Weathering the Storm: MSP Lessons Learned from Hurricane Michael

Weathering the Storm: MSP Lessons Learned from Hurricane Michael

By Kira Pogge

As hurricane season continues in the United States, managed service providers (MSPs) work diligently in affected areas to secure data for their customers. To help your business weather these storms, we asked MSPs with a wealth of experience in hurricane preparedness to share their insights and their processes and tactics for getting through hurricane season successfully.

In previous guest blogs in this series, your peers covered how to prepare for a hurricane and tips for providing support during a storm. In our final blog in the series, we’re featuring insights from Blake Dowling, CEO of Aegis Business Technologies, based in Tallahassee, Florida, as he shares his company’s and clients' challenges during Hurricane Michael in 2018. He also dives into the tools and techniques that carried them through the hurricane and allowed them to help others in the process. Blake and his team continue to use the tactics and strategies you'll read about below as a template for future storms and potential disasters.

Preparing as the Storm Approaches

In preparing for Hurricane Michael, we began sharing storm tracking info with our staff and verifying call trees to confirm who would be ready to answer the emergency line. Assuming the worst, we hired a consultant in another part of Florida to make sure we had resources available should the storm hit us directly.

Three days before Hurricane Michael hit our area, we sent emails to all of our clients with information about the storm and a checklist of steps we recommend for preparedness. We shared our emergency call line information and reminded them to prepare for power outages and possible flooding. We also went through a backup verification process with specific partners.

Whether just before the storm or weeks in advance, we found that consistent communication with clients is a crucial piece of providing the best possible support during hurricane season. We even include storm readiness tips in our monthly newsletter and cover them at client events during hurricane season.

Supporting Your Employees, Clients, and Community

Our first step after Hurricane Michael hit was to ensure employee safety and gauge our headquarters' viability. Today, we have the same protocol. If our employees are safe and have power and internet service, we resume business as usual and start reaching out to our clients. If we cannot use our headquarters, we work remotely as efficiently as possible, relying on our emergency line as the central communication hub with clients.

With Hurricane Michael, we were lucky that the office was un-damaged. We opened it back up, and we had power restored within 24 hours of the storm, much quicker than average in our area. As a result of being one of the few offices with power, we offered the office to all staff as a safe-haven to refrigerate items, power up phones, watch the news, rest, and re-group if their homes were damaged or had no power.

In addition, having a working office gave us the chance to give back to our community. Not only were employees to use our space, but we also invited clients, business partners, vendors, the family of our staff, and other non-client businesses into our conference room to help out where we could. We even welcomed Datto into the office when a small but mighty group of their employees came down to Florida to support us and other local MSPs impacted by the hurricane.

At one point, we had several calls coming in from an insurance company that was without the internet. The Aegis team, alongside our partners at Datto, dispatched to assist with reestablishing connectivity to access their cloud application to file claims. The setup was the best we could do under the circumstances, and it kept the insurance business running in the worst storm I’ve seen in my time at Aegis. This would not have happened without Datto being there for us. More on that here.

As a result of our experience with hurricane recovery, our company currently works with the local Chamber of Commerce and other community groups in similar situations, from the current pandemic to recent hurricanes, providing tips on how to prepare and best practices to follow.

Here are three pointers that I hope any MSP reading this blog can take away and incorporate in their hurricane preparedness/response toolkit:

  • Provide consistent and relentless communication with your staff and clients before, during, and after a coastal storm or hurricane.
  • Ensure you have a business continuity solution in place, as well as a way to remotely serve your clients, in the case that you might not be able to go on-site because of the situation.
  • It's essential to partner with best in class companies to provide the best solutions to clients. Datto WiFi and backup technologies made it possible for us to keep our clients running after the storm.
  • If you are able, find ways to help and give back to your community after the storm.

You can hear more about our story in a podcast that I did with Datto during the last hurricane season, How Datto Partners & The Disaster Response Team Prepare for Hurricane Season.

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