Infrastructure Audit

We may be building a reputation for delivering high-quality outsourced IT support for organisations of all sizes, across all sectors, but once the ink is dry on the contract, how do we bring new clients into our management?

Here I will explain the process undertaken by myself as Head of Technical Services and my team of Technical Consultants.

When a prospect is considering a switch in support provider, what is the first thing we do?

Our involvement with the customer typically precedes the contract signing, when they are just a prospect and involves us undertaking a comprehensive ‘infrastructure audit’.

We also undertake infrastructure audits after new customers come on board, often when serious issues with their legacy support has required a considered, but swift change of service provider.

The audit will highlight potential issues and risks, together with any legacy problems relating to hardware, apps, security, third-party software etc., to help us develop a plan to resolve all the issues identified.

Is it just problems we are looking for?

Understanding the problems is only half the job.

The reasons an organisation might be looking for a managed IT solution can vary significantly; often the support currently being provided does not match the needs or ambitions of the organisation closely enough and problems have mounted.

Or, organisations recognise the likely cost-effectiveness of outsourcing the day-to-day IT support that allows in-house resources to be switched to more profitable or productive activities.

The audit will also help us identify areas for long-term improvement and the on-going strategic development of the client’s IT estate – new products, new services, upcoming projects, etc.

It is essential we look beyond the immediate fixes needed on day one, to ensure the customer’s IT system and infrastructure is an enabler for growth, not a stumbling block.

What areas of the prospect/client’s infrastructure are we concerned with?

It is too easy to say everything, but we really do consider every aspect of the system. We look at Networks, Servers, Storage, Desktops, Telephony, Mobile and Applications.

The audit, carried out with the help of the organisation’s IT team, if they have one, takes into account and assesses the system, whether it is Cloud-based, On-Premise or a Hybrid mix of the two.

We will usually take photographs to support our recommendations, with some revealing real problems that engineers have likened to crime-scene evidence – some of the infrastructure howlers we see, really are that bad!

How do we present the findings?

We provide a detailed, but not overly long report. The client is usually aware of some of the problems and often just needs to know the headlines, what risk is posed and what we would do to resolve the situation – we’re not in the habit of writing long technical reports just to prove we are geeks.

We start with the critical activities that will require immediate attention. In a typical audit we might find a problem with the backups and report it:

Subject: Inadequate backups (Data Loss and Business Interruption Risk).

Finding: The current backup infrastructure doesn’t include all servers and system states, meaning there is a significant risk of permanent data loss.

Recommendation: To put in place a hardware/software solution to include all servers and the associated system state. The options (high level) are reflected in the separate ‘Backup and DR Recommendations’ report, as requested.

Once the contract is signed, Quiss uses the audit report to track and implement agreed change. In this instance, a New Storage and Backup solution was implemented within weeks, to remove the significant risk.

Once the client has reviewed the audit and agreed a support contract, what happens next?

Once we have celebrated a job well done, usually one of two things happens next:

  • We perform a full replacement of all hardware (server and desktops) over a full weekend, or
  • We perform a staged update or migration of existing IT systems over a number of months

Again, with an understanding of the issues and what the client hopes to achieve, we support both options with a full architectural design, utilising Cloud, On-premise or Hybrid solutions.

Once we have on-boarded the client, how else does the Technical Consultancy team get involved?

During the life of a contract, we continue to work closely with customers, typically communicating on a weekly or monthly basis, dependent on the appetite for change, to implement new projects.

This work on new or innovative projects is often undertaken in conjunction with the important remedial work identified in the audit.

At Quiss we have an excellent helpdesk team, with experienced support analysts who solve problems and don’t just answer calls and take messages. When issues become deeply technical, then it’s my team that handles escalations for all customers – whether handled remotely or with a site visit.

I like to think we also help the sales team win new customers with our research and development activities (new products/services) helping identify improved solutions to the problems organisations face.

What particularly topical issues are our team responsible for?

The single biggest issue at present is IT Security Management and how we help clients mitigate the risk of cyber-attack is a daily responsibility. Whether that’s helping them achieve Cyber Essentials Plus or by Vulnerability Testing their IT system ourselves. We have products such as ‘Phishing Tackled’, which tests user awareness of email vulnerabilities so businesses can address where employees are not being diligent with common threats; it requires continuous attention.

What makes the team happy?

No, not just shiny new pieces of technology, that’s a geek myth. We make significant improvements to the systems we work with; everything from resilience of the systems, appending capacity, removing security flaws and mitigating significant business risks – all of which makes us happy, it’s what we do it for.

Knowledge is also a key driver to the success of the team and the wider business. The team has to be highly skilled across multiple platforms and applications in order to achieve the outcomes expected of us.

Therefore, we constantly educate and certify against the latest products and solutions from leading vendors like Microsoft, Citrix, VMware etc. and there is always one of the team taking an exam or sitting with their head buried in a technical manual.

It’s also important we discuss problems the team are tackling, to share best practice when a resolution is achieved, so any similar problem that occurs on another system can be solved quickly and easily.

Finally, what’s the one thing that really winds me up?!

Although I don’t think I suffer from OCD, badly wired server cabinets really annoy me. I often come across them on audits and it’s hard to not unplug everything and start again, right there and then – I really get twitchy fingers when the wires spill out in all directions, like Medusa’s head on a bad day!

Seriously though, untidy cabling with power, LAN and fibre cables all wrapped around one another, can cause damage to delicate fibre cables if disrupted, which in turn could cause a service outage – sorry, my inner geek surfaced for a minute!

I hope you found this an informative insight into the activities of our Technical Consultants – if you have any questions, please get in touch.

Rohen Farmer, Head of Technical Services, Quiss Technology plc

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