How MSPs Can Explain Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity to Customers
As managed services providers (MSPs) market data backup and disaster recovery (BDR) and business continuity (BC) solutions to customers, they may come across various misconceptions of how the two terms relate to each other, as well as a long list of other questions.
Before going any further with potential customers, Clients First CTO Mark Chinsky suggested that MSPs take a stab at explaining the overall picture in one shot: Disaster recovery (DR) is a subset of a larger BC plan or solution.
Simple, right? After MSPs establish the relationship between the two terms, they can then dive into how a DR solution complements a BC plan.
"The fundamental key to all DR solutions is that a companies' data is backed up and stored at an alternate location that would typically be far enough away from the primary site to not be affected by the same cause as the initial incident," Chinsky said. "Ideally, a DR solution should not just keep backup data, but also be able to run the entire ‘image’ of your servers so that users can continue operating."
BC planning, on the other hand, involves the entire end-to-end process of preparing for a potential disaster, he said.
"Not only does it include a DR solution to bring servers back online quickly, but it involves plans for people, places and things," he said.
To help MSPs draft a small sample of a business continuity plan for potential customers, Chinsky outlined the following main points:
- A list of all people involved in the recovery process, including complete contact information such as personal email, cell phones, addresses, social media, etc. You don’t know what services may or may not be operating during a disaster.
- Alternatives to key people if they happen to be on vacation, unable to get around or even if they are injured. All these alternate people need training in advance.
- All key information such as passwords and encryption keys that may be needed. Information should be stored securely, but on paper, too, so that a regional power outage won’t prevent the ability to retrieve the data
- Perhaps a standby location to operate from. A larger company may use a permanent service for this where a smaller company may do something such as designate a key manager’s basement and have it setup with card tables, chairs, extra laptops, a supply of bottled water and shelf stable food, cellular accesspoints, a natural gas generator etc. (Note: Hurricane Sandy showed us the limitations of gasoline generators. Almost all gas stations in badly affected areas lost power and couldn’t pump fuel).
- Procedures for regular testing of business continuity plans, including at least an annual full simulation.
Chinsky admitted that there are many more things to consider in a typical BC plan, but the points above are essential, as well as a good starting place.
"A plan for a small business is going to be simply, whereas a major corporation may have a plan that is comprised of hundreds of page," he said.
Chinsky recently spoke with us on how BDR could be a viable alternative to moving IT to the cloud for MSPs.