March 31, 2014. After taking a break from the regular blog entries dealing with Managed Services, to discuss the serious “malpractice” issues we see with the pen testing industry in the region, we are back to our original topic.
After having described the “typical” client’s IT environment, let’s talk about some of the challenges we faced in terms of offering cost-effective managed services to our customers.
Here is what a typical client wants:
- Tell me what I have in my IT environment (many times they don’t know)
- Keep my IT infrastructure running all the time at good performance level
- Keep my data and IT infrastructure safe
- Have a backup in case something goes wrong (which inevitably does happen)
- Let my employees be productive and not waste time
- Always be there for me when I need your services
- Oh, by the way, provide a reasonable price (some want it really cheap but they pay later 🙂 )
Looking at the above requirements, the steps required to meet them are:
- A detailed IT asset inventory and network diagram that is kept up to date regularly. This would include information about all IT elements like servers, desktops, laptops, printers, networking gear etc. Also, it would include details on the software that is running on these IT equipment, the applications, the version numbers etc.
- Understanding the performance and utilization of the IT elements. Looking at the usage levels, CPU utilization, RAM usage, hard disk capacity, patch levels and other performance level parameters to ensure that devices are performing what they need to do at a good speed level.
- Backing up the required data files, applications, system and device configuration files etc. on a regular basis – first a full backup and then incremental backup and then storing this data off-site for further protection
- Putting some sort of a controlling software on employees desktops and laptops so that they don’t waste their time visiting sites that are a waste of time. Social media related sites come to mind. Contrary to what most MSPs think, CEOs are interested in making sure their employees are productive, not monitoring the smallest detail of the PC.
- Keeping the client IT environment secure is a topic that we will consider in the next blog as that is a subject by itself. IT security has to be implemented at various levels with various tools – and the security threats change almost daily.
- Next comes support and helpdesk. We offer 24x7x365 full NOC and helpdesk. But for most clients regular office hours and some time on the weekend is quite fine. We need to provide email, web browser access, phone and fax – and nowadays – twitter or facebook based customer support – to ensure that the client issues are captured and resolved quickly. Time is of the essence and a trouble ticketing system is essential so that issues don’t fall through the cracks and the time to resolve them can be tracked as metrics. The NOC is also responsible for providing regular reports to the customer so that they can be up to date on what activities have been done and how their IT infrastructure is performing.
- Providing the managed services at a reasonable cost is very important, especially for the small and medium business market. This is a difficult issue as by the time we as MSPs add all the costs of providing the above services, including the hefty per IT asset per month fees for agents etc. it starts to become quite expensive. At the end there is very little profit left for MSPs.
How do we address the above issues – stay tuned for details in the next blog entry (to be continued…).