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The economics of enterprise data protection

Sticking with the status quo can be expensive when it comes to data protection. Learn how an upgrade can save money.

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: Storage magazine: Backing up virtual machines is easier than ever:

Organizations of all sizes have been looking for better ways to protect their data. In some cases, they do so because existing backup solutions are broken, antiquated, cumbersome or not scaling to support the production environment adequately. In other cases, an organization is simply trying to improve what it's doing incrementally, based on economic considerations rather than technical enhancements.

People seem to be devoting considerable attention and money to improving data backup. In ESG's survey on IT spending intentions for 2014, backup was the third most frequently mentioned priority by respondents overall, and the topmost cited priority among respondents at midsize organizations. At those organizations, backup has been the most frequently named IT priority for the past three years.

Why is improving backup and recovery such a big concern? Interestingly, one big reason organizations continue to invest in backup has nothing to do with the technology; it has to do with economics.

Specifically, our research indicates the top driver affecting IT budgets in 2014 is cost containment. When we surveyed IT pros to determine how they intend to contain costs, their most common response was that they do so by "investing in new technologies with better ROI." Instead of cancelling projects or cutting personnel, they're trying to improve what they're already doing by reducing economic impacts, increasing overall performance and perhaps even adding capabilities.

When ESG conducts survey research into enterprise data protection modernization, some of the questions asked center on the most common operational reasons an IT organization might add or replace its data protection tools.

  • The top two reasons are related to economics, both Capex and Opex.
  • The next three reasons are related to performance, typically because the status quo isn't good enough anymore.
  • The sixth reason relates to some type of catalyst event, such as a corporate acquisition or a new CIO coming on board and mixing things up.

It's not until you are seven reasons deep before you get a response tied to a feature or something that differentiates one product from another.

So, to all the backup vendors out there, I ask you this: How are you proving the economic value of your products? And not just the economics of comparing one solution with another -- are you making the economic impact of keeping the status quo clear to end users?

For example, servers demand backups and backup-associated services, but a lot of IT professionals are under the mistaken impression that endpoint devices aren't worth the effort/expense of backup. And that's just one scenario. There are many cases where legacy solutions are frankly more expensive, even if you don't have new acquisition costs. For example, server solutions that aren't designed for highly virtualized environments invariably require more effort (labor costs) to manage, aren't as efficient (Capex storage) and are more apt to result in lost data due to a lack of virtual machine discovery/protection.

This isn't a question intended to urge you to create yet another ROI calculator. Most of your customers and prospects have never seen a vendor-produced ROI calculator that doesn't miraculously show the vendor's solution as the best choice, every time. Rather, simply ask yourself: "Can I sit down with my customers and channel advocates to clearly and succinctly articulate the operational, functional and economic benefits of my solution?"

I have a question for IT professionals, too: It's more than likely that almost any data protection solution you move to (switching from anything more than two years old) will gain you some additional levels of functionality, such as better virtualization support, integrated snapshots or replication, and maybe better deduplication. But can you quantify not only those feature/performance gains, but the operational and economic benefits?

Just because you own it, doesn't mean your solution will be cheaper (in the long term) than buying something new. Yes, switching solutions can be painful. But staying with something that is cumbersome and inefficient is also a pain -- and a very expensive one.

About the author:
Jason Buffington is a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. He focuses primarily on data protection, as well as Windows Server infrastructure, management and virtualization. He blogs at CentralizedBackup.com and tweets as @Jbuff.

This was last published in October 2014

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