I’ve been intrigued by the disaster recovery concept since I started dabbling in data centers and web hosting. Seven years later and it’s still a topic worthy of discussion. After all this time, I can’t shake the first images that come to mind when thinking of disaster recovery. Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Earthquakes. Floods. Fire. This stuff sure sounds exciting, and if you have a flair for the dramatic, you may even be able to picture explosions going off as you rush your server and router to safety. Although these events are the collective poster child for disasters, they are actually rare when compared to the following:
- Vandalism or theft of property
- Power outages, hardware failures, network crashes
- Network attacks, malware infections, data breaches
- User errors – lost files, accidental deletions, improper shutdowns, data corruption
- Civil disruptions – disgruntled employees, strikes, legal issues
Despite being smaller in size, the aforementioned disasters are more common and can cause big disruptions if they’re not planned for. In 2011, a survey conducted by CA Technologies found that IT downtime is costing organizations approximately $26.5 billion annually across Europe and North America, hinting that businesses worldwide aren’t ready to tackle disasters. As it turns out, managed service providers can reel in some nice pocket change by providing solutions that help clients address both catastrophic disasters, and smaller ones threatening to cause just as much downtime.
Disaster Recovery Planning Between MSP and Client
A good disaster recovery plan generally has three steps: prepare, mitigate, and put into action, the latter of which entails what needs to be done once things go awry. Let’s take a quick dive into each individual step.
Weigh the risks. Sit down with your clients and help them identify disasters that pose legitimate risks. Whether it’s user errors or malicious DDoS attacks, they need to understand how these events can impact the company should they become a reality.
Assign DR tasks. MSPs can lend their expertise to help clients assign roles and responsibilities to personnel. The objective is determining who’s responsible for what when a disaster recovery plan is put into effect. identifying who’s in charge, who has a specific job, and everything in between will add some much needed fluidity during a time that is likely to be somewhat chaotic.
Prioritize recovery efforts. This is where an MSP earns their money. Many organizations will need a hand in determining which applications and services should be restored first, second, third, etc. when recovering from a disaster. An extra pair of eyes from the vendor can help identify the functions that are most valuable to their operation and getting those resources back online as soon as possible.
Ensure security. If you offer disaster recovery, then you better have some efficient security tools to back you up. Software technology that fends off malware, hackers, and network-based attacks will help protect clients from the array of threats and the various disastrous situations they cause. Backup client data. Speaking of backup, it’s another way for managed service provider to be the heroes of disaster recovery. Companies are encouraged to have their own data protection strategy, but an MSP can provide an added peace of mind by delivering solutions that easily back up client systems and data on a regular basis. Provide safe storage. Having a copy of their data available at the local level is ultra-convenient for the client. Having another copy at the vendor’s data center or another offsite location is sound strategy. The three arcs of mitigation are crucial in ensuring that things can indeed get back up and running.
When a disaster is either imminent or already underway, those affected need to respond with haste. The specifics of these reactive measures will be determined by the events that caused them, but some general guidelines include: Deploy DR personnel. The DR roles and responsibilities assigned earlier will prove valuable when it comes time to get utility companies on the line, troubleshoot the network, and take other actions that are integral to restoring order. Connect backups. Data may need to be offloaded onto web, mail, or DNS servers located offsite to provide availability until original servers are restored. Contact audience. Should a website or application go down, one of the first things that usually needs to be done is contacting the user base, informing them of the situation, and how it affects them. When disaster recovery is involved, an MSP often wears the hat of provider, consultant, and therapist. Just kidding about the therapist stuff. The point is that it’s a tough job to undertake, but one that pays quite well for those able to pull it off with consistent efficiency. H ow else can MSPs help clients avert common disasters?
Photo Credit: Mike Poresky via Flickr