In the modern business world, round the clock access to corporate resources is essential, be it from home, office or on the road. Managing complex networks can be complicated, but an experienced managed network provider will ensure a seamless network connection. So how do you know whether your provider can deliver the level of service your business requires? 1. How resilient is the network? Faults in your network could result in huge losses to your business, so it’s essential that your network is able to withstand multiple failures should they occur. Be sure to ask your provider what ‘self healing’ options the network includes. The key point to look look for is a multi-meshed infrastructure, which provides multiple network routes, so if one connection does fail, network traffic can automatically be rerouted via another connection. 2. Is business continuity guaranteed in the result of a disaster? There are a number of eventualities that can jeopardise a network connection, from fire damage, flooding or power failure. Be sure to check that your provider has the necessary disaster recovery measures in place to avoid being completely cut off from your data centre or cloud services. 3. How secure is the network? What level of protection is there against network security breaches? Be sure to ask about intrusion detection systems and the level of firewall in place. In a physical sense, does the data centre have on-site security to deter vandalism and wire theft? 4. How is network performance guaranteed? A number of factors affect network performance, including speed and Quality of Service (QoS) capabilities. Ask the network provider what speeds are available and how they cope with large surges of traffic – does the service meet user demand? 5. Is the network scalable? It’s important that your network is scalable and has the ability to absorb new technologies without additional infrastructure or expense. An MPLS network will be particularly scalable, but be sure to ask if the network can handle multiple cloud services, such as internet, voice, video or a VPN service to all your sites. 6. What level of integration does the network support? The majority of network providers build their networks using networks or lines from multiple suppliers, which can result in ownership issues should a fault occur – will your provider assume responsibility for any negative incidents? Also, be sure to ask your provider about the connectivity of the network, the network’s management policies and the POP density. 7. Does the network have round the clock surveillance? A good network provider will be proactive at detecting, resolving and reporting faults in the network, often resolving an issue overnight, while you sleep. Ask a supplier about investments in this area, and find out whether you would be able to get any specific reports that may interest you. 8. What level of self-service is available? An advantage of using a managed network provider is the freed-up IT time. To make sure this time is utilised, ensure that liaison between the IT team and service provider is seamless. Can reports be accessed online, for example. 9. Does the provider have a commitment to service delivery? A service provider’s commitment to investing in best practice service management is often indicated by them operating to ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) guidelines. ITIL provides a framework of standards adopted by IT service management companies world over. Ask the provider about notice periods, downtime and levels of investments in infrastructure. 10. What support is available? Round the clock support is one of the most important aspects of any client-provider relationship. The ability to have issues resolved quickly, at any time of day is essential for any business. A managed service provider that prioritises support is great, but ask whether support is included as part of the package, and establish how easy it is to get that support if and when it’s needed.

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