How to Select Your Managed Network Service Provider, Part 2
Selecting a managed network service (MNS) provider can be difficult considering the sheer variety of vendors and the diverse nature of the services they offer. From a buyer’s perspective, this is a daunting proposition since these engagements are long term. The consequences of a bad choice can directly affect an enterprise’s ability to function, as well as their bottom line.
In Part 1, we looked at how to compare vendors using a standardized approach (such as a standard RFP) to break down the bundle of network services they propose. In addition, we looked at the fact that some level of customization is almost always needed, but how this might lead to diminished quality and added costs.
All MNS providers leverage automation to realize the efficiencies of scale, to provide error-free execution of routinely conducted activities and to reduce the time-to-repair/respond to network issues. When considering an MNS vendor, their automation capabilities, coverage and maturity should be significant factors in making a selection.
Let’s look inside network performance and how MNS providers ensure overall performance and service availability.
Network Automation Performance
While all MNS providers depend on some level of network automation to deliver services, a major factor is how they perform. You can gauge this by requesting the vendor to provide KPI efficiencies related to automation for similar sized customer environments.
Let’s look at it from an incident management perspective. A useful metric to consider here is first-call resolution. This refers to the percentage of issues that are resolved in the first interaction with the MNS provider.
Now, these issues may be resolved manually or with some form of automated remediation. So, it’s useful to get the numbers from the provider to get a grasp on the performance of their network automation capabilities related to issue resolution.
Service Level Agreements
All MNS providers will submit a Service Level Agreement (SLA) along with their offering. The SLA describes the services to be provided and the metrics by which they will be measured. The SLA is probably the single most important artifact to avoid a mismatch in expectations that can lead to cost overruns and service availability issues further down the line.
It is important that the SLA clearly outlines the responsibilities of both the MNS provider and the customer from an accountability standpoint. The SLA should include availability levels for the MNS provider’s service delivery platform and Network Operations Center as well as the response times for incident and service management activities.
These response times can then be used to measure performance. For example, let’s consider what happens if the provider consistently falls behind the response time for incident acknowledgements as outlined in the SLA for a given period, say, one month. In such cases, it’s not uncommon to pre-agree on a clause for a penalty to be imposed on the monthly service fee to make up for the chronic breach of an agreed upon SLA metric.
Not all SLAs are equal. When selecting an MNS provider, the terms of the SLAs need to be carefully evaluated to ensure that they will suit the needs of you as a customer over the course of the engagement.
In Part 3, we’ll look at how the MNS provider actually manages the network infrastructure via its service delivery platform (SDP). We’ll look at SDP capabilities, including the user portal that you as a customer will interact with.