If you're considering ways to keep your infrastructure up and running while cutting costs AND completing your projects on time, you no doubt have given some thought to remote tech support.
Some while ago, I was given the assignment of growing a channel for a company offering remote monitoring. Since I knew nothing about it, I relied on my marketing background to do a market analysis and see what I could learn. I'll skip replaying the entire exercise and jump right to the part where I compared the various competitors in this space.
There are a number of offerings out there worth considering and really there probably isn't one solution that fits all. That's why you should consider finding a partner who understands the idea of scalability. Some vendors have a "winner take all" attitude where they want your entire infrastructure and the services they offer are blanketed. Meaning, they will outline their services and that is what you must take if you take anything at all.
So look for a vendor who truly wants to "partner" with you. Someone who will take the time to interview you to learn where you really need help. A true partner will understand that you don't really want to hand everything over. All you want is to have someone take the nuisance factor out of the day to day so that you and your team can focus more on innovation and on the new technologies that will make you money.
But, in my opinion, here are the minimums you should expect from your remote tech support group. For reference, let's talk Windows.
- 24 X 7 monitoring of your Windows servers and OS - To clarify, this means physical AND virtual servers. Your new vendor should have the resources to not only monitor your environment around the clock, they should also have the know-how to react to problems, regardless of when they occur. Any time of day. Any day of the year.
- Alert Validation and Escalation - Noise from unwanted alerts is one of the number one causes of frustration in operations. At least 85% of alerts generated from devices or other monitoring tools are not actionable. The problem is that it isn't possible to always know which alerts you should read and which ones you should trash. You want a vendor who knows the difference and can separate the chicken salad from the chicken ----, well, you know what I mean.
- Run-book - If your monitoring vendor has a clue, they know that you really don't need to be bothered by every incident. Sometimes, all that is required is a simple re-boot. A good vendor will have a run-book that is your instructions on the steps to take to remediate a problem before they ask for your attention.
- OS Patching - A good vendor will have a schedule for reviewing the new releases on "Patch Tuesday" and for testing them, prior to installing them on your systems. As well, the particulars to your schedule need to be customized to your requirements.
- Anti-Virus Updates - (Yawn) which of your engineers do you really want doing this kind of work?
- Verifying Completion of Backup Jobs - Very simple here. You will want your vendor to notify you of the successful completion of backups.
- Integration with your service desk tool. Every remote tech support vendor will have their own tool for opening tickets and monitoring their progress. What you don't want to do is learn their system on top of learning your own. Your new vendor will have the expertise to integrate their ticketing system with your ITSM tool (ServiceNow for example).
- Dashboards and reporting - Here, you just want to be able to see whatever your remote tech support group is looking at. One window for all. Plus, weekly/monthly/quarterly reporting of the activity and potential problem areas.