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8 Things to look for in a Managed Services Provider

By wayne
Jun. 13, 2016

 

This is the executive guide to Managed Services.

This blog post summarizes 8 things that you want from a Managed Service provider. We explore what is actually often happening in a Managed Services offerings, then you will learn how to make sure you get what you want from a Managed Service provider.

 

1. Defining Managed Services

Many times, a managed services company is a couple of reactionary technicians with a limited background who charge a low hourly rate and takes care of a small amount of clients. They’re usually always putting out fires at client sites and blaming previous technicians, client applications, old technologies, or just bad luck.

What most companies want is someone to monitor and maintain your web environment so that it works all the time. Appnovation Managed Services is the complete health monitoring and maintenance of your website, plus a comprehensive helpdesk with a range of talents. You want a service company that wants to keep your website running and not create more billable hours, which would mean you reaching deeper into your pockets.

Have a chat with your Managed Services provider and find out how many technicians they employ, what their real certifications are (and how recent), how much field experience they have, how they monitor/maintain your website, and how they communicate with you. Get them to prove how they are qualified to serve you. Then talk to a few other companies, and talk to your peers. See how your Managed Services company stacks up. There are a range of choices out there.

2. Website Patches

The process of updating a website takes time and most companies and their service providers don’t do this. Most of our new client’s websites haven’t been patched in years. Sometimes never.

A great Managed Services provider will fully and correctly patch websites. You want your website running quickly and securely, with the right patches and updates for each particular technology, taking into consideration the applications you’re running. Some technologies have updates every week. 

Check your agreement or your Managed Services contract. It will describe the service you get and how often.  Best case is to ask your service provider. Make sure that your websites are being updated and patched appropriately. If your services company can’t tell you precisely when your website was last patched and what was patched, then find someone else.  

3. 24/7 Support

Most technicians work during the day. And labour laws make overtime (and ”On call” time) expensive which can demolish profitability for most outsourced technology companies. Most of these service companies take a gamble, assume that nothing can go wrong, and forward after hours calls to someone’s cell phone (usually the lead technician who is usually not paid or prepared for a random call).

What you want is someone to help get your website running when something stops working, even when it's late at night. Set up properly, this should happen very rarely, but if this is important to you, then it has to be effective.

Make sure that your Managed Service team has a designated and provisioned support person with the presence and tools readily available to help. Ideally your service provider has a Network Operations Centre who is monitoring your website health and can work with you immediately, regardless of the time of night. Ask your service provider if they have, at minimum, a person available who can attend to an issue within your expectations: this includes ensuring that the technician isn’t out on the town, at a party, or shopping. Try calling the number they provide at 11 p.m. and see who answers.

4. Monitoring

It takes patience to configure monitoring systems properly. Many Managed Services companies don’t have the technology, expertise, or manpower to correctly set up proper monitoring. Many times, poor setup results in a tidal wave of alerts that are generally ignored by a Managed Services service provider or lost in a sea of emails.

A combination of automated monitoring and human response is the best way to ensure that conditions that could lead to failure are fixed before they impact you. You want someone who is watching these alerts, in real time, and can fix them or take steps to prevent a complete failure. 

Ask your Managed Service provider to tell you about their monitoring systems, how they are alerted and how they make sure that each warning is addressed. They should have a way of seeing the status of all your websites and the alerts they are generating. There should be personnel specifically looking over these dashboards and creating service tickets where necessary. Ask to see your service provider's control center and demonstrate how they monitor your systems.

5. Vendor Management

A single point of accountability (SPA). Sometimes, one technology company provides a application revision and it causes something else to fail. You need someone to ensure that your specialized technology providers work together to resolve a technical situation.  

Without this single point of accountability, there’s finger pointing, one vendor blaming another and your technicians are caught in the middle. You suffer, your business grinds slowly forward until a solution is found, if ever. Technology vendors usually don’t want to troubleshoot. They are quick to blame other technologies.  

Ask your Managed Services provider about their vendor management program, the skills, and their strategies for sorting out this potentially crumbling situation. They either have a hands-off approach or a SPA. You want the latter. They should be ready to bring the vendors to the table and ensure a resolution.

6. Pool of Talents

A Managed Services company should have a range of individuals with specific talents and skills so that there is always someone available that has the correct skillset, regardless of the problem.

Usually, a Managed Services company has only a couple of smart individuals who have some specific talents and a broad idea about Drupal and your CMS. They hack away at the problem until they find the problem goes away. Usually with only a limited idea of what caused it. This causes the problem (or another worse problem) to resurface into a catastrophe at a later unknown date.

Interview your Managed Services provider and make sure that they have a broad range of certified technicians, overlapping on your major technologies. You do not want your business hindered because one or two technicians happen to be away on vacation or out because of an illness.   

7. SLO Escalation

SLO, stands for Service Level Objectives. It contains defined measurable service responses with specific enforced timeframes. Your SLO should also define the process and timeframes for escalation when an issue is deemed to require more advanced expertise.

For most Managed Services companies, this is usually described as just “Best Effort” at best, many providers have targets or objectives with no specific timeframes. This means you get service as quickly as they can provide without proper design forethought on how they deliver their services to you.  

Ask your Managed Service provider for their Service Level Objectives. Ask them to demonstrate their internal process, what they do to ensure the SLO is met, and how they monitor their success.

8. Ticketing Systems

Ticketing systems are a secure and organized way to track website issues that occur in your company. You need to be able to see the helpdesk queue at any time and your service provider must have workflow to ensure no helpdesk ticket gets delayed or lost.

Most smaller Managed Services providers use basic tools, simple software, and rely on their memory to try to keep track of their customers service needs. Usually that limits their effectiveness and results in delays and forgotten responses. They will always be apologetic and try to compensate instead of investing in the right tools.  

Your Managed Services provider should be using a service ticketing system that allows you to submit a ticket and automates workflow for triage, prioritization, scheduling and escalation. Ask for a demonstration of this system and your private credentials to log in and see your tickets in progress.

Interested in learning more about Managed Services?

Appnovation's osCaddie Managed Services are ready to handle your business or organization's support and maintenance needs. When it comes to technology environments and the systems and application within, our experts have seen and worked with it all across a variety of situations representing every major industry vertical. We’ve already achieved extremely high customer service ratings from current clients, so contact us today and get started with world class support and maintenance services.