The promise of reduced human intervention offered by artificial intelligence and advanced automation systems is tremendously appealing for many industries. The Information Technology (“I.T.”) industry, for example, leverages these capabilities to provide services to a larger customer base while requiring fewer people on staff. All too often, however, I.T. service providers put too much trust and faith into these technologies. This is most evident in the frequent and unfortunate failure of backup systems.
Why Weren’t We Alerted?
Today’s backup technologies typically offer an alerting function where the backup can report to an administrator any errors or failures it encounters. Some advanced backup systems can even perform automated “Integrity Checks” that will restore a recent backup and take a screenshot as evidence the restore was successful. These measures are extremely important because backups can have a high frequency of error or failure.
Most I.T. service providers do a good job of enabling this alerting and responding to them as quickly as they can. The mistake they make, however, is relying entirely on the alerts to tell them if there is a problem. In the same way, the backups themselves can fail, so can the backup alerting function. Sadly, this won’t be discovered until a customer needs to recover from their backup. The I.T. service provider will attempt to restore the customer’s information only to find out it’s either completely missing or corrupted.
Trust But Verify
An important perspective all businesses should follow is “trust but verify.” This translates to having some form of checks and balances system in place for their business activities. Mature managed I.T. services providers (“MSPs”) incorporate these checks and balances into nearly all aspects of their operations, especially those that involve automation.
When a mature MSP, such as Digital Boardwalk, provides their customer a backup solution, they will implement all the monitoring and alerting functions necessary to give them early notice of an issue. Additionally, they implement a critical second layer into their solution: routine verification by a human. During this verification, a backup auditor will perform a manual restore test from the backup to verify the restoration is both successful and free from data corruption.
Insure Via Audits
Data loss, data breaches from cyber-attacks, and many other costly technology events businesses encounter can oftentimes be avoided by simply implementing routine auditing processes. Many I.T. service providers will omit these costly business processes to deliver you an attractively low service price. Evaluating I.T. service providers should be done much the same way you compare insurance plans. Although a reputable MSP may have a slightly higher “premium,” their mature business process could save you a fortune by preventing unnecessary losses and business interruption. Businesses can also do themselves a favor during the evaluation process by asking probing “what if” questions such as:
|Question:||“How do you guarantee our backups are always working?”|
|Typical Response:||“The backup will send us an email if it encounters any errors.”|
|Mature MSP Response:||“The backups will generate status tickets directly in our service management platform. The tickets are then automatically prioritized based on the urgency of the error so our team can proactively respond to them and resolve the issue as quickly as possible.”|
|Question:||“Great! What happens if your monitoring and alerting systems fail?”|
|Typical Response:||“Our vendor assures us of that. They have a team that makes sure everything works as intended.”|
|Mature MSP Response:||“Our internal cybersecurity & compliance team audits the backups once per month by performing a manual restore test of the backups.”|
|Question:||“Wonderful! How do you guarantee your team performs these audits as promised?”|
|Typical Response:||“It’s in our contract and part of our SLA. If we don’t deliver, you can cancel your contract with us.”|
|Mature MSP Response:||“Every month you receive a report from us confirming the date and time the backup audit was performed as well as the auditor who completed the test. This transparency forces us to make sure we perform the audits as promised.”|