Disaster recovery planning is a complex undertaking for any enterprise. At a minimum, most companies will need ways to back up and archive critical financial data. Many will also want a reasonable restart capability -- a set time period that it takes for certain IT operations to be reinitiated after they go down. But channel partners who plan on offering disaster recovery services have to acquire or develop disaster recovery planning experience in the field in order to offer the services that customers need.
Developing a professional services package that assists in requirements evaluation, plan development and documentation may be the best way for a channel partner to approach a customer with disaster recovery services. By demonstrating their experience with disaster recover planning, channel partners will be able to approach customers on solid ground. As the disaster recovery services offered become clear to customers, specific service opportunities will become apparent.
Channel partners interested in disaster recovery will find opportunities with the following services: storage maintenance, including backup and data mirroring; hosted applications services; remote managed services; and the delivery and installation of preconfigured hardware. Other services can extend all the way to maintaining "dark data center" capacity in a standby mode, with a complete image of the customer's IT environment. The more extensive the preparation and maintenance of a disaster recovery response, the higher the premium.
Experience with disaster recovery planning can put channel partners in a position to do consulting work with large companies. For example, a large telecommunications company set up a disaster recovery plan that was mandated by regulators. The requirements imposed by the regulators affected not only the company, but also the IT shop. One particular requirement mandated that the operation support system (OSS) could not be down longer than 24 hours. After floundering for a month, the IT department tapped the storage channel for ideas. While the channel partner had no particular experience in disaster recovery, they did have personnel who had participated in such planning in the past.
The partner was able to guide the IT department through the process, which revealed that, in order to meet the 24-hour recovery requirement, the IT shop would need off-site storage archival services, managed storage services and services associated with hosted applications. The channel partner was able to negotiate a very nice ongoing revenue stream based on its ability to meet the planning needs of its customer.
The lesson here is that channel partners involved in disaster recovery planning should supplement their services with a well-integrated planning offering -- the more formalized and coherent, the better. Resellers should also clearly map the services they are capable of delivering in the context of the plan and, where they lack specific services to address key components, should have a list of prequalified service vendors who can address those needs. With the appropriate preparation, channel partners can plug into this service market and become trusted partners with their enterprise IT operations customers.