The COVID-19 pandemic was a turning point for the adoption of a range of IT solutions and services, including business continuity. However, you probably have noticed a significant difference in how your clients and prospects look at business continuity now.
Angel Rojas, President and CEO of DataCorps Technology Solutions, Inc. and member of The ASCII Group, a North American managed services provider (MSP) community, says, “It was previously difficult to help business owners understand the need for business continuity and the impact that avoiding the subject could have on their business. Now, it is expected that there should be some kind of continuity plan in place that addresses access to data, applications, hardware, and connectivity.”
ASCII member Dawn Sizer, CEO of 3rd Element Consulting, agrees. “Business has started to think more in terms of what do I need to do when X happens to my business, to me, my employees, or my premises. Creating a plan that’s easy to follow, built on standards, and can be communicated via a device wherever you are has become very popular,” Sizer says.
Part of businesses’ shift in perspective is because they’ve seen the value that business continuity solutions provide. “Business continuity plans were put into use to quickly and efficiently get employees working remotely when lockdowns started in March of 2020,” says Mike Bloomfield, President Geek of Tekie Geek and ASCII member. “Because of the effectiveness of these plans, clients now understand the importance of business continuity and are more open to the discussions.”
In-Demand Business Continuity Solutions
With the new perspective business owners have on business continuity, they’re taking a more comprehensive approach than they did before. Bloomfield comments, “Businesses thought of business continuity as a backup solution, rather than an overall strategy of their businesses, with much more than simply protecting IT infrastructure. Continuity involves physical, infrastructure, employees, and much more.”
ASCII member Christopher Barber, Chief Nerd at Cheaper Than A Geek, adds, “Obviously, we are in a much more geographically dispersed environment. IT folks like myself have been clamoring for over a decade that much of the work in a company could involve more teleworking. Now it finally does. And with the right IT, this makes for a more robust continuity plan with fewer ways an operation can be ground to a halt.”
Technologies that support telework include virtual private network (VPN), cloud solutions and services, a data protection and backup solution, email continuity, and backups for line of business applications and file sharing.
“Layering is what it is all about,” says Barber.
Sizer adds that her company also provides businesses with a Software as a Service (SaaS) product that helps them manage their continuity plans. This strategy also has benefits for the MSP or VAR. “In forming and writing of the plans, you uncover a lot of deficiencies in continuity. This opens up the ability for selling products or other services from fail-over internet to streaming meetings, cloud services, VoIP and a lot more,” she says.
Remember the Basics
The ASCII members also remind MSPs business continuity solutions to assist their clients to create practical plans for getting back to work after a disaster, disruption or outage.
“Everyone overlooks the simple or taken for granted items, like power,” Sizer says. “Of course, we have a UPS – but how long will it keep things running during an outage? Businesses also assume water, gas, and other general utilities will work. When you build a continuity plan, you have to assume you may not have them. Also, ask, what’s your fallback location if you can’t use your space? Is it work from home, and do you have equipment for that? You keep asking questions like those until you have answers and plans.”
Rojas adds, “I find that clients assume their employees have a computer at home that can handle a commercial workload and that in an emergency, it will be available for the business’ use. They fail to consider that a spouse or child may also need that computer for their work or schooling and then have to scramble to get a computer to that employee. Computers are a relatively small investment these days so having several spares, ready to deploy, is well within any business’ capabilities and a valuable investment.”
Another thing to keep in mind is backing up data in a cloud or hybrid environment. “There is often an assumption that a service in the cloud is backed up. Read those EULA’s — they state it isn’t. Have a backup that utilizes a different technology and platform than what you are backing up. As the saying goes, don’t put all your eggs in one basket!”
Challenges MSPs Are Facing When Providing Business Continuity Solutions
The ASCII Group members pointed out that delivering the solutions your clients need is becoming more of a challenge. Sizer comments, “The IT supply chain is slow to recover. We have had to adjust our plans to reflect the supply chain shortage and adapt.”
She adds, “Workers are also harder to find both for our clients and us. There are fewer people at client sites to ‘own’ processes and procedures, and projects are slower to get started and finished.”
Rojas adds, “The current environment has tremendous uncertainty and volatility, so planning for what may be around the corner sometimes looks like ‘stocking up’ on labor, hardware, and anything that might be difficult to obtain in the near future. We want to ensure we can continue to serve our clients and live out our mission.”
“I see continued periods of volatility where MSP owners must be prepared to pivot quickly and adapt to the changing circumstances,” he says.
Another challenge is dealing with the sheer volume of businesses looking for these solutions. “Our challenge is finding time to work with the influx of customers that are now taking business continuity seriously and always working with our partners to continue to ensure they are providing the best possible solution for our stack,” Bloomfield says.
Although meeting the demand for business continuity solutions is challenging, overall, it is a positive sign for 2022 and beyond. Barber comments, “IT is needed now more than ever!”
About The ASCII Group, Inc.
The ASCII Group is the premier community of North American MSPs, MSSPs, VARs and solution providers. The group has over 1,300 members located throughout the U.S. and Canada, and membership encompasses everyone from credentialed MSPs serving the SMB community to multi-location solution providers with a national reach. Founded in 1984, ASCII provides services to members including leveraged purchasing programs, education and training, marketing assistance, extensive peer interaction and more. ASCII works with a vibrant ecosystem of major technology vendors that complement the ASCII community and support the mission of helping MSPs and VARs to grow their businesses. For more information, please visit www.ascii.com.