Outsourcing Web Hosting support – Questions to ask your provider

While Technical support has traditionally been considered an inhouse forte, Web Hosting companies are now trying a combination of InHouse and remote teams. Round the clock support and better expertise at lower costs are driving Web Hosts to consider outsourcing at least part of their support.

What does a Web Host need to consider when outsourcing to a 3rdparty Tech support company? Experience, technical expertise, Staff Qualifications, infrastructure, accountability, communication, quality and more. This article presents a Checklist of questions to ask your Outsourced provider, should you decide to outsource.

Questions to ask your Outsourcing provider

Qualifications of your staff. Are they Engineers?

When you recruit for Technical Support Engineers InHouse, you can see and talk to the new recruit. Your InHouse techs are always under your direct supervision. While a College degree is a benefit, you can compromise on qualifications, as long as its working for you.

When you outsource however, whether inside or outside US, you can’t have remote techs under your direct physical supervision. Therefore proper qualifications act as a standard to measure the expertise of a tech to a certain extent. It is always a safe bet to insist on a good College degree, especially an Engineering degree in Computer Science or Electronics.

Many Tech support companies save money by employing students, people who have completed short term tech courses, and even people with non-technical degrees. This is like recruiting a lab technician instead of a doctor to do a surgery.

An engineer (like a doctor) has had 4 years of hard work studying Operating systems, Networking and Languages. Would you trust a student with your servers or a thorough and Qualified professional who knows what he is talking about. A good Outsourcing provider will always recruit Computer Science or Electronics Engineers.

If you decide to outsource to a provider, ask them –

  • Does your staff have Engineering degrees?

Gauge the Experience of your provider

You would always check the experience of a new recruit. Shouldn’t you check your provider’s experience as well, especially if they are going to provide you with the same Technical support.

Collective experience of a Technical Support company is extremely important. If your InHouse tech faces a new problem, he/she will have no one to turn to for help. In an experienced Technical Support company, the same issue has probably already surfaced and a solution arrived at. Engineers have a reservoir of talent pool around them. Result? Faster and better resolution.

In Bobcares, for example, we have over a 100 engineers who work on thousands of technical tickets everyday. Our engineers have seen it all and can almost anticipate the kind of problems a server can face, simply by studying the way it is setup, and the kind of customers on it. They are expert consultants who routinely advise Web Hosts on preventive measures.

The Bobcares Collective Technical Experience clock started ticking from 2000. Bobcares engineers are in a position to advise Web Hosts on the standard systems in the Web Hosting industry, the best software and Best practices.

If you decide to outsource to a provider, ask them –

  • How long have you been in existence?
  • What is your collective experience?
  • What is the average experience of your staff ?

Quality – Do you have Certification to back it up.

Many Outsourced Service providers say they have the best quality. Who says so? Most probably they are the only ones who say so.

Do they have Certification to back up their claims. Does a 3rdparty Certification authority audit them at least once a year to back up what they say.

Bobcares for example is ISO 9001:2000 certified by American Quality Assesors(AQA) for the last 3 years. What does such a certification mean to a customer? It means that Bobcares keeps up to all the Quality promises we make on our website. An AQA auditor visits our facility every year and checks the work we do and the systems we maintain. We get to keep our certification only if they are convinced that we are every bit as good as we claim to be.

If you decide to outsource to a provider, ask them –

  • Do you have certification to backup your Quality claims

Accountability – Can you sue your provider

Many times Web Hosts shy away from outsourcing because they feel they can’t control the situation should something go wrong. It is important to be able to hold the provider liable should they not deliver on their contract.

Check to see if your provider has a valid US business. This gives you the ability to sue them, even if the service is provided offshore. There are some Indian companies, for example which provide service in India, but have offices and a valid LLC in the US.

If you decide to outsource to a provider, ask them –

  • Can we sue you if we want to, in US courts?

Infrastructure – Power and bandwidth redundancy

During the California power blackouts, people were unprepared for it. Datacenters that were prepared, simply switched on their backup generators to keep the servers running. Shouldn’t your outsourcing provider have the same infrastructure that you expect from your Datacenter.

What happens if your Outsourcing provider shuts shop for a few hours due to power failure or bandwidth downtime. Your customers will not get technical support on time, especially if they face an emergency situation. Perhaps its time to apply the same uptime expectations to your Tech support provider.

A good Tech support facility should be able to run 24×7 with no interruption. Bobcares, for example has a 300KVA backup generator to power the entire facility, including air conditioners for days if needed. In case the main generator develops faults, we have a 25 KVA generator to run our computers. Besides this, we also have standard UPS(Uninterrupted Power Supply) stations to make sure computers remain up during the switch overs.

We’ve had situations where the main power line went down for over 12 hours(common in India). Our facility did not go down though, because of our sturdy generators. Any other less equipped provider, would have had to shut shop during this time.

Redundancy applies to Bandwidth as well. A good provider should have at least 2 different Bandwidth providers in order to ensure redundancy.

Should you decide to outsource, ask them –

  • How many bandwidth providers do you have. What happens should one of them go down.
  • Do you have 24/7 power backup.
  • What is your uptime.

Communication

Much has been made about the communication skills of techs, specifically about their English skills. Do techs, especially from outside US know any English? How well will they communicate with my clients?

Again, the definition of good English is also confusing. Some say “Hey, our customers want their issues to be corrected good and fast. As long as the techs are able to do that, and are able to convey that in simple English, thats good enough. “. Whereas some, stress on the requirement of English, above technical skill, however good that may be.

Communication is important. Period. When selecting your provider, keep an open mind. Talk to all your potential providers. How well do they communicate with you? If you have providers from outside the US, avoid judging them before you talk to them.

Some research insights.

India currently has a special place in the English language record books, as the country with the largest English-speaking population in the world. Ten years ago that record was held by the United States, but not any more. This was an amazing increase over the estimates of the 1980s, when only about four per cent or five per cent of the population were thought to use the language. And given the steady increase in English learning since 1997 in schools and among the upwardly mobile, we must be talking today about at least 350 million. That’s equal to the combined English-speaking populations of Britain, the USA, Australia and New Zealand. – David Crystal, honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor

Check,

  • Do you understand what they say.
  • Do they understand what you say.
  • Do you find yourself repeating much of the time. If so, chances are, your customers will do the same.

Conclusion.

Before you decide on your provider, eliminate those who do not favourably answer your questions. Many companies compromise on quality and experience, in order to attract you with the lowest prices. At the same time, there are honest companies who invest in infrastructure and experienced, qualified professionals to give you the best. Luckily, the difference in cost may not be as much as you think.



Articles by Sangeetha Naik About the author: Sangeetha Naik heads Bobcares.com. She is the co-founder of Poornam Info Vision Ltd., Software and IT services company specializing in Linux based solutions for Webhosts and ISPs. Poornam Info Vision is an ISO 9001:2000 certified company with a team of over 140 engineers.

Sangeetha is a Computer Engineer based in India and has over 7 years of experience in the Hosting industry. Her articles have been published both online as well as in print.


2 Comments

  1. Everyone should ask all mentioned questions before outsource your work. good job.

  2. You should also consider cultural awareness. More than once I have been offended by tech support form India because they are not aware of cultural differences. They refuse to do what I ask them to do even if it is a simple task.

    You may save money by outsourcing but what does it gain you in the long run? It is all about customer experience. Unfortunately customer experience is often subpar when a company feels the need to outsource this area.

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