Business continuity solutions give organizations the tools they need to ensure critical processes can continue if a business’ facility is shut down due to a natural disaster, utility outage, cyberattack—or a pandemic. Even a brief interruption can result in lost productivity and revenue and harm customer relationships. However, as businesses learned first-hand in 2020, an extended disruption to normal operations can be devastating.
If businesses were fortunate enough to work with managed services providers (MSPs) who helped them prepare and ensure operations could continue during a crisis, they were able to keep losses during the pandemic to a minimum.
Kim Nielsen, Founder and CEO of Troy, MI-based Computer Technologies, Inc. and member of The ASCII Group, says, “For years we have been recommending hosted services or the ability to failover to the cloud in the event of a server-down issue.”
“Many of our clients were already in the cloud, so remote work was not a challenge,” she comments. “We did see more of them move their phone systems to cloud-based VoIP, moving from their on-premises PBX.”
ASCII member Chad Kempt, owner of Fast Computers in Hagersville, ON, says he has seen a shift in his clients’ business continuity strategy since the pandemic began. “We were involved in more full office migrations to the cloud than ever before and as a result needed to protect that data.
He adds, “We have seen signs that insurance companies will be requiring continuity plans in place as early as this year, and we expect future interest to increase as a result.”
His business offers the same solutions as it did pre-pandemic, but he adds, “We are seeing a shift of product usage. In the case of Office 365 backups, we are seeing more reliance on Teams, SharePoint and OneDrive than before, and we have migrated away from redirected folders to known folders. This redirects to Office 365 and is captured by the SaaS backup.”
Christopher Barber, Chief Nerd at Cheaper than a Geek and ASCII member, comments, “I think we can all agree this pandemic has been rough, but a nice silver lining is that folks are re-evaluating how they use technology. Work from home is not going away, so clients are now dialed into how that can be done economically and safely while still keeping tabs on employee productivity.”
He says his team based in Crofton, MD, has strengthened its cybersecurity and employee training offerings and dialed up its general security stack—and his team is doing a good job at cross-selling to current clients.
Creating Partnerships That Supports a Strong Business Continuity Strategy
Unlike other MSP offerings, business continuity takes strong relationships with vendors and with your clients.
Kempt says Fast Computers maintains a strong relationship with Datto, leveraging their support during off-hours. “This is a more significant issue with our larger clients and has allowed us to close larger opportunities than we would have been able to on our own.”
To build a strong partnership with clients necessary for a solid business continuity strategy, Nielsen’s team holds technology meetings quarterly — or more often — to discuss the clients’ goals, objectives, and new initiatives. “We cover changes they are considering, in both terms of technology and business direction, and we provide input,” she says.
Kempt says quarterly business reviews are the norm, but some clients require monthly meetings to stay on top of projects and changes. “We can adapt better and aren’t caught off guard,” he says.
Barber points out that convincing clients it’s necessary to inform their MSP of changes can be challenging. “It never fails to amaze me that the problem exists in the first place, but it definitely does! I always like to explain it ultimately makes their lives easier if they give us appropriate notice of upcoming changes—punctuated with a few horror stories about companies that don’t tell us what they are up to, and things blew up,” he says. “But that’s about all we can do.”
He says, “We make sure to have an in-depth conversation with the largest stakeholder that no matter what we do, no matter how good we are at doing it, they play a critical role. And without them, they face serious liability and should take their portion of their business continuity strategy—however small—very seriously.”
MSPs’ Business Continuity Priorities in 2021
These ASCII members share where they will focus their efforts this year to provide the offerings their clients need to support their business continuity strategies:
Barber: “We need to continue to mature our offerings in this ever-changing landscape and to continue to improve on reminding our existing clients about all of our IT solutions.”
Kempt: “We will continue to invest in our robust cloud offering. We expect to see more work from home and companies without a physical space in the post-pandemic world than before. We still will continue to support our legacy clients as the on-prem solutions are still more robust and allow more granularity than the cloud solutions, but we expect that to even out over time.”
Nielsen: “Get all our clients, no matter how big or small, into a solution that is acceptable to them for risks they are willing to take. Some don’t rely on technology as much as others, and downtime would not be as costly. However, for others, it is very costly. We scale the business continuity solution based on their tolerance after we provide the information to help them determine the solutions that are the best fit for them.”
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