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SMBs need help with disaster recovery planning

Symantec's survey findings suggest there are opportunities for partners to help customers in this space

Small to medium-sized business (SMB) customers are not as well protected with a disaster recovery (DR) plan as they think, opening the door for ripe channel opportunity, suggests recent findings from a Symantec (NYSE: SYMC)-sponsored survey.

Pat Hanavan, vice-president of product management for Backup Exec within Symantec’s Data Protection Group, said the company enlisted the help of Applied Research to conduct a global survey titled “SMB Disaster Preparedness.” The survey was conducted between August and September 2009 with small business representatives ranging from 10-99 employees, 100-499 employees, and companies that do business with other SMBs. The survey included responses from 1,653 participants around the world. The U.S. and Canada were represented by 299 survey respondents.

“We asked SMBs to do a self-assessment of whether they think they’re prepared to handle a disaster,” Hanavan said. “Eighty-two per cent said they were somewhat or very satisfied with their DR plan and 81 per cent said they were in North America.”

What’s perhaps the most shocking finding is that of these same respondents, Hanavan noted that in the event of a “serious outage,” more than half said they’d expect to lose at least 40 per cent of their data, with 63 per cent in North America believing this. Maybe this is because 57 per cent of survey participants said they don’t have a formal DR plan in place, something partners can use this to their advantage.

This presents an abundance of partner opportunities in the SMB DR space, he added, stating that there’s a lack of awareness and knowledge in the marketplace around DR solutions and plans.

“Some SMB customers don’t understand the impacts a disaster could have on their business until they actually face an outage and get hit hard,” Hanavan explained. “The vast majority of small businesses are below 100 employees and don’t have an IT staff, so partners can provide goods, services and can also build bigger solutions, installation services and even go beyond that with backup services for their customers.”

Partners need to assist their customers with awareness and education by helping them understand the systems they currently have in place and the importance of the data within the four walls. When this is determined, partners can then help their customers build a solid DR plan by putting in the appropriate level of protection for the customer in the workplace.

Hanavan said that if a customer experiences an outage and they aren’t prepared and lose their data, they may put blame on the partner, or the vendor. It’s therefore in the partner’s best interest to prepare their customers before such an event could happen.

“There’s business to be had here because it’s not just about the software solution. It’s also about staying on top of it, managing it and monitoring it,” Hanavan said. “Partners need to have follow-up conversations with their customers to manage and test their DR plans more proactively.”

Symantec encourages partners to do annual DR assessments for their customers and to provide report cards for them. If a partner is helping a customer upgrade or expand their infrastructures, it’s the perfect opportunity to also help them update their DR plan and retest it again, Hanavan added.

“These (survey) results show there are market opportunities for our partners to go out there and reconnect with their customers to make sure they have a solid and robust DR plan in place,” he said.