Seven questions SMEs should ask a potential service provider

SMEs should ask service providers many questions, including types of backups supported, how long it takes to back up data and disaster recovery plans, before outsourcing any work.

Outsourcing backup and storage allows SMEs to benefit from enterprise-level storage strategies and technology, while the service provider takes care of maintenance and license costs. Here are some questions for a SMEs considering outsourcing their storage/backup to a service provider.

1.What type of service do you need? Outsourced backup services vary from simply providing raw storage space to advanced offerings that include features such as data deduplication and information lifecycle management (ILM). Don't go for the lowest cost, experts advise -- it's the service and performance that count.

2. What types of backups are supported? Does your business require only full backups or does it require differentials or incremental backups at frequent intervals? Do you need several copies to be made throughout the day? Get the answers to these questions and then find the service providers that offer what you need.

3. How long will it take to back up my data? This is a vital consideration. You need to keep in mind your backup window and also allow for growth in data volumes, as this may increase your backup window.

4. How long will it take to restore data? Restoration is a longer process than backup, especially if data has been deduplicated or was backed up incrementally. Make sure you ask the service provider how long restoration of data will take and ensure those details are included in the service-level agreement (SLA).

5. What security measures does the service provider have in place? Do they replicate to another site and is data encrypted?

6. What disaster recovery and business continuity measures does the service provider have in place? Make sure the provider has a DR plan and that they write into the SLA how long it will take to restore your data and exactly how they will achieve that.

7. What is the bandwidth of your connection? The speed of the link to the backup provider will make a huge difference in how much can be backed up and how often.

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