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With the growing popularity and functionality of Microsoft’s Integration engine, BizTalk Server, more and more organizations are expanding their B2B and application integration reach by deploying BizTalk solutions.

Whether done with in-house developers or using outside consultants, BizTalk Server deployments are helping organizations fulfill their integration needs. However, once development and testing are complete, many organizations are left with a complex solution that is difficult to maintain and support.

An enterprise level BizTalk deployment can be a challenge to support. Organizations may be ill-prepared to dedicate the time and resources necessary to keep BizTalk Server running smoothly and efficiently.

Supporting a BizTalk environment

This article provides a high-level view of what supporting a BizTalk environment requires. While not designed to give an all-encompassing view of the effort involved, it will hopefully shed some light on some of the most important aspects of supporting a BizTalk environment.

Should I use internal or external resources?

The first decision is to determine who will provide support for your BizTalk environment. Support can be provided internally; however, it is important to consider the impact of dedicating valuable high-priced resources to the maintenance and support of your BizTalk environment. Where is their time best spent?

Many organizations choose to outsource the support and maintenance of their BizTalk environment to consulting companies who can successfully deliver what you need and save you time and money. Often with a fixed monthly/yearly price, they can provide peace of mind, be cost effective, and ensure your internal resources are dedicated to tasks where they are most needed and have the greatest impact.

What is the support plan?

The next question in your selection process should be to determine the right support plan and procedures required for your solution.

The following tasks should be included in any comprehensive BizTalk Support plan:

  • Database archiving and trimming
  • BizTalk MessageBox health maintenance
  • BizTalk message tracking
  • Document tracking configurations
  • BizTalk alerting configuration
  • BizTalk performance tuning
  • Management of BizTalk Server versioning, hotfixes, and service packs
  • Verification of source code location and management
  • BizTalk security lockdown
  • BizTalk source code control
  • Proactive monitoring of the BizTalk environment
  • Configuration of the BizTalk test environment
  • Establishment of rules for proper BizTalk Server administration, release management, operations management, development management, and database management
  • BizTalk Server governance rules

This list includes some of the functionality that any BizTalk support plan should include. Other tasks should be implemented depending on your specific resource availability, skill-set, and organizational focus.

Is ongoing call support needed?

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Another key decision in your BizTalk support plan requirements is to identify the need for on-call support and the level of availability required.

Many of the support tasks in the preceding list are what is typically referred to as “proactive support”, which is essentially BizTalk Server Maintenance. It’s a preemptive plan to manage and maintain a BizTalk environment so that it runs at an optimal level.

However, what happens if you have a system down issue at 3 a.m. on a Saturday? We’ve all been there. The difference between a successful plan and one the results in a catastrophe usually centers around the ability to manage and anticipate worst case scenarios. That’s why it is highly recommended that any BizTalk support plan includes a 24/7 Emergency Support component.

You can have either your full-time BizTalk team “on call” to handle unexpected issues, or budget for 24/7 support from a 3rd party firm willing to commit to full availability. The ability to anticipate the worst case scenario and be prepared for it may well be the single most important aspect to a successful plan.

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