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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreement (SLA)

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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

SLAs are the foundation of your MSP business. They are essential to building strong client relationships and must be clear, reasonable and well-constructed.

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WARNING: Severe Weather - Seek Shelter & Business Continuity Solution

Posted June 23, 2015by Mary McCoy

WARNING-_Severe_Weather_-_Seek_Shelter__Business_Continuity_Solution.jpg

And now, we turn it over to your weather forecast. What disasters are on the horizon and should SMBs be worried?

You don't have to watch the Weather Channel every day to know that 2015 has seen its fair share of severe weather. For all of us here in Boston, this winter's record snowfall of 108.6 inches kept us home sick with cabin fever, forcing us to plot our revenge against Jack Frost. Unprecedented rainfall in Texas and Oklahoma caused major flooding, leaving some inhabitants to travel by way of rowboat. Foreboding storms in the Midwest spawned unforgiving tornadoes leaving nothing but destruction and carnage in their wake. 

What does this have to do with your small-to-medium-sized business clients? Everything. Businesses are among the wreckage of disastrous weather when critical data is lost and companies suffer downtime. Find out how clients can prepare for emergencies with a proactive BDR solution and business continuity plan!


A Glimpse into the Market Need

Hurricane Season is in full swing on the Atlantic coast, and while it's predicted to be tamer than in previous years, the forecast depicted below should be enough to convince you to add business continuity to your managed IT services offering. 

2015 Hurricane Season NOAA

image source: http://abcnews.go.com/US/noaa-issues-forecast-2015-atlantic-hurricane-season/story?id=31339702

Maybe your clients aren't located on the East Coast, and this isn't as serious a concern for you. Consider instead your standard thunderstorm that unexpectedly shuts customers down when they lose power. Better yet, when selling your BDR solution, ask prospective clients if they've ever been in this situation and if there was any data loss as a result. While you're on the subject, ask that prospect if there are any data or systems that their business needs to operate. A disaster like a blackout can strike like lightning at any point during the year so you have to constantly be prepared to mitigate the impact, especially as it pertains to clients' databases, email, accounting data, and network services. Business continuity is a 24x7x365 need, NOT just a few months out of the calendar concern. 

Let's take a look at what happens if your clients DON'T have a robust BDR solution and business continuity plan in place. 

 

There's Never Time (or Budget) for Downtime

According to Gartner industry surveys, the cost of network downtime is typically $5,600 per minute, or higher than $300K per hour. This number is calculated by adding up the loss of revenue, lost productivity, recovery costs, and reputation costs. Is that money your clients can afford to spend? I'm sure that they would agree such an expense is financially unfeasible, but they still brave the weather and tempt fate with either no backup processes or insufficient ones. What they fail to understand, however, is that this is NOT a calculated risk. 

FACT: 40% of businesses do not reopen after a disaster and another 25% fail within one year according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Clients really need to store redundant data off site for a few reasons. Having extra copies of data protects companies from losing mission-critical data and valuable employee productivity. Should anything happen to on site devices or in case employees are forced to telecommute because of weather conditions, that data is readily available and output remains consistent. 

To better understand how to position your services by applying this argument, check out How to Calculate the Cost of Downtime for Your Clients.

 

Business Continuity as Shelter from the Storm 

According to research cited in CompTIA's Business Continuity and Data Recovery Quick Start Guide "82 percent of significant network disruptions in U.S. businesses could be reduced or avoided by implementing even the most rudimentary data recovery and business continuity plan."

As we describe in our eBook, Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst: The Keys to Effective Backup and Disaster Recovery, a true business continuity plan requires investing in the right backup and disaster recovery (BDR) technology. What should you look for in your BDR solution? Check out this blog post about key BDR requirements. We've already discussed the merits of redundancy, cloud support, and 24x7x365 availability, but also look for a fixed pricing model, hardware compatibility, and a proven recovery time objective (RTO).

Our good friends over at CMIT Solutions insist that their clients' BDR plans must cover the “before,” “during,” and “after” phases of a severe weather event. MSPs must also have an all-encompassing emergency preparedness plan, focusing on business continuity and not just after-the-fact data recovery. To cover your bases beforehand, perform an IT security risk assessment to assess a client's or prospective client's current backup processes. Make sure you perform a thorough audit and ask them questions like "what backup or recovery systems are in place?" As you learned in Overview of IT Security Risk Assessments & Why MSPs Should be Conducting Them, part of this risk analysis includes an impact assessment. Determine the RTO for critical services and recovery point objective (RPO) for business data. What financial, reputational and regulatory/compliance risks are associated with significant downtime and an IT disaster? These are criteria you should be evaluating. Then, create "what-if" scenarios to put current backup processes to the test. You can even schedule periodic tests throughout the year so your clients are always kept on their toes. Think of it like a fire drill, a way to test how secure their system is in the event of an emergency. If there are still vulnerabilities in your clients' networks, correct them and continually evaluate their BDR policy. As their trusted adviser, it's your job to make sure they're not just putting out fires, but avoiding them all together.

While this post has focused on natural disasters and severe weather as reason for a solid business continuity plan, disaster scenarios assume all shapes and sizes. Critical data loss can happen as a result of flash flooding or spilling water on a device. With so many things that can go wrong, there's one thing you can get right, and that's to provide a proactive business continuity offering to clients, come rain or shine!

 


Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst: The Keys to Effective Backup & Disaster Recovery

 

Meet Mary! Mary McCoy is a Senior Demand Generation Programs Manager at Continuum, where she's worked for over two years. Mary has consulted with hundreds of partners, lending website, blog and social media support. Before that, she graduated from the University of Virginia (Wahoowa!) with a BA in Economics and served as digital marketing intern for Citi Performing Arts Center (Citi Center), spearheading the nonprofit’s #GivingTuesday social media campaign. Like her school’s founder, Thomas Jefferson, Mary believes learning never ends. She considers herself a passionate, lifelong student of content creation and inbound marketing.

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