Written by Sam Lowe, Director of Channel Sales at Auvik
In the midst of hurricane season, residents and businesses in the Gulf Coast and Atlantic regions know the routine: have hurricane kits at the ready, get extra gas, stock up on bottled water and non-perishables, and more.
But technology service providers (TSPs) also need to prepare for hurricane season, and there’s no time like the present to start. So let’s batten down the hatches with some TSP best practices for weathering any storm:
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1. Keep Important Contact Information in Three Places
As a storm approaches—and in its aftermath—it’s important to communicate with your clients, employees, and vendors.
To make sure you can connect with all of your relevant contacts, you’ll want to maintain a contact list and store it in the cloud, on your hard drive, and in your pocket. In the event of an internet outage, a power outage, or a dead laptop, a hard copy will come in handy.
Before storm season, it’s also a great idea to let your contacts know how you’ll be reaching out to them (Is it via email, phone call, or SMS text?), how frequently (Are you going to reach out proactively or reactively?), and how they can best reach you in the event of a natural disaster.
2. Make Sure Your Customers' IT Inventory is Up to Date
If your customer finds themselves in the eye of a hurricane, their entire IT infrastructure may be at risk. And if any of their hardware is damaged in the aftermath, then you might have to help them find a replacement or deal with insurance. But how can you help if you don’t know what’s on the network?
A network management and PSA tool can automate inventory management for you—one covers network devices, while the other covers your customers’ endpoints. The tools collect a device’s make, model, serial number, and—ideally—warranty information. This info is then stored in the cloud, and is indexed, searchable, and exportable.
During a natural disaster, effective inventory management is extremely important—there’s no guarantee that all of your techs are available. Inventory management can keep a technician’s memory from being your single source of knowledge about a customer’s site. If a customer’s usual tech can’t make it to the site, someone who can will have all of the information they need to troubleshoot issues as they arise.
3. Backup Your Customers' Data and Configurations
If one or more of your customers go offline during a hurricane, you’ll want to get them back online as quickly as possible. Having up-to-date data and configuration backups can help.
The golden rule of data protection is to have three total copies of their data—two kept locally on different media (like a local hard drive and removable storage media) and one kept off-site.
To keep your local customer data backups secure, you’ll want to unplug them from power sources and keep them in a dry place. But you shouldn’t stop there. While many IT professionals say their businesses don’t back their data up to the cloud, you’ll want to encourage your customers to do so before the storm hits as an added layer of protection.
Once your customers’ data is taken care of, you’ll need to back up their network device configurations.
Configuration management can be automated with a network management tool , which tracks any change to a device, and keeps a complete history of every configuration. So, if a device is damaged, you can easily update its replacement with the most recent configuration and get your customer back up and running.
4. Get Remote Access to Everything You Need
Your office and your customers’ offices may become inaccessible due to the weather. Yet some organizations—like hospitals, police stations, or… Waffle House—still need network access during a hurricane. If one of them is your client, it’s your job to help.
But if there’s a Category 3 hurricane going on outside, you can’t reasonably expect your tech to go to the customer site. Being able to troubleshoot issues remotely could be a lifesaver—literally.
A network management tool or RMM tool will allow you to access network devices, endpoints, and servers from wherever you are, as long as you have internet access. This will allow you to troubleshoot issues from a distance and keep everyone safe.
Encourage Customers to Move Devices to a Secure Location
To minimize damage to your customers’ network devices, you should encourage them to protect their electronic devices after your inventory list and backups are complete. This includes:
- Shutting down and unplugging devices to protect them from power surges
- Moving devices away from windows to protect them from breaks
- Moving devices off the ground to protect them from floodwater
- Covering devices in plastic to protect them from water damage
While not all of your customers will be able to unplug and move devices, you’ll want to streamline setup for those who can following a storm. To know what goes where, exporting physical copies of your client network maps will help ensure all devices end back up where they’re supposed to.
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