MSPs and you: When service levels meet requirements
“Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” –Mr. Spock, The Wrath of Khan
As Managed Service Providers (MSPs) move more into the mainstream, business customers will have to learn to strike a balance between service requests, service levels, and service requirements. There doesn’t have to be a communication breakdown between parties, but there often is when service levels collide with requirements. Most MSPs distinguish themselves from standard hosting companies by providing several avenues for the business customer to submit requests, troubleshoot problems, and resolve outages that affect business continuity.
Most MSPs have Network Operations Centers (NOCs) that monitor and manage outages and alerts on a 24x7x365 basis as part of their overall service level agreement with the customer. Many have Help Desks that are staffed around the clock or during extended business hours. And in the case of maintenance windows, planned outages, and patching, MSPs notify customers in advance. However, emergency patching, unplanned outages, and loss of service are part of any IT-related business.
The MSP Alliance defines managed services in the following way:
“Managed Services is the proactive management of an IT (Information Technology) asset or object, by a third party typically known as a MSP, on behalf of a customer. The operative distinction that sets apart a MSP is the proactive delivery of their service, as compared to reactive IT services, which have been around for decades.”
As stated in the definition, it is the proactive service delivery that often creates problems between MSPs and their customers. Proactive delivery can mean downtime for customers to apply critical patches or to perform required maintenance.
This post uses the following definitions for service requests, service levels, and service requirements:
- Service requests – requests by the customer for some type of service from the MSP.
- Service levels – expected, and agreed to, response times and activities that are part of the paid for service.
- Service requirements – regular maintenance, planned down times, patching, security requirements, regulatory compliance, and confidentiality.
For example, if your service experiences a security breach, the MSP may take your service offline until the situation is resolved. Typically the MSP will notify you of the breach and of the in-progress repair. The MSP has other business customers that can’t be put at risk by your compromised service.
The MSP has a service agreement with every customer and you have to realize that your service is no more or less critical than any other, that is, unless you’re paying for a premium level of service with guaranteed response and delivery. Does this all mean that the MSP can ignore your needs or service requests? Certainly not, but you have to understand that the MSP is your business ally, your business partner, and your business advocate. But, they also work for the good of all their customers.
When comparing MSPs, find out which upstream partnerships they’ve formed. In other words, educate yourself on who’s responsible for assisting your MSP with their infrastructure. Who are their partners? What are their service levels? What is their guaranteed response time from vendors during an outage?
Whether you’re looking for Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service, or Software-as-a-Service, find the right partner for you.
This post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit IBM’s Midsize Insider. Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.