Assuring Recovery in an Age of Uncertainty

On March 31, IT professionals around the globe celebrated World Backup Day to increase awareness of the importance of backup, data protection, and recovery. Unfortunately, this year, we face a sobering moment as we work through the impacts of a global pandemic.

Author: Eric Harless, SolarWinds MSP

There’s a lot of uncertainty right now. The nearly overnight shift for many businesses from office to remote work was stressful at best, frightening at worst. While governments and individuals rightly focus on efforts to reduce the humanitarian issues of COVID-19, technology professionals and service providers play a pivotal role in both saving lives and in keeping economic activity afloat.

Yet, as an IT service provider, now’s the time your customers need you most. You’re potentially saving lives by helping them keep their employees home, keeping their businesses afloat during a time of crisis, and keeping their data protected when cybercriminals may be more interested in taking advantage. So today, it’s worth taking some time to reflect on what you need to continue doing to protect your customers.

Keeping customers safe and running in an uncertain time

Right now, your customers need you to keep them safe and keep their businesses running. While there’s so much uncertainty in the world, your job is to look after their data and networks so that’s one less thing for them to worry about. Here are a few important tips to keep in mind:

  • Present a calm face: You’re a consultant—an extension of the team. Customers look to you for guidance, but they also look to you for leadership. In times of crisis, the best leaders reassure those who look to them while still being transparent and honest. If you need to, offer to send customers additional reports to help reassure them their data is safe and protected.
  • Back up everything you can: You can try to back up entire machines. This will be helpful when a remote worker’s kid wants to play Minecraft and deletes important business files to make space. If bandwidth or space is an issue, then back up only select volumes, users, or directories (file- and folder-level backup can really help here). Additionally, you may want toback up critical business documents at the very least, even if businesses are wary about backing up an entire workstation. Also, make sure to schedule these backups on a regular basis. If you can automate backup schedules, your team is far less likely to make mistakes or forget to back things up in the event of a crisis.
  • Focus on security: For starters, make sure that all backup data remains encrypted both at rest and when being transferred. While you absolutely can create a local backup copy, you also need cloud or offsite backups as well. Many ransomware strains attempt to delete local backups before encrypting files so people get further pressured into paying the ransom. A cloud-based backup is far more likely to survive theransomware attack than a local copy.
  • Test your backups: You need to make sure your backups are ready to go in the event of an emergency. You should already be practicing recovery testing on a fairly regular basis, and may even need to wargame out potential downtime events. The last thing you want is to face a potential disaster with corrupted backups. If customers need additional testing, you can offer it, but it’s probably best not to introduce additional charges unless there’s a significant time investment or cost to you in the process.
  • Consolidate: Most market research suggests MSPs often manage multiple backup applications for their customers. As you inventory your customers’ levels of protection, you might consider trying to consolidate your vendors from four to three or from two to one. Granted, now’s not the time for a significant migration project, but it’s worth looking at the manageability of supporting your solutions and see if they can hold up in scenarios like the one we’re in.
  • Evaluate: When you can find the time, try to take stock of any challenges your customers may face in the coming weeks as they work remotely. While cloud backups help, this is only one piece of true business continuity. You’ll need to make sure you have plans in place if the office remains inaccessible for a long time or if remote access tools face an outage. When you get breathing room, try to take the time to evaluate any potential challenges and craft a plan for dealing with them.
  • Don’t forget other security layers: While the IT world has rushed to get customers operational in home offices, cybercriminals weren’t asleep. And backup is your last line of defense; it’s not preventive security. Make sure you continue patching, running endpoint protection, usingemail protection and web filter, and maintainingstrong password practices. However, backup will still play a central role. Before the pandemic hit, security professionals were already extremely concerned about challenges in the software supply chain. Even if you did everything right during the transition, there’s simply no guarantee the software vendors your customers rely on didn’t miss something important. That’s why it’s so crucial to have backups of essential data, users, and systems.

You’re their first defense and their backup

In these times, uncertainty is the rule. Now more than ever, IT providers need to offer that level of calm to their customers. You’re helping save lives by keeping people at home and saving businesses by keeping them up and running. And if you can present a calm face (even if you’re internally afraid), you could be a bright spot for your customer in an otherwise scary and uncertain time.

Often, we think of backup as insurance. It’s there to protect you in scenarios where you need it. Businesses need both the insurance to keep their data intact, but also the literal peace of mind knowing their businesses will stay operational if more challenges ensue. Even after we get out of the woods on this, people’s perspectives and the way we live and work may well be different. Caution around resources like data will likely be top-of-mind for many businesses. Protecting data and systems with backup becomes even more crucial now than ever before.

As the workforce continues shifting to long-term remote working, cloud-based backups are more important than ever before. SolarWinds® Backup can help—it was built cloud-first and uses WAN optimization techniques to help speed up both backups and restores, even across a distributed workforce. Additionally, it supports multiple types of recovery including bare metal and virtual restores.

Eric Harless is the head backup nerd at SolarWinds MSP. Read more SolarWinds MSP blogs here.

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