I started a new Managed Service business earlier this year, and I've been lining up some clients. That's all good.
EXCEPT you know how it is. You take over from someone who is being replaced because they haven't been quite up to spec for some time. Maybe they haven't been patching. Maybe they don't know what they're doing. Maybe they took a well-maintained network and turned it into a neglected network.
First, a "new" client who signed up with us six weeks ago suddenly had a problem with their Exchange server. We'll call him Client A. Because the problem was intermittent, we didn't start getting user complaints until mid-day Monday.
Apparently, an update over the weekend ran into a snag. As a result, I started looking at the server and realized that it needed a major Rollup update. I tried to install that and the installation failed with no error. I prepared myself for some extensive research and a potential call to Microsoft.
Research quickly revealed a few other minor issues.
To my mind, that eliminates Microsoft tech support from the equation. Because they will solve one problem at a time, this could take several calls. Plus, most of these problems were really minor, so not worth paying $499 each to fix.
Enter Client B.
Client B had signed a managed service agreement with us to start January 1st. But their old I.T. guy had someone managed to nuke their firewall and kill every service on the server. So they asked me to step in and set things upright.
I worked with Client B for a good part of Monday.
Tuesday: Jury Duty
In Sacramento County, you don't go in for jury duty unless them might actually need you. In the old system, you went downtown and sat around for days until they need you. With the new system, you check a web site at 5PM to see whether you need to report the next day.
Tuesday I had to report for jury duty. One client was half-up and the other one was half-down.
My part time tech is not the guy to assign to a crisis on an Exchange Server or a firewall.
I had just recorded an interview with Amy Babinchak about Third Tier's outsourced helpdesk services. (Listen to that over on SMB Community Podcast.)
So I decided to call for help. I went to www.ThirdTier.net and registered on their help desk. Then I put in a ticket. Soon, Mr. Philip Elder contacted me. Philip is the author of Microsoft Small Business Server 2008 Blueprint. He's also a Microsoft MVP for Clustering, and formerly an MVP for SBS.
I had Philip work on Client A while I worked on Client B and did my jury duty.
In just a few billable hours, the problem was taken care of AND I got a note about some configuration suggestions regarding the terminal server connected to the SBS network at Client A.
It was an extremely easy, smooth process. And very satisfying.
Obviously, this kind of urgent request cuts into my profitability with the client. But under the circumstances I feel like I was saved from a much longer, more frustrating week. And since all of that was the week before Christmas, I'm happy for the assistance at any price.
Note: To make something like this work as smoothly as possible, I posted up LOTS of information with my original service request. And I gave lots more details once Philip was assigned to the ticket. He had several pages of reading before jumping in, but I believe it was all useful to understand the nature of the problem, what had already been done, and where I thought we were stuck.
If I hadn't given him that background, he would still have been able to fix the server, but it would have taken longer as he discovered everything.
The bottom line: I'm glad I called on Third Tier to help me out when we were overloaded. I had a great experience, and I would use them again!