Hiring a database support service (DSS) vendor isn’t as difficult a decision as choosing the hardware and software you’ll be running on your IT estate but it’s not far off. Retaining the right one will relieve all kinds of operational headaches while hiring the wrong one could have far-reaching and disastrous consequences for everyone involved in the decision. It might result in the of a CIO, so it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. As with all things in IT operations, research is key. Because today’s systems are so incredibly complex and these systems are so unique, it’s imperative to find a partner who fits several prerequisites, including the following.
Proven Track Record for Database Management Services
Although working with startups has its place, it’s just not advisable to trust such an important area as support with a company that’s just coming online. This is your data, remember, in some ways your most prized asset, so you want to work with a company that has a long track record working with companies like yours.
Before trusting your data to any database support service, ask about their experience with other clients, any challenges they’ve successfully handled in the past, and any lessons learned from those issues. Proven competence is what you want to see as well as “an interest in managing everything from a standard scope of work to emergencies and complex problems with mission-critical systems,” says Alifiya Sadikali in his article 8 Questions to ask when choosing a database managed service provider.
The writer Mark Ambrose once said, “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” It works similarly for clients, too. Basic reference questions like how many customers they have, how many industries are these customers in, which verticals do they thrive in, and what size are these companies should all be asked.
Don’t just take client quotes from a DSS’s company website at face value. Dig in and make a few calls to talk to people they quote and find others who haven’t gone on the record. Check LinkedIn for contacts at some of the other companies mentioned on their client list but left out of the client quote section. You’d be surprised how many companies pad their resume with client company logos who might not be as complimentary of their services as they had imagined. It’s human nature to try to play down drama and conflict.
Humans prefer to focus on the positive, but that isn’t always helpful for a company looking for a support vendor. An honest assessment of a company’s services is the only thing that really matters. Talking to past clients is invaluable, especially the ones not listed on the vendor’s glossy client list. If you do find a disgruntled customer, remember there are probably considerably more unhappy ones out here who are just as disgruntled but unwilling to go public. There are plenty of tech review sites as well, filled with honest customer assessments.
Knowledge a Mile Wide but an Inch Thick
Is the database support service just dropping buzzwords for the sake of projecting expertise or do they really understand the concept they discuss? The IT world has become an acronym soup of buzzwords, some quite meaningless, some reused, all superficial. Delve deeper into some of the most essential and significant movements in IT. Can the database support service explain the meaning of AIOps or what technology it grew from? Can they have a knowledgeable discussion on the different types of databases used by their clients? Any that might correlate with your own?
Security, Security, Security
Seems every day that passes brings news of another hack stealing private information or costing millions of dollars in damages. As Sadikali states, managed service providers, including data support vendors, are not immune to these hacks, as was shown with the ‘Cloud Hopper’ attack a few years ago. More recently, as The Verge reports, the SolarWinds hack might have reached up to 250 U.S. government agencies and businesses and it might be far worse than initially thought and the perpetrators might have been able to view source code.
Sadikali recommends companies ask any shortlisted provider for proof that it “is in compliance with standards like SOC 2 Type II, GDPR, or NYDFS 23 NYCRR 500. Not every MSP can afford to comply with those tough standards, and that’s kind of the point: If the provider can’t afford the audits, you can’t afford to trust their security.”
Besides the above recommendations, you want to avoid a DSS vendor who can’t provide you with a single point of contact to serve your business. Running through a carousel of consultants means you lose out on the most important element of support, longevity. A loyal and sustained base of knowledge that builds up over time is what you want. It also shows a lack of dedication on the DSS’s part. A database support service that can’t deliver a dedicated support team should be cut from your list of potentials.
Other things to consider: does the DSS offer à la carte pricing, do they have 24/7 incident handling, what are their tiers of tech service? Is a month-to-month contract available? Are their industry partnerships robust and growing or just littered with the remnants of dying technology companies? Can the database support service provide authorized support from certified technicians on all the major cloud technology platforms?
Hiring a database support service vendor isn’t a life or death decision, obviously, but it might be one of the most important decisions a CIO makes. It’s not a decision to be taken lightly as choosing a bad one might not just cost them a job but also your own.