There's been a lot of talk recently about outsourcing, and not much of it is positive. The outsourcing which is getting the most (bad) press is about taking skilled US engineering jobs and having people in India do them. The outsourcing Evelyn and I have been talking the most about recently is of a decidedly different flavor. Small and mid-sized companies outsourcing their Linux system administration to the US.
Our primary business is acting as senior-level system administration for other companies. We're very good at doing this, but not so good at marketing it – a problem many small technical companies have. Marketing of our skills is one of the areas that we're concentrating on quite a lot these days. Simply because we have so many resources, policies, and procedures that we have developed specifically for serving this need.
Smaller companies who don't have enough time to keep a full-time staff person busy will often have one of their other workers take this on in addition to their existing job. Unfortunately, a side effect of this is that one (and possibly both) both jobs get neglected because of it. Regular or non-urgent system administration tasks can get put off until they become emergencies. For example, if you don't install and configure the monitoring software for your new RAID storage server, the only notification you will get of a failure will be after you've lost data and have to re-load the array from backups.
Mostly, up to this point, we've sold our support services strictly on an a la carte basis. Customers contact us for specific jobs or with particular problems, and we address the issues or tasks. We've found a couple of problems with this approach, though. The biggest is that it tends to promote a much more reactive approach. While we can do things in addressing a problem which prevent it from happening again, we may not be given the opportunity to prevent it from happening in the first place.
Over the last few weeks we've been working on coming up with a collection of service contracts which would address many of the shortcomings of our current offerings. These would be flat-rate services covering a few different levels of service from just the minimum of service and maintenance up to a rather complete solution where we take care of everything.
Effectively, what we've been talking about is offering outsourced Linux system and network administration services to companies. Some companies are simply too small to have their own in-house admins, particularly senior-level staff. Some of our customers are simply in rural locations where the availability of senior-level staff is extremely limited.
We've decided that our biggest benefit is that we can provide senior-level system administration assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including holidays and vacations, for a fraction of the cost of a junior-level person on staff. We work hard to ensure someone is always available, because one of the services we've been asked to provide is emergency administration while the in-house person is away on vacation, military service, and the like.
So, while outsourcing is getting a lot of bad press, we are finding that we have a very good business in doing just that. Particularly for smaller companies, we're getting feedback that our outsourcing services are extremely valuable to them. Of course, with the bad press, we probably won't be directly calling it outsourcing. Instead, we'll probably continue to use the term “service contract” for this offering.comments powered by Disqus