small business IT horror story“Your server can speak; listen to it”.

This is the advice of Data Evolution LLC co-founder, Steve Vigeant, who has too much experience with managing small business IT after a preventable disaster. One of his recent experiences shows how important it is to engage in a proactive relationship with a Managed Service Provider (MSP) before something goes horribly wrong.

Setting the stage

The crisis happened at a small business of about 15 employees that had a reactionary only relationship with their managed service provider, engaging only when a show stopping problem arose. “This is a common problem among small business”, says Vigeant, “the short term cost benefits of the reactionary approach get in the way of the real value of IT service providers: pro-active problem solving and planning for the worst”.

Critical Failure

Hopefully you have not had an exchange like this:

The server wouldn’t boot, so the engineer asked the business owner what had been going on recently. The owner said, “The server’s been beeping for a while, but I ignored it.” The engineer explained to the owner that the server had been beeping to let him know that it had a failed hard drive. “One call to any MSP would have fixed a problem like this,” Vigeant says. “Now there are multiple issues with the hard drive and RAID system.”

When asked about data and system backups, the owner said he did not think he had one done since April—seven months earlier. Further investigation revealed that the April backup was nowhere to be found: “Luckily we able to recover some of the company’s data off of the server and get the company up and running on a small Network-attached Storage (NAS) device”.

They had to scramble to get a new email solution and get all his systems linked back up. This work took 36 hours all told—a lot of time for both the owner who could not meet the commitments of the contracts with his customers and his employees, who lost their hourly wages since they were sent home on the morning of the failure and were told not to come in until noon time the next day. What kind of costs would downtime like this represent at your business?

There is a simple way to avoid situations like this. But you can’t be afraid of asking for HELP.

The value of “pro-active support”

If the owner had informed an MSP about the beeping server before it failed, of course, he would have saved his company considerable expense. Putting a business owner in this situation of crisis also allows a high degree of chance to make bad decisions due to the emergency nature of the situation thus most likely causing more IT dollars being spent the wrong way. The situation is more common among small business owners than you might think; with so much on their plates, owners often can’t address anything that isn’t an immediate concern. Because they’re not IT experts, they don’t necessarily recognize a problem even when it’s right in front of them.

That’s why outsourcing server monitoring, managed backups and proactive service, with an MSP makes business sense. MSPs offer affordable contracts to monitor a small business IT system and back up its data 24×7. With an MSP, the daily backup data is sent to a Network Operations Center that automatically sends email based alerts to the MSP and the NOC team reviews them daily. The monitoring of the server would have alerted the NOC team there was a problem and they would have taken the steps to notify the owner and get the problems solved quickly.

Because this happens automatically, clients with regular monthly contracts aren’t dependent on someone in their office to remember to do the manual backups and get them to a remote, secure location or to check the server to see if it is trying to “talk” to someone that it has an issue.

A MSP will save you money in the long run by ensuring that the IT your business depends on is always there for you. The short term cost savings is not worth leaving your system and data vulnerable.