Symantec offers managed backup

Companies that have invested in Symantec Inc.’s NetBackup environment to protect data can now have those environments managed remotely by the vendor.

Under Symantec Managed Backup Services, the company manages a customer’s existing NetBackup environment from Symantec’s network of security operations centres in the U.S., Australia, Europe and India. Depending on the scope of the environment, the deal may also entail having a Symantec consultant on-premise with the customer.

“It’s still their infrastructure. It’s still in their data centre,” said Grant Geyer, vice-president of managed security services with Symantec.

While technicians at the operations centres can control the backup process, they don’t have access to the actual data, only the NetBackup control panel, Geyer said.

Symantec has been in the managed services business with security offerings for about 10 years, Geyer said. About 800 enterprise-class customers have outsourced IT security to Symantec, he said.

“Organizations quite frequently will outsource their entire IT infrastructure,” Geyer said. But lately, some organizations have been opting for more selective out-tasking, generally with product-savvy vendors, he said.

“This is a way of selectively providing the value they need,” he said.

Geyer said beta customers saw a 15 to 20 per cent cost savings. Symantec also offers performance guarantees in the shape of service level agreements, a 97 per cent success guarantee for backup and two-hour recovery period among the conditions.

“There’s strong table stakes in this offering for Symantec,” Geyer said.

Having the backup regimen managed offsite also allows the customer to focus staff on more strategic activities, Geyer said.

Symantec offers three tiers of service: silver (eight hours a day monitoring), gold (16 hours) and platinum (24 hours a day). Pricing depends on the tier, the complexity of the environment and the number of NetBackup clients, but starts at US$37 per server per month, according to Geyer.

While some studies show a decrease in spending on outsourcing, there’s a difference between that and managed services. Howard Kiewe, senior research analyst with Info-Tech Research Group in London, Ont., compares outsourcing a company’s IT infrastructure to hiring an architect and contractor to design and build a house. The managed services analogy: “If you just need a new toilet, you call a plumber,” Kiewe said.

“That’s the context in which it can work, if you have a very precise requirement,” Kiewe said. “If you have a more generalized need, it’s not as useful.”

“Outsourcing right now has a negative connotation,” said Lauren Whitehouse, an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group who covers backup, recovery and replication. An ESG survey of 500 IT professionals found that of companies who described themselves as being in “major cost-reduction mode,” 62 per cent said outsourcing contracts would be the first item to be slashed.

But for selective managed services, she said, “there are so many critical functions (for which) this makes sense.”

Mark Schrutt, research manager for Canadian strategic outsourcing research at IDC Canada Ltd., said while the fading economy has been good for the pipelines of outsourcers, the actual deals have been slow to come.

Buyers are looking for a quick return on investment, the opportunity to shift people and assets off their own books to the outsourcer’s, and to get rid of upfront costs, Schrutt said.

“Finding vendors willing to do these things in a risk-averse world is difficult,” Schrutt said.

Selective managed services make sense for a company that’s trying to improve delivery and quality – not transform the business – and control costs, not slash them radically, he said.

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