What SMBs expect from backup software

Lack of staff resources means SMBs need storage products that easy to understand and use

Small and midsize businesses would rather chew tin foil, an industry pundit says, than spend money on enterprise backup software that is little suited to their needs. Deni Connor recently talked to George Symons, CEO of Yosemite Technologies, about what SMBs really need in backup software.

Why don't enterprise backup packages like Tivoli Storage Manager suit the needs of SMBs?

If you look at the difference between an SMB and an enterprise, generally within an SMB's IT department you either have fewer people or at a minimum you don't have people with specific storage specialization or storage knowledge, so because of that you need a product that is easy to use. A lot of the factors change dramatically -- in an SMB performance isn't critical, but the ability to easily install software is. To be able to start the software up, make it do what it should and let it keep running is the most important factor.

Do SMB backup packages differ from enterprise ones in their ease of use and installation?

Ease of use is number one. Taking the complexity out of a product is actually one of the most difficult things to do. I've worked with a number of enterprise products and the thought has always been, "We can make it simple, we can take out functionality and it will be easy to use." That's not really true -- you have to build ease of use from the ground up. It's not just an intuitive GUI, but understanding and thinking about what defaults to set, how to figure out what the environment is so you can completely automate the processes. It's that automation that is so much different than in enterprise products, and you can successfully do it because the complexity of the environment is so different.

Is there also a difference in the price? I heard someone say that an SMB would rather chew tin foil than spend a lot of money on backup.

I have heard that, too. There is an absolute difference in price. If you look at an SMB environment that ranges from a SOHO to a 100-person organization, the cost is going to be widely different across those. Just looking at a basic backup server you can see differences of 10 to one. So SMB software needs to be significantly less expensive.

Is the notion that users can retrieve their files important in SMBs?

It is important. It goes back to the point of limited IT resources. You don't have someone who is dedicated to backup and recovery, let alone to managing storage. So if I need to recover files, there is no one to go to. For that user, self service becomes critical. If a server crashes, clearly IT is going to do the recovery, but if it's my user files, I want to be able to recover them myself. If I'm a mobile user, no one wants to help me, so there really does have to be self service.

It would seem to me that SMB customers would be more comfortable with disk-based backup than they would be with tape. Is that true?

It is true for a couple of reasons. They are more comfortable with it because they already have disk in the environment and again, tape adds an additional level of complexity. But it is also just the management of it. A lot of SMBs will be happy with just a backup on a local disk, and that's a risk they take in not having an offsite tape archive. So they are not even worried about taking tapes offsite to protect them or tape rotation policies or the complexities of managing tapes. For SMBs disk is very applicable. We saw it catching on in SMBs even before that of enterprises for just those reasons.

What about continuous data protection (CDP)? Is that technology desirable in SMBs or remote offices?

Continuous data protection is important but not in the same way. From an SMB perspective, block-based CDP is not a requirement. They are not interested in every transaction and write to the disk being protected immediately. File-based CDP is of interest because what it really is versioning. We have found that versioning is of interest in the SMB market, particularly for protecting user files. Their needs around applications are not that different than in the enterprise in the sense that they need to protect their Exchange and SQL servers. They don't need CDP to protect those servers though.

How do hardware requirements differ for the SMB for backup and recovery?

If you look at the enterprise, you want a big server running the backup. In an SMB, you aren't going to want to spend that money and will likely want to run multiple applications, including the backup on a single or lower-powered server. Thus, one of the requirements for an SMB backup package is that it doesn't use a lot of CPU or other resources since its going to have to live with other products.

Is performance a requirement?

Not necessarily. SMBs would rather live with 80 percent of the performance as long as the software runs consistently. In an enterprise you want to get maximum throughput and performance.

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Deni Connor

Network World
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