plus, the widespread disparity of WFH environments makes IT support an essential necessity, but challenging for MSPs. 

Growing Security Risks for SMBs
The current landscape is a perfect storm of stretched IT resources and a sudden increase in persistent cyberthreats. Indeed, the FBI recently announced that its Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has reviewed more than 3,600 cases related to COVID-19 scams since April 21, 2020. 

As phishing attempts soar (the basis for 91% of cyberattacks, according to Microsoft), SMBs must be vigilant in thwarting off bad actors and put in place a solid data recovery and business continuity strategy in the very real and imminent likelihood of data loss. However, cloud backup vendors and services are not just needed in times of a world crisis, but for everyday mishaps such as accidental deletion or user error. In short, it just makes good business sense for MSPs and their customers to utilize cloud backup services as a best practice. 

Reminder: On its own, Microsoft 365 has limited retention policies. So if an end user accidentally deletes an email, a OneDrive for Business folder, or even an entire SharePoint site, the data is unrecoverable if the retention period has expired. Indeed, SaaS providers like Microsoft actively encourage end customers to leverage third-party services for safeguarding underlying data.

Many SMBs, however, believe that data is backed up in Microsoft 365. Instead, M365 replicates data to protect against hardware failures and catastrophic incidents (like a cyberattack) that could bring down the data center. However, replication is not the same as backing up the data. Replication only ensures data is available in whatever state it is in. In other words, if a file is deleted by an end user or corrupted in a phishing attack, let’s say, then that deletion or corruption is replicated throughout the cloud; meaning there is no way to quickly and easily restore the data back to where it was. Even with M365’s limited retention policies and protections such as Legal Hold and Archiving, an SMB still faces data loss at the end of the day.

During this pandemic especially, cloud backup services are not just another recurring revenue stream for MSPs, but rather a vital safeguard for SMBs and channel partners. Even without a global pandemic and an economic crisis, this is not the time for IT service providers or SMBs to saddle themselves with hours spent restoring a single deleted email (up to six hours in some cases) or the cost—which can be upwards of $4,000 at times.

The Green Field Opportunity
While this crisis has certainly highlighted the need for SMBs to adopt better cloud and data recovery strategies, the market reality has also become clear: Most SMBs have not taken this critical step. 

A recent study by Dimensional Research found that only 15% of organizations could recover from data loss within the hour. Other research shows that an alarming 85% of SMBs have yet to move to the cloud. The good news, however, is that SMB decision makers are listening and increasingly prioritizing these efforts.  Instinet surveyed CIOs at the onset of the pandemic and found that 86% said security was a higher budget priority, with 68% stating that cloud services were similarly more important than before. Comparably, 84% of SMBs stated that they will spend on backup/disaster recovery specifically—a much higher level than for any other security-related offering.

These findings make it clear: There is a significant opportunity for the MSP community to step in and provide crucial guidance to their SMB customers who have become increasingly receptive to the idea of cloud-based data protection strategies and services. 

Cloud backup solutions are a relevant tool for MSPs looking for a scalable data protection solution for end customers’ productivity assets. In these challenging times, practical solutions allow MSPs to bring peace of mind to their customers, while keeping their doors open and SMBs protected. 

Your customers need you (and data retention services) now more than ever. Cloud backup is one way in which IT service providers can be there for and help their customers during this challenging time.

MARK PENDERGRAST is director of product marketing at SkyKick.

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