Mutual benefits of consultative relationships between MSP and business

Mutual benefits of consultative relationships between MSP and business

It is well known that any partnership that is built on mutual gain has more potential to last longer and progress further. How to define this relationship, however, can be difficult when dealing with constantly changing technology and differing client bases. The relationship between a managed service provider (MSP) and a business is one that can be prone to these difficulties, especially if the service level agreements (SLA’s) are not defined precisely.

 

The critical factor for a successful MSP is being able to predict and be proactive to problems rather than reactive. This is what will differentiate you from a break/fix method, but also increase your customer satisfaction. If an MSP can predict hardware malfunction or server thresholds, the advice that can be given is invaluable in the MSP/Business relationship. The fundamental principle behind this is increasing the user experience inside the business.

 

The end goal, to increase user experience, should be the focus for MSPs; this is a crucial factor for a successful business. With a happy user experience, there is an increase in staff productivity which can help the business grow. Changing the MSP’s goal of keeping the equipment in an ideal state to increasing or maintaining user experience, can help solidify business relationships.

 

The higher the communication and visibility that a user has, can help facilitate the belief they are in an actual consultative working relationship; currently, 48% of businesses working with an MSP would prefer a higher level of consultative relationship. This will increase the businesses perceived value for money with the SLA because you are working intimately with the MSP regardless of the situation. Further, the level of service is increased because the MSP has a better understanding of why client requirements are present. When those two factors are taken into consideration, the business has a higher return on investment, and the MSP is doing a better job, this is mutually beneficial.

 

The change in mentality from equipment state to customer satisfaction requires the MSP to adjust their monitoring and reporting. The adjustments may include things such as 3rd party SaaS monitoring, software licensing management, even topographical readings. A customer is happier when their internet/service is down if they know why, i.e. poor weather. Further, the ability to predict trouble can facilitate better relationships, through hardware monitoring an MSP can predict when hardware may need replacing.

 

Presenting meaningful data to businesses through meetings can increase the level of control and transparency that a client has over their system while simultaneously growing the business relationship. To gain the data an MSP can use opTrend, it provides cutting-edge predictive analytics. The AI-driven application identifies resources that are showing abnormal activity based on historical behaviour and provides an organisation with correct trend analysis of critical resources.  This assists in the early detection of potential failures and resource exhaustion.

 

An application that builds its own baselines will be more accurate than any model that is provided by a vendor. Using six months of data, a baseline is constructed that is a custom representation of the device while taking into account the time of day and also the day of the week. This builds an accurate snapshot of what your system should be doing at a given time and assists in identifying outliers that aren’t considered normal.

opTrend Graph - 700
The graph above demonstrates the power of the application; the blue lines are the expected ranges, the green is the overall mean, and the black is the recorded value. The graph indicates that on December 6th, the system was in heavy use, but it was expected and not considered an outlier, this may be due to a system back-up for instance. However, from December 9-13 there was a significant increase that is not regarded as normal. Using this information, although no major fault may have occurred, an MSP could extrapolate potential vulnerabilities in the future.

 

System Automation Through Integration

System Automation Through Integration

I have the pleasure of working with dozens of engineers every month from companies all over North America. No matter the type of business they work for I have found they all have one thing in common – they’re all trying to maintain larger and more complex networks with a smaller team of staff.

Network management systems strive to automate the user experience, from the implementation of complex scheduling systems to the use of heuristics engines to assist with event handling. The one piece that is often missing is the maintenance of the monitoring solution itself. Recently Opmantek had the opportunity to address this issue head-on. What we did, how it works, and the results we achieved are the subject of this article.

Like many North American businesses, our client, a large multinational corporation, had grown over the years through several mergers and acquisitions. Their infrastructure management consisted of several disparate platforms from more than a dozen vendors.

Our implementation services include a series of up-front workshops designed to elicit information and feedback from all levels; engineer to upper management. When we conducted these investigative meetings we discovered many challenges and pain points specifically to our client’s business. We also learned that they had Service Now – a configuration management database (CMDB) – that was being used as the company’s single source of truth for all equipment inventory. This gave us an idea…

Service Now, like most modern CMDB systems, includes a very robust application programming interface (API). Using this API we were easily able to create an integration which would pull a list of active devices, compare them to the devices currently being monitored, and reconcile the list by adding new devices, updating existing devices, and even retiring devices from monitoring when they were marked as out of service.

Our architectural solution for this client included a series of geographically diverse polling engines all rolling-up to a series of redundant primary servers. Each layer offering multiple methods of redundancy and failover. Our integration with Service Now accounted for this, automating the assignment of devices to polling engines geographically, even supporting devices with different service levels; some need 1 or 2 assigned polling engines.

To further enhance the system, we also automated the assignment of devices to opConfig, our Configuration and Compliance Management solution and opEvents, our intelligent event management system which provides event correlation, deduplication, and action automation. These solutions were then complemented by the addition of opTrend, which expands on Opmantek’s already expansive thresholding and alerting system by implementing a highly flexible Statistical Exception Detection System (SEDS), Igor Trubin’s methodology, that learns what’s normal behavior on the client’s network and adjusts thresholding dynamically based on historical usage for every hour of each day of the week.

ServiceNowDiagram
Our Phase 1 implementation focused on network devices and have allowed the client to consolidate their monitoring platform to a single Opmantek based solution, decommissioning several other systems. In our next Phase, we will be automating the monitoring of their expansive server network. This effort will continue to leverage the information in Service Now; allowing us to monitor services and applications, generate synthetic transactions to exercise each application tier, and continue to expand their view across the enterprise through a single pane of glass.

The last piece of this puzzle was the addition of Service Assurance and Monitoring. This provides an additional layer of support through monthly server checks, software upgrades, and 24/7 monitoring of the monitoring solution. With these solutions in place the client needn’t worry that they will miss an event because their monitoring solution wasn’t up-to-date or worse, wasn’t functioning as designed.

In all, Opmantek’s integrated solution has now removed the maintenance needed to maintain most network monitoring systems, ensured all devices are properly monitored to the correct SLA and delivered an enterprise-class solution through a single pane of glass.