Welcome to the Fasthosts ProActive Podcast: Spill the IT. Each episode, we'll sit down with some of the amazing ProActive team and chat through their experiences of the ups and downs of IT infrastructure management in small businesses. There's always plenty to chat about.

Business continuity is becoming a really hot topic of conversation and all the things that we're involved with. Head of Technical Ops, James Wolf joins us to talk through what's critical for SMBs to focus on with either on-prem or hybrid infrastructure to keep the lights on.

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Episode transcript:

Intro (00:05):

Welcome to the Fasthosts ProActive Podcast: Spill the IT. Each episode, we'll sit down with some of the amazing ProActive team and chat through their experiences of the ups and downs of IT infrastructure management in small businesses. There's always plenty to chat about.

Graham (00:27):

Good morning, everybody. We are here back at ProActive HQ for another podcast session. Really excited to see everybody back. With me today, we have Michelle, who's back with us again. Michelle is the sales and marketing director for ProActive. We also have a new podcaster. New to the session, we have James Wolf, who's head of technical operations. My name's Graham. I'm going to be the host today, trying to keep everything on track. But before we start, why don't we ask Michelle and James just to introduce themselves a little bit? Tell those people who've not actually been on before a little bit about your background and what you do.

Michelle (01:04):

As the sales and marketing director, I'm responsible for both brands: that's Fasthosts ProActive and our core Fasthosts brand. I lead a team of people who are responsible for the creation of Fasthosts' future revenue and for all of our customers, so take care of the marketing brand and sales function.

Graham (01:21):

Fantastic, James?

James (01:23):

Yeah, James Wolf. I'm head of technical operations. I've spent most of my career working in IT operations. I'm responsible for all of the systems engineers and technical folk to ensure that our infrastructure is stable, reliable, and secure.

Graham (01:36):

Great. Well, everybody listening probably is going to wonder what we're going to talk about today. The title we have is How MSPs Support SME Business Continuity. It's a hot topic, widely spoken about in the industry. For the next 15/20 minutes, we just thought we'd get the views of the guys here just to understand a little bit more about this subject.


Business continuity is becoming a really hot topic of conversation and all the things that we're involved with. We hear it all of the time as companies are falling foul of things like ransomware and attacks and things like that, and they're just trying to keep the wheels turning within their organizations. With most smaller businesses having a hybrid model when it comes to cloud versus on-prem, how do you guys maintain business continuity in that scenario for your customers?

Michelle (02:28):

Well, I suppose the first thing we would recommend for our customers would be to consider things like having a look at where their risks are: where would they consider to be their biggest risks, and where are their vulnerabilities?

James (02:43):

Risk assessments are a really important part of business continuity and making sure that your business is prepared for an incident. You need to identify risks. You need to understand how likely that risk is to happen to your business and what impact that risk would have on your business if it were to happen and then taking the risks that you identified and prioritizing them in impact and likelihood order and addressing them one by one to mitigate or to reduce the impact that they will have on your business.

Michelle (03:14):

How do you decide which ones are going to cause the most damage? Do they come at you from a hardware perspective, from a software perspective? Is it your network?

James (03:28):

All of the above, Michelle.

Michelle (03:28):

Oh, I thought so.

James (03:29):

All of the above. Risks that affect business continuity could come in any form. It could be a natural disaster, although, thankfully, in the UK, we tend to avoid most of those, with the exception of flooding. Cybersecurity is obviously a hot topic, both internal and external threats. From a cybersecurity perspective, we've seen quite a lot of ransomware issues over the last two/three years. Standard IT system failures. If a critical server goes down, then it could potentially... If it's offline for a long time, it could potentially have a very big impact on a small business.

Michelle (03:59):

As a small business, though, you and I both know that phishing is a hot topic. That's where your users and your employees are really your biggest risk, aren't they?

James (04:09):

Absolutely. The only real way to mitigate that risk is education and making sure that your employees understand what phishing is, what it looks like, how to spot a phishing email. Obviously, with the proliferation of AI technology now, those phishing risks are even more difficult to mitigate against because what used to be emails riddled with spelling mistakes and terrible grammar are now being produced-

Michelle (04:33):

And the shocking email addresses-

James (04:34):

...to a really high quality.

Michelle (04:34):

...that they were sent from. Remember those?

James (04:35):

Yeah. Yeah.

Michelle (04:37):

Now, they're much more convincing, aren't they?

James (04:38):

Much more convincing.

Graham (04:40):

Yeah. A hot topic we come across, being in the industry with you guys, is that there's a big debate, isn't there? Is everybody going to be... or are people going to be all in the cloud? Are they going to be hybrid? They're going to have some on-prem. For people who are all in, as we call it, all in the cloud, how do you ensure that business continuity? For instance, if your cloud provider... And we have heard of cloud providers falling by the wayside and going out of business. If you've got everything in the cloud and your provider goes down, what are the options out there? What goes on?

Michelle (05:17):

Well, I don't know about you. But I would always check to make sure that they've got pretty robust backup and recovery plans that they manage and take care of for you, and those are well-described.

James (05:28):

Yeah. Absolutely, Michelle. Probably the biggest thing that people overlook is potentially using multiple providers, so making sure that your critical systems aren't entirely reliant on a single cloud provider but could be bought up elsewhere, if necessary, and/or already have a passive copy of your data elsewhere. Incidents happen in IT. Stuff goes wrong. Systems go down. If a system is that critical to your business that it being offline for an hour or two is going to have an impact on revenue or on customer satisfaction, if it's that important, you absolutely need to make sure that you can bring it up safely and securely elsewhere.

Graham (06:03):

Yeah. Because I guess these businesses... They're just doing what they do, don't they? They're just being the best people they can be at what they're doing and making the money for what their business has to do. Do they forget sometimes those processes? Do you find that some businesses think... They just fall by the wayside. They forget to do those backups. Or if they've got multiple providers, they go, "Actually, this is not my... I'm not thinking about this. Oh, god. I've got to do it." What are you finding in the market?

Michelle (06:34):

It's not just the multiple-providers thing. To your question, which was what if we're working to a hybrid model? You're not just talking multiple providers. You've also got some stuff on-premise. You need to be thinking, "How do I take care of my own stuff? Then, how do I bring those two backup and recovery plans together into one place?"

James (06:54):

Yeah. I think a lot of businesses don't consider business continuity until they suffer-

Michelle (06:59):

Yes, something goes wrong.

James (06:59):

...a business continuity issue. That always brings it into quite sharp focus. But doing it proactively will certainly help reduce any impact it has on your business.

Michelle (07:09):

Just so you know, I love the use of the word proactively there. Nice.

Graham (07:14):

Do you usually find it's almost like when you're talking to new customers sometimes, they've had that disaster? They've fallen over. Something's gone badly wrong. I guess it's an easier conversation to pick up on. But when you're trying to just talk to people off the bat from new, how receptive are they? When you talk about business continuity, is it a big thing in their mind? Is it a big thing that they recognize or is it just, "Nah. We'll be all right. Nothing will happen to us. It won't impact us"?

Michelle (07:43):

We're very fortunate because, obviously, as a relatively large technology business, it's a topic that we are well versed in. From my perspective in particular, my biggest priority will be the comms because I'll be thinking, "How do we communicate with our customers? How do we communicate with our suppliers? How do we communicate with our employees if it all goes horribly wrong?" That's where people like me will always start. We'll be with the comms. I'm sure you have a much different perspective to mine.

James (08:10):

Yeah. For me, it's probably more about the quality of the documentation and the quality of the understanding of the individuals involved in any recovery. One of the things I've certainly experienced in the past during a major incident is no one knowing what they should be doing because it's not written down. What's the most important thing, and where do we go first? If you know that stuff, write it down because when the incident happens, your people will be very, very welcoming of a document that says, "Do this. Then, do that. Follow up with this. Check that." It's really gold dust if you can afford to invest the time in making it.

Michelle (08:45):

That is really important. Also, that clearly not only, "Do this. It's you that needs to do it." Otherwise, people tend to go, "I thought they were going to do it."

Graham (08:53):

Asking about-

Michelle (08:54):


Graham (08:55):

Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's interesting, isn't it? It's almost like having that flight disaster book you see in the movies, isn't it? They always go for the book. Or the Apollo 13 book about... "Okay, we're in an emergency. What do we do now?"


What's causing those emergencies, in your consideration? We have a lot of debates sometimes about... Is it security, or is it systems, or should we be focusing just as much on both of those things? Obviously, with security, it's a big issue, and with the hacks and data hacks and things like that, it's becoming increasingly more. Are people focusing too much on that and not focusing on their applications and how they're working in that environment?

James (09:33):

I think security probably is the biggest current issue because we all use so much technology these days, both in our personal lives and in our work lives. That's only on the increase. As we use more technology, the attack vector for malicious actors increases. There's more to go out, if you like. Cybersecurity, in general, is a hugely important one and can come in the form of a data breach or ransomware. Or it could be an internal employee that's perhaps got an ax to grind that is attacking you from the inside. Cybersecurity... Hugely important.


IT system failures... I think, again important. But a lot of applications these days are designed to be resilient, are designed against infrastructure that is resilient. That, I think, is tailed off a little bit. I mean, certainly, if you are running a single server with a core application on it, absolutely, it's going to hurt if that goes down. But that's much easier to architect around from an IT perspective. Cybersecurity... still a big problem.

Graham (10:36):

Michelle, what are you seeing when you go in and talk to people from a sales angle? Are they seeing the importance of that? Are they well-balanced in that conversation? Or do they feel that their apps are running fine and they don't have too much problems? "But, hey. Yeah, we need to focus really on security."

Michelle (10:52):

I do think a lot of people are... I'm going to say complacent. But I don't think that that comes from a position where they're deliberately complacent. There's so many levels that you need to gear up your understanding when it comes to these types of topics. You need to understand the security elements. You need to understand the technology elements. Then, there's also things like compliance in your specific industry. So many different industries have so many different levels of things that they need to do and have right. As a small business owner, it's a tough topic. It's really good to work with people who can give you advice on all of those things.

Graham (11:27):

Yeah. Great. Let's talk about ProActive. You like to talk about-

Michelle (11:29):

I do like talking about ProActive.

Graham (11:30):

Let's talk about ProActive. Obviously, how is this impacting on the customers you are talking to? How's it benefiting customers? Because, obviously, business continuity is massive, especially if you're doing day trading, retail trading, online trading, and things like that. We've read some real horror stories, haven't we? About people losing thousands, even millions, they reckon, in some cases. Where's ProActive taking the stand for that in the marketplace, and how's that been accepted?

Michelle (12:03):

I know that the people in James's team are the types of people that know the stuff inside and out. Our ProActive customers rely on them and their expertise. What your guys are bringing to that conversation is years of training and years of experience on enormous platforms.

James (12:20):

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we've been running massive platforms for a very long time at Fasthosts and now into ProActive. We've got a wealth of IT experience, which, quite often, some of the customers we speak to don't have. Their core business isn't IT. Ours is. I think we can add a lot of value to customers because of our 20/25 years experience and the experience of the teams upstairs in some of those conversations.

Graham (12:43):

People are beginning to sleep at night, I guess, because things aren't falling over. Yeah?

Michelle (12:48):

Well, ProActive customers are. Yeah.

Graham (12:50):

Fantastic. One question I always like to ask... Where is this all going, though, in relation to... If we were sitting here in three or five years' time, where is this all going to be? Is this all going to have settled down? Are we all going to have this all sorted in three or five years' time? Is there still going to be those pain points? Is there still going to be so much of a pressure on business continuity? Would it mean even more? What do people need to be looking out for as they go forward?

James (13:19):

I don't think the risks change, particularly over time. We will still have the risk of cybersecurity incidents in five years that we have today. The applications may change. The avenues of attack may change. But there will always be a requirement for Secure IT systems for any business. We will continue to be at the forefront of that. We will continue to protect our systems with all of the intellectual property we have and the human capacity we have upstairs. As the threat landscape evolves, we will evolve to make sure that our systems are nice and stable, and secure.

Graham (13:51):

Yeah. Michelle, do you see people not moving forward with this because they don't think they need it or they think it's something they might look at in the future? Where's the heartbeat of the market right now?

Michelle (14:03):

I think if you choose not to move forward with it, I think you're putting your business at significant risk. I think most small business owners are diligent and hardworking. They really care a lot about their businesses. Most of them won't put themselves in that position. I believe that a lot of them are trying their absolute best to keep up to speed with this stuff and will continue to do so. They have to.

Graham (14:24):

Fantastic. Well, I think that that was really insightful here this morning. It is always good to talk about business continuity. People listening out there, you know how important it's to keep the wheels turning and just to make sure that you've got absolutely everything well-structured and sorted.


Let's focus on what's coming up next on our next recording. I'm really excited actually on this one. We're going to be doing some myth-busting around migration. We know it's a hot topic. We get asked it all the time in relation to some of the things that are important when considering that. We're going to have Gary on the podcast, who's a solutions consultant here at ProActive. But until next time, have a good time, everybody. We'll speak to you again soon.

Outro (15:09):

Thank you for listening. We hope you enjoyed this episode. You can subscribe on Spotify or Apple Podcast or visit proactive.fasthosts.co.uk for more info. See you next time.

Orlaith Palmer

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