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Analysis: 4 Critical Non-Technical Questions for Business Continuity

Business continuity is typically an add-on sale for partners, a way to garner some extra revenue on top of their main solution. Done properly, it's good protection for the customer's business and good money for the partner. Done poorly, it's a, well, disaster.

Many partners focus on the technical questions comparing one solution to another. But properly setting up a customer for a solid business continuity solution requires that the partner engage in important non-technical discussions with the customer, as well.

What follows are four key, non-technical questions to spark important discussions between partners and their customers:

1. What Files Are Most Important to Your Business?
This is a deceptively simple question. The answers will start with the obvious back-end systems such as the order database, the customer relationship management (CRM) system or the Exchange file store. As you get deeper into the discussion, secondary systems invariably emerge as customers think through the actual implications of not having them for a day or a week.

Then there's the whole issue of granularity. While servers don't go out all that often, how frequently does the boss accidentally delete a critical e-mail and need it restored? How much time does the internal or external IT department spend on those issues? This conversation is the foundation of any business-continuity plan. Before talking about potential solutions in any way, the conversation has to cover the business realities.

2. What Physical Systems Are Most Important?
This discussion can be divided into a few buckets. First, there's the question of which servers need to be backed up and at what priority. But there's also the question of whether desktops and even mobile devices need to be included in the business-continuity plan. The answer depends entirely on the business. Some companies have employees who store critical information only on their C drives. Maybe those companies should implement policies that require everyone to back up their local files to a server and rely on that server only for business continuity. Yet that kind of requirement can be unrealistic in the sense that it sounds good in theory, but the users won't actually change their behavior. In some cases a device-by-device backup process will be business-critical.

3. Is There Data in a Cloud Service that Needs To Be Copied Locally?
There are a lot of things that appeal to small and midsize businesses (SMBs) about contracting with a cloud services provider for some critical business function, such as e-mail or CRM. One business driver is offloading responsibility for backup and recovery of those critical systems to the cloud services provider, who presumably is going to handle that technical task far better than an SMB customer ever could with their limited or nonexistent IT staff. In some cases, though, it's prudent to consider whether the customer should be keeping a local copy of the cloud data just to be on the safe side.

4. How Often?
This is one of the most fundamental questions, and again, it's not really a technical consideration. What's the daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly cycle for that business? Does a particular application need a huge string of point-in-time snapshots to allow recovery from a failure at any moment, or is a less-comprehensive schedule entirely sufficient?

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Posted by Scott Bekker on June 12, 2013 at 11:58 AM