From snow and rain on the East Coast and across the Central Plains to the wild El Niño weather patterns out West, people all over the United States are bracing for what could be a tough winter. For businesses, especially, the winter months can be difficult. Hazardous road conditions make it hard to get to and from work, snow and ice can damage power lines and bring down technology infrastructure, and cold weather can lead to burst pipes and flooding, causing businesses to close for indefinite periods of time.
For MSPs or IT solution providers, now is a great time to check in with your customers and prospects in winter storm-prone areas. Start by asking them if they have any specific concerns about how the weather will affect their operations, and answer any questions that they may have. Be sure to let them know that you’re watching their backups closely and tracking all winter storm warnings. Having this conversation emphasizes the value you are bringing to the table.
Hopefully, your customers have business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) plans in place. If they don’t, one of the areas where you can add strategic value, build recurring revenue streams, and drive profitability is by helping them put processes in place that safeguard their critical business data and infrastructure from winter storms. The same goes for prospects. When timed well, BCDR is a great “in” for new and incremental business.
Then, once you receive the green light, take time to set the stage and lay out expectations. Here are a few tactics we recommend our channel partners follow to achieve the best results when helping their customers put a BCDR plan in place during the winter months:
- Check recent backups to see if there are any issues. It’s important to know where things stand, and by reviewing your customers’ backups, you’ll know if there have been any networking errors or other issues that need to be addressed. Also, check to see how recently a full backup was run, and, if necessary, run another backup to make sure all of their data is being safely stored off-site.
- Find out if data protection needs have changed. Ask your clients if anything has changed with their data protection needs and if they are currently backing up everything they need to recover in the event that their business is affected by a winter storm. This is also a good time to inventory your customers’ business processes. Find out if anything has changed in terms of the way the applications they’re using interact with each other. This can help you identify if your customer has any new applications that must be protected.
- Define RPO and RTO. When setting up a BCDR plan, work with your client to set a Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and a Recovery Time Objective (RTO). Ask your customer how much data they can afford to lose (RPO) in the event that a winter storm takes down their operations. Also, look at how soon they must recover (RTO) their infrastructure and applications after a winter storm outage to maintain healthy business operations. And when considering your DR options (for example, on-premise vs. cloud data backup, image-based vs. file & folder techniques, emergency power, etc.), work with your customer or prospect to balance business continuity resources against the cost of unplanned downtime and data loss due to a winter storm.
- Formulate the DR plan. A DR plan you put in place for your customer should combine application availability solutions, data protection solutions, and policies and procedures for managing different scenarios. The best application availability solutions apply hybrid local-cloud architectures and software-based automation to spin up applications that fall victim to server failures, disk crashes, and other localized incidents. However, protecting against high-impact events, such as winter storm outages, may require image-based backups to the cloud.
- Provide documentation. No DR plan is complete without clear documentation of the policies, procedures and personnel (including you) charged with carrying them out. It’s imperative that you track your findings, decisions and plans at every step along the way. Then, draft that information into a business continuity plan and share it with the customer’s key employees and stakeholders.
- Test and review. It’s essential that you test your BCDR plan, preferably before the next big winter storm hits. Testing both backups and recoveries provides the ultimate assurance that the plan will meet your client’s required RPO and RTO targets. Finally, bear in mind that business strategies, workflows and processes evolve over time. For this reason, you need to schedule audits of the business continuity plan at least annually to make any revisions necessary to keep these operations up and running.
No company should go out of business due to the loss of critical data and infrastructure after a winter storm. And no one is better positioned to prevent that from happening than their trusted IT adviser.
Chris Crellin is Senior Director of Product Management for cloud-based backup and disaster recovery provider Intronis, the MSP unit of Barracuda. Over the past 15 years Chris has a strong record of successfully developing product strategy and driving execution from concept to delivery. Guest blogs such as this one are published monthly and are part of MSPmentor's annual platinum sponsorship.