Magazine Article | March 18, 2013

Why Your Customers Need Hybrid Storage

By Jay McCall, Business Solutions magazine

This MSP (managed services provider) earned a $25,000 sale by presenting a complete disaster recovery (DR) offering.

PCNet has 25 years’ experience as a VAR, selling and repairing servers, switches, routers, and workstations. Within the past five years, the company saw its profit margins eroding, and about a year and a half ago it entered the managed services space. Last year, managed services accounted for only 15% of PCNet’s total revenue. But, this year the company is projecting that percentage to double, and by 2015 it expects half of its revenue to come from selling managed services.

One recent customer win that highlights PCNet’s decision to transition its business to a recurring revenue model is a 150-employee construction firm that found the VAR-turned-MSP via a Web search. “Half of this company’s employees regularly work in the field and had to drive to the company’s headquarters if they needed to access the ERP (enterprise resource planning) system, email, and other business applications,” says Brian Doyle, VP of IT and data center services at PCNet.

The construction company reached out to PCNet following an internal audit where it discovered that if its facility were wiped out from a natural disaster, it wouldn’t be able to recover for at least 10 days. “Even though the company was regularly backing up its data to tape libraries, and the tapes were stored off-site, it would have been a whole other matter to restore that data,” says Doyle. “Even if they could receive their backup tapes in one day, they’d still need to acquire 15 servers and a tape library, which would take several days. Then, once they received their servers, their two IT guys would need three to five days to set up the servers.”

The customer already had a plan to solve its backup problem by virtualizing its servers and replacing its tape library with a disk-based backup system. “When we first met with them, we showed them that their plan would improve their restoration time in the event their on-site servers crashed, but they still weren’t protected from a natural disaster wiping out their facility,” says Doyle.

PCNet proposed an Asigra hybrid storage solution, which incorporated on-site backups to virtual servers, plus off-site virtual backups to PCNet’s private cloud center. “Even though their plan would have reduced their data recovery time from seven days down to five days, our solution brought the recovery time down to within 24 hours,” says Doyle. Additionally, Doyle points out that the Asigra solution requires no additional software licensing, so the client only pays for the off-site storage, which added only 5 to 10 cents extra per gigabyte compared with what the construction company was already planning to pay.

Distinguish Yourself From DR Competitors
PCNet competed against five other companies, but ultimately won the construction company’s business by standing out in four areas. “Our data center meets the highest security standards [e.g. SSAE 16], plus we provide annual disaster recovery testing, and we help clients develop a disaster recovery plan for their businesses,” says Doyle. “One final differentiator was that we offer clients located in our region the extra peace of mind that, if a disaster situation ever does occur, we have a dedicated facility they could use, which includes workstations, phones, and conference rooms, so they could continue their core business operations until returning to their own facility.”

After winning the contract, PCNet copied nearly 2 TB of the customer’s data in its data center and set up the Asigra solution at the customer’s facility to back up the client’s data locally and send a second copy over a secure, online connection to PCNet’s cloud data center. “We also set up their 75 field workers with secure, remote access to their business applications by running their Citrix server within our VMware-based cloud,” says Doyle. “When all was said and done, the customer received a business continuity plan and solution for around $25,000 a year that costs less than what it’d pay for business loss insurance, plus it frees up a full-time IT person’s time, improves the efficiency of their field workers, and protects their business from data loss. One additional benefit the customer experienced, which it didn’t originally expect, was that instead of reducing its recovery window to 24 hours, which PCNet originally quoted, it was actually able to achieve a two-hour backup window, thanks to recent improvements Asigra made to its software.”