Cashing in on big data

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The Recovery Zone is an online publication designed to bring MSPs, VARs, and IT pros together to reach a common goal: to build better IT businesses. We’re sponsored by backup and disaster recovery leader StorageCraft® Technology Corporation, but we’re nothing like the corporate blogs you’ve seen in the past.

Data is exploding at an incredible rate and for many businesses, it’s a new gold rush. Competitive advantages, more agility, better downstream planning, and a clearer understanding of customers and products are just a few of the benefits data can provide. But benefits like these are only for businesses that know how to store, protect, and analyze their information. Data is the new currency for a successful business, and you can be the one helping mint it for your clients. Here are a few nuggets of advice you might use as you pan for gold in the big data bonanza.

Data storage

The most basic way to help clients as data piles up is by storing it. Chances are you’re already in the data storage game whether you’re using the cloud, your own data center, or providing on-site storage to clients. But are you tapping into the full potential? If you’re offering digital bins for clients to store data, you’re off to a good start, but there’s potential to provide more value to clients if you’re actively managing their systems. Here are some questions to ask yourself.

Visibility – Do you have an eye on drives that might be getting full? Are you making sure storage can scale up without time-consuming migrations or pricey hardware upgrades? Have you considered scale-out storage to add space as needed?

Access – Can you tell your clients who accessed what information and when? Clients in the healthcare field must have this kind of visibility to be HIPAA Compliant , which makes this type of information critical.

Security – Are you ensuring that critical data is encrypted? Do you provide physical protection to keep bad folks out?

These are great ways to add value to clients, but they’re just the basics. Making data accessible to use is another whole layer.

Data management

Giving clients a way to store data is one thing. Giving them a practical way to manage data and collaborate is another. Here are questions to consider as you ramp-up your data management repertoire.

Collaboration – What tools can you provide that make it easy for end users to share and collaborate on various types of work? Are users able to get information anywhere, anytime using cloud-based tools like Office 365 or Dropbox? Are there clients that might benefit from collaboration tools you can build yourself?

Best practices – Are you handling archiving for things like file storage and email? Can you provide an easy way for customers to access old data? What about version control and basic file organization? Do customers know when or how to archive information? Are they familiar with how to save space and reduce clutter on file shares? How can you take some of the data organizing burdens off their shoulders?

Data backup and recovery

Storing and managing data is just the start. Keeping data backed up and accessible after something terrible happens is another way MSPs can mine gold. For many, the conversation starts and ends at primary backups, but the real benefit you can provide is eliminating downtime – not just preventing data loss. The cost of downtime varies depending on the business, but according to Gartner, it can cost as much as $5,600 a minute! Make sure clients understand that backups are just protection from losing data – they don’t prevent the costly downtime without the right software, equipment, and DR planning. Encourage them to invest in systems that offer a smooth, fast path to recovery after hardware failures, user errors, or even natural disasters. Tools like these pay for themselves.

Data Analytics-as-a-Service

Data analytics as a service is far beyond the basic data storage you know and love. These days a business might have storage and management solved but may wonder what they can glean from their troves of data. Data becomes real business intelligence with the right tools and know-how, which are two things most MSP firms have in abundance. We dive deeper into data analytics as a service in another post, but here are some fundamental ways to provide data analytics services.

  • Setup and management – There are plenty of off-the-shelf data analytics tools your clients can use. With tools like these, you can earn a fee helping clients get set up and integrating them with existing systems, but that may be the end of it.
  • White labeling – Analytics tools let you white-label their tools as your own so that you can sell and manage them for your clients. This way, you can earn monthly revenue from each client using the tools.
  • Custom development – Go big or go home. Developing custom data analytics apps is tough, but with the right specialists and open-source tools, you can build excellent tools for customers and start counting fat stacks while you’re at it.

Businesses of all types have data needs, and those needs will keep growing. If you’re not taking steps to understand the latest tools and tactics for managing and analyzing data, you run the risk of falling behind. Your clients may become increasingly interested in learning about data trends, and the best thing you can do is be ready to answers questions and offer services that help them turn piles of random data into their next great business decision.