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Why Business Continuity Planning Must Take a Front Row Seat

With a focus on optimal customer service and satisfaction, adding services such as BCP is an organic side effect of our current situation.

6 Min Read
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It’s highly unlikely your New Year’s resolutions included not running out of toilet paper, learning how to cut your own hair or how to sew face masks. 2020 has been wildly successful at turning things upside down in unpredictable ways. But our personal grooming and shopping habits were just one part of our lives suddenly disrupted and transformed–our jobs and how we do business also evolved overnight into a whole new “new normal” in which BCP (business continuity planning) is more important than ever.

Despite the turmoil and uncertainty, life and business must go on. While relying on technology was nothing new for many industries, the shift to remote work, virtual meetings and doing everything at a distance has made it indispensable.

Going fully digital in an instant has been jarring for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Managers and staff are trying to overcome their fears and uncertainty, shift habits and overcome steep learning curves, all while hoping their technology stack is up to the challenge and performs as needed.

For firms that have outsourced some or all of their IT management to MSPs, their dependence on these technology partners is more critical than ever. Downtime equals disaster when everything is online.

MSPs must rise to the occasion and provide levels of service and support they’ve never previously faced, all while acting as a wise and steady trusted provider for customers grappling with these sudden shifts. MSPs that do so will do more than simply keep their clients up and running; they will have the opportunity to deepen and expand their relationships to add more value and increase the size and profitability of those engagements.

Opportunistic MSPs can use this crisis to their benefit without being exploitative. With a focus on optimal customer service and satisfaction, adding services is a natural, organic side effect of the situation we’re currently in. To do so, MSPs should help their customers prepare for the worst.

Business Continuity Planning

Although it might feel a little late in the game for business continuity planning, the initial shift to remote work is only skimming the surface when it comes to preparing businesses for a variety of disruptions. VPNs and laptops are only one aspect of what’s required for firms to survive and thrive when things get crazy.

Minimizing disruption is the name of the game, so businesses and their MSP partners must try to prevent the problems they can stave off while rapidly recovering from those they can’t. That means identifying the risks, understanding the threats they pose, and devising a business continuity plan (BCP) to handle them.

While these plans will ideally never be enacted, when the time comes–and it has for many in recent months–the BCP should be executed and then periodically reviewed. The lessons learned can be applied going forward, and new aspects of the company’s business operations and technology stack can be incorporated.

A typical BCP consists of the following elements:

  • Team – BCPs need owners intimately familiar with the plan’s details. There’s no time to train and research when you’re already in a crisis. They’ll know what’s involved and can serve as a resource for the rest of the staff.

  • Objectives – When executing a BCP, the ideal is obviously to keep running without a hitch. But since a seamless transition isn’t always possible, prioritized goals should be agreed upon by the executive team, such as data integrity or customer satisfaction.

  • Business Impact Analysis – What happens when a system goes down? Who feels the brunt when a business unit disappears? This exercise identifies the weak points and the critical resources that must be restored first to minimize problems.

  • Backup and Disaster Recovery – The only thing worse than not having access to data is losing it altogether. A full review of how systems and databases are being backed up must be conducted, as well as the procedures to restore data and services during and after a catastrophic event.

  • Testing Plan – BCPs can’t just cover everything “in theory,” they must be tested to ensure businesses can truly bounce back in a crisis. Nothing should be taken for granted, nor should anyone assume it will “just work” when things go sideways.

  • Information Checklist – While some emergency scenarios can be game planned, many come to fruition in unpredictable ways. Minimize dependencies and single points of failure by including a comprehensive directory of key staff and systems so anyone can take the reins in a crisis.

Best Practices for Today and Tomorrow

If the current situation has taught us anything, it’s that investing in preparedness upfront will pay dividends when the time comes to use these extreme measures. Just as we don’t wait until we’re about to be in a car wreck to fasten our seatbelts, MSPs should be helping customers get things in place now for the trials and tribulations to come.

Business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) solutions should be table stakes for every organization, but some are still reluctant to invest in these services. The promise of cloud computing has also clouded their understanding of how their data is being backed up and how fast and easy it is to restore it after an event.

Cloud-based SaaS apps that businesses rely on–including G Suite, Salesforce.com and Microsoft Office 365–are fabulous for empowering a remote workforce to be productive, but it also puts essential data in the hands of third parties. Employing solutions such as disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) provides a path back to productivity in the event of a major disruption.

With increasing numbers of employees working remotely, a comprehensive remote management and monitoring (RMM) solution is a must. All those distributed systems need security patches and upgrades more than ever, not to mention carefully restricted access to sensitive systems and data.

IT must be able to keep track of who’s got what and when they’re accessing the network. While remote work is a huge asset to the workforce, it does increase opportunities for bad actors to compromise corporate security. Other defensive measures, including single sign-on and two-factor security, are more important than ever when physical restrictions are no longer applicable.

Temporary Crisis, Long-Term Solutions

Although many MSPs and their customers had to jump into the deep end thanks to COVID-19, this is more than simply a sink-or-swim moment. The protocols, procedures and tools put into place now will enable ongoing workforce flexibility far beyond the immediate disruption.

Distributed workforces were a trend before this all started, and there’s likely no putting the genie back in the bottle for many organizations. Initiating and executing a comprehensive BCP should pay dividends long after our masks are collecting dust and we’re back to singing along at concerts and cheering on the home team at stadiums.

Working with vendors offering a wide array of solutions to facilitate a secure, recoverable and distributed IT infrastructure can simplify things for MSPs and their staff. It can also reduce MSP costs and increase the profitability of these expanded service offerings.

Don’t let this crisis go to waste! Engage your customers today to identify current gaps and build out a business continuity strategy everyone will feel good about today and tomorrow. Learn more about leveraging business continuity planning to combat a crisis.

Jim Lippie is GM & SVP, Partner Development.

 This guest blog is part of a Channel Futures sponsorship.

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