This blog is an explainer for anyone looking for out-of-hours emergency IT support. And, in case it really is an emergency 1) we’ll be brief 2) our thoughts are with you at this trying time.
Why the need for specialised, emergency out-of-hours IT support?
(First, a wee disclaimer: we only support cloud, apps and integrations; we don’t support physical IT environments. So, if that’s what you’re looking for, you might want to check out our partner, Ultima).
Agencies and brands working with mission-critical applications and IT environments have long faced the question of what to do when everyone goes home.
On the one hand, you work regular business hours; on the other, your customers are engaging with your presence in every time zone, over weekends, weekdays and quite possibly even on Christmas Day (some people).
After-hours support teams are nothing new. And some manage to cobble an offering together entirely in-house.
However, the ‘phone-by-bed’ model (a shorthand phrase for the many corners cut by non-specialised support teams) tends to let you down just at the moment you would very much like to be up.
When it’s the middle of the night; your recently and rudely awakened developer is still clearing the sleep from his or her eyes; you’re haemorrhaging cash faster than a piggy bank upon meeting the business end of a golf club.
So, a specialism is born.
How special? The calling of a dedicated support team
Specialised after-hours IT support teams, or just plain support teams, or full-stack support teams, depending on the local lingo and what’s supported, are distinguished from their ‘phone-by-the-bed’ antecedents by a few key features.
1. Out-of-hours and (if needed) 24/7 capability achieved without shattering dreams
Specialised support teams will have a variety of ‘working hours workarounds’. These often boil down to remote or in-office employees spread strategically throughout certain time zones so that somewhere – it’s always someone’s official work day.
When fully realised, this is called the follow-the-sun model, meaning you always have an engineer working 9-5, somewhere. The same can be achieved by shiftwork, to a degree. But the distinction is you get a team with access to their full resource base looking at your ticket in the course of normal working (and waking) life.
2. Tech-supported tech support
Specialised after-hours teams have specialised after-hours tools. In our own case, Mission Control fills this role: pulling in every thread into a single bird’s-eye view.
Other teams might use bespoke service desks, monitoring solutions or what have you.
As applications blur into infrastructure, and the trends towards composability and distributed systems continue, a traditional team just isn’t able to keep up.
3. Knowledge base and skills
These dedicated after-hours customer support teams are born and raised for the job.
Where a traditional IT team service desk might boast a few technology specialisms, customers of dedicated after-hours providers can expect a Neapolitanesque blend of infrastructure, application and integrations experts.
This is the idea behind ‘full-stack’ support, i.e a one-partner solution to all your technology woes, whether it be your cloud, code or APIs that need a steady pair of hands.
On top, dedicated teams can close gaps traditional teams couldn’t cross with a running jump: gaining full visibility on cloud-native services and/or architectures, like containers and microservices; supplying DevOps engineers outside normal business hours; being a point of contact with third-party API (or similar) suppliers.
4. Competitive, limbo-worthy SLAs
A competitive, flexible SLA (service level agreement) is the hallmark of a good provider.
This is where you choose between after-hours customer support, 24/7 coverage, or custom windows. Think seasonal sales for online businesses. Tricky deployments. App launches.
You also pick (and pay for) a support response time, with quicker services costing a little more.
Under 30 minutes is a great starting point for a specialised service, with options to resolve incidents even more speedily proving cost-effective for enterprise clients – or other businesses, such as eCommerce, where you have a squintillion transactions per minute.
Your SLA will also be where you divvy up your stack, with a good team able to support customers who need just cloud, just application or anything in-between.
How we can help
Our ulterior motive in laying out the virtues of a best-in-show technical support team is that, in a Luke-I-am-your-father type twist, we are a, if not yet your, best-in-show technical support team.
And as well as working with brands and products direct, we supply the likes of Valtech and Grey New York with flexible support for their clients.