In this fast-paced, digital age it's becoming more and more common to hear about startups that suddenly experience extreme growth spurts in a matter of weeks. With this type of rapid growth, it tends to be painfully obvious to the leaders of the business that new infrastructure, processes, and tools need to be implemented in order to feed the continued growth. Because the growing pains are so acute in these situations they become more obvious and tend to be addressed fairly quickly.
The hosting industry is a bit different, though. The industry has seen solid growth over the last few years and, while some hosting providers grow more rapidly than others, we have typically seen moderate, steady growth for small and medium businesses in this market. While this consistency is great, it can create an atmosphere where those growing pains start occurring in the background without the leaders of the company realizing they exist. As a result, it can be a lot more difficult for steadily growing hosting providers to realize when they need to invest in improved infrastructure or tools.
One of those commonly overlooked upgrades is the migration from a free or open source backup solution to an enterprise product. As many people see their backup tool (or tools) simply as a secondary fallback plan, it can be difficult to understand the value in paying for a more dynamic product.
However, it's becoming increasingly evident in the hosting industry that having a fully baked backup and disaster recovery strategy is not only a business-critical safety net, but also a potential source of revenue for your organization. While some fledgling businesses may not have the motivation to make this change quite yet, the items below highlight the signs that, through its success, your organization has outgrown your current backup solution and that it's time to take advantage of the opportunities that come with a powerful backup product.
Held Back by the Feature Set
This is probably the first growing pain that you will notice as you start to outgrow any tool. It's one thing to have an ideal "wish list" for features or functionality, it's a completely different situation when the tools you're using are actually holding back your business, forcing you to add another abridged product that fills in the gaps. Eventually you end up patching together three or four free solutions together, which actually ends up costing your business a lot more than simply purchasing and managing a single, full-featured product.
One common example of this occurs when your current solution only allows you to backup either physical or virtual servers, rather than allowing for both. Another would be that your backup solution is only able to backup Windows or Linux servers. Maybe your solution doesn't allow for off-site replication, or multiple backups in a day.
Regardless of which realm it's in, when you start feeling that your business is being constrained by limited backup capabilities it's likely time to invest in a new enterprise product, rather than trying to loosely tie together a couple less reliable tools. If they're not scaling to meet your business needs today, it's only going to get worse in the coming years.
Spending too Much Time on Administration
One of the slightly less obvious pains that comes with free products is the amount of time that has to be spent maintaining it. As time goes on you may not even realize that you're spending an additional hour or two each week just keeping everything organized and running at a high level. This issue is multiplied when you are utilizing two or three different tools.
Not only do enterprise backup solutions tend to take less maintenance and have continually improving user experiences, many also offer at least some range of automation options. Whether you're looking to automate a few tedious tasks or you want to get as close to "set it and forget it" as you possibly can, the man hours that can be saved with a high-performance backup manager will more than make up for the actual price tag on the product.
Not Getting the Necessary Support
This may only come up every so often, but it's important to note the value of having a centralized support person or team to contact if there are issues with a tool that you're relying on. That's not to say that open source communities can't also be helpful. They can often be good for answering low- or medium-priority questions or giving some tips for using the product.
However, as your company gets larger and your customers rely more and more on the backup system that you're using, you should be extremely uncomfortable with the idea that you don't have someone to hold responsible and get timely feedback from if the product isn't working correctly. It's your responsibility to protect your customers' data. If you are using a free or open source product that doesn't have a dedicated team that shares that same goal, you could be left high and dry when you need it the most.
No Opportunity to Monetize Backups
This is a big turning point for a lot of hosting providers. This is where organizations realize that a backup solution truly can be an investment, rather than a cost. This is how you add a whole new value, and revenue stream, to your existing business.
Any backup product worth its salt will give you the opportunity -- whether through its feature set, re-selling opportunities, or marketing enablement -- for you to make reliable server backups a selling point for your company. Not only will that add a sense of reliability that could give you an advantage over your competitors, but you could also offer the enterprise backup solution for a small fee. Again, this not only improves the perceived value from your customers and potential customers, it also gives a slight lift to your bottom line.
If you are interested in a backup tool that will easily allow you to re-sell it, one feature to look out for is flexible multi-tenancy. Multi-tenant functionality will let you manage multiple end-clients in a shared backup capacity while keeping each account completely separate. Depending on the product, this feature could also allow you to provide self-service backup and restore to your customers who want it. That's a time saver for you, and a much more flexible service for your more independent clients.
What other signs are there that it's time to move on from a free or cheap backup solution? Have you recently made this change at your own company? Comment below with any tips or anecdotes you've got for those who are hesitant to make the change!
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