What to Know About Outsourced IT and After-Hours Data Center Coverage

Feb 15, 2017 5:48:30 PM

Three Major Factors That Negatively Influence After-Hours Performance

Our always-on global economy demands that today’s businesses operate 24x7x365 days a year. Despite the fuzzy demarcation line between our professional and our personal lives, most members of the workforce get to break away at the end of the business day, and kick back for an evening’s relaxation and needed “downtime."

For IT professionals, the separation between work life and professional life is even more indistinct. While the company’s marketing, sales, engineering, procurement, and other departments are able to put a hard stop on work tasks at day’s end, the organization’s enterprise computing activities continue to churn perpetually. Rest, or lack of vigilance and downtime for the organization’s enterprise IT operations signal the potential for catastrophe.

To avoid the risk of downtime, large companies with sizable operating budgets and IT teams, are apt to rotate workforce members to provide after-hours coverage, incentivizing them with overtime pay or compensatory time.  Often times, these large companies hire dedicated managers and technicians to staff their overnight and weekend operations. 

With tighter budgets and thinner operating teams, small-to-mid-size businesses (SMBs) often find themselves stymied to efficiently deploy the same after-hours coverage models as their larger counterparts.  While their IT departments efficiently cruise along during normal business hours, after-hours performance characteristically deteriorates as a result of three factors.

1. Budgetary Constraints

Many SMBs operate on tight budgets, and can’t afford to retain dedicated after-hours workers to handle second-shift, third-shift, and weekend coverage requirements. These businesses would have to add a minimum of at least two additional full-time employees to fill these coverage needs. While increasing the company’s payroll and overhead expenses, the added headcount would not be adding equivalent economies of scale, making the additions to staff fiscally irresponsible.

2. Employee Burn Out

After putting in a full day, IT techs are often tasked to double up on night shift coverage as frequently as several times a week. Even if the technicians are awarded comp time or overtime pay, working the extraordinarily long hours eventually takes a toll in terms of fatigue, lack of alertness, physical and mental stress, and even health risks. When repeatedly subjected to the demands of such a rigorous work schedule, otherwise loyal, high-potential employees may choose to move on to a role outside the company to achieve greater work/life balance and quality of life.  The organization risks the loss of a competent employee, and is faced with having to hire, onboard, and train a replacement. If the organization chooses not to change its after-hours coverage paradigm, the new employee will also burn out and require replacement again.

3. Off-Site Firefighting

When organizations use their full-time work staff to provide on-demand support, and technicians go home at the end of the day but remain on-call remotely, this model too is often met with less than satisfactory results.

Moreover, several glitches can occur:

  • The on-call technician might not be alerted to the issue because the person is unreachable.
  • The on-call technician may receive the alert and choose not to respond immediately.
  • The on-call technician may receive the alert, choose to respond immediately, and encounter a delay in getting to a location from which troubleshooting and resolution can be performed.

Regardless of the cause of the delay, the outcome is the same. The incident fails to be resolved expeditiously. Depending on the situation, a delayed response can have sizable consequences.  One such example is in the critical care industry, where patient health and safety is a foremost concern.  Should a server go down in a rehabilitation facility or assisted-living community, and prompt access to patient information isn’t available, or quickly restored, the outcome could be catastrophic.

Outsourced IT Services: A Cost-Effective Way to Bypass After-Hours Coverage Hurdles

To side-step these pain points, many SMBs choose to partner with a third-party maintenance provider to manage their service desk and systems monitoring needs.  These third-party maintenance providers (TPMs) can monitor all network devices, connections, and circuits; either on-site, remotely, or both. The firms can quickly respond to any and all incidents at any time of the day or night. They can monitor system performance; install patches; optimize databases; perform system upgrades; protect the system from external threats, and holistically minimize the adverse impact of service outages and performance issues.

Many of these organizations offer a centralized ticketing management system with task automation and customizable workflows; tracking and reporting, and much, much more. Through a single user interface, service requests, incidents, problems and change orders can all be managed efficiently and cost-effectively for far less than the annual cost of adding an additional full-time staff member to handle after-hours operations. SMBs benefit from high-performance at affordable price points, with flexible terms that match their needs.  These firms can also provide daytime coverage, complete data center management services, project management, and a host of other IT infrastructure services, enabling small businesses to focus their resources on delivering their core mission and enhancing customer value.