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IT Insight: The benefits of 24X7 support

“Working 9 to 5” … when was the last time any of us worked those hours? Remote workforce technology has changed that forever. With the ability for employees to collaborate at anytime from anywhere in the world, the need for 24X7 IT Support is greater than ever. Clients have learned to expect on-demand response and immediate gratification. Any IT failure or downtime can have a major impact on your employees as well as your customer’s experience and your own brand as well. Downtime can cost your company a significant amount money and have a huge impact on your revenues and payroll expenses.

How can you protect the integrity of your business and those benefiting from that? A thorough proactive IT management strategy includes working with a provider that offers a true 24X7, 365 days a year monitoring and support of your network. Your employees that now work outside of normal business hours may need support with server or network issues, even when they are working odd hours, to be productive.

What should a thorough 24X7, 365 days a year support plan look like for your business?

A 24X7 user help desk can address most remote user issues. It should provide chat and phone access. All help desk incidents and requests should be addressed at any time of the day or night – provided that the required permissions are in place. Some examples of the 24X7 Help Desk would be VPN issues, password resets, printing, email, and access to applications.

Additionally, a 24X7 Network Operations Center (NOC), which monitors and remotely remediates server issues and key network infrastructure should be included in your plan. For servers, that should include restart and reboot, resolution of capacity and process overruns. For server-based applications and services: restart, reboot, stop.

Network Operations Center 24X7 service should monitor and remotely remediate network services and major network devices such as firewalls, managed switches and wi-fi controllers. Remediations for network services can provide contacting your ISP to address an outage, by rebooting your cable modem. For major network devices it would reboot and invoke a backup path. In-depth monitoring requires a lightweight, on-premises device (commonly known as a “Probe”) to gather metric data from within your network. Many situations can arise where the NOC can resolve issues independent of any ‘boots on the ground’ assistance, by utilizing a dedicated PC referred to as a “Jumpbox”. Leveraging both tools, a NOC can provide considerable peace of mind by mitigating, if not preventing, expensive downtime, especially after-hours.

You will want to provide access for authorized users on your staff to be able to communicate with your Network Operations Center. These permissions could include reporting a server or network issue that is causing service problems, requesting detailed information on a server/network issue in service, requesting a specific action from the NOC (such as a reboot) or authorizing an action requested by the NOC (such as an ISP failover or a recovery from your backup) that is outside the standing service rules established for that client or device.

A 24X7 Security Operations Center, (SOC),  should monitor and offer remediation of workstations and servers for security events. Remediations available should include stopping or quarantining a suspicious process and removing a device from the network. Cyber criminals are not generally on “business hours” and tend to prefer the times when they are least likely to be discovered. Some examples of this occur when the SOC detects some malicious code (Ransomware), an unauthorized user is trying to copy data or change a password. The goal of the SOC is to mitigate any unusual activity during and after hours to stop your company from having a ransom attack and cause serious company downtime and/or media attention.

Real-time communication by phone and by an online chat connection provides the fastest response time after hours, with traditional Help Desk providing access by phone and email support with technicians during business hours. Your plan should also provide for out-of-hours onsite support if necessary. Of course, dual redundant network, server, storage, firewall, ISP, and data center configurations will maintain service in most instances of hardware or Internet service failure. Regular testing needed to confirm that the redundant systems will operate as intended when needed and can deploy or advise on other elements of a high availability data center such as back-up power should be part of that plan.

For clients with the highest requirements for service availability, a high availability system designed for your network and data center configurations will maintain service in most instances of hardware or Internet service failure. These include dual redundant network configurations using two or more independent ISP circuits, supported by dual load-balancing firewalls.

A top managed service provider should offer your business all the above-mentioned necessities to choose from. 24X7 IT support will reduce your downtime, increase employee productivity, and maximize your security. But the largest benefit and value to a business owner is peace of mind by reducing stress on both employees and management, and not having to worry that tight deadlines will be derailed by IT mishaps.

Proactive IT support protects your business inside and out so you and your team can focus on business at hand.  Eliminate downtime that impacts your bottom line. Call your managed services and security provider today and sleep well tonight.

JoAnn Hodgdon is vice president and co-founder of Portsmouth Computer Group (PCGiT) with her husband David. PCG provides comprehensive managed IT services, business continuity, security, cloud computing and Virtual CIO services to their clients.  You may reach her at joann@pcgit.com  or at www.pcgit.com.