Thursday, December 06, 2007

Indian Tech Support Kicks Booty

Way back at SMB Nation East I had the pleasure of spending some time with both Arlin Sorensen and Erick Simpson. Here are three simple rules for life:

Thing one: If Arlin Sorensen gives you advice, take it.

Thing two: If Erick Simpson gives you advice, take it.

Thing three: If both Arlin and Erick give you the same advice, do it as quickly as you can.


One of the business-changing decisions that came out of that conference was the decision to add Zenith Infotech to our managed services offering. Both Arlin and Erick use it. Arlin's company was in the same boat as us: using Kaseya but ready for more.

And, as I have publicly discussed my addition of this tool, it is only right that I give you a report on how it's going.

In a word: Awesome.

Please note: I'm a real fan of taking a tool and using for our purposes, whether that's what the vendor intends or not.

Here's what we've found with Zenith:

  • Excellent to work with. We have definite ideas about how we want things done. They are willing to do it our way and have never charged us extra for figuring out our procedures.

  • Humans are better than machines. Duh. Kaseya is a great product, but it can't quickly look through log files, run a network trace, research KB articles, and figure out what the problem is.

  • We have virtually eliminated daily monitoring. One of the key components of managed services is to monitor machines and make sure all the services are up, machines are not running out of disc space, etc.

    Between Zenith and Kaseya, all of this is taken care of. If a monitor goes off, one of them will generate a service request. If something just isn't right (e.g., backup takes too long) Zenith will open a service request. The only thing we do now is to manually check the backup on two servers because those two clients do not want technicians other that us accessing their machines.

  • We have virtually eliminated "monthly maintenance." One of the core components of our business for the last 12+ years has been monthly maintenance. See The 68-point checklist. Once daily monitoring is done, much of the old monthly maintenance checklist is done. Now, Zenith handles all the pieces that take a human to do. The only thing left for us is to call each client and step through putting in the right tapes so we can verify the backup each month and send tapes to permanent offsite storage.

  • Special projects are a breeze. When we have a particularly difficult chore, we turn it over to Zenith. For example, if Symantec Anti-Virus is not working, won't uninstall to reinstall, and the job will be drawn out with a few reboots, we assign it to Zenith. They do the job over the weekend or at night.

  • When we just need more labor. Sometimes we get slammed. Handing a job off to Zenith means it just gets done. Our guys can work on something else.

  • Their reporting is excellent. Even when they just go in to fix a little problem, their tech notes say exactly what they did, which KB articles are relevant, and how they verified the fix.

We have three kinds of tasks we hand to Zenith:

1) Monitor

2) Troubleshoot (look but don't make changes)

3) Fix and repair

Where we draw the line on duties is not exactly where Zenith draws the line. Here's what I mean. From their perspective, actions that are "maintenance" of the system are included in the flat monthly fee. Actions that are above and beyond maintenance are billed to us at an hourly rate.

So, monitoring is always included. Some troubleshooting is included. Some fix and repair is included.

We manage our budget by making sure we know when we're paying extra. And they are excellent at communicating about this.

Working with the people.

One of our biggest concerns, of course, was the language and culture issue. A few notes.

First, Zenith allows their technicians to use their real names. There are no technicians in India named Jeff or Stan.

Second, we deal with our primary contact in the U.S. for almost everything. From time to time we work with technicians in India directly. We have been very pleased with this.

Third, our clients only ever work with us. Our clients never interact with Zenith directly.

Communications has always been excellent, although a little patience and a sense of humor go a long way. Our favorite incident involved having Zenith do the first half of a job and then turn it back to us for the second half. The technician concluded his notes by writing: "Please do the needful thing." We knew exactly what he meant.

The Bottom Line is the Bottom Line

We have Zenith installed and monitoring almost every client server. We estimate they they provide about 50-75 hours of "billable" labor (meaning time on task), which translates into about 75-100 hours we would have to pay a technician each month.

That's a half-time technician.

Next up: I'll give a few thoughts on Zenith vs. Kaseya and Zenith vs. Microsoft.

Questions welcome.


  1. Anonymous8:07 PM

    Do you make it plain to your clients that the tech support is based overseas, and if so does this ever generate a negative reaction?

  2. The tech support is KPEnterprises, based in Sacramento, CA. We don't have any clients who don't see us in their office all the time.

    One of the tools we use is Zenith, and their technicians are based overseas. Just like Microsoft and HP.

    We have a couple of clients with particularly sensitive data (one is intellectual property and the other is personnel records for major corporations) that do not want overseas support.

    We honor that concern and only use Kaseya for those clients.

  3. I meant overseas as in India, not overseas as in the USA, because I'm based in the UK.

    (If you see what I mean......)

  4. My answer is the same. When we call Microsoft or HP as backup supprt for our company, it is to a foreign country.

    And when we call Zenith, that is often to a foreign country.

    So it's not an issue, as far as I can see. Our clients only call us.

  5. Anonymous12:13 PM

    When you put in a ticket to Zenith, how long does it take for them to look at it ?

  6. I admit there's some irony in not answering this question for nine months . . .

    Chris: More often than not, tickets with Zenith originate with Zenith telling us what the problem is. Then they put the status as waiting on us.

    When we assign something to Zenith, the response is normally very fast. Less than an hour.

    Remember: we almost always assign "scheduled" work to them. If a server's on fire, one or our technicians is handling it. If there's a problem with a corrupted .dll that has to be fixed after hours, we assign it to Zenith. When the sun comes up (in the U.S.), it's fixed.

    Sorry for the slow response. :-O


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