Specialist service providers bring a new dimension to outsourcing

In recent years the move to outsource IT or business processes has really taken hold. There are definite benefits to outsourcing all or part of an organisation’s database management systems. Access to specialised resources, which may not be available or are in short supply internally, is a major factor.

Rather than outsourcing their IT systems lock stock and barrel, organisations can look to supplement their internal resources with niche technical skills for interim staffing, ad-hoc consultancy or even just as an “insurance policy” back-up. Specialist service providers bring insight into how other companies are solving their business problems. These “war stories” from previous engagements can really help build a customer’s knowledge of best practice. Rather than outsourcing to a good “all-rounder”, organisations should look to specialist providers for the in-depth technical knowledge required to support mission critical systems.

Lack of skills

An actual lack of skills may well not be the issue. Unless they are moving to a new technology of which the organisation has little experience most organisations will have a good level of skills internally. However, availability of those skills can be an issue. Increasing workloads can often mean that individuals are tasked with ever growing and diverse responsibilities. If this sounds like a familiar scenario in your organisation then you’re not alone. In a survey of DBAs by IDUG & CA the most significant database activity undertaken in 07–08 was upgrading the current database — at 67%. Daily maintenance was 56%. Particularly in smaller organisations (1–1000 employees); just 31 % said they were primarily involved in database administration. This means that DBAs are being pulled away from day-to-day maintenance into different projects.

Something has to give. Farming out all or part of the day to day tasks can be a useful way to free up time for a highly skilled team to be more usefully deployed and is almost certainly more cost effective than bringing in an extra team member to take on those tasks.

If the team is lacking skills then most outsourcing service providers can also offer mentoring, knowledge transfer and training solutions as well.


This one really depends on the size of the existing DBA team. Organisations with really large teams are unlikely to experience real issues with having the right amount of cover out of hours or during peak holiday seasons.

However, for those running smaller teams this can be a real problem. Some organisations are simply coping with what they have and are lucky enough not to have experienced any major issues — yet. It is a fact of life that people take holiday, get sick and have time off to look after children. For smaller teams, managing this can be a minefield. If there is a break in cover IT bosses have to be prepared for the consequences of a major database failure during that time — it could happen and the buck has to stop somewhere.

It is possible for organisations to enhance their existing teams with an out-of-hours only service that kicks in when the team clock off or an ad-hoc service which can be called upon when the team is stretched.

Service providers have SLAs to meet and they don’t take annual leave or get sick!

What to look for in a provider

  • Cost: Make sure that the service is cost effective for the business needs. How much does the service cost vs the cost of internal DBAs? It is impossible to predict how many hours or calls will be needed so check whether there is a limit to the number of service calls/number of hours available on the contract. What seemed like a good deal initially can end up being more costly than first thought; extra calls or time have to be purchased.
  • Skills: This has to be a major consideration. Many companies offer a managed service solution for IT systems. The key, though, is finding the organisation with the specialist knowledge of the particular database software in use to be sure that any issues can be quickly and professionally dealt with.
  • Cover: Be sure to find a provider with flexible packages which give the support and cover required. Perhaps cover is only needed out of hours because the in-house DBA team can cope with the day to day management. Or perhaps the system needs the assurance of 24/7 support.
  • Proactive vs Reactive: Not all service providers can give proactive support. Looking for a supplier who can provide proactive monitoring means that there is no need to worry about users experiencing issues before it has been flagged to the team.

Specialist service providers bring a new dimension to outsourcing, one that gives organisations the peace of mind that they are working with a provider who really understands and has the skills necessary for the job. Rather than outsourcing to a good “all-rounder”, organisations should look to specialist providers for the in-depth technical knowledge required to support mission critical systems.


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