25 May Your Virtual IT Department
One of the big unreasonable fears expressed by Information Technology (IT) professionals in the early days of cloud computing was the question of how they could possibly manage servers that were located in some distant data center.
Unreasonable because, with a secure internet connection, it hardly mattered where the server was located. They would connect the same console software to the server and do the same things they would do were the server right there in the room with them.
Shared Pool of Resources
Over time those technologists became comfortable with the idea of dynamically sharing a pool of server, storage, and other resources housed in a data center somewhere beyond their own four walls.
The concept of sharing a pool of resources that can be quickly requested and just as quickly released is a core component of the definition of cloud computing. Memory, processor power and more can be accessed by any user via a self-service portal, and returned to the pool when no longer needed. Sharing pooled resources instead of over-provisioning dedicated resources to each user creates tremendous economies that form the foundation of the cloud value proposition.
Sharing Support as a Pooled Resource
When you look at IT support there are really two separate strategies required.
Core – The first is the network “core” support strategy. How to maintain the servers, the storage, the routers and switches, and the rest of the central infrastructure that runs the network. With cloud computing, responsibility for core support transfers to the cloud service provider. The cost of this support is folded into the fee you pay for the service.
Edge – The second strategy is somewhat trickier because it involves what those IT professionals like to refer to as the most difficult part of a network to manage, the segment between the keyboard and the back of the chair, the user.
Users require support whenever something doesn’t perform as expected. Whether due to a malfunction, or an incorrect expectation, the user experiences a lack of certainty as to how to proceed. The prudent next step is to request support.
This used to be one of those areas in which larger corporations had a substantial advantage because they could justify the expense of staffing their own Help Desk to provide needed user support.
However, many midmarket and smaller companies have realized the same results by simply sharing from a pool of support resources, a Virtual IT Department!
A well-designed Virtual IT Department achieves maximum economies by layering multiple strategies into place to provide lowest-cost support wherever possible.
They examine which questions are asked most often and provide answers to these on a Self-Support Portal where users can access the answers instantly without waiting for a person to respond.
If the user’s question cannot be answered by the self-support portal it is routed immediately to one of a team of support generalists who can either answer it or route it to the appropriate specialist for reply.
If the issue is being caused by a mis-configuration or other technical flaw, the specialists can reach in with online tools to resolve it remotely.
If similar issues are coming in from multiple users, the support software can correlate all the requests to help with root-cause determination.
If the root-cause is a physical problem with a piece of equipment or connecting cables, a field technician can be dispatched to the site where the equipment resides so they can correct it swiftly. In the meantime, the support team can be notifying all users of temporary workarounds as necessary.
The Flexible Support Solution
As with all virtual solutions, a new degree of flexibility is introduced that can significantly improve the speed and quality of support service delivery. Customized support can be added for line-of-business applications specific to a given customer set simply by training specialists on those platforms. Alerts, advisories, notifications and other communications are highly facilitated by direct access to the network.
The key to establishing or accessing a successful Virtual IT Department is in the development of an appropriate and effective strategy.