#FridayFive: Managed Services


Managed Services experts Alan Warren and Thomas Krizan discuss the changing space of the server industry and how customer experience is key to success.

What kind of automated tests are done on the environments to ensure customer satisfaction?

We use a variety of tools. Our most important monitors pretend to be users. They go through the website and perform tasks such as adding an item to the cart, removing it from the cart, adding a different item and then checking out. These monitors are valuable because they give us insight into a realistic user experience. We can then ensure the customer is not experiencing issues with the website.
Other monitors of ours are more simple –checking the server health and the application uptime.
Outside of monitoring, we can take proactive steps to ensure there’s no issues that cause monitors to trigger, or worse the customer experiences an issue, in the future. Such things could be making sure there is enough space for growth for the software. If the software fills up it’s allocated space, it wouldn’t be able to take new orders or show content updates since there’s no where to put it. Other proactive items are ensuring the latest security patches are applied to the software.


 2. How is the support process different than development?

Production support teams are the resources who maintain software applications which are currently in use. The support process is used to manage and maintain systems that have very strict controls regarding access, deployments of new code, and overall security including file encryption, and layered authorizations to the systems. They must meet PCI requirements to be effective and secure. Developers are the coders who write the software apps from requirements and have the ability to compile code in their environments (which should never be done in a production system). 
Developers do not have direct access to supported systems but are valuable because they understand the necessary requirements of the code, whereas support teams have direct access from Developers through Production environments.


3. How has virtualization changed the server industry?

Virtualization of servers has a real efficiency advantage. Instead of paying for expensive hardware per server, we get a highly powered server that we can split into many smaller servers. Since not all servers are going to busy at the exact same time, this allows for less idle time on the master server (called a Hypervisor) and helps reduce environmental impact since there’s less hardware running.
Virtualization also allows for quick setup. Instead of spending a large amount of time setting up the software we can now build from template servers that automatically setup tedious tasks such as networking, disk space allocation, and basic monitoring.


4. With Operations, DevOps, QA and development staff in Managed Services, how does one role support the other?

When issues appear in production, Operations attempts to isolate log messages related to the incident. This is then handed off to the development team for further analysis in the source code. Once development creates a fix they work with DevOps to push it into a special environment that mimics production for QA to test and look for any new issues that may have been inadvertently introduced. Since Managed Services has all of these people working together on a number of different projects, we can push out fixes within a day if the issue is severe enough and requires it.


5. Is there a customer service element to your job?

Our Tier 1 support staff is our first point of contact during business hours. They handle most client communication and documentation. The relationships they build with the client also help the client clearly communicate their desired outcomes from the ticket. This helps the people that aren’t the most technical. It can take time to get a mutual understanding at this level. Outside of business hours we have a call center staff that will log severe requests only. During off-hours support, we are tasked with responding to off-hour support tickets if they are of the highest severity which leaves us calling the client while simultaneously fixing the issue.

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