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Is It Possible To Have High Availability in Outsourced IT Services?

The answer is a cautious "yes." Outsourcing doesn't equate to abandonment, especially if you want to achieve high availability from such services. It requires a change in management practices, close monitoring of the service suppliers, and identification of alternate sources of said services in case of supplier failures. Done right, outsourcing can help you focus on your core business expertise; but done wrongly, outsourcing can end up costing you more effort and resources trying to make up for poor service provided by your service provider, making the outsourcing effort not worth it.

Here's a quick checklist to consider when evaluating your potential outsourcing contract:

  • Ensure that service availability hours at least match—if not exceed—your system's committed availability hours.

  • Ask for service performance guarantees in writing. Some penalties should be associated with inability to meet these targets.

  • Require a comprehensive list of responsibilities not only for the service supplier but also from your end. Again, this should be part of the service contract.

  • Support coverage hours should be defined, including the different means of invoking this support—which should consist of more than one means and include access to real-time live-person support when necessary. Ask to be assigned primary and secondary contact people who will be in-charge of your account for non-immediate requirements.

  • Response times to support requests should be specified according to different problem types and their severity.

  • A good support policy should include escalation procedures that can go all the way to the outsource provider's senior management team. If they're serious about providing good service, there's no reason why they should hold back on giving you contact information for those in their support hierarchy.

  • Contract termination clauses and implications must be specified for both parties. This includes the conditions for allowing contract to end prematurely, penalties for either party, and exemptions from damages as a result of acts of God or nature, or forces beyond one's normal control (terrorist acts included).

  • The contract should include terms and conditions for continuation of said contract. It's better that the contract have an auto-renewal clause so that there is no service interruption just because of negligence on either party to renegotiate the contract.

  • Include a clause that covers you against sudden permanent service interruption, such as assistance in finding and migrating to another provider and making available all required information pertaining to your service for a certain period after termination of the outsourcing service.

  • Terms and conditions on adjustments to pricing should be included in the contract, such as amount of time prior to effective date of adjustment, a range of percentage increase allowed, and price protection for a certain period of time.

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