If you’re a business and looking for IT Support, you will undoubtedly not be short of choices. There are hundreds of Dutch Managed Service Providers (MSP). As you may expect, these providers vary in size, performance and credibility; they range from small to large. They can be local or multinational are one trick pony up top full service providers and outsourcing companies. However, there is one important thing that they all share: they provide remote IT Support.
Considerations for remote support.
Remote IT Support involves using an internet connection to resolve IT issues. Software is used that enables the IT Technician to remotely (from their or another location) gain access to your (Cloud) Server, Applications, Databases, Storage Systems or Backup Software. Enabling them to perform most of the things they could do if they were physically sitting next to you. For everyday IT faults and ‘user-related’ issues it is perfectly suitable and is a cost-efficient way of implementing most fixes. In addition, if some of your workforce works remotely themselves, from home for instance, then this internet/software enabled approach is ideal.
The benefits to your business, and the IT company, are compelling. Remote IT Support helps to reduce cost for both parties. It also means the provider can scale their services across many business clients. However, Remote IT Support does have some important limitations that your business should be aware of.
Firstly, it is reliant upon an internet connection. This means if your fault relates to / includes your internet (which can be a common business IT fault) then Remote IT Support will not work. In addition, Remote IT Support is only effective for ‘software’ related issues. Be that software applications and operating systems. When it comes to hardware faults, for instance a server that won’t boot up, then Remote IT Support can provide no assistance.
Your business’s Network and IT Infrastructure is also another area where Remote IT Support has its limitations. Faults in this business-critical area will invariably require a suitably qualified IT Technician to be onsite, at your location. Although, Cloud Services can remove this issue.
In addition, if you’re a growing business then it’s likely that your IT requirements will change over time. Whilst, this point is a bit more subjective than the ones mentioned above, there’s nothing that beats face-to-face dialogue and engagement from an expert IT Consultant when it comes to providing your business advice on how IT and technology can help your business meet its future strategic objectives.
Which kind of Managed Services Provider suits your business?
The term ‘managed service provider’ (MSP) has been around since the beginning of the IT business. A managed service provider can manage some part or all of your organisation’s IT platforms.
Before MSPs became the norm, companies predominantly worked around a break-fix model of outsourcing when an issue couldn’t be handled in-house, however, over time, the market demanded more proactive solutions. MSPs filled this gap by offering services around monitoring equipment and identifying future issues. Like practically everything that relates to technology, MSPs have had to function in a state of flux, meaning that they have had to evolve and scale through the years to avoid irrelevance.
The advent of cloud computing, for example, has added a great deal of complexity and challenges to the mix as MSPs now need to find ways to maintain complex hybrid environments. This has also given them great opportunities to grow cloud-based offerings, like cloud-based backup and disaster recovery.
MSPs are particularly popular in a period when it is difficult to find sufficient and qualified resources and at the same time a lot of innovation and transformation is taking place. What better than to outsource some specific tasks to a MSP?
We assume they can do things better than our internal teams, or that they find it easier to attract highly skilled staff as they are specialised service providers with attraction to the market. However, taking into account how broad the MSP space is alongside the growing needs and expectations from IT infrastructures, CTOs and CIOs have a lot to consider when it comes to choosing the right provider for their organisations.
Another important aspect for choosing an MSP is their ability to support regulatory compliance, such as the GDPR. This is a complicated issue, and has a clear impact on how you contract your service provider and even more: how they have to work. For CTO’s regulatory compliance is a critical issue across most industries. Especially if engineers will be working with confidential data. When it comes to security and regulatory compliance, the best thing you can do is to ask if the MSP has undergone a third-party accreditation, such as ISO 9001 (for quality management systems) or ISO 27001 (for information security management systems). You should also verify if the MSP has adopted any business continuity standards. These things can tell you something about how they can comply with these standards.
It is your obligation to not only read but also understand how they work and to assess if they can comply with your compliance requirements. You also need to validate IF the ISO policies they use are properly used in the organisation and understand if they can really offer what they state. Just having the ISO certifications are not enough for you to trust upon them.
But then there is another sometimes unnoticed apsect of choosing a MSP that fits your business: a health check on the MSPs organisation. For some that would imply that you check the financial stability of the organisation. And offcourse, that is part of your evaluation. But in addition you should really look into the health of your potential MSP.
Expectations and service level agreements
Before choosing a Managed Service Provider you really need to outline what part of your IT operations you want to outtask to an external partner and why. In addition it is obvious, you need to descirbe what kind of service and which service levels you desire from the service provider. But also make sure that you really write down where their service should start and where it stops. This to assure there will be no fingerpointing and both parties have maximum assurance everybody is clear about what they do, and what you have to do.
SLA and KPI are elements of business process management, which is abbreviated as BPM. SLA stands for service level agreement. KPI stands for key performance indicator. They both pertain to monitoring specific measurements of the performance of your business.
A service level agreement (SLA) is a contract between the service provider and the end user that defines the level ofservice expected from the service provider. SLAs are output-based in that their purpose is specifically to define what the customer will receive.
A Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is a measurable value that demonstrates how effectively a company is achieving key business objectives. Organizations use KPIs at multiple levels to track performance measures.
Important aspect of choosing your MSP should therefore be how they can meet your expectations, KPIs and SLA.
Health check of your MSP
How many persons work on their Service Operations team that really work on performing the remote managed services? What are their skills, background, education, certfications. A visit to the service provider should be mandatory in your selection process. What does the service desk look like, which tools are used, who is managing the team and also: how large is the team.How do they provide 7x24x365 operations. Can they deliver on that promise if they only have a few service desk employees and a handfull of consultants that normally visit clients for projects? Can a MSP that has ten technicians really manage the IT environment of a publicly listed multi billion dollar company with hundreds of applications, databases, servers and hundreds of Terabytes of multiple Petabytes of data? And if they can, can they do continuous improvement on top of that? And what happens if your favorite technician leaves?