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Service Level Agreements

12 April 2019 – Adrian Kuijpers

An SLA is more than just a monotonous contract some poor soul has to read. When your network crashes or your hardware fails and you have customers screaming for rebates or threatening to take their business elsewhere, you dive for your supplier/vendor SLA, dust it off and find out you have no SLA covering the critical issue that you are currently experiencing.
SLA’s are outright important, period!
SLAs are a critical component of any outsourcing and technology vendor contract. Beyond just listing expectations of service type and quality, a SLA provides remedies when requirements aren’t met and or penalties for a breach.

Some items to considered are:

  • Understanding the Importance of SLAs to your business
  • Defining your SLA content
  • Understanding SLA Do’s and Don’ts
  • Knowing when tt’s time for SLA updates
  • Aligning your equipment life-cycle to the SLA

Any significant contract without an associated SLA (reviewed by your legal team) is open to deliberate or inadvertent misinterpretation. The SLA protects both parties in the agreement.

Ideally, SLA’s should be aligned to the technology or business objectives of the engagement. Misalignment can have a negative impact on deal pricing, quality of service delivery, and customer experience.

Is your end customer’s SLA setup back-to-back against your vendor SLA’s?
There is a misalignment if you are assuring your end customers a service availability of 99.999% while your vendor’s SLA is only allowing for 99.99%. The difference is 47 minutes and 34 seconds annually and may not be acceptable for mission critical networks. Perhaps your network design accommodates for this with a robust design? This is what you need to take into consideration before agreeing to a SLA with a vendor or providing an SLA to your end customer.

When last did you review your SLA?
You should review your vendor SLA’s annually or have an established framework for reviewing during the term of the contract to ensure it is still valid and aligns with industry practice or current technology as these change over time, as does your Equipment Life-Cycle and business focus.
Its always a good time to review your vendor SLA after an incident to verify that the vendor has performed in accordance to their SLA responsibilities. Another good reason to audit your SLA is to ensure you are complaint with the obligations stipulated in the SLA for the SLA to remain valid. Have you fallen behind in software updates? If the issue affecting your hardware has been patched several releases ago you have no claim against a supplier for SLA breach, the vendor is likely to close the trouble ticket and ask that you come back once you have updated the software if the issue is still affecting your equipment.

Does your SLA list metrics for Key Performance Indicator (KPI’s).
An SLA is worthless without KPI’s or some form measurement and overall should be kept as simple as possible to prevent confusion and excessive costs on either party.
Examine your operation and decide what is most important. The more complex the monitoring scheme, the less likely it is to be effective, since no one will have time to properly analyze the data. When in doubt, opt for ease of collection of metric data; automated systems are best, since it is unlikely that costly manual collection of metrics will be reliable.
Consider the following:

  • Service Availability: 99.97% or 99.999% or variable ir time specific.
  • Service Performance: Error rate, jitter, latency are factors that should be defined here.
  • Technical Support: Response time, resolution time etc. Prioritization of issues.
  • Hardware Support: Turn around time(TAT) or advanced replacement units or shipping cost splits etc.
  • Software Support: Availability of security patches, bug fixes, long term build updates, limitations to software release features.

and much more that should be tailored to suit your specific business requirements.
How much room is there to move on an SLA or to negotiate KPI’s. That is dependant on the service or supplier you are dealing with. Hardware purchases typically have a lot of room for negotiations as its all defined with a cost whereas ordering a Cloud based service from the leaves little to no room as these are services sold to the masses.
However, the larger the contract, the more opportunity there is for negotiating the SLA. But generally, by the very nature of the public infrastructure as a service (IaaS) cloud, many providers have generic service offerings, which allow the vendors to offer inexpensive prices. To the extent that a customer wants a customized offering, the price will generally rise. Customers of public cloud offerings should not expect customized services made specifically for them. If they’re looking for that, there are managed hosting or collocation services.

SLA’s can be complex, lengthy documents or they can be as simple as a 1 page with T&C’s and an appendix outlining the KPI’s. There is no hard and fast rule for an SLA other than is should provide safety, security and be clear for both parties so all ambiguity is removed.

Contacts Arvensis Consulting if you would like to know more.

RFP, RFI and RFQ

16 April 2019 – Adrian Kuijpers

RFI’s, RFP’s, RFQ’s…..so many TLA’s (Three Letter Annagrams).
Lets look over the basics and the problems facing many vendors and customers and how these processes can be improved on.

Request For Information or RFI A RFI is essentially a preliminary document used by a customer or companies that does not understand the marketplace or arena they’re about to enter. In the case of a company searching for a Global WAN solution, for example, it would use an RFI if it had no prior experience with Global WAN procurement and wanted to gain an understanding on the range of options in the Global WAN space.

Because the RFI is very much a fact-finding document, you’ll want to ask open ended questions, ones that allow the vendor to talk about its full range of offerings. Typically, the RFI will outline the broad business challenges you’ are facing, and then the vendor can tailor its response within the context of those challenges. Often times, the vendor will explain its position in the marketplace (for instance, what industries it specializes in), how it licenses its product, and what other fees you can expect

Request For Proposal or RFP is a document that asks vendors and suppliers to propose solutions to a customer’s problems or business requirements. An RFP is usually what follows an RFI; in fact, it’s uncommon that a company will go from an RFI to an RFQ. An RFP should contain much more specificity in terms of what a company’s needs are by outlining the business goals for the project and identifying specific requirements that are necessary for the work being requested. The key to this document is that there is sufficient detail to give vendors the context they need in order to propose a valid solution, yet it still needs to allow enough leeway for the vendors to apply creativity and best practices to fulfill those needs.
Not only is Global WAN solutions expensive, but it serves as the backbone for all your business offering, from customer service quality to product pricing structure, end customer solutions and marketing. A new Global WAN often takes months to design, implement and test to your specifications and then you need to train your staff on how it is structured, limitations, capabilities and geographic presence. It is a large investment and important to get it right from the start.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that many organizations engage in extreme due diligence when choosing a Global WAN solution. It’s not uncommon for companies to spend tens of thousands of dollars hiring a consultant to guide them through this process and many hours crafting a lengthy specification wish list. From that process, these companies will then compose a detailed RFP and fire it off to multiple Global WAN vendors.
The Achilles heel is how companies craft and execute on the RFPs has the potential to alienate the very same vendors that could best serve their needs. If you place too much upfront demand on a vendor, you’ll often find the most qualified providers opting out right away, while only the most desperate (i.e. low quality or lower tier) providers choose to respond to your RFP. Typically mistakes made by companies when going through the RFP process are:

  • Placing all the due diligence demand on the vendor
  • Adding too much specificity to the RFP
  • Waiting until the finalist stage to request demos
  • Not giving better constructive feedback to finalists

Request For Quotation or RFQ is a highly detailed document that drills down to the specifications required by the company. In a situation where an RFQ is used for a Global WAN procurement, the company knows enough about its current system and exactly how it wants to change or improve it in the future.
Unlike the RFP, which allows for the flexibility of the vendor to suggest creative solutions to the problem, a company deploying an RFQ isn’t looking for creativity, but rather for the vendor to deploy the solution using predetermined specifications. Typically, the RFQ contains a table or sections that lists each requirement and then asks the vendor to assess its ability to meet that requirement. The vendor then will specify whether it can meet the requirement out of the box, whether it will require some configuration, whether it will require some custom code, or whether it will require leveraging a third party vendor.

Many customers mistakenly name their RFQ’s as an RFP’s, but when you go to respond you are not allowed to “propose” a variety of solutions and have subsequent conversations about your proposed options, which is the purpose of an RFP. In these cases, you are simply asked to fill out a list of requirements and give detailed costs for each line item, which by its definition a RFQ. A RFQ is appropriate for a project in which you are adding on to or augmenting an existing system. This approach is inappropriate for a project in which you are planning on implementing an entirely new solution, as you can easily fall into the trap of requesting that vendors provide you an outcome that does exactly what your current system does. If that is the case, then you need to take a closer look at why you are implementing a new solution in the first place and make sure your business goals are in line with your project goals.

If you simply put out a list of detailed needs based on what you do today, you will get responses in which vendors who try to shoehorn their solutions to meet that list and miss out the opportunities to truly change your business for the better.

Contacts Arvensis Consulting if you would like to know more.

Refurbished vs. New

2 May 2019

Who would dare use refurbished network equipment in a carrier class network!
In truth, everyone from Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-sized businesses, telecommunications service providers, financial institutions, government entities, educational institutions and healthcare organizations.

A majority of enterprises use the equipment to support front-line service and network expansions. A recent study by a global reseller of 400 customers, the research found that nearly 80 percent of purchases were intended for production network use. Additionally, 66 percent of those surveyed implemented equipment for network expansion projects.

So, what are all the Differences between equipment types available:

  • Pre-owned
  • Refurbished
  • Used
  • Surplus to stock
  • New open/in box

All equipment sold by Arvensis Consulting is pre-owned, meaning the equipment was initially sold by the manufacturer or an authorized reseller and is now being resold by Arvensis Consulting.
Some of the inventory is used and some equipment has been resold without being used at all. For any products labeled used, Arvensis Consulting and their partners provide a full inspection, cleaning, testing and reconditioning to return the equipment to as close to its original condition as possible.
In cases where only minor repairs or cosmetic improvements are needed, equipment is labeled as refurbished. The desired outcome is to return equipment to like new condition whenever possible while still offering exceptional savings of between 50 and 90 percent off the manufacturers’ list prices.

New-surplus equipment has never been used and may also be described to reflect the condition of its packaging. Equipment that is new/open box may range in condition from mint to two or more years old, already resold multiple times but has never been used. New/in box typically denotes the product is from the manufacturer’s distribution channel with its original tape unopened.
In either of these cases our partners open the boxes to verify the contents and ensure equipment meets specifications.
Arvensis Consulting does, in both of these instances consider this to be pre-owned according to our standards.

5 Reasons Why Refurbished Equipment Offers Great Value

  • Reduced Costs = Greater ROI = Greater Scalability

You should be able to buy refurbished hardware for only a fraction of its original cost, typically 50%-90% below the OEM list price. Going the refurbished route is going to allow your budget go a lot further, and with more capital left to spend, you have more options for scalability.
Our process also saves companies a lot of time as we do the leg work, source the equipment and take care of shipping and customs.

  • Performance

Expertly refurbished network equipment and servers can perform as well as new ones, and sometimes even better. Pre-owned servers need the right configuration of drives, memory and processors in place for optimal performance, as do new servers. Network equipment may require the right licensing to be in place, as does new equipment.

  • Matching your technical needs

At Arvensis Consulting we work closely with our partners who collectively hold over 1 million items and equipment. Together we can either advise you of a “best-fit” solution or product or source the exact item to meet your technical requirements.

  • Reliability

Most new network hardware failures occur within the first 30 days of implementation or the initial run-in or “burn-in” phase.
Reliability is always important, but mission critical if you are a Carrier Grade service provider or Tier III or IV facility. If and when refurbished parts go wrong, these are most often your power supplies, fans, and storage devices, so be ready for that. You can plan for this and have confidence, however, in your refurbished equipment when they come with an extended warranty and have been carefully tested to be fully functional.
The best warranties will state that any pre-owned component of your equipment has been tested, and also that the entire system has then been tested. Look for at minimum a 30-day return guarantee. Any new parts should have a 1-year warranty through t he manufacturers. Arvensis Consulting can provide 12 month warranties on request.

  • Great Customer Service and Fast Shipping

As we have seen, go with a refurbished equipment provider who has the expertise on hand to make sure you are really getting exactly what you need.
Sometimes fast shipping is what you’ll need, so check out their delivery times and shipping prices. Arvensis Consulting and the partners we use can typically have your equipment dispatched within 2-3 days of an order, or sooner if urgent.

So, with Arvensis Consulting, an experienced refurbishment equipment sourcing and provider you’ll be able to benefit in terms of price and performance and fast shipping.