I’m back with the last installment of what criteria are important when searching for a service provider. In Part One and Part Two of this series, I covered the different types of service providers and how the size and consumer type of the business should impact the types of provider services needed. In this blog, I cover some of the other factors that are critical to consider when looking for a service provider to fulfill your needs and benefit your business.
Most critically, there has to be an element of trust between the business and the service provider. Service providers that are able to provide adequate visibility and control into their customers’ environments are obviously the most customer friendly and trustworthy.
This is especially true for cloud service providers. The monitoring and management of these increasingly expansive, decentralized and fluid virtual environments is not easy. This is not to cast doubt upon SaaS solutions that abstract away the underlying infrastructure to the customers need, but there does need to be adequate evidence of the processes, ability to port in and extract out one's data, and more fundamentally, the option of a disaster recovery plan.
Just as service providers offer a variety of services, they have made different investments in disaster recovery plans and security in general. This means that you cannot take these things for granted. You need to be your own advocate and ask the right questions.
And don’t make the mistake of assuming that your best service provider is one within your local geography. Latency issues are not as critical for day-to-day productivity applications like email, CRM, Salesforce Chatter, or file sharing. In fact, latency is a concern only for very specific applications such as bi-directional voice services. This opens up a huge choice of SaaS service providers from which to choose across the country.
In addition, there are plenty of nationwide and even international service providers willing to offer services that speak to your biggest business cultural challenges, be they security concerns, cost sensitivity or compliance needs, all of which can be fostered with a flexible platform.
If it was purely about cost, it would be easy. Naturally, you get what you pay for, but having a service provider offer assurances and visibility into their infrastructure means that you can feel at ease. Knowing that you have saved money, increased your flexibility (i.e., for change requests) and can hold someone accountable for superior service levels is what using a service provider is all about; otherwise, no one would do it.
Ask to test out their IT environment, ask them for strong monitoring and management tools, and ask for an SLA.
Enterprises should know that as with so many global firms today, the need to tighten their corporate budgets means reducing spending on a number of IT systems. This is true even as more and more businesses are recognizing that their IT department is increasingly fundamental to the way they do business internally and externally.
This is why the research points overwhelmingly to the benefits of using external service providers, and cloud computing in particular. It is no longer an extraordinary or cost prohibitive thing to do. Rather, it should become an obligatory part of your strategy to do so, with a provider that will give you all of the necessary assurances and visibility into those systems and your business needs as I just discussed.
The best service providers enable your business services, give you the environment and tools to make smart commercial and operational business decisions, and finally allow you to focus on what you know best: your core business.
Antonio Piraino is CTO of ScienceLogic.