You probably don’t need any further evidence that 2020 may go down in history as one of the most challenging, unpredictable years in recent history. But, consider this: the 2020 hurricane season has been so bad that we have almost run through the alphabetical list of names already, and we’re barely halfway through September.
For many MSPs, data backup and recovery, as well as disaster response and preparedness, are vital services for ensuring client networks and systems remain safe and available. This year, however, the definition of disaster is evolving. Many companies were caught unaware by a slow-rolling pandemic that seems like it may never end. In its wake, the coronavirus set off a series of other disasters, from supply chain disruptions to widespread unemployment and an abrupt shift to remote work that has put even more strain on overtaxed IT departments.
Besides the current pandemic, we also need to be prepared for other types of disasters like:
- Hurricanes — there are only four storm names left
- Wildfires — half a million Oregon residents are under evacuation orders as I write this
- Floods — Washington, D.C. recently experienced a half-foot of rain in just a few hours
- Tornadoes — Since the start of 2020, the National Weather Service office in Seattle has issued twice the number of tornado warnings as the heart of “Tornado Alley” – Wichita, Kans.
That means MSPs and their clients may need a refresher course on disaster recovery best practices that aren’t related to a once-in-a-century pandemic.
Emphasize the importance of business continuity. If systems, servers, or data aren’t available, business grinds to a halt. The costs quickly compound if companies can’t get back up and running right away. Business continuity comprises the planning and preparation needed to ensure an organization will have the ability to perform its critical business functions following an emergency.
Develop a plan. Work with clients to determine where their vulnerabilities are if they lose power, hardware or access to facilities. What data or applications require redundancy? How often should backups occur? Who will be responsible for coordinating the response, and how will they communicate with the team in the event of an emergency?
Conduct a complete inventory of your clients’ IT infrastructure and applications. Determine whether your clients will need off-site storage. This may be critical for companies in disaster-prone areas. Cloud resources make it possible to backup data far from the path of any storm or floodwaters.
Test everything, several times per year. The peak of the hurricane season coincides with back-to-school season, so many of your clients may already be thinking about testing. Companies should run drills to ensure their failsafe systems are working, that everyone understands how to access the backup data, and that vendors and cloud services are performing as expected.
Make sure you know how your technology providers are preparing for unexpected emergencies, also. How are their backup servers being backed up, for example?
Without the right data recovery plans in place, it can take months (or longer) for businesses to recover from a natural disaster or other disruption. Imagine the challenges faced by companies that were already struggling with managing a new remote workforce because of the pandemic, and now have been further disrupted by Western wildfires or Southern hurricanes.
When disaster strikes, there’s enough to worry about — keeping employees and their families safe, pitching in with relief efforts — without having IT system failures threatening the life of the business. A reliable response and recovery plan will help reduce the damage to the company in the short term and ensure that data is always available and reliable for the long haul.