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When the clouds of Hurricane Sandy finally stopped wreaking their destructive havoc on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, along with tragic destruction, they left with them a great deal of spilled ink about how the cloud – the metaphorical one we talk about in IT, not the real-life scary storm ones – lived up to expectations, or sometimes, how it failed dismally.

Posts appeared ruminating on the lessons cloud providers, IT solution providers and MSPs can learn from the collective experience the cloud IT community had with Hurricane Sandy. Others appeared from vendors, presenting their own viewpoints on how the cloud had proven its value in the face of the Superstorm.

Invariably – as it always does when there are disasters that leave businesses potentially flooded or without power for hours, days or weeks, the subject of backup and disaster recovery loomed large.

Of course, backup and disaster recovery in the cloud is an important part of many MSPs’ arsenals. One would argue it can, and should, be part of virtually every MSP’s arsenal. Offering online backup services makes a lot of sense – it’s an accessible form of DR for just about any business of any size, it’s cost-effective, and it can be a great “set it and forget it” recurring revenue for any kind of IT service or solution provider.

The impact of SuperStorm Sandy, and the lessons learned about the strengths and weaknesses of the cloud as a result of many business’ experiences in her wake, can represent a great opportunity for you to advance your backup and DR business.

For customers who haven’t yet seen the need to get their business-critical data backed up regularly and offsite, images of their peers in the New York and New Jersey area with storefronts flooded and without power for days on end can be the necessary call to action.

For customers who don’t trust in the nature of the cloud, a quick examination and assessment of the successes and failures of cloud solutions in Sandy’s path can potentially ease their distrust, or at least open further dialogue as you’re able to help them address the truths and fictions of their concerns.

And for those who are already backing up their crucial data via cloud-based services, it’s a good opportunity to point out those same successes and failures – offer customers links an your own expert analysis into what went well and what didn’t, what the cloud proved through the Superstorm and where the cloud still has to grow.

By all means, use the experiences of Sandy as an educational tool. But please, tread carefully. Honest, forthright discussion of the nature described above can help customers make better decisions, relieve fears of the unknown, and help make sure customers are getting the right solutions for their unique needs.

But selling on fear, uncertainty and doubt is always a risky and potentially offsetting tactic. And doing so by invoking the name of a massive storm that cost people their lives and uprooted many thousands of lives crosses the line between trusted advisor and stereotypical bad insurance sales tactics.

Although the immediate danger of Sandy is (for the most part) gone now, consider the following worst-case scenario from a disaster that happened years ago: When the Russian submarine Kursk went down, I can well recall getting a press release from a company whose technology was used in deep-water rescue systems. The press release – distributed broadly enough that it was received by multiple people in a newsroom that focused on the IT channel community – breathlessly quoted company executives on how their technology was going to be a key component in bringing those brave young Russian sailors home.

Only, that was not to be. As we all know, the crew of the Kursk unfortunately perished in their vessel. And that example of PR-gone-bad sticks with me to this day.

By all means, educate, enlighten, be the trusted advisor. But when customers may have family and friends who have suffered or are suffering as a result of Sandy, be careful about the kind of message you’re sending out from your business.