Ask an MSP Expert

Q: With the recent bomb cyclone hitting last week, we still have a few customers who are trying to recover their SMB businesses from the damage. Moving forward, how can I proactively protect their business-critical data before the next storm hits?

Natural disasters continue to make headlines, and it’s said that 2017 might have been the costliest to date in terms of damage. With the recent bomb cyclone, it became apparent that businesses all over the country need to plan for severe weather – not just areas that usually get a lot of snow, like New England.

Unfortunately, the beginning of January demonstrated that many Southern business owners weren’t prepared for the effects of a winter storm—which caused highway closures, power loss, and business failures. In a study done by the Academy of Management Journal, 40 percent of businesses that are underprepared for extreme weather conditions immediately close, and 70 percent close within two years.

Winter storms can be devastating to a business. The combination of snow and ice can cause damage to power lines and infrastructure or even lead to burst pipes and flooding. Hopefully you’ve already put a data protection and disaster recovery plan in place with each customer, and now is a great time to check in with these customers to make sure they’re comfortable with those plans.

To help your SMB customers prepare for a winter storm, follow our four-step checklist to ensure that all their business-critical data stays safe.

1. Test and recover recent backups to make sure there aren’t any issues  

Look at the current backup reports to make sure your customers don’t have any preexisting issues. Do some research about where things stand before you reach out. If you notice any failed backups or errors, address them now. Check to see how recently you ran a full backup set, and if it has been a while, run a more recent backup to make sure all of their data is backed up off-site. If you see no issues with failed backup attempts, try preforming a test restore to ensure that the data is fully recoverable.

Throughout the winter, consider perform incremental backups more frequently so you can be sure that you’re protecting the most recent versions of your customers’ data. In the event that their business suffers an equipment failure or site outage, you’ll be more confident restoring their data.

2. Proactively reach out to customers in winter storm-prone areas

After you’ve reviewed your customers’ backups, take the proactive step to reach out to customers who frequently get hit by winter storms. Start by sending an email or making a phone call. If you have the chance, try to schedule a check-in meeting to discuss their recovery plan and find out if it will meet their required RTOs and RPOs.

If you successfully schedule a check-in meeting, ask them if they have any concerns with their current plan or anything they’d like to change about it. Remind them that you’re here for them and being vigilant—watching their backups closely and following any winter storm warnings. This type of conversation emphasizes the added-value of managed services.

 3. Discover if anything’s changed with their data protection needs 

In the process of communicating with your SMB customers, ask them if anything’s changed with their data protection needs or requirements. For example, are you currently backing up all their applications and files they would need recovered in the case that their business is affected by a storm?

Show them what data sets you’ve been backing up and ask if there are any additional data sets they need to keep their business operational. Depending on when you had the conversation last, there might be a new workstation or application on their network that holds business-critical information. You’ll want to uncover these types of updates by asking questions about how their business has grown or changed.

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4. Review each customer’s disaster recovery plan 

The most important thing to discuss with your customers is their disaster recovery plan. Go over the documented plan to make sure the customer is comfortable with it. If needed, revise certain aspects of the plan such as clarifying procedures or assigning tasks.

After you’ve reviewed the plan with the customer, schedule a test for them to participate in. The customer will feel more comfortable in a true emergency if they’re gone through the steps before. Each person will gain a clear understanding of their responsibilities in a disaster situation, and it will help them be ready to execute the plan at any time. Additionally, testing can reveal flaws in the plan and uncover additional ways to make it more efficient.

Following this checklist will leave you feeling reassured that your customers are well positioned in the face of a disaster situation. While the next bomb cyclone might not be anytime soon, taking these steps will give you and your SMB customers peace of mind knowing that their business-critical data will be safe.

Photo: Kimberly Hall / Shutterstock.

 

Lauren Beliveau

Posted by Lauren Beliveau

Lauren is an Editorial Associate at Barracuda MSP. In this position, she creates and develops content that helps managed service providers grow their business. She also regularly writes The MSP’s Bookshelf and our Ask an MSP Expert column.

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