Most, if not all IT Departments are under cost pressure. They are being asked to continue with business as usual and provide support for remote working and work from home imposed by COVID-19. Some are also managing the transition to full online e-commerce. With no increase in budget or staff.
One solution that is becoming increasingly popular is outsourcing VoIP systems to a Managed Service Provider (“MSP”) that provides both software support -and VoIP Phone maintenance. That fixes some budget costs and frees staff to carry out more urgent tasks.
Managed Outsourcing, in this case, only part of the VoIP environment is outsourced. A typical case is the maintenance and installation of VoIP Phones. This will involve having MSP staff on site. Full outsourcing, on the other hand, the MSP takes responsibility for the operation and management of the full VoIP environment. This can be accomplished either inhouse or on an MSP’s premises. In-House, the MSP manages your existing environment. They can also duplicate your environment on their site. Typically users outsource management to the MSP and hand full control over to them.
If you intend to use an MSP, you are embarking on a long-lasting business relationship and one in which the MSP will have access to most, if not all, of your business secrets.
It’s essential that you are comfortable with the MSP and satisfied that it can meet your requirements, now and in the future. Draw up a list of considerations and make sure that any potential MSP meets them. They will form the basis of future discussions and the SLA between yourselves and the MSP.
Here are five considerations to be borne in mind when looking at an MSP.
You will be entering a business relationship with the MSP lasting, probably, several years. It is essential to feel comfortable with them. You need to ask questions like, do our cultures mesh, will we work well together, are we on the same page with essential issues like growth, security, and so-on.
A good indicator is business reputation. Do they have a good reputation in the industry? Check with their existing and former customers. Are they licensed partners with industry VoIP majors such as HP or Avaya?
A second area is that of business stability. If you are to be associated with the MSP for some time, you need to know that they will be around for that time.
You must have a look at their background, both customer base and finances. For example, if they rely on one customer for most of their income, will losing that customer put them out of business? Credit Checking agencies will be able to provide a good overview of their financial health.
You also need to enforce escrow provisions. If the MSP fails, you want immediate access to your equipment, software systems and data so they can be transferred elsewhere.
Will they commit to regular progress meetings and examination of the performance metrics you have collected. Unless there is a regular and formal follow-up on the outsource agreement’s performance, complacency will set in.
There needs to be a statement in the SLA of:
- When progress meetings will take place and who is to attend them.
- The penalties and benefits for not meeting or exceeding performance metrics.
This a critical area of definition and measurement in any agreement.
The first is the regularity of meetings with the MSP in fora such as Progress, Change Control, and Performance Measurement. These tend to start well and then fall away if not part of the formal outsourcing agreement.
The second area is that of performance metrics.
Any agreement must include service level metrics such as application systems response times and complaint clearance rates. They are built into formal service level agreements.
The third area is the necessary Business Continuity provisions. Specifications are needed for the regular backup of the entire system and partial backups. It must be possible to rebuild the operating environment in the shortest time with a minimum of data loss. Testing of the backups needs to happen regularly as well.
It must also include a definition of responsibilities, who does what, for example, the supply of VoIP Phones.
The last is security itself in two areas, the security of the entire outsourced environment itself and the security of your applications and data.
The FBI says that the only secure system is one that hasn’t been hacked yet. Hackers sometimes view that hosted systems are more vulnerable than in-house systems because the MSP does not provide sufficient resources to enforce proper security practices.
There may be an element of truth in that, but an MSPs business reputation is at stake here. They have various different hosted environments and security requirements to support, so mistakes inevitably happen from time to time.
You should ensure, and have it written into the outsourcing agreement, the security that your environment needs. Security should also be discussed at the regular meetings between the MSP and the client.
VoIP outsourcing is a viable option for most organisations to consider. They however need to take care when entering into an agreement with an MSP. The five areas outlined above are some.