SMBs and SOHOs are organisations of people that are using data. It’s an obvious statement to make, but the reality is that storage is a common challenge across organisations of all sizes. Smaller organisations face an entirely different set of concerns to enterprises, of course. Smaller IT budgets limit the ability to invest in some solutions; while a lack of dedicated IT staff might render others impossible to manage properly. As a result, the trending backup technologies that SMBs and SOHOs look for can be different to that of the enterprise space. For instance, tape is still tracking well in the space. “Tape is inherently a cost effective way of backup, plus there’s the ability to back up and take it offsite,” HP StorageWorks product marketing manager, Manpal Jagpal, said. That way, should something happen to a SMB or SOHO’s office location (likely to be the only one), then there’s still a back up available. The whole market is a world of opportunity for the channel player, Jagpal added. Especially in the SMB space, vendors are not going to have the resources to have any direct presence (if they were so inclined in the first place), and without dedicated IT staff, the customer is going to look to the partner as a trusted advisor. “Even a simple question like ‘how critical is that data to you?’ would allow the customer to start thinking about backup straight away,” Jagpal said. And that is the crux of the problem for SMBs when it comes to storage – they simply are not sure about how they want to keep their data, or don’t think about how they should prioritise it. Symantec SMB manager, Steve Martin, points to a SMB horror story to highlight this in action. “Earlier this year, there was a woman absolutely pleading for the criminal who had broken into her car and stolen her notebook to give her back the data, as she had three years worth of work on that machine that she hadn’t backed up,” he said. For that reason, Martin agrees that it is very easy to convince the customer of the value of a proper storage solution once engaged. “I think in situations when you put those levels of trust and relationship, the approach the channel partner takes is pretty straightforward – this is why you need it, this is how much it’s going to cost, bang bang bang, we need to do it and we need to do it now. Nine times out of ten the business will say ‘yep, go and do it.’” SMBs turn to partners for troubleshooting advice, too. According to Hitachi Data Systems director of presales and solutions, Adrian DeLuca, said SMBs often make poor decisions when it comes to storage purchasing decisions. “Typically, SMBs are purchasing their storage assets together with their server assets because it seems to be cheap,” he said. “It’s not necessarily seen as a strategic investment, but what is seen to be cheap isn’t cheap any more when things start to go wrong. “We see the fact they grow out of that storage quite quickly when they’re buying captive storage devices with their servers, and then they’re typically buying lower-grade equipment that does tend to get them into quite a bit of a bind when they’re unable to troubleshoot. So they typically spend money with their systems integrator to solve those issues.”
Cutting edge While a desire for cost-effectiveness can lead SMBs and SOHOs to consider solutions such as tape or low-grade assets, it is not to say that those customers are not comfortable with more modern technology trends. Cloud is an obvious example. SMBs and SOHOs are as comfortable with cloud as enterprises are, and vendors such as Symantec are capitalising on it with product solutions for even the smallest of organisations. “Our Norton product line is for that very small organisation – the one to three PC businesses, and the cloud-based approach to storage is ideal for those,” Symantec’s Martin said. “As you step into organisations of five, 10 or 20 users in size the could is still an option, but what we’re starting to see more of is rather than what we would term as a managed or hosted service where your IT partner is increasingly likely to have a datacentre and you’re backing up your business information into their datacentre.” And, indeed, other vendors are claiming smaller organisations are increasingly-willing to do away with traditional technologies entirely. “Tape has been relegated to, at best off-server archival, if not totally eliminated from the backup and recovery paradigm,” StorageCraft Asia-Pacific vice president, Greg Wyman, said. StorageCraft is a growing entity in the storage industry. Founded in 2003, the company is focused on disc-based backup, disaster recovery, data protection, migration and security solutions for servers, desktops and notebooks.