Operating in a Pandemic: Review Your Managed Service Provider’s Business Continuity Plan

Nowadays, having a business continuity plan is a no-brainer for nearly every enterprise and managed service provider (MSP). However, around the globe, the current COVID-19 pandemic is putting these plans to the test. Pandemics are different from floods or earthquakes, because they aren’t geographically constrained – in a very real sense, the problem is everywhere.

In fact, the speed and impact of COVID-19 may have caught some businesses flat-footed. A March 6 Gartner poll of 1,500 people revealed that nearly a quarter of respondents expected “little disruption” to their operations as a result of the pandemic. Just a couple months later, it would be hard to find a business that hasn’t experienced disruption. 

Even if your own business continuity plan accounts for and is weathering the COVID-19 storm, what about your outsourced service providers’ business continuity plans? Most enterprises utilize external services to either augment or replace existing internal capabilities. How confident are you that your MSPs can continue to deliver the same level of service during such an unprecedented global event? What should you do if your provider turns to a “force majeure” clause in the event that they cannot provide services?

How to Evaluate Your MSP’s Continuity Plan & Safeguard Your Outsourced Services

Because Optanix is both an MSP and a provider of services and technology to MSPs, we have a unique viewpoint on this topic. We could expound on this ad nauseum, but we think this infographic on “Advice for I&O Leaders During a Global Pandemic” already does a great job of identifying what you should do. The actions in the infographic fall under two major steps you should take to either 1) ensure your outsourced services are prepared for the pandemic, or 2) take steps to reduce risk yourself.

Ensure Your Outsourced Services Are Prepared With Pandemic Business Continuity Plans

The first step is to collaborate with your outsourced service providers to identify and close gaps in business continuity where it can impact YOUR business. Determine what contractual terms might be in place around the delivery of services during a major event like a pandemic. 

Additionally, make sure you’ve reviewed the service provider’s business continuity plan closely – does it have measures that address broadscale events? According to Gartner:

“Provider BC plans are typically based around a catastrophic event at a single location or the reduction in compute or storage capacity caused by loss of a data center, or may assume use of shared BC environments. Such BC plans may not be appropriate in the event of a pandemic, where offices and data centers remain usable, but staff are unable to work from them, or where demand on shared BC facilities is universal.” 

If there are gaps identified in a service provider’s pandemic preparedness plans, Gartner urges enterprises to work with the provider on mitigation measures. Possible mitigations involve spreading service delivery across multiple locations, allowing remote work and increasing the use of automation. Optanix has in place a regularly-tested business continuity plan for pandemics. Over the past few weeks, we have enacted many of the steps outlined in the plan – including shifting to a 100% remote workforce, among other planned steps. We’ve also walked a few of our customers through our planning process to make sure we are all on the same page. 

Take Steps to Reduce Risk Yourself

Ultimately, if a managed service provider’s business continuity plan isn’t working, enterprises may need to take their own mitigation steps to reduce risk. While no one ever wants to be in that position, we think it’s a good idea to understand what actions might be needed if you find yourself faced with a provider that can’t deliver services. The main theme of many of these steps is to disperse and diversify. For example, if staff can’t come in, make sure that your remote worker infrastructure is up to snuff – laptops, VPNs and network bandwidth are all part of the equation here. 

The New Business Continuity

Yesterday’s business continuity plans were about backup capabilities in a separate site, but COVID-19 has changed the math. Tomorrow’s business continuity plans will be about a diffuse set of IT capabilities spread across geographies, vendors and staff. When you partner for outsourced services, make sure you’re working with a provider that is looking forward, preparing for what’s next, and making sure it works with your business.

To learn more about how to mitigate the effect of pandemics on your operations, download the infographic “Advice for I&O Leaders During a Global Pandemic.”

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