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Careful Planning, Communication Critical in Selecting Managed Network Service Provider, says Verizon Business

April 2008 by Verizon Business

You’re the top information technology (IT) professional for a large business or government agency. You’ve already transitioned to an Internet protocol (IP) network, and you want to make sure you are using your network to its full strategic potential.

With limited in-house technical resources and personnel, how do you balance management of this complex network with other critical business initiatives to meet your strategic goals and objectives? How do you enhance employee productivity, connect remote workers and leverage next-generation applications such as unified communications and collaboration? In short, how do you enable your network to match your business potential?

The answer starts with selecting the right managed service provider. Verizon Business offers the following tips to help chief information officers and IT professionals select a provider that can enable their organizations to better focus on their core business goals:

Evaluate service provider capabilities. Does the managed service provider offer a wide range of services, including security and network professional services capabilities that match your specific requirements? Can the provider help you use IP to transform your business and better serve your customers? Can you start with a limited engagement and add services as business requirements evolve? How quickly can the provider integrate new technology into your service package? Does the provider offer management on a wide range of equipment vendor platforms, devices and applications?

Assess breadth of technological and personnel expertise. Has the service provider consistently invested in people, processes and technology? How many employees hold certifications? Are technicians certified across a wide range of products? How current are certifications? Are network control facilities ISO9001 certified? What about processes and procedures? Has the provider invested in automated fault isolation and capabilities to issue trouble tickets?

Determine service provider financial stability and long-term commitment. Are industry analysts and news reports positive about the service provider’s future prospects and fiscal health? Does it have a history of and commitment to investing in new capabilities and services? Does it invest in new technology platforms? Will it evolve with the ever-changing technology environment? Can the provider detail recent investments in systems and personnel?

Investigate past performance and check customer references. How long has the provider been offering managed services? How many customer networks and devices are currently under management? Are these numbers growing? Can the provider provide customer references? What do these references have to say about the performance of the provider?

Discuss strategic partnerships. Does the service provider offer and support equipment from multiple vendors? What about its strategic relationships with key network management vendors? Can your existing equipment be retained, or will new equipment purchases be necessary?

Obtain detailed service level agreement documentation. What types of service level agreements are available? Do they vary in different parts of the world? Are there multiple classes of service? Are the service level agreements based on actual repair times or just average response times?

Request fully documented service resolution procedures. How does the service provider handle service-affecting events in a multi-vendor environment? How quickly can the provider respond? How will the provider communicate with you? Can it provide detailed information on change-management processes and methodologies? How is problem resolution handled? Who handles problem resolution activities? Does the service provider use automated systems to reduce response times and solve network issues? Can it provide relevant statistics?

Determine geographic fit and resource availability. Does the service provider have a network footprint – national and international – that matches your business? What about personnel and other resources? Does the provider offer staff augmentation services, if required? Where are the closest facilities?

Identify the scope and scale of service provider responsibility. Will the service provider take responsibility for your entire network from end-to-end? How does the provider communicate with other carriers? Via e-mail? Via e-bonding? How will the provider communicate with you, and vice versa?

Tour network management facilities and meet key personnel. Will your account be serviced by a dedicated team? What type of information does the service provider deliver? Are network engineering resources available to interpret network performance data? What about built-in system redundancy and related processes and procedures? Does the provider have a plan to maintain continued operations during unforeseen circumstances?

Communicate. Will technical staff be in contact on a day-to-day basis? Does the service provider consider its staff an extension of your own? How do you contact technical or network management staff? What about communications with senior service provider staff? How often will the provider have strategic discussions with you?

While tips can be helpful, selecting the right provider to handle day-to-day network management and related activities, including security and network professional services, requires more than just a check list.

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