Support

Services Support

SUPPORT

When sourcing the right software solution for your business, one of the most important factors in your decision will be the relationship with the supplier and the on-going technical support they offer. Below are some key areas you should consider when defining the service levels of your hosted solution with the provider.

RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE SUPPLIER

With the agreement, there should be a section that explicitly states the responsibilities of the Supplier. The level of responsibilities detailed in this section should directly reflect the level of service or package you have purchased. Here are examples of responsibilities that could be detailed for your hosting supplier:

  • Uptime/Downtime – What is their commitment to uptime? If they have planned downtime, how is this communicated? If they have unplanned downtime, do they have a process in place to restore services, and can they commit to a resolution time? Can they provide a history of their performance?
  • Access and Security – What are their controls for access both physical and soft access? Do they employ security measures such as firewall, anti-virus, and intrusion detection? Do they have a process in place to address detected security breaches?
  • Data Back-up – What is their method for data back-up? Where are back-up files stored and how long are they kept? Do they monitor their process for data back-up and how do they ensure data integrity of the back-up is maintained?
  • Confidentiality – What information of yours will remain confidential? In many supplier/customer relationships, confidentiality is assumed, but it is always good practice to have it in writing.
  • Data Retention – Who owns the data, and how is this retrieved and returned to the client if services are terminated? What policies are employed by the supplier for data retention? If you, as a client, have alternative requirements, it is necessary to detail these requirements in the agreement.

RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE CLIENT

Likewise, it is just as important to detail responsibilities of yourself as the client. Below, we describe a few areas that a client will hold responsibility in a hosted solution relationship:

  • Internet Access – With a hosted solution, this means you will be accessing your cloud storage via the internet. The supplier has responsibilities of keeping your services online, and in return, as the client, it will be your responsibility to ensure your local internet access is maintained.
  • Hardware Support – Similarly to Internet access, you will have an inventory of hardware and components to maintain to ensure you have the facility to access the application provided by the supplier. It is important to understand the minimum system requirements of the application (hosted software solution) to ensure you can maintain access to your data. As a general rule of thumb, it is best to phase out hardware and software components that are no longer supported by the manufacturer. For example, upgrading operating systems from Windows Vista to the latest version as Windows Vista is no longer supported by Microsoft come April 11, 2017.
  • Contingency Process – In the event of downtime, it is best practice to have a back-up process to revert to when the system is unavailable. Having a contingency process in place ensures that your business operations can continue seamlessly during transition of both planned and unplanned downtimes.

 

PROCESS FOR TECHNICAL SUPPORT

What is the method for reporting queries, bugs, and requests to the supplier? Most hosted solution providers have a ticketing system that provides traceability and progress tracking of customer queries. Understanding the process for logging tickets, obtaining resolution actions and ticket closure will ensure that each query you have is addressed appropriately within the agreed response times. 

 

CHANGES OR TERMINATION OF SERVICES

It’s unrealistic to think that the services you need now from the supplier will remain the same for the next 10 years.  Therefore, it is best to understand how changes can be initiated and implemented or even terminate services.

The process for initiating and implementing changes has to work for both you and the supplier.  As a client, you need to ensure you will have the means to test any changes to the service before they are executed into your live environment.  This helps to identify potential issues which may occur and ultimately provides a seamless implementation.  The supplier needs to ensure they have the appropriate resources to support your requests for implementing changes, especially where out of hours’ implementation is a requirement.

For termination of services, consider detailing the process for requesting termination. Depending on the impact the application has to your business operations as the client, you may want to consider a written 6-months’ notice. If you receive a notice for termination of services from your supplier now, what time frame would you need to source and implement an alternative solution and transfer your data?  Once services are terminated what information of yours is kept or destroyed and how is it destroyed?

 

SERVICE REVIEW

Service Reviews are an excellent forum to discuss what works and what doesn’t work with the services or the relationship between the client and supplier.  Things to consider are frequency of service reviews, what items will be reviewed and how the review outcome is reported and communicated.

 

BUSINESS CONTINUITY

When a disaster strikes, does your supplier have a process in place to ensure services are fully restored? Although disasters are unlikely to happen, it is best to have a plan of action to follow and ensure the expectations of both the supplier and yourself as the client are thoroughly understood.