1. Can they adapt to your changing business needs?
One obvious benefit of buying in outsourced cloud services is that you specify just what you need and then sit back and expect delivery, safe in the knowledge that the buck now stops elsewhere.
That’s fine up to a point. But as a business grows, it changes. What are the chances of your managed cloud service provider growing with you, and genuinely flexing to your evolving needs? It’s something you should explore in detail up front and try to interrogate. Who are their current clients? Where did they start with a support proposition and what do they do now?
2. Will the staff quickly integrate and feel like employees of your business?
The sum of any business is its people – that’s especially true of service companies but really it applies across the board.
When you outsource functions to service providers, by definition you involve outsiders – and those outsiders quickly need to integrate and behave like they are staffers. It’s not just a question of them playing a role effectively, but getting involved enough to gain a deep understanding of what your customers expect and how the business delivers on its promises.
How quickly a managed service provider and its representatives integrate will partly be down to a company’s training culture and the support provided, but it also reflects a willingness to engage and learn and to become part of the team – alongside the all-important technical knowhow.
3. Will they be easily available in a crisis?
Managed cloud service providers are responsible for supporting and maintaining business-critical data, and that means being available when needed, day or night. When it comes to managing risks, every business needs to feel confident that potential data dramas and cyber issues are immediately in hand, whether the problem lands on a Wednesday morning in February or on Christmas Day.
Not every problem needs individual intervention, of course. Effective monitoring of systems and networks means most potential problems or red flags can be dealt with before a problem escalates. So it’s worth checking out availability and smart automation from all sides before signing up.
Part of the picture here, it’s worth adding, is how well a managed cloud service provider takes control on behalf of a client and its systems. Is data backup automated and consistent and to a remote server for safety? Is the network secure from cyber criminals and hackers, with regular security testing alongside monitoring for attacks? Are technology updates routine and regular, to head off problems before they arise? These kinds of upgrades on current piecemeal practices are part of what a company is paying for when they sign up with a managed cloud services provider.
4. What do the existing clients think? Go direct to find out
It has been touched on already, but any managed cloud service provider of record has a history and a client base and shouldn’t be afraid of putting forward several of them to give the inside track.
It’s also easy enough to research these things without going through the official channels to potentially gain a less sanitised version – so dig out a reference client to talk to and pick up the phone. It could be one of the best calls you’ve ever made.
5. How available is available?
Lots of managed cloud service providers can point to impressive uptime statistics, but is that 99.9999% figure all that it seems? There’s a big difference between uptime or availability figures captured from a single location compared with a service that takes in multiple data centres in different parts of the world.
So check the detail. What are you getting exactly – and where do the great numbers that are probably being paraded come from?