Modernize Business Continuity Plans to Prepare for What Comes Next

The pandemic taught us to be prepared for the unexpected. Here's how to be ready for the next disruption.

Business Continuity Planning

Since the pandemic, many businesses have wondered what the future will look like.

Many businesses are wondering what the future will look like. Employees have returned to in-person work or adopted a remote or hybrid work model long-term. Supply chain disruptions have decreased, but global conflicts could interrupt operations again. And natural disasters are always a possibility.

Things can happen very quickly. Well-organized operations invest in planning for disaster preparedness, business continuity, and recovery. But, those plans are usually focused on a specific type of event. How can businesses prepare for the unknown?

Now that businesses are asking those questions, it’s a good time for managed services providers (MSPs) to revisit business continuity plans with their customers and develop a strategy that keeps them agile, regardless of what the future brings.

Business Continuity for Any Disruption

The good news is that you have a starting point if you already have a plan with your clients. You can plan for scenarios where computers, networks, servers and data centers still exist, but employees need to use them remotely, for example, during a pandemic. You can also explore scenarios, such as natural disasters, in which infrastructure is destroyed or no longer accessible.

Also, remember to consider the length and scale of the disruption. In a significant event that lasts for weeks or months, your clients’ businesses won’t just be disrupted; every vendor and customer they work with may also suffer. When the pandemic began, most business continuity plans were inadequate for maintaining operations when the situation was open-ended. Business continuity plans should include a practical way to transition employees to a remote work scenario with sufficient hardware resources, remote software licenses, and connectivity options not cobbled together after the fact.

Businesses that have not done so may need to invest in a VPN or SD-WAN (software-defined wide area network) and leverage cloud resources or cloud-based applications. They may also need to upgrade their teams’ devices to use these solutions.

Additionally, employees should be trained for long-term remote work protocols. That can include everything from the safe use of email and video conferencing systems to file sharing and customer support expectations.

The updated plan should also accommodate limited employee availability. If it’s necessary for employees to work from home, they may be juggling childcare or eldercare responsibilities while also sharing computing resources with spouses and children. Be prepared for employees to work limited or irregular hours, and ensure redundancy is built in for times they’re unavailable. MSPs should also remember that not all their customers can fully operate remotely. This includes restaurants, hotels, hospitals and medical care facilities, and plans must also be made to accommodate this.

If employees must work away from the office, the business continuity plan should include transitioning employees back to the office or facility. Can hours be staggered? Which employees should return first? Can the business handle requirements like cleaning and sanitizing, social distancing, mask distribution, and municipal or state regulations?

Be sure to review and test the plan. Like fire drills, you should ensure you can respond to different scenarios to help identify flaws in the plan. See how quickly you can move employees out of the building and ramp up a work-from-home environment for the entire organization. Review and test your infrastructure to ensure adequate bandwidth for widespread remote access.

Encourage clients to communicate their plans with key vendors and customers and ensure they can still collaborate remotely.

MSPs have the opportunity to help their clients build resilience into their operations with business continuity plans that take a broader view of events that could disrupt their operations. And it could help you grow your business in the process. Take the opportunity.

Neal Bradbury

Vice President, MSP Strategic Partnerships for Barracuda MSP, a provider of security and data protection solutions for managed services providers, where he is responsible for generating greater business value for the company’s MSP partner community and alliance partners.