While everyone may understand the importance of continually backing up business information and applications and making sound continuity plans, much rides on the capabilities of those systems. The end goal is to ensure your clients can reopen following a disruption or disaster.

What used to be a fairly straightforward process is quickly becoming more complicated. Over the past few weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift to remote work is pushing previously established business environments and methodologies to the limit. Some organizations are still reorganizing their employees and workflows long after scattering their computer and phone systems across larger geographies and unproven networks.

The norms are shifting for MSPs, too. As security and network perimeters disappeared, you’ve likely been asked to implement VPNs, advanced endpoint detection, remote monitoring, and a host of other precautions. If your IT services practice is like others across the country, your team is likely supporting more remote workers than at any point in its history, and hopefully, everyone is settling into that new norm with few, if any, significant issues.

Distributed work forces are the new standard. MSPs are being asked to step up to address additional challenges and provide even greater support, and no one really knows when businesses (and workers) will be able to return to some level of normalcy. Experts predict that some organizations may choose to shake things up and embrace the remote work model after the pandemic and possibly cut back on their traditional office space. Whatever the outcome, MSPs need to be at the top of their game to remain vital partners for their business clients.

Back to Basics

With many organizations settling into remote work, providers must shift their attention from triaging end-user issues and completing remote home implementations to fortifying and double-checking defenses. While security was and remains a top focus, with the heavy lifting out of the way, your team should have more time for reviewing protocols, training, and applications to ensure optimal performance of each part of the system.

Now is also the perfect time to test all systems. Whether put in place before COVID-19 was a known entity or implemented during the mad dash to meet government directives, even if carefully monitoring networks and applications, it’s a good idea to check and double-check all the data collection, storage, and archiving processes.

It may seem strange to test DR during what is essentially a disaster situation. However, there is truly no better time to audit the plan and shakedown each system to ensure all information is being correctly collected, backed up, and archived in the proper location. Compliance with Federal and local laws and industry standards will depend on those processes working effectively. Even with an ongoing national (in this case, global) emergency, you can expect regulators to be watching closely and potentially fining nonconformers, especially businesses that flagrantly disregard the necessary precautions.

DR testing helps ensure your clients remain in compliance. With so much confusion over the past month, moving many workers to offsite locations and enhancing home network protection measures, it’s relatively easy to overlook issues that can disrupt data protection and backup programs. Running a full disaster recovery test on every business you manage will expose any problems or weaknesses in the current system.

Plan Ahead

No one wants to compound the issues facing businesses right now. However, MSPs should consider this the perfect time and situation for evaluating their clients’ DR plans with many employees working from what many may consider a worst-case-scenario.

What better way to test their emergency systems and strategies? For clients operating with temporary remote workforces, you can do a “real life” assessment of their DR plans to identify weaknesses and needs and set priorities for future improvement projects.

While those tests may not be as insightful for your customers whose employees regularly work from home or other locations, don’t be surprised if new problems appear. With so many adults and children relying on residential internet services, bandwidth and cloud application availability may significantly impact backup and recovery timelines. Just think of the impact the pandemic is having on teleconferencing solutions like Zoom, WebEx, and GoToMeeting.

Follow and test the plan. Be sure to note inconsistencies with previous trials and issues that may worsen in the future without some type of system improvement.

Don’t Forget Essential Businesses

Many organizations continue to function at full capacity with everyone reporting to their regular job sites. While medical facilities, municipalities, manufacturing plants, and other essential businesses may be restricting access to outsiders and following social distancing and other health-related practices, they remain open and rely heavily on IT support.

In other words, their backup and disaster plans should be tested, too, as long as those processes don’t interfere with critical operations. In the off-hours (when applicable), run and solidify the order for bringing servers and services online after a failure and measure precisely how long it takes to complete each step. You may need to alter systems and plans to ensure those clients can survive if hit with an even worse disaster.

That’s one thing MSPs should take to heart. As bad as you and your clients think things are now, imagine what would happen if a tornado, wildfire, flood, or other disaster were to strike your community. DR planning and testing are that crucial. Ensure your clients are as up to date as possible and keep a close eye on the variables, including internet service and cybersecurity threats that could negatively impact those processes.

It’s a lot to take in, but your clients are counting on you more than ever to have their back. Now is the perfect time to demonstrate your team’s capabilities and expertise, especially when they’re looking ahead to prevent future problems and challenges.

Brian Sherman, IoTSSA Content Director