Just as significantly, senior corporate managers were loath to trust some unknown company whose physical location might have been just about anywhere over the horizon. For years, storage companies had been flooding them with messages about data being their company’s most valuable asset, and obviously management at last, believed them, (at least to the extent that they weren’t willing to trust this asset to some third party). And so, most of the original generation of SSPs disappeared from sight.
A few survived by creating a set of services that provided real value. Some began offering legitimate alternatives to what in-house IT teams were already doing by focusing on the services they could offer more efficiently. Other SSPs, noting shifts in market requirements, began offering services that in-house IT groups were just incapable of offering. And a third group began delivering a new set of fundamental services—particularly backup and recovery—to the SMB market, a segment which had been almost completely unaddressed until quite recently.
Many of the surviving SSPs achieved significant success. Consider Arsenal Digital, eVault, LiveVault, Zantaz, and a few others. While their competitors were dying, these companies reassessed business models, adapted, and moved successfully out into the brave new marketplaces that today are still evolving. Some of these companies were acquired, but some are still standing quite solidly on their own two corporate feet.
Marketplaces do not stand still, of course. This is why successful managers understand that strategies are not things but processes, and that those processes must be continuously re-examined and retuned as the sands of the marketplace shift beneath them. Learning this was useful for the vendors, but it’s also a valuable lesson for IT manages planning their strategies.
Lessons from the Trenches
If you are an enterprise IT manager, consider just a part of your current set of worries. You are responsible (sometimes legally) for a set of services that may include e-discovery (in support of legal requirements) and all aspects of data security, disaster recovery, and business continuity. And then of course there is the whole issue of conformance to governmental regulations (HIPAA and Sarbanes-Oxley don’t even begin to scratch the surface here; if you’re reading this in Europe, neither does Basel 2).
Making matters worse, as often as not these expectations occur within the context of flattened budgets and “no build-out” mandates from senior corporate managers—who often seem remarkable in their ability to cap their financial support of IT while at the same time ratcheting up their levels of expectation of what your team ought to be delivering.
If you’re reading this and you work for an SMB (small-to-medium business), your problems may be even worse. After all, most regulatory and legal requirements extend to your data as well. The only difference for an SMB is that while you still have to cope with the same problems as your larger competitors, you will have to do so with substantially less staff on hand to assist you.
Fortunately, the wheel of history continues to turn and today many off-site storage providers offer high-value services that most IT managers would be foolish not to consider. As a result, it no longer always makes sense for even very large organizations to provide all these services themselves.
Many of the new generation of SSPs offer services that are at least on a par with the ones enterprise IT departments can provide. Today, ensuring security, compliance, user privacy and data availability each requires its own increasingly specialized set of skills. While IT managers certainly have some of the needed expertise inside their organizations, it is likely that other pieces will be missing. SSP’s can often provide these pieces more economically from outside the data center.