Shopping Advice

How did the MSP originate? Today's market is a mishmash of businesses founded by application service providers, ISPs, former management software vendor staff and systems integrators. Obviously, not all have the same level of experience with network and systems management products.

* Does the MSP offer the services you want? Offerings range from basic management platform collocation to full outsourcing and are targeted at small, midsize and large companies. Make sure the provider can meet your current and future needs.

* What can you afford? TriActive charges US$50 per month per server for basic monitoring. SiteLite charges $2,500 per month to manage an Oracle Corp. database server and fix problems.

* What kind of support does the MSP provide? The number of operations center staffers is only one consideration. What kind of backgrounds do they have? Will someone who's familiar with your company and its installation and problem history be available?

* How intrusive is the setup? Some MSPs use existing SNMP agents and remote transaction simulation. Others install "lite" agents on customer systems, and a few install an entire management server. MSPs claim their configurations are secure, but not all customers are comfortable having an external company's agents reporting through their firewalls.

* How long has the MSP been around? Many are only a few months old, far too young to have many customer references.

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