Nine Key Questions to ask your Cloud Service Provider

There is no question that hosting IT applications externally with an outsourced “cloud service provider” is an attractive option for organisations of all sizes. It has the potential to reduce costs significantly, move IT spend from Capex to Opex, reduce or eliminate the need for IT personnel and hardware and ensure that employees have reliable, secure access to the latest versions of the applications they use. It also makes it considerably easier for staff to work remotely, collaborate online and have access to the same applications on a range of different devices.

So attractive is the proposition that it is no surprise that there are now a wide range of Service Providers offering a plethora of “cloud” solutions. The challenge for the customer is therefore to select a Provider able to meet their immediate and future needs.

Below are a selection of Key Questions to ask any potential partner:

  1. What cloud services do you offer?

    Everything from basic data storage, through popular business applications, custom applications and on-demand provisioning of virtual servers and other network infrastructure is available.

  2. How secure is your service?

    Any Provider needs to demonstrate that they are doing the basics properly eg firewalls, anti-virus, user authentication, data encryption plus routine security audits. What steps do they take to protect your data from their own employees? How can they ensure compliance with local and industry specific legislation in relation to privacy, data protection etc.

  3. Where is your Date Centre and how do you secure it?

    The physical location and security of the Data Cente where your data is stored is as important as online security. What are the access arrangements? Can the provider demonstrate compliance with industry standards in relation to this and other threats including natural disasters, terrorism etc. What arrangements are in place for data redundancy?

  4. What happens if data is lost?

    What is the Provider obliged to do in the event that your data is deleted, corrupted or otherwise lost? Is this addressed in the Service Level Agreement (SLA). Is compensation due? How is the risk mitigated in the first instance eg backups, server mirroring, other redundancy strategies? What is the Provider’s track record in relation to this?

  5. What support services are available?

    What are the conditions for providing technical support? When can you access support – 24x7x365 or just local working hours?. Does the provider publish statistics on average response and resolution times. How qualified are the first line support staff with which you are likely to speak?

  6. Can your service grow with my business?

    What is involved in adding new users, new applications, more storage capacity etc? Does the provider have appropriate scale, expertise and financial strength?

  7. How reliable is your service?

    For many customers service reliability is a key reason for outsourcing to a cloud provider. It is therefore critical to ask questions about any provider’s downtime record. Reputable providers often publish historic uptime / downtime statistics online. Look for SLA based commitments with financial penalties for falling short.

  8. How are your services priced?

    Typically pricing is “pay-as-you-go” and should be based on what you actually use with the ability to add or remove services, users etc – as required. Billing frequency and costs per user will vary between providers and will reflect your requirements. Up-front costs should normally be limited to the effort involved in migrating from “in-house” to “cloud”.

  9. What are the arrangements for accessing the service and getting my users started?

    Your cloud service should be available at anytime from anywhere using any suitable device. You should simply be able to sign in at the Provider’s client login page. Cloud vendors may provide training around service setup and use. Others offer online guides. Be sure that your Provider has a migration plan which is going to be suitable for your staff and other users.

Electronic Media Services Ltd has been helping businesses migrate to Hosted, Managed and Cloud Services for more than 15 years.

If you would like to discuss your requirements in greater depth please call Lawrence Walker on 01428 751451 or email us: