N-able’s Plan for Turning BDR into “Accidental” Cloud Migration

Indulge me. I started last week’s post with a story from a year ago, and I’m going to do it again here.

This one comes from a conversation last May with Chris Ploessel, of Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based MSP RedNight Consulting, about a surprisingly effective sales motion he’d recently stumbled across. Chris (who popped up in Channelholic a few weeks ago too) specializes in Amazon Web Services solutions. Looking to save customers some money and drive more AWS spend, he’d begun contacting clients with a co-located failover environment that was approaching a renewal date and proposing they switch to cloud-based disaster recovery instead. Much cheaper, he noted, because you only pay when you’re using it, and no more physical infrastructure to worry about.

That sounded pretty good to most people, and his team soon got to work standing up DR environments in AWS. Something unexpected happened the first few times Ploessel demo-ed those solutions to his clients, though. They all asked him why their production workloads weren’t in the cloud as well. I mean, why am I paying for servers and hardware maintenance and data centers, Chris, when this usage-based backup environment you’ve setup for me seems to run just as well?

Good question, and what began as a relationship-cementing effort to shrink DR budgets soon turned into a stealth technique for stepping on-prem customers into the cloud.

Chris Groot (pictured), the general manager in charge of N-able’s Cove data protection product line, has witnessed the same lightbulb moment Ploessel experienced in other MSPs. “There’s a moment of pleasant surprise when they discover it’s not only a great BDR tool. It’s also a migration tool that they can use in a controlled, planned way,” he says of what N-able calls “cloud-first BDR”.

That use case first became possible for Cove last month when the system gained the ability to recover standby images directly into a customer’s Microsoft Azure tenant instead of N-able’s own cloud. Suddenly, a direct-to-cloud BDR solution designed to be simpler and less expensive than appliance-based offerings became speedier in most cases as well, because you’re recovering inside a virtual portion of the client’s infrastructure pre-equipped with their standard compute, networking, and security stack.

“If it’s your cloud, and it’s part of your data center, and you already have a standby image there, you get the best of both worlds,” observes Stefan Voss, N-able’s vice president of product management.

Better yet, once that recovery site is up and running you need never shut it down again.

“It’s not just a temporary solution,” Groot says, as it would be if you were operating out of a BDR vendor’s cloud. “It very well could be a permanent location for production in the future.”

Or in other words, what starts out as a disaster recovery incident (or even, as Ploessel can attest, a disaster recovery demo) can swiftly turn into what Groot only half-jokingly calls an “accidental migration,” accompanied by all the attendant project and management fees.

There are other revenue opportunities too. As Voss notes, best-in-class MSPs initially restore backups in a sandbox environment in Azure to confirm everything’s infection-free (a best practice only a minority of MSPs employ, per an earlier Channelholic post).

“I can already have a SentinelOne instance running, do my scan, I can reset the passwords, and then I can move back into production,” he says, adding that’s a premium service you can charge for as well. Bundling DR into comprehensive “right of breach” services that include post-incident containment, investigation, and eradication is another option.

Eventually, of course, direct-to-cloud recovery won’t be a stealth migration path as well because everyone will have already migrated. “Most MSPs would prefer to manage their customers in an Azure-type environment, but it’s just a matter of when,” Groot says. “If you recently made an investment in terms of capital costs and so on related to hardware, now’s not the time.”

But make no mistake, Groot adds, that time is coming. “Three years from now, I’d say, that’s where the puck is going.”

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Other areas where opportunity is knocking for MSPs

Data published this week suggests four in particular.

1. It’s all about security: just check the data from corporate IT professionals in Kaseya’s “2023 IT Operations Survey Report”, out yesterday. Three of the top four spending priorities and half the top 10 are security related.

2. Maybe it should be about automation too: Microsoft’s “Small Business State of Mind” report, out this week, suggests SMBs will be grateful for pretty much anything that frees them from low-value drudgery.

3. And how about some cloud consulting?: Per SaaS intelligence toolmaker Productiv, the average SMB will spend nearly $11,200 a year per employee on SaaS licensing this year…

…yet use just half of what they buy.

4. Co-managed IT is no longer a trend: Kaseya’s data shows that outsourcing one or more IT services to an MSP is a current-day mainstream reality for four-fifths of businesses with an IT department.

Sorry, Star Trek fans

I’m far too wise to wade into the middle of this debate, but here’s one last data point from Kaseya’s study sure to be of interest to anyone who believes the Star Wars franchise is better than Star Trek, or vice versa. IT pros appear to have a clear opinion.

Partner to partner to consultant to partner

Hat tip to Dave Sobel, of the inestimable Business of Tech podcast, for connecting me with some folks offering MSPs help in two important areas.

The folks in question are John Guido, of P2P Global, and Leahanne Hobson, of Alinea Partners. Guido’s business is a vendor- and disti-neutral marketplace where solution providers can find other solution providers to partner with on pending opportunities. Hobson runs a consultancy that helps solution providers hone their sales, marketing, delivery, and performance.

As of last week, members of the P2P Global ecosystem are now eligible to receive one of Alinea’s “growth opportunity assessments.” For a few heavily discounted thousand dollars, Hobson’s team collects data on everything from service lineup, implementation capabilities, business development processes, and more through an online survey.

“We assimilate it, benchmark it, and make recommendations for where they can improve their portfolio by doing upsell, better bundling, addition of managed services, better packaging, and some of the fundamental things in their business such as their revenue to salesperson ratio,” Hobson explains.

You’ll also learn about expanding your service roster through partnerships, which is where P2P Global comes into the picture. The platform exists to help IT providers supplement their current capabilities collaboratively.

“No one single solution provider can do it all,” Guido notes. “Folks need very deep skills in different categories.”

Finding people with those skills, as everyone reading this knows painfully well, is especially difficult right now. “With today’s recruiting environment, that takes too long to actually fulfill the deal,” Guido notes. “Here you have, ready to go, companies that can commit and act as experts in security, or Cisco, or Amazon, or Microsoft, whatever it happens to be.”

Companies that wish to list opportunities on the platform can do so for free, he adds. Those that wish to get pulled into opportunities as well pay $200 a month and up.

Also worth noting

ESET has unveiled an elite edition of its XDR solution.

IRONSCALES is building generative AI-based threat reporting into its email security solution.

Malwarebytes has a new partner program for resellers.

LastPass has a partner program now too.

Google has new software tools and Chromebook features for the education vertical.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is providing free GreenLake cloud services to women-owned and minority-owned startups.