If you’re thinking of making the big move to the cloud, chances are you’re a little flustered. Here are 20 crucial questions to ask a cloud provider before signing up.
1. Is the vendor reliable now and in the future?
You are entrusting your data to the provider, so ask a few questions such as how long they have been trading, how they are funded, what their annual revenue is, etc. Research the likelihood of a takeover or buyout and understand what happens to your data (and your contract) if this occurs.
2. How many customers does the provider have?
Are they just starting out or have they been around for a number of years? What size are their customers? Your business is critical to you, is it to the cloud provider, or are you just too small to matter?
3. Are they able to customise the application for you?
Do you have to fit to the software, or can the software fit to you? If you require customisation, what will it cost?
4. Is there any limit to the size of my data?
Consider the amount of storage space you have on your current in-house servers and whether cloud computing offers you the same facilities at an affordable price. There is a difference between using a CRM system online to loading up all of your files online.
5. Which country will host my data?
If your data is stored outside of Australia, you must consider the implications that this will have. Many Australian businesses must comply with the Privacy Act and the National Privacy Principles made under that Act.
You need to remember that data is subject to the laws of the jurisdiction in which it is stored. The impact of foreign laws such as the US Patriot Act on offshore providers must be considered.
6. Do you need to obtain client consent to store clients’ personal data in the cloud?
It is wise to consider just what data you are storing online and if it contains your clients’ confidential information, such as tax file numbers, financial information, etc.
7. Will my data be backed up in a different country?
Make sure you understand exactly where any backups or copies of your data will be stored.
8. What are the disaster recovery plans?
Ensure that your data is backed up on a regular basis and that the backups are verified for their integrity. Are the backups moved to an off-site location daily?
9. Who will have access to my data?
There will need to be an administrator of the system in the cloud. What controls does the provider have in place to avoid sending, copying, emailing your data?
10. Staff management?
What happens when new staff leave or join the cloud provider? Are there security measures in place to ensure your data is not at risk?
11. What happens in the event of data corruption?
How many copies of my data does the cloud provider have? Are incremental backups done and can an image of data be reconstructed at a given point in the past? How far back do the backups go?
12. What happens if some of my data is lost?
You need to understand what the provider’s policy is in the case of your data being lost and what audit procedures are in place to protect your data.
13. What service level agreements do they have in place?
Some Software as a Service providers will update their software without any downtime to customers, for others they schedule a maintenance time to upgrade and test the update. Usually any service is done at a time convenient for customers, but if you host your data overseas, a convenient time for the northern hemisphere, might not be convenient for you. A good SaaS provider should have 99%+ uptime.
14. Is training available as part of the service?
Training is critical on any new application, not just on the software, but also on any change to process that needs to take place in your business. Does the provider offer this service and if so, at what cost?
Do you know who to contact for support? When is it available and is there a self-help feature?
Does the Software as a Service provider provide updates to their software? Do they listen to customer feedback and create enhancements based on that feedback?
17. Will the cloud service allow me to integrate with my other systems?
While you may be moving certain services to the cloud, you might not be moving all of them. Does the provider have an API to link to your network systems in your office?
18. Who owns my data?
You must be the ultimate owner of your data. Ensure you have data portability and providers should have a “data liberation” policy. Google is one of the first companies to actually implement this – they allow users to easily get their data in and out of their servers at any time.
19. What happens to my data if I cancel my service?
The cloud provider must be able to move your data to another provider. We have noticed a case of an online accounting system where you cannot readily export your data, unless you are a user with a particular role. Why is that necessary?
20. Can I migrate my data to another provider?
This will become a necessary service in the future, best to ask the question now.
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