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Storage as a Service – the golden ticket?

Florian Malecki explains how storage as a service can give managed service providers a competitive edge

The global market for managed services is tipped to grow by $118 billion between 2016 and 2022. There is a huge opportunity for managed service providers (MSPs) to capitalise on this growth and to benefit from the increased opportunities it brings.

On the downside, the market will become even more fiercely competitive, forcing MSPs to be more creative in the services and value they deliver. One way to do this is to offer cloud-based storage as a service (STaaS).

STaaS solves a variety of challenges for customers, particularly small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

Data storage is already a major inconvenience and it is set to get much worse – by 2025, data volumes are forecast to be nearly 1,000% higher than they are today. This poses a real challenge for SMEs already struggling to manage the flow of data in and out of their business.

Once upon a time, SMEs could simply buy more hardware, but that’s no longer an option, as data volumes have outstripped the capacity of smaller businesses to purchase new hardware and disks; they just can’t afford it. Nor, with non-existent or under-resourced IT departments, do they have the in-house expertise to address the problem.

The bottom line is that SMEs have reached a point where it becomes extremely challenging and expensive for them to deal with information overload. They need assistance and they need the right solution, which is where MSPs can help by providing a robust, scalable STaaS offering.

Business opportunity
Storage as a service eases the management headaches associated with traditional storage and enables SMEs to access high quality, infinitely scalable storage without the cost of owning and maintaining an in-house storage infrastructure. It gives growing businesses the flexibility to scale their storage requirements up or down as their needs change, only paying for what they need, when they need it, without any upfront costs.

Low cost and flexibility aren’t the only reasons storage as a service is so appealing to SMEs. New data privacy laws, such as Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and other nation specific regulations that prevent data from leaving a country are putting new data storage obligations on business. Even the smallest must now comply with such rules or face stiff penalties. A third value that MSPs can provide is to help SMEs better store and manage their data and remain in compliance with rules like GDPR.

Clearly, the market for STaaS is strong. Even so, it’s probably not practical for a typical MSP, which itself is likely to be a rapidly growing business offering a variety of different services to customers, to build out its own sophisticated storage infrastructure. To offer the very best storage service to customers, most resellers will have to choose the right storage vendor to partner with.

Here’s what to look for in a vendor:

Ease of use. This factor is crucial. If you’re an MSP, you’re probably already stretched to capacity and don’t have spare resources to allocate to the deployment and management of your storage service. You won’t have to, if you choose the right storage solution, such as scale-out storage appliances offering plug and play simplicity and the ability to ‘bring your own disks’. Scale-out storage allows you to mix and match drives of different capacities and types (SAS, SATA) in the same bays, with zero configuration i.e. no RAID, volume or LUNs to configure. And, with the ability to manage the storage needs of your customers in any location, from any browser, you can spend less time managing storage and more time driving strategic initiatives.

High scalability. MSPs sometimes get engaged in data projects that suddenly require a much larger team and a new budget when the customer’s data needs grow unexpectedly quickly, perhaps doubling every year. Choosing a highly scalable data storage solution enables you to keep pace with a customer’s data growth by adding any number of drives, any time and in any granularity to meet their storage requirements. Such solutions also let you grow your global storage pool with zero configuration and no application downtime.

Intelligent analytics. Look for a self organising storage solution that analytics and machine learning to the management of information. Ideally, such a storage system will use analytics to identify which data should be backed up and which not, giving you an intelligent, tiered data architecture that provides rapid access to mission-critical information. This is the only way MSPs and their customers will be able to keep up with the explosion of data – especially now that data is becoming bigger and faster than humans can handle.

Strong data protection. Finally, MSPs need always to keep customer data safe and available. Failure to do so will result in loss of business and risk regulatory trouble. Any data storage offering should include the ability to protect business data wherever it resides and guarantee availability no matter what happens. The best solutions use snapshot, replication and encryption technologies and can also recover individual files, entire systems, or fail over a whole data centre very quickly.

There is increasing pressure for MSPs to differentiate themselves in the market. Standing out is no longer about what they can do, it’s about what else they can do. By offering a smart, cost-effective and highly scalable storage solution, MSPs can rise above the crowd, attract more business and build long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with customers.

Florian Malecki is International Product Marketing Sr. Director of StorageCraft, a provider of data protection, data management and business continuity solutions, including a converged primary and secondary scale-out storage platform with integrated data protection. Prior to joining StorageCraft, Malecki worked in senior roles at SonicWall, Dell, Aventail, ClearSwift, Omgeo, Lucent Technologies and Air Products.

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