Preparing for the Best: A Service Desk Technology Investment Checklist

A man in a suit checks off checkboxes

Organizations that consider bringing help desk support in-house for the first time often underestimate what’s involved in terms of operational costs. Most know it’s not as simple as buying a bunch of VoIP headsets and laptops and hiring a handful of agents; however, when they compare an internal to an outsourced solution the conversation often gravitate towards this apples to oranges comparison of time, labor, and a handful of equipment purchases. The truth is taking the DIY approach works well for any company with a mature IT organization and enterprise-caliber budget, but for everyone else, understanding the long-term costs of running a help desk can be an overwhelming epiphany, the kind that adds up every day.

Of course, there are those personnel based intangibles such as expertise of both agents and supervisory staff as well as industry best practices and depth of knowledgebase documentation. Even if the dollar amount attributed to amassing such knowledge goes overlooked, as it often does, there are major physical asset purchases that behoove serious consideration. Using a bare-bones approach, every service desk should at the minimum have an Automatic Call Distributor or ACD to direct incoming calls, emails, web forms, and chat sessions to the properly skilled and available agent. But even here not all ACDs are created equal. Investments in phone quality of service require a blue chip foundation to reach across the globe and is reliable at all times. Reliability is defined as 99.9999% system uptime over redundant systems (i.e. auxiliary power and complete disaster protection). The system includes phone lines, internet access, computer hardware, and software. Every point of vulnerability requires an automatic and real-time backup provision.

Redundant Infrastructure

A high-availability solution involves a level of redundancy at all mission critical points either with automatic failover or preconfigured hardware with manual failover.  The service desk outsourcing provider must address each critical infrastructure point and migration solutions in a subsequent manner including but not limited to the following:

  • ISP redundancy through multiple carriers
  • Automatic failover redundancy at the firewall/VPN layers
  • Automated hourly disk-to-disk backup of critical dataset systems
  • Offsite online disk-to-disk backups
  • A warm imaging solution to protect all mission-critical systems
  • VMWare virtualization technology to mitigate hardware failure scenarios
  • Automated recovery scripts to streamline and expedite the recovery process
  • A mobile force properly trained to work from external sites in the event of site failure at corporate
  • Disaster procedures defined and documented with specific roles and responsibilities to key players

Network Security

The most common alternative to server hardware and other infrastructure purchases is a cloud hosted solution. Numerous providers offer reliable service for an attractive price tag for small and medium-sized business with a limited cash flow allotted to IT investments. But for larger organizations running proprietary enterprise capacity applications or support a clientele with strict regulatory guidelines for data security, the initial investment in hardware and the staff to manage it may be an unavoidable necessity. Though neither solution is 100% hacker free, application level attacks on cloud-based deployments have increased 45% over the past year. Likewise, managing an on-premise infrastructure security requires encryption, firewalls, anti-hacking and anti-virus tools which must be implemented and updated frequently. As with constructive IT initiatives, cybercriminals tend to focus on areas that will yield the greatest results which means targeting the weakest links in corporate networks. A conscientious service provider knows this and will invest in the proper precautions.

ITSM Platform and Reporting

Another key component to a high-quality service desk is an ITIL verified IT service management application that will enable the service desk to record incidents, identify problems, manage assets and recommend changes or strategic issues that must be addressed by management. Comprehensive reporting that measures the health of an IT organization and collaterally the entire enterprise is essential. Data should not merely be summarized and presented but analyzed for cause and effect correlations in the metrics in a meaningful way so that management can take action. Whether the role of capturing and interpreting the data is delivered by the service provider or a client’s internal IT department, there is an undeniable cost associated with those documented efforts.

To summarize, a checklist of typical technology investments required to maintain a fully functional on-premise service desk is as follows:

  • Server hardware and upgrades
  • Telephony/ACD upgrades
  • Redundant systems, DR, and contingencies
  • Cisco switches, routers, and firewalls
  • Data backup solution
  • Network monitoring hardware and software
  • ITSM (ticketing system) and enhancements, ITIL v3 modules
  • Annual maintenance for the ticketing and ACD system (generally 20% of original cost)
  • T1 lines/high bandwidth capacity
  • Agent PCs, laptops, headsets, peripherals