For channel partners, service reigns supreme
Service has always had a major role to play for VARs, integrators and others in the channel. Very often, the level and availability of service is a crucial portion of the 'added value' that a VAR brings to the table. That means their suppliers need to be equally able to support their service, so end users can actually get what they need. That's more true now than ever.
This is because the nature of IT sales and IT projects has changed in recent years. Historically, a vendor might have supplied the equipment and installed the infrastructure to make a particular project work. After that, their support would have largely been on a 'break-fix' model, i.e. if a piece of equipment stopped working, then it would be fixed or replaced.
Now, the market has moved to an 'as-a-service' model – emphasis on the ‘service’. Rather than a one-off big sale, VARs and other channel partners look to receive a lower, but sustained charge each month. There's less of an emphasis owning the hardware, and more on the way it serves day-to-day operations in a trouble-free, reliable manner. But, of course, holding onto such customers depends on keeping them happy, which is very much related to the quality and level of service they receive.
How much service in your service?
Of course, cloud providers also operate on an 'as-a-service' model. But a key differentiator between different providers is how much 'service' is actually available. At mass-scale vendors, the model is largely 'self-service'. Clients are expected to be able to set-up and maintain their own cloud infrastructure, and if there's a problem they can't solve, there's perhaps an email address with an expected 24-hour reply time – quite a long time if your business’ operations depends on uptime.
For VARs and other channel partners, this poses a considerable challenge. If they are to provide the levels of support their own customers expect, they'll need to invest heavily in creating a well-staffed helpdesk, their own NOCs (Network Operations Centre) and the wide range of expertise to cover all of the different disciplines required to keep cloud infrastructure and applications running.
A further complication comes from the fact that most organisations now have multicloud arrangements, and that's not a trend that's likely to go away. There are different strengths to different platforms, so that a combination of VMWare, HyperV and Microsoft Azure might be used to host different applications or serve different territories. From a commercial perspective, many organisations are wary of having their entire business tied to one provider, and there may well also be cost advantages to splitting the load between providers. Needless to say, though, the use of more cloud service providers multiplies the support workload and expertise required.
So for all of these reasons, VARs and other channel partners have looked to Navisite to ease their support workload. Because each relationship is different, there's no one-size-fits-all support offering - rather, we offer flexible support model: a sliding scale of options to suit the needs of each partner. But at every level, our clients benefit from a 24/7/365 0800 support number that's staffed by qualified engineers.
Proximity brings support closer
Our Proximity Client Portal is our main support tool, however. This brings a 'single pane of glass' to every part of the client's infrastructure, be it VMWare, Microsoft Azure or Office 365. It also hosts our ticketing system for support enquiries. This creates a coherent, single portal for managing accounts and significantly reduces the overhead of multicloud environments.
Uniquely in our industry, the Proximity portal can also be integrated with partners' own ticketing and support environments. They can manage queries and requests from customers themselves, of course, but if a particular ticket needs to be escalated to a Navisite engineer, then doing so can happen automatically through the API. This is enormously helpful to our clients, meaning tickets do not need to be reproduced manually, can't be forgotten, aren't duplicated and can't be miscommunicated. The time-savings and improvements to efficiency can be quite considerable, depending on the volume of tickets in question.
Not all guarantees are equal
We advise channel vendors to look carefully at the SLAs offered by providers. The most important of these is uptime, of course. What our partners' end users are looking for is that their applications are available and there are no hiccups in the service. For Navisite's own data centres, we offer an uptime SLA of 'five nines', that is, 99.999 per cent of time, the service will be fully operational.
The second SLA that vendors should inspect carefully is the service level guarantee: how quickly do they promise to respond? How quickly will an issue be resolved? As we've discussed, this is one of the important ways in which channel vendors can distinguish managed and cloud service providers from each other. Navisite are always here; always ready to help with anything from the initial architecture to changing the whole thing to support new services.