Mobile Devices + Disaster Plans = Sales Opps

Smartphones and tablets can play an important role in disaster recovery and business continuity when employees can’t get to work or their primary computing devices have been destroyed. By Martin Sinderman

The role of mobile devices in disaster planning is not something channel partners have typically emphasized with their SMB clients. But by not doing so, they are missing some good business opportunities.

Mobile devices can play an important role in disaster recovery (aka business continuity and/or organizational resilience, depending upon who you talk to), says Mark Bowker, senior analyst with global IT market researcher Enterprise Strategy Group Inc. “Smartphones and tablets can potentially be used to get access to data and applications in cases where you cannot get to your place of work, or have local destruction of your primary devices,” Bowker says.

At the same time, mobile devices have given some types of companies insurance against events that can stop business operations. “Mobile devices provide 'locational insensitivity,' which means that operations can be carried on regardless of where the business is, and in many businesses, without regard to where the customers are located,” says Philip Jan Rothstein, president of Brookfield, Conn.-based Rothstein Associates Inc., a provider of business continuity planning and disaster recovery services.

FORMULATING A PLAN

Locationally insensitive businesses - in which operations, customer service, and perhaps even data and applications are distributed among a number of far-flung mobile devices - may enjoy some degree of immunity against what Rothstein calls a typical disaster recovery scenario, “where you have a piece of hardware that fails, or you need to vacate the office for a few days.”

Along with more centralized companies, these organizations may want to make plans for the day their server goes down or a hurricane hits, and take into account the role their mobile devices can play in keeping things going.

That's where knowledgeable VARs and other channel partners can be helpful, and create some new business for themselves in the process, according to Bowker. “Being able to explain the role of mobile devices in disaster recovery provides great opportunities for channel partners that are able to teach their customers about, and arm them with, the technology that addresses what can be a real business problem,” he says.

According to Bowker, you need to talk with clients about how their employees will get access to applications and data in the event of a disaster, and perhaps more important, how they will maintain contact with their customers and each other using mobile devices should there be a snowstorm, flu epidemic, or some other event.

Setting up a disaster plan that incorporates mobile devices begins with a simple inventory of employees' iPhones, iPads, and Android-based phones and tablets, according to Bowker. That is followed by assessing technologies that enable employees to access data and/or a full desktop with applications in situations where a piece of vital equipment is down, or necessary access to a physical office is not available.

Training employees, according to Bowker, “may be as simple as providing them with documentation that tells them that, in the event of any type of shutdown, 'Here are the options available to you to reach applications, data, and desktops.'”

Channel pros who help customers navigate this process are setting themselves up strategically to win more related business, Bowker notes. “Helping a customer like this is going to naturally open up some new doors where they are going to look to you for additional guidance as they implement the plan,” he says. “The technologies involved can sometimes be very complex,” Bowker adds, “which is going to provide you with even more opportunities to guide them.”

And, as in other situations, how you sell your expertise matters a lot. “'Do what I do, not just what I say,' is a most powerful sales message,” says Rothstein. “Think about what you are doing in terms of disaster recovery, and present that as an example to your clients.”

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