In the IT services business, there a any number of things everyone does, but hardly anyone does well. One of the top five things I’ve found fitting this description is monitoring.

As a small business person you probably wonder why you should care about this – and from a day-to-day perspective, you shouldn’t. It does matter though if you’re trying to figure out why your provider isn’t doing the job you expect, or if you’re evaluating a new provider. Because good, proactive monitoring procedures are absolutely the cornerstone of being able to deliver good business outcomes.

Not all IT service providers even do monitoring. Among the ones that do, most only monitor for failures. They rely on their monitoring software to let them know when a component has failed, and then they react to the failure. Knowing about the failure is important and at least lets the provider react more quickly, but it’s in no way proactive. From a business perspective, failure-driven monitoring and a reactive approach often results in a work interruption. As a business person, work interruptions caused by technology aren’t something you want.

Unfortunately many providers don’t even bother to “tune” their monitoring systems and so end up inundated with alerts and warnings. There’s so much noise in the system they end up ignoring it, and don’t even benefit from the faster reaction time a properly configured monitoring system would give them.

Moving beyond that, better providers set up their monitoring systems to give them  proactive warnings and alerts as well. These providers know that something bad could happen, and so take steps to avoid it before it happens and causes a problem. Their systems are setup to spot patterns their experience – both general and specific to your technology and business – tells them they need to take action on now, before there’s a problem. Very good providers not only have their systems tuned to filter out “noise” and only give them relevant information, but also have custom monitoring and alerting set up based on your business needs. They know what systems are the most important, and what software needs special attention to keep it working, or what kind of failures tend to crop up periodically and they proactively monitor for these specifically.

The very best providers add one final kind of monitoring – business performance monitoring. These providers have business standards, best practices, and metrics for their own performance and they actively watch these. They keep an eye on things like First Contact Resolution (how often a first contact with their support team results in a successful resolution) and the number of support requests that are re-opened. They monitor their compliance with their Service Level Agreements. They can tell you how the number of support requests for your business has stayed the same, increased, or decreased over time (and they better have decreased!). They know that their processes and procedures have resulted in positive business outcomes that save you money and time.

Without these kinds of monitoring and business processes to take advantage of the information monitoring is providing, an IT service provider can never do more than react to a problem. That reaction is usually only after the problem has turned into a serious outage or work stoppage. Even if your service provider is good at responding to problems when they happen, is that what you really want for your business? Wouldn’t it be better to not have the interruption at all?

Ask your provider about their monitoring systems and how they use them. If they don’t really seem to have them or can only give you answers full of technical jargon, consider if they’re really focused on your business, or if they just fix broken technology. If they’re just doing break-fix, give us a call to discuss a better way of doing things.