Sharpen Pitch To Grow Backup Storage Sales
Cost savings fueled by active archiving, tiered backup, cloud storage, and deduping help make backup storage recession-proof.
Business Solutions, April 2009
To begin with, let’s talk about building your backup storage pitch around a term that perks up the ears of SMB customers — namely, ‘business continuity.’ Your potential customers can better relate to the damage that data loss can inflict on their businesses than they can to chatter about terabytes and petabytes. “What is being provided to your customers is much more than backup or storage,” says Maurice Saluan, VP of channel management at Zenith Infotech. “You’re providing a business continuity solution that encompasses disaster recovery and backup and is an insurance policy against operational interruptions.” Key to the business continuity pitch is cost savings — not only by keeping your customers’ businesses up and running, but also by saving them money on the storage they need. That is when expertise about active archiving, information lifecycle management (ILM), tiered storage, cloud storage, and data deduplication can drive sales forward.
Sell Around Compliance Mandates That Drive Storage Needs
Also driving sales, says Eric Herzog, VP of marketing and sales at Tarmin Technologies, is compliance, which he considers a storage VAR’s friend because it drives backup storage needs in many sectors. “With the troubled economy, companies still need to protect and retrieve data but while reducing both capital and operational expenses,” explains Herzog. “Companies are still tasked with compliance requirements that require files to be securely retained and protected, even as data grows exponentially.”
Those compliance requirements open the door for storage VARs, and when you are talking with a customer about active archiving and ILM, don’t miss the opportunity to roll out the cost savings found when businesses migrate reference data — as compared to business-critical data — to secondary storage. According to the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), 80% of data does not change after 90 days, and that means cost savings for businesses of all sizes when that static data is shifted from high-cost primary storage to lower-cost secondary storage.
Also, don’t overlook the role of data compression and dedepulication in reducing storage costs during the backup process. “Compression and deduping are critical issues because they reduce storage needs, and that equates to saving money, and in this economy, saving money is not a luxury — it is a necessity,” explains Marc Shaffer, CEO of US DataVault. He adds that cloud computing — in this case, paying a fee for online access to data vaults owned and managed by a VAR — can also offer savings, but requires higher levels of investment by VARs and more reassurances for the customer. “Also, we prefer a private cloud environment [as opposed to the public cloud], because with dedicated, private clouds there are never questions of where the client’s critical data is, and clients perceive a better level of control and security for their data,” says Shaffer.
Take Advantage Of Affordable Enterprise Solutions
Some vendors suggest that storage will better weather this recession because of recent price drops making enterprise-class technology affordable outside the enterprise space. “A significant opportunity for VARs is the reduction in the price of storage infrastructure as well as archiving and other software solutions that were previously only available to higher-end customers,” says Jon Johnson, executive director of marketing at CRU-DataPort. He suggests solutions such as built-in Hyper-V for server virtualization and image-based backup in the operating system that can now accommodate direct-attached storage (DAS), so small businesses can use technologies that used to be associated with a storage area network (SAN) and the enterprise space. “The affordability of sophisticated storage backup, combined with solutions that are much more stable, can now be sold to smaller companies that previously could not afford them and that have been traditionally lax in deploying backup and off-site recovery plans,” he adds.
Another potential storage option expected to gain traction soon in the backup storage space is solid state disk (SSD). Russ Johnson, senior VP and GM of the AMCC storage business unit, suggests backup storage VARs learn more about SSD as a reliable storage appliance that draws far less power, has a small footprint, and will enter the storage market as a secondary-tier storage option. “SSD drive manufacturers are working to enhance performance within the storage network with SSD, and vendors are working to demonstrate how different drive types, including SSD, can run off a single RAID [redundant array of independent disks] controller without impacting performance,” he says. Another evolving technology that will impact backup storage is the dawning of 6 GB/second serial-attached small computer system interface (SAS), or SAS 2. “While these drives are not expected to be available to the channel in volume until late 2009 or early 2010, users can reap early benefits from a 6 GB/s SAS infrastructure without the 6 GB/s drives, as it provides a fatter pipe for moving data, thus enabling faster backup times,” says Russ Johnson.
Build Value Propositions To Combat Cost Objections
Regardless of which technology solution a VAR feels is right for a client’s specific needs, cost remains the bottom line. “Cost objections are always an issue, but especially now,” says Jon Johnson. “Part of that is the misconception by customers that their current backup solution is cheaper and is providing reliable recovery services. In reality, newer systems are more reliable, require less management, and can be automated for offsite replications.” Value propositions to meet those legacy solution objections range from highlighting cost savings related to newer solutions to offering a monthly managed storage service to financing options such as leasing the new appliance.
Another value proposition revolves around recovery — bringing us back to the appeal of the business continuity pitch. “Recoverability is number one,” says Jon Johnson. He says finding sales opportunities with new customers can simply mean asking ‘how long will recovery take and how much data will you lose?’ about a current backup solution. Russ Johnson agrees: “Today’s value propositions largely center on performance, reliability, and scalability in a disk-to-disk backup environment. Performance has grown in importance because more companies have to follow compliance requirements, which means storing and archiving much greater amounts of data, but they also see the value in fast retrieval and recovery times.” With fewer staff members, if any, to handle recovery, a reliable solution becomes paramount. “We know for a fact that businesses are running very lean staff-wise. With that in mind, any downtime could have a more dramatic impact on the survival of the business,” says Saluan. “Clients normally tune out when the solution is too complicated or demanding on their staff, so when staff is short, just ease of use of the recovery solution could make it a winner.” He suggests all VARs develop a deep knowledge of several solutions, an expertise that allows them to adjust solution recommendations around cost objections, staffing objections, and more. “Do your homework and make sure you select a few solutions that fit the needs of various sized customers,” says Saluan. “Then invest the time to become experts in the solutions you promote.”
Shaffer says not only do VARs need to hone their expertise, they need to promote it. “Don’t just sell, but follow up and through,” says Shaffer. He recommends pushing for referrals and doing business in a way that illustrates you are serious about earning those recommendations. “The power of word of mouth is persuasive. If Joe’s buddy is using something and likes it, chances are Joe is going to want it, too.”
All the vendors agree that backup storage sales will suffer less than most technologies, but key to making sales is the ability to address the pain points of customers: costs, time, recovery, reliability, compliance. “Customers are looking to their trusted VARs to help them through this tough economy,” says Russ Johnson.