Guest Column | August 7, 2015

Best Practices For Defining Business Continuity Plans

Neal Bradbury

By Neal Bradbury, Senior Director of Channel Development, Intronis MSP Solutions by Barracuda

business continunity

Every business has a different tolerance level when it comes to application downtime. Some can endure a few hours, while others will start losing revenue, and even customers, within minutes of a failure. At the end of the day, though, the total impact of a failure really comes down to the types of applications the business is running.

Today’s SMBs tend to run a wide variety of applications, some of which are more critical to the operation of the business than others. As such, it has become increasingly important that SMBs gain a clear understanding of how the failure of one or more of these applications will affect their business, and how much downtime they can afford if one were to go offline for a few minutes, a few hours, or even a few days. One of the ways they can gauge their tolerance for application failure is through business continuity planning, an area that can be extremely valuable for SMBs — and lucrative for MSPs and solution providers as it offers a recurring revenue stream that can drive profitability.

The fact is, MSPs offer a unique value proposition when it comes to business continuity planning. First, they understand how to translate business needs into priorities and vice-versa. Next, with each completed business continuity planning project, they add to the sum total of their knowledge and expertise. Lastly, managed services providers (MSPs) and solutions providers can serve as a sounding board to their SMB clients to ensure that they are all making educated and informed decisions around business continuity planning.

Here are a few best practices that MSPs can adopt when it comes to successfully developing business continuity plans for their clients:

  1. Take inventory. Identify all business-critical IT applications being run by the SMB client.
  2. Rank the most critical applications. Ask the client how each application they are using is essential to keeping business operations running. How do the applications differentiate the business from others in the segment? Next, look at the application’s data volatility. Those with the highest rate of churn or change (e.g., online transaction processing databases, inventory data, financial transactions, etc.) should be ranked at the top, while those whose change is more gradual (e.g., file data), should be ranked toward the bottom.
  3. Look at how applications interact. Certain applications depend on others. Identify which applications are linked, and then group them together. Remember to treat the entire group with the same priority assigned to the most loss-sensitive application within that group.
  4. Define RPO and RTO. For each application or application group, work with the SMB client to set a recovery point objective (RPO) and a recovery time objective (RTO). An RPO is a measure of how much data a company can afford to lose in an outage scenario. Operationally, the RPO translates into how frequently application data must be backed up. An RTO is a measure of how long a company can go without an application. In practice, the RTO dictates how soon after a failure an application or application group needs to be able to recover.
  5. Test. Testing backups and recoveries is the only way to ensure that the client will meet RPO and RTO objectives.
  6. Document. Formalize the business continuity plan into a written document and then communicate it to all of the businesses’ key employees and key stakeholders.
  7. Review. Revisit and test out the business continuity plan every year to ensure the plan continues to meet your customer’s needs as conditions evolve.

When I co-founded Intronis, it was on the firm belief that no business should go out of business due to data loss. Without a doubt, creating a business continuity plan can be exacting work, but not having one in play when you need it is devastating. By leveraging their skills, knowledge, and vendor alliances, MSPs can create new opportunities to help their clients, and position themselves as an indispensable partner.

 

Neal Bradbury is VP of channel development and a co-founder at cloud-based backup and disaster recovery provider Intronis. Working closely with the company’s MSP partner community and alliance partners, he is responsible for generating greater business value for the company’s MSP partner community and alliance partners.