• United States

Lessons from the trenches

Aug 25, 20044 mins
Enterprise Applications

* EMA’s own experience with outsourcing

Those of you who follow this space regularly may remember that a few weeks ago my company decided to outsource our entire IT function to a local MSP/ASP (MASP) called JustConnect, now a part of MicroSource.

The reasons for making this move included cost savings, increased productivity for our workforce, and higher levels of service (not to mention that I have been handling our IT function, and I don’t want to be an IT guy – been there, done that).

MicroSource (MSI) provides a fully supported Citrix-based desktop and takes over network and (optionally) desktop management duties. The company provides a 24-7 help desk for users to call into and tracks all issues using CRM software – both of which are minimum requirements for a MASP, in my opinion.

Part of the justification for outsourcing was financial. ROI calculations showed we could realize a 100% payback on the annual cost of service within a quarter using a simple comparison of MSI’s costs compared with the costs of a full-time IT person and other IT-related capital and operational expenditures. An even bigger “soft” benefit not included in the calculation was increased productivity by allowing our users to work anytime, nearly anywhere, while still enjoying the same desktop environment that they use when they are in the office.

The final justification was disaster recovery. Not having our data and applications hosted in a real carrier-grade data center (that we could never afford to build ourselves) was a major concern of mine. With MSI, all of our data would be stored on and backed up from a storage-area network. If all of our offices were to disappear tomorrow, our entire IT infrastructure would remain intact and available.

Unbeknownst to us, we would take immediate advantage of this feature.

During migration planning, I set an aggressive date for cutover to MSI – two weeks from contract signing. The reason for this was simple. We were moving our office just a week after the cutover date, and I wanted to have our IT virtualized prior to the move. MSI delivered in spades – it not only met the planned cutover date, but also beat it by two days.

Exactly one week before our move I drove our servers down to their data center (on a Friday evening), and the following Monday morning we were live with Citrix-hosted desktops, Office 2003, and an MSI-hosted Exchange server. Granted, we did not have all of our applications virtualized, but 95% of our mission-critical systems were online and available.

That Friday, we performed our physical move. We hired an independent telephone contractor to move our phone systems, and the contractor also offered to help us move our T-1 line (bad idea). To make a long story short, the order for the T-1 move was either not entered or executed properly and today (four days after our move), we still have no data connectivity in our office.

Not to worry – since all of our IT is virtualized, I just told everyone to work from home until the T-1 line is in place. Our company has been able to maintain productivity through the entire move, saving us tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue, and that makes a big difference when you’re a small company. Now that is ROI you can take to the bank.

I have a few minor bones to pick with MSI around service-level agreements and the migration planning process (which will no doubt become the topics of future articles), but overall we are extremely happy with the levels of service and the responsiveness and technical acumen of the staff. For example, MSI has gone beyond the call of duty, helping us escalate our T-1 problems with our telco. Without its help, I believe we could have been without our T-1 for many more days or even weeks.

I welcome your ideas, suggestions and comments on the subject of outsourcing; my e-mail address is below.