The critical element in providing a great hosting service relies heavily on the infrastructure provider. So much so, in fact, that a poor performing service provider will absolutely impact your team’s reputation for quality and control, regardless of how solid or well built your own internal processes are and ultimately, your image and overall success can be negatively impacted. Hosting services teams need to partner very closely with their infrastructure providers. They should know each other on a first name basis and be very comfortable with talking openly around their concerns. Communication and notification is essential, for both sides, during emergency changes and outages, as customers are directly impacted.

The infrastructure provider has the biggest responsibility in service availability and as such, their change control process, alert and detection system, and notification process should be flawless. The middle-man, or the hosting service provider, utilizes their core strengths to deliver the service and also needs to interpret alerts, schedule changes with the customer or end user, and notify them during critical or non-critical events. The customer or end user should never need to contact (nor should they in most scenarios) the infrastructure provider directly as each layer or level has agreements and most likely contracts that tie into one another.

When the infrastructure provider fails to alert and notify, both the hosting team and end customers suffer. Likewise, when outages occur, the notifications and explanations should trickle down to the customer or end user in an attempt to inform or even console them during the unforeseen circumstance. At first, it is irrelevant how the service outage occurred (see root cause analysis), what’s important is how you manage and control the communications during the outage that can either comfort your customer or leave them in discomfort. No one wants to pay for a service that goes down. It doesn’t matter if it is your home-based broadband internet provider or an entire hardware infrastructure hosting critical software services for an organization. Service providers that closely follow ITIL foundations and utilize modern notification and alert mechanisms will have a step above their competition when it comes to successfully delivering services. Customer’s also want to know what’s happening. There should be a communication based SLA for critical outages or outages that impact multiple customers.  Each minute that passes without an initial, formal communication, reflects poorly on the providers responsiveness.

There is a lot at stake being a cloud based infrastructure provider. Are you researching what organizations provide such a service? Get some feedback. Talk to their existing customers or partners if possible. Learn what they do well and what they don’t do well. Prepare yourself and your team on how to best react to specific scenarios in order to cover and protect your customer’s best interest. You need to delight your customer and knowing the upside and downside to each provider will help you in building a strong relationship with them. The thing I love the most about this concept is it has so many similarities to other business models, sometimes with little to no relationship to network technology. For example, a catering company can only be as good as it’s delivery system. A movie by mail service is only as good as the delivery mechanism for sending and receiving those movies. How about a mobile phone manufacturer? They can make the best phones in the world but without the best service delivery, people may look elsewhere. Service providers are critical to your company’s success and image, whether you are the middle-man, or the end user. Incorporating ITIL foundations and developing agreements and notification procedures can go a long way in satisfying all of the groups and individuals involved.