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Outsourcing storage maintenance

Opinion
Aug 28, 20033 mins
Data Center

* Handing over maintenance of your system to a third-party

Last time, I talked about the problem of having to manage multiple maintenance contracts in your computer room.  That of course is a time-consuming process, made all the more annoying by the fact that contracts invariably fall due in the last few weeks of a quarter, which clearly is when a business wants to worry about… its business.

That of course is only a lead-in to the real problem of having more than one maintenance agreement in your facility.

Remember the Scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz”?  When Dorothy and her oh-so-cute little dog look up at him for directions, he says something like “Some people go this way, some people go that way, and some people go both ways.” During this last statement, his right hand points to the left, his left hand pints to the right, and with his crossed arms pointing in opposite directions he provides IT with a perfect metaphor for the way vendors often treat users (he probably did this unthinkingly, because you all know what he didn’t have).

This of course represents the hardware vendor telling you it’s a software problem, the software helpdesk telling you it’s a hardware issue, and so on.  Actually, maybe the scarecrow metaphor isn’t so good after all.  He only has two arms.

The time that is lost sorting all this out, determining the root cause of a problem and which vendor has the responsibility for fixing it, can place an IT manager in an untenable situation.  He spends his time arguing with his vendors, which is certainly not the same thing as taking care of business. 

An alternative to all this is to hire out the storage maintenance responsibility to some organization willing to take on the task of managing the maintenance of the whole floor. This would be irrespective of how many vendors you have, who the vendors are, or whether or not the problem turns out to be hardware- or software-related.  Ideally this means finding a company willing to write a single service-level agreement (SLA) for your whole IT system, and not just for the individual parts within that system.

I’ve talked many times in the past about the value of analyzing things as whole systems rather than as assemblages of individual subcomponents and I still submit that it is the only way to really optimize an environment.  Can you find someone out there to take on all this responsibility and offer what in essence becomes a single SLA for your whole IT shop?  You bet. 

There are lots of companies willing to let you give them your money.  Which one is best for you?  The one that best addresses your own set of requirements.  But what should you demand from any potential third-party service supplier?  That’s my topic next time.