When you think about the term “disaster recovery,” what comes to mind first? Is it storing a company’s data in a safe place? Is it how you actually recover that data? Is it providing an entire system that allows your client to remain up and running when disaster strikes? How you think about business continuity and disaster recovery says a lot about the quality of the solution you provide to your clients.
Most people and companies in the small to medium business space concentrate on the protection of data, but as an MSP (managed IT services provider) your conversations should be centered on the concept of true business continuity.
What Is True Business Continuity?
So what do I mean by “true business continuity?” Many people think business continuity is just the process of recovering data after system has failed. However, it’s actually about taking it a step further. Business continuity is enabling a business to continue performing mission critical operations before, during, and after an IT crisis.
There are a number of services and solution providers out there that provide simple data backup to SMBs. However, providing this concept of true business continuity is a way to differentiate your service offering from your competition. Instead of saying, “we help you keep your data safe in case you lose it,” you can say “we help you maintain business operations, so data is never lost and you’re never suffering from lost productivity.”
However, there’s a lot more that goes into this than a simple BDR software tool.
Components of True Business Continuity
Since business continuity is more than just backing up critical data, let’s take a look at a few of the other services that go into a business continuity solution.
1. Data Backup
This one is so obvious that I almost forgot it in my list. However, it’s important to mention. Make sure that you have a robust, secure system for backing up and storing data.
- Is the data stored in a secure environment?
- Is it backed by a redundant infrastructure? Where are those redundancies?
- Are there cloud-storage capabilities baked into my BDR tool?
These are all questions you should be asking yourself as you’re vetting BDR solutions. Obviously, if you don’t protect and backup data, there’s no BDR solution to begin with.
2. RMM (remote monitoring and management)
As I mentioned earlier, you need to enable your client to maintain uptime before, during and after an IT crisis. This may sound impossible, but what I mean by “before” is that you should be preventing potential issues from occurring.
In order to do this, you need to proactively monitor your clients’ networks and systems to detect for potential failures, bandwidth issues and corrupted devices. This is accomplished through the use of an RMM tool. If you’re not proactively monitoring your clients’ environments, you’re not providing true business continuity, and you won’t get advanced notice as to when issues may arise.
Now, your RMM system won’t be able to prevent every issue (unfortunately, RMM capabilities have not yet evolved to prevent hurricanes and tornados…sorry), but it can still tell you when a failure has occurred or give you warnings that a failure is immanent so that you can start taking actions immediately, rather than wait for your client to call you saying, “Help! My system is down!”
Combining your BDR solution with remote monitoring and management capabilities is a key step in providing true business continuity.
Ok, so you have your data backed up and you have proactive alerting built into your system, but what happens when an issue, or potential issue, arises? You need someone on the other end to take action.
Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you’ll see an alert right as it happens and you can start taking recovery measures immediately. However, what do you do if the failure happens at 2am? Do you have technicians working around the clock? Do you even have the right technician with the right expertise working at that hour?
Again, true business continuity is about enabling your clients to be up and running 24x7x365. If you don’t offer round-the-clock monitoring with the right expertise, you aren’t offering true business continuity.
Another important component of business continuity is virtualization. If a machine is corrupted, you need to be able to either provision a virtual machine on another device, or spin up a virtual machine in the cloud.
Virtualization allows your clients and their employees to continue working, just on a virtualized instance of their environment. This is critical to a business continuity plan because if a device is corrupted, your clients can’t wait for it to be fixed. They need to continue working to maintain productivity and profitability.
You should be able to easily spin up virtual machines in just a few clicks, as it’s a key component to your business continuity solution.
5. Meeting RTO Expectations (Recovery Time Objective)
Lastly, when building your business continuity plan, you should have the ability to recover data quickly and efficiently. If it takes days or weeks to load backed-up data on a virtual machine, that’s critical time wasted where your clients are losing money.
Make sure to evaluate the process your BDR tool uses to actually recover the data you’ve backed up. How long does it typically take to load the base image and go through the backup chain? If your client is storing lots of data, how does that affect RTO? Take a look at the actual technology of your BDR tool and how it helps you (or potentially prevents you) from meeting your RTO’s.
Ultimately, providing BDR services isn’t just about protecting client data; it’s about providing peace of mind and enabling customers to maintain business operations at all times. Do you have the tools and manpower in place to prevent your customers from experiencing large stretches of downtime? Take a look at your current BDR solution and service offering, and ask yourself, “Am I offering true business continuity?”
By Steve Lowing
By Paula Griffin