Magazine Article | January 14, 2014

Sell A Cloud Infrastructure With A Local BDR Safety Net

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By Jay McCall

An MSP saves a wealth management customer $70,000 on an IT upgrade and earns recurring revenue in the process.

When many VARs and MSPs talk about selling hybrid IT solutions, the vast majority of their customers’ IT infrastructures remain on-site, and a small (but significant) backup is made to the cloud for disaster recovery purposes. Managed services provider Baroan Technologies flipped this model on its head recently after it was approached by a wealth management client that was in need of an updated disaster recovery solution and an IT infrastructure overhaul. “This client has only 10 employees, but it’s a boutique wealth management company that handles tens of millions of dollars in investments,” says Guy Baroan, CEO of Baroan Technologies. “Plus, one question regulatory auditors were asking the firm was, ‘What’s your disaster recovery [DR] plan?’, and their answer wasn’t good enough.”

Present Your Customers With Multiple BDR Options
After assessing the wealth management company’s IT infrastructure, the MSP discovered the client had several servers approaching five years old that needed to be replaced; plus the business owner was replicating data to his home, which was only a few miles away from his business, using a similar IT infrastructure to the one used at the office. Considering that the customer’s local area had been hit by Hurricane Irene two years earlier and Hurricane Sandy the following year, a much more robust DR solution was in order. Baroan put together a BDR proposal with three options, including diagrams showing how each configuration worked (see info graphic depicting option 3), and presented it to the client.

Option 1: Replace the aging in-house servers and move the off-site backup from the business owner’s house to the Amazon cloud. Approximate Cost: $100k

Option 2: Replace the aging servers with on-site servers and purchase a replica of the on-site IT infrastructure in a rented collocation facility. Approximate Cost: $150k+

Option 3: Move the customer's entire IT infrastructure to the Amazon cloud, and run the business through a Terminal Server client. Approximate Cost: $30k

The client’s reservations about the cloud caused it to lean toward option 1. However, the obvious cost savings associated with option 3 led to several follow-up questions. “We added two features to option 3, which increased the customer’s trust without adding to their up-front capital expense,” says Baroan. “First, we proposed adding a redundant Internet connection, which included cable and a T1 line connected to a Dell SonicWALL high availability firewall. The second security feature we proposed was reconfiguring several of the client’s legacy physical servers with VMware and replicating their cloud infrastructure back to their local virtual hosts, which would give them local DR capabilities.”

Migrate To The Cloud One Step At A Time
By overcoming its client’s cloud objections, Baroan Technologies was able to sell Option 3. “We recommended and migrated them to Office365 Hosted Exchange in the first phase of the implementation,” recalls Baroan. “Once the email migration was completed, we created a new local physical server that would serve as their local Active Directory Server, complete with a Windows 2012 OS.” In the Amazon Cloud, the MSP created a second Active Directory Server running Windows 2012, which also served as the customer’s file server, application server, SQL server, and terminal server.Subscribe to Business Solutions magazine

“Additionally, we set up a server to manage their backups and an SSL [secure socket layer] VPN virtual appliance for secure connectivity outside the office,” says Baroan. “We created a VPN tunnel to their main office and configured the terminal server to be used with their applications. We then coordinated with their trading software vendor to migrate them to the new SQL server and brought over their files with all permissions in place.” Once the environment was created, the MSP tested the applications to ensure they met the customer’s performance requirements. “The cloud solution was able to exceed the customer’s performance requirements, because the computing occurs in Amazon’s data center, and only the display changes, keyboard clicks, and mouse clicks are sent over the Internet, which uses very little bandwidth,” says Baroan.

After the infrastructure was in place, the MSP configured the backup using StorageCraft’s Shadow Protect. One backup occurs at Amazon’s Cloud data center, followed by a second backup over the Internet (only incremental changes are sent) to the customer’s facility. “The StorageCraft software is set to back up the client’s data every two hours, so they could never lose more than two hours’ worth of data,” says Baroan.

The MSP also uses StorageCraft ShadowStream to provide a fully redundant infrastructure at the customer’s premise. “This application allows us to speed up the transfer of the data from the AWS cloud infrastructure to the client’s office,” says Baroan. “This procedure happens daily, so if the Amazon cloud became unavailable, we could turn on the servers at the client’s office, and the client could continue working as if nothing happened. Then, when the cloud was available again, the client could sync the changes back and revert back to their cloud infrastructure without any downtime or data loss.”

Baroan is quick to acknowledge that this implementation is backwards from the infrastructure configuration many other companies deploy. “In this case, however, it’s what was necessary to offer a reliable solution within the client’s budget that gives them the peace of mind that, even if the cloud becomes unavailable, they don’t need to worry about downtime,” he says. “Knowing that we’re able to provide customers with an IT infrastructure, backed up by a reliable BDR solution at a fraction of the cost they expected to pay, is very rewarding,” admits Baroan. “Earning long-term, monthly recurring revenue is also rewarding in a whole other way.”