Image Above: The Collabrance Team recently spent a day at our disaster recovery site to test our business continuity plan (December 2018).
The purpose of a business continuity plan is to help ensure business operations can continue in case of an event or crisis.
On June 13, 2008, Cedar Rapids experienced a “500 Year Flood” of the Cedar River, which runs alongside our headquarters building. At the time, the event ranked as the sixth largest by FEMA Declaration. It required Collabrance and our parent company, GreatAmerica Financial Services, to be displaced from our headquarter’s building for approximately three months. We also evacuated the building again for precautionary safety concerns in 2016 in response to a different flood. Thankfully each time we evacuated the building, had a solid business continuity plan in place for these situations. While our plan worked, the time spent physically out of our office also taught us a lot, and reinforced the importance of Business Continuity at Collabrance and GreatAmerica.
Image Above: The GreatAmerica Building during the Cedar Rapids Flood of 2008.
Today, we have a business continuity plan, and we perform regular tests to ensure that in the unfortunate event we are displaced from our building again, business will continue as usual and we will effectively serve our partners and their SMB customers. We don’t want our circumstances to impact them. If our MSP partners and/or their end-user customers can’t tell we are displaced from our headquarters, we know our business continuity plan works.
Our disaster recovery efforts have been tested and proven. We eagerly share our lessons learned from our business continuity plan with our MSP partners to help their SMB customers also have an effective disaster recovery plan to meet their needs.
Some companies choose not to plan for crisis situations… and instead hope it never happens to them. As an MSP, and your customer’s trusted technology advisor, you should be providing recommendations and encouraging your SMB customers to have a disaster recovery plan in place.
Here are some suggestions to be proactive and develop your recovery plans:
Organizations should work with their MSP to implement a business continuity plan, as well as designate an internal champion to help lead the plan in case of an event. MSPs are your primary resource, but also surround the champion with a diverse team to aid in plan creation.
We have found a more diverse team will provide multiple perspectives and ultimately a better plan. In the event the plan is enacted, the champion and an operations leader or two can oversee daily operations with the business owner/CEO weighing in on major decisions.
Assess your risks: Determine short and long term events that could happen and their likelihood for your SMB customer. Assess things like severe weather, who/what is located around them that could impact their ability to conduct business, access the building or other locations, etc. Assess as if one of those events happened, how would a customer continue operations and how can you as an MSP help?
Location: If an organization is unable to access their building, where could/would they go to conduct business? Does everyone work from home, or do they need another separate space? If another space is needed, ensure it would not be impacted by the same event and is in a different location.
Data/Phones/Equipment: You must ensure that a business has the ability to 1) make and receive phone calls (from existing business numbers), 2) access critical data, and 3) have equipment for people to perform items 1 & 2 above from outside their building. What other equipment is critical for a business to continue operations and communication?
People: Communication, training and identification of critical functions is essential. Critical functions can be determined by answering “Who needs to work so that your business can continue to function, serve your customers and process transactions?” Prioritize activities and logistics around those people first. Then add additional “less business essential functions and business support” over time. MSPs and companies should train and communicate who goes where, who has access to specified equipment and information, and when they should report to work.
Ensure that your customers business continuity plan is tested at least annually. Don’t wait for an event to happen, implement the business continuity plan in a “non-crisis” time, to test and improve it based on activity and implementation feedback. At Collabrance we test our plan twice annually.
Image Above: Collabrance Help Desk Technicians work from the
GreatAmerica Disaster Recovery Center to test our Business Continuity Plan.
Market and sell to your current and prospective customers that you have and test your business continuity plan regularly. It will instill confidence in your brand.
The format, process, and documentation likely will be different for each company and customer. SMB customers need MSPs to help them implement a business continuity plan that will work. The essential element is for organizations to have a business continuity plan that assesses their risks and addresses critical business data, processes and resources. Regular disaster recovery testing will ensure the plan can be implemented timely and flexibly. In the event of a disaster, make your business operations one less thing you have to worry about during that time… business owners that have a business continuity plan will sleep better at night!
Doug Grimm, Vice President and General Manager, is responsible for the overall vision, including sales, marketing, operations, strategic leadership and financial performance. Prior to joining Collabrance in 2012 as the Senior Analyst, Doug started at GreatAmerica in 2002. Before working at GreatAmerica, he served in various finance and accounting roles for a publicly traded company in the telecommunications industry. Doug began his professional career with Arthur Andersen LLP. In his tenure with GreatAmerica, he has held various positions within the finance department, and also served as the Director of Sales in the Office Equipment Group. Doug earned his B.A. in Accounting from Luther College and was a Certified Public Accountant.