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How to survive being on-call

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Read our guide on how to survive being on-call.

Being unavailable when your client experiences a technology service disruption can cost your client time, money and business. In fact, according to a 2012 study by Aberdeen Research Group, just one hour of downtime can cost a small business $6,900! In addition, it may cause significant damage to your own business’s reputation.


Here are just a few of the negative outcomes that may occur if your MSP doesn’t have an availability and communication strategy in place:

  • downtime cost to the client
  • damaging to your relationship with client
  • damaging to your reputation
  • cost to clients – word of mouth negativity spreads fast
  • potential lost business and lost income for you


So how can you remedy the situation and prevent loss to prestige and wallet? Read on.


Surviving on-call paging

No one person can (or should) be available 24/7 – everyone needs a break. If you run a small managed service provider business with just a few staff, take turns being “on call” for service issues. This may mean forwarding phone lines to the on-call person’s cell phone for the.


Organize your team

Whether you have a small team or a large one, if your business requires members of your team to work unconventional hours chances are that they are not going to be too happy about this. The key to managing your team for on-call shifts is making sure everyone gets an equal share of the responsibilities while maintaining flexibility. For example, if someone has had a long arduous on-call shift then you should give that person a break and shift responsibilities to someone who had a light load on their shift. Also, getting everyone in your team involved fosters collaboration. If someone needs to attend to a personal emergency then someone else on the team can take over. Having this open dialogue about on-call schedules also ensures that everyone is on the same page.

It’s management’s role to quantify the work done and measure who is taking on too little or too much responsibility. The key here is to have management make sure that everyone participates and isn’t overloaded.


Prioritize on-call paging alerts

Anyone who has worked an on-call shift knows that not every alert they receive is critical. To mitigate alert fatigue, it’s best to classify each type of alert as high, medium or low priority. High priority alerts are anything that is absolutely critical and must be handled to ensure business continuity. These high priority alerts are also ones that require alerting. Of course, the severity of alerts is in the eye of the beholder. What is high priority for one MSP, might only be a medium priority alert for another. There is no clear, right answer on what is a high versus a medium alert. What is important however is to identify what alerts are which. Furthermore, the mindset should be that high priority alerts are critical notifications that require immediate alerting. Medium and low priority alerts can wait until the next day.


Conclusion

The adage is that ‘You can’t manage what you can’t measure.’ If you want to effectively improve your response times to incidents, you need to look at historical data. Use a tool that time stamps all critical alerts and integrates that data with the platform. When metrics are immediately available, you’ll be able to measure how well your team is doing, and make the necessary changes to ensure you are providing exceptional service.


To get more tips on how to survive life on-call, read our whitepaper How to Survive Being On-Call.

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