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SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

4 ESSENTIALS MSPS FORGET WHEN DISASTER RECOVERY TESTING

Mary McCoy

 

By Mary McCoy, Content Marketing Manager of Continuum Managed Services

 

 

By now, most MSPs recognize that offering backup is table stakes. Your clients can receive this service from any number of your competitors. In order to stand out and increase monthly recurring revenue (MRR), focus on the disaster recovery (DR) aspect of backup and disaster recovery (BDR). Offer your clients DR testing!
To fully capitalize on the advantages of DR testing, keep the following four best practices in mind when adding this service to your IT portfolio. 


1. Test Everything
Technology alone won't save businesses paralyzed by an IT emergency. DR testing should also engage on the business level, considering continuity of operations and processes along with the validation of actual data availability. How robust is your client's DR plan? Being properly prepared can be as simple as knowing who to call and having an up-to-date contact list. Your DR plan should also avoid ambiguity and set expectations when it comes to designating team and individual roles and responsibilities. Do both you and your clients know what to hold each other accountable for or who to reach out to when something goes wrong?
Pro tip: Your DR plans are not one-size-fits-all, which means your testing should vary across your client base. Each business you serve has different needs. Many organizations have specific compliance and regulatory statutes that they're required to adhere to. You may back up and store some clients' data at a physical location offsite and others' in the cloud. No two clients are alike. When DR testing, processes and procedures should be optimized for each individual client.

2. Test Regularly
How often should you be conducting disaster recovery tests? There is no hard and fast rule, and it really depends on the client in question. That being said, you should run annual DR tests, at the very least. Your clients' disaster readiness depends on every employee's understanding of the current DR plan, which they can ultimately only achieve after familiarization with the DR testing process. And when factoring in employee turnover, testing every year helps acclimate any new hires to the proper procedures and protocol, thereby helping you fine-tune your clients' disaster response. Considering that a company's DR strategy is only as strong as its least prepared employee, you'd think more would advocate frequent DR testing to mitigate risk. According to the 2016 Disaster Recovery as a Service Attitude and Adoption Report, however, 22 percent of respondents test their DR plans less than once a year or in many cases, never test at all. Help them avoid this liability and package regular DR tests into your overall BDR offering.
Sure, testing backups every year should be the standard, but even this may be too conservative in certain circumstances. Let's examine a scenario in which you may want to test more frequently. Perhaps you serve a bank or any other financial services business bound by PCI DSS compliance. To comply with regulatory standards, you may need to test this client's DR plan every three months to ensure your BDR solution meets the necessary requirements. In contrast, a barber shop's DR plan may only need to be tested two to three times per year. Again, when formulating DR plans, always make sure you optimize procedures and processes at the client level.


3. Document Outcomes
Strong DR documentation starts with a client's disaster recovery plan, which should outline everything anyone would need to know in the event of an emergency. This includes contact information, a detailed outline of the steps and procedures that individuals need to follow in order to activate a disaster recovery, expected time frames for recovering data and more.
Only when your response policy is put to the test, can you adequately assess the effectiveness of a DR plan. Maybe certain directions are unclear and create friction across teams. Document any and all outcomes during and after testing. What worked? What didn’t? Where were the failure points? Why did those failures occur? How do you address these in your client's plan? Were any employees or team leads unavailable? In the event that you can't reach these people in the future, who are their backups? Little details like this can mean everything when the clock is ticking and your clients' business continuity is at stake. To help ensure a more seamless DR response, record all results that may be used to improve your clients’ disaster readiness. Then, conduct a post-mortem with all involved, to review lessons learned and areas for improvement.

4. Update DR Plans
Finally, update your clients' DR plans as necessary. This testing is all for naught if you don't do anything with the data you record. It's not enough to simply remember what to do next time around. Recall the conversation around client employee churn. If your client onboards a new hire after your DR test, this employee will only have the existing DR documentation to follow. Rather than repeat the same mistakes in your next round of DR testing, correct now to save your clients later. And remember, disaster readiness is ongoing. Continue to frequently revisit and strengthen your DR plans so that testing runs smoother going forward.

Deliver robust backup data protection services to your clients. Learn how to provide effective business continuity as a service. Download our BDR eBook here!

Meet Mary! Mary McCoy is a Content Marketing Manager at Continuum, where she's worked for over two years. Mary primarily manages the MSP Blog and 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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The Evolving Distributor: How the Cloud Service Explosion Affects the Distribution Model

By Pete Engler

There is no denying the emerging prevalence of cloud services within the technology industry. No Peter Engler Digiumlonger are we solely relying on premises-based technologies to keep our day-to-day business activities going, but are, instead, deploying cloud technologies and accessing them from remote locations. While it seems that everyone is jumping on the new cloud services trend, it leaves many people wondering how it is affecting the traditional business channels, specifically its impact on distributors.

If we take a look at the full picture of the distribution landscape, we can see a change in the channel that began taking place even before the introduction of cloud technology. Distributors were originally simple warehouses that served as a means for getting the product from a vendor to a reseller, but, over time, this model has been changing. These so-called limited service distributors have become less prevalent and we have seen a shift towards value-added distribution as the new vogue model.

Value-added distributors are more than just large warehouses filled with products waiting to be shipped; they provide credit for resellers, carry a range of products for partners to add to their portfolios, and even offer training for those technologies. Distributors have become more of a trusted advisor for resellers than simply a quick stop in the channel, which is helping them to retain relevance in the dawning of the Cloud Age.

As a trusted advisor, distributors serve as a gateway between vendors and resellers. They are often the first to research and analyze new technologies and vendors to determine what they should offer to their reseller partners. Resellers depend on distributors’ findings to decide what solutions to add to their product portfolios. This relationship places an incredible amount of power into the hands of distributors because they have the ability to make or break a vendor and their solution. This is especially important right now because cloud technology is exploding. According to the Synergy Research Group, the worldwide cloud computing market grew 28 percent to $110 billion in 2015, and everyone is trying to get their slice of the profit pie. Cloud vendors are popping up everywhere and if resellers alone are trying to decide which vendors’ solutions are pursuable, the process may become overwhelming. Therefore, they place their trust in distributors to vet new cloud technologies and vendors to ensure they are offering clients the best solutions for their specific business needs.  

Additionally, cloud technology presents distributors with the opportunity to expand their role in the channel by offering aggregated cloud services. Oftentimes, deploying a cloud solution requires ongoing services from multiple vendors, and customers prefer to work with a reseller who can offer them a complete solution. According to research conducted by the Global Technology Distribution Council, resellers are reluctant to offer aggregated services independently due to the vast financial responsibility and the uncertainty of taking on a general contractor type role. However, distributors are in an excellent position to perform such duties with their close relationships to vendors and their financial business models, making them the ideal candidate for bundling services and selling them through the channel in one complete package.

While many people fear the emergence of cloud technologies will eventually dry up the distribution channel, research actually proves the opposite to be true. The path distributors have been following has led to their natural evolution into a more value-added role. And their ability to serve as a general contractor for cloud deployments has created for them a resiliency that will not only allow them to survive, but to flourish in the coming Cloud Age.


Pete Engler is the channel marketing manager at Digium, a business communications company based in Huntsville, Ala., that delivers enterprise-class Unified Communications.

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