For many companies the rising costs and complexity of maintaining a data center is proving to be a barrier to achieve their business goals. Companies are stuck with their legacy systems as these have limited capabilities to support the present level of projects. It is no wonder; many enterprises are outsourcing data center services.

But choosing a hosting service is not a cake walk.

They are expected to be always up and running.

This kind of reliability can only be achieved by delivering a specific level of service time after time.

Yet, reliability benchmarks can vary. For example, for a small and medium business firm, a cumulative downtime of 2 days in a year may be acceptable. On the other hand, for an online retailer this figure can underscore a high level of unreliability.

“Hosting consistency means meeting a specific performance level”, says an Information Technology specialist. “Each client must choose and define its own levels”.

There are plenty of factors that impact reliability.

When it comes to reliability, we typically speak about the vendor’s infrastructure, the quality of servers and communication networks, and the professional level of the staff.

The above considerations cannot be debated.

But we must not ignore another key aspect. High reliability also depends on appropriate behaviors and responses by the staff to failure causing incidents.

It is the employee motivation that sets apart high reliability organizations from the rest.

“Our reliability depends on how we cope with threats arising out of complex environments and changing technology”, says a vendor of managed hosting.

“If we do not manage well, the results can be disastrous to our clients”.

Hosting firms have different benchmarks as regards to reliability, quality and price for their services. Therefore clients must make a thorough evaluation of the past record and the present level of performance of hosting providers.

Managed hosting can deliver highly reliable service.

It is a premier service wherein the hosting provider takes care of all the aspects of your server infrastructure. You task is limited only to managing software, in-house hardware and other routine tasks.

Managed hosting typically has two levels of service.

1. Unmanaged or semi-managed – The vendor provides some aspects of infrastructure monitoring, while you execute managing your servers
2. Fully managed – The hosting service handles virtually all aspects of your server hardware. The vendor will monitor uptime, perform patches and security updates, backups and even disaster recovery if mutually decided upon.

Regardless of which service you choose, it is imperative that you must select the right provider.

Here are a few criteria that you must keep in mind.

Skill and experience

Any managed service provider must have capabilities that go beyond OS maintenance and uptime management.

You must ensure the vendor has skills that can manage change, virtualization expertise, knowledge of multiple network technologies, and cloud technologies.

The vendor must have good expertise across all hosting delivery models including not only cloud but also traditional IT.

Hands-on approach

The vendor’s mentality must not be centered on fixing just breakdowns and downtimes. It must have a proactive approach to preempt issues from occurring.

The hosting provider must:

employ state-of-the art technologies for incident prevention
 provide backend technologies like automation to reduce human intervention
 employ alert mechanisms

Well-positioned to deliver best industry practices

One of the keys in achieving reliability in managed services is by adopting industry best practices in managing clients’ IT resources. In this regard ITIL approach to Information Technology management can be a benchmark. The best practices of ITIL cover handling issues, events and change, and also performance management.

Capability for global delivery

A hosting vendor that has global capabilities can position any company regardless of its size on a growth path.

With global delivery capabilities, the vendor can deliver several benefits including:

 Rapid deployment in new locations
 Local language support if needed
 Making available local resources and data if it addresses compliances to regulatory requirements

Performance aligned with SLAs

This is the most significant advantage you can get with managed services. Ideally, as a client you must focus on what the hosting service delivers rather than how they do it. This will allow the vendor a free hand to try out new ideas, and minimize costs for mutual benefit.

In a nutshell, managed services must enable your business to grow to achieve company targets.