16 Critical Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Cloud Service Provider

TOSS-Cloud-IntegrationA “cloud integrator” is a fancy name for an IT consultant who helps you set up and integrate the various software and solutions into a cloud service specific for your business. But buyer beware! The cloud is brand new technology and you don’t want just anyone setting you up on this.

Unfortunately, the computer repair and consulting industry (along with many others) has its own share of incompetent or unethical people who will try to take advantage of trusting business executives who simply do not have the ability to determine whether or not they know what they are doing. Sometimes this is out of desire for your money; more often it’s simply because they don’t have the skills and competency to do the job correctly but won’t tell you that up front because they want to make the sale.

From misleading information, unqualified technicians, and slack management, to terrible customer service and poorly performing systems, we've seen it all…and we know they exist in abundance because we have had a number of customers come to us to clean up the disasters they have caused.

Automotive repair shops, electricians, plumbers, lawyers, realtors, dentists, doctors, accountants, etc. are heavily regulated to protect the consumer from receiving substandard work or getting ripped off. However, the computer industry is still highly unregulated and there are few laws in existence to protect the consumer – which is why it’s so important for you to really research the company or person you are considering to make sure they have the experience to set up, migrate, and support your network in the cloud.

Anyone who can hang out a shingle can promote themselves as a cloud expert. Even if they are honestly trying to do a good job for you, their inexperience can cost you dearly in your network’s speed and performance or in lost or corrupt data files. To that end, here are 16 questions you should ask your IT person before letting them migrate your network to the cloud.

Q1: How many clients have you provided cloud services for to date and can you provide references?
Our Answer: You don’t want someone practicing on your network. At a minimum, make sure they have 1,000 companies using some or all of their cloud services on a daily basis.

Q2: How quickly do they guarantee to have a technician working on an outage or other problem?
Our Answer: Anyone you pay to support your network should give you an SLA (service level agreement) that outlines exactly how IT issues get resolved and in what time frame. I would also request that they reveal what their average resolution time has been with current customers over the last 3-6 months.
They should also answer their phones, be available for you 24/7, and provide you with an emergency number you may call if a problem arises at any time, especially on weekends.
If you cannot access your network because the Internet is down or due to some other problem, you can’t be waiting around for hours for someone to call you back OR (more importantly) start working on resolving the issue. Make sure you get this in writing; often cheaper or less experienced consultants won’t have this or will try and convince you it’s not important or that they can’t do this. Don’t buy that excuse. They are in the business of providing IT support so they should have some guarantees or standards around this they can share with you.

Q3: What’s your plan for transitioning our network to the cloud to minimize problems and downtime?
Our Answer: We run your cloud environment for up to 30 days prior to the transition and don’t “turn off” the old network until everyone is 100% confident that everything has been converted and is working effortlessly. You just don’t want a company to switch you overnight without setting up a test environment first. This process ensures that all systems are functioning and tuned for maximum effectiveness. Once you approve of the cloud conversion, we perform a final non-disruptive off-hours data migration. On ‘Go-Live’ day, TOSS C3 schedules your engineering team to be available to make any needed adjustments and to answer questions that will come up within your organization.

Q4: Do they take the time to explain what they are doing and answer your questions in terms that you can understand (not geek speak), or do they come across arrogant and make you feel uneasy for asking simple questions?
Our Answer: Our engineers are trained to have the ‘heart of a teacher’ and will take the time to answer your questions and explain everything in simple terms. Our clients consistently rate TOSS C3’s service and engineers at a 9.8, on a scale of 1 to 10 with ‘10’ being the highest possible score.

Q5: Where will your data be stored?
Our Answer: You should receive full documentation about where your data is, how it’s being secured and backed up, and how you could get access to it if necessary WITHOUT going through your provider. Essentially, you don’t want your cloud provider to be able to hold your data (and your company) hostage.

Q6: How will your data be secured and backed up?
Our Answer: If they tell you that your data will be stored in their own co-location facility, loacated in the back of their office, what happens if THEY get destroyed by a fire, flood or other disaster? What are they doing to secure the office and access? Are they backing it up somewhere else? Make sure they are certified and have a failover plan in place to ensure continuous service in the event that their location goes down. If they are building on another service provider’s platform, you still want to find out where your data is and how it’s being backed up. We take regular full backups, as snapshots, of your data, applications, and servers, no less than every 4 hours. These snapshots are then encrypted and replicated offsite to one of our other data center locations. Data security is critical to TOSS C3 and you can rest assured that you won’t be reading about TOSS or your company’s data breach in the newspaper.

Q7. What is THEIR disaster recovery plan? What happens if they go out of business?
Our Answer: TOSS C3 is a profitable debt-free company which started operating in 1985. We have multiple data centers which we own and each is fully redundant at all levels. TOSS C3’s disaster recovery plan is based around continuous operations for our clients and TOSS itself as we are an IT as a Utility® client in the TOSS Cloud. Should you ever want your data back, a simple call to the Cloud Support Center initiates the process. We’ll then work with your team to put your data on the most suitable media and have it delivered right to your door. After all, it is YOUR data.

Q8: Do they have adequate errors and omissions insurance as well as workers’ compensation insurance to protect YOU?
Our Answer: Here’s something to consider, if THEY create a problem with your network that causes you to be down for hours or days or to lose data, who’s responsible? Here’s another question to consider, if one of their technicians gets hurt at your office, who’s paying? In this litigious society we live in, you better make sure that whomever you hire is adequately insured with both errors and omissions insurance AND workers’ compensation – and don’t be shy about asking them.

True Story: A few years ago Geek Squad was slapped with multi-million dollar lawsuits from customers for the bad behavior of their technicians. In some cases, their techs where accessing, copying and distributing personal information they gained access to on customers’ PCs and laptops brought in for repair. In other cases, they lost clients’ laptops (and subsequently all the data on them) and tried to cover it up. Bottom line, make sure the company you are hiring has proper insurance to protect YOU.

Q9: Is it standard procedure for them to provide you with written system documentation detailing what software licenses you own, your critical passwords, user information, hardware inventory, etc., or are they the only ones with the “keys to the kingdom?”
Our Answer: All clients receive this in electronic form, upon request, and at no additional cost. We also perform regular updates to this material. We also make certain that key people from your organization have this information and know how to use it, giving you complete control over your network.
Side Note: You should NEVER allow an IT person to have that much control over you and your company. If you get the sneaking suspicion that your current IT person is keeping this under their control as a means of job security, get rid of them (and we can help to make sure you don’t suffer ANY ill effects). This is unethical and dangerous to your organization, so don’t tolerate it!

Q10: Do they have other technicians on staff who are familiar with your network in case your regular technician goes on vacation or gets sick?
Our Answer: Yes, and we always make a best effort to match you with your installation team; and since we keep detailed network documentation (basically a blueprint of your computer network) and updates on every client’s account, if your team is not available, any of our engineers can pick up where another left off.

Q11: Do they INSIST on doing periodic test restores of your backups to make sure the data is not corrupt and could be restored in the event of a disaster?
Our Answer: Backup and recovery is critical, so beyond our daily checking and testing, we perform a monthly test restore from backup for our clients to make sure their data CAN be recovered in the event of an emergency. Upon completion, we then send our clients a notification stating that this test restore was conducted and that all systems are a “go.” If there’s a problem, we notify our clients immediately and start working to resolve it the same day. After all, the WORST time to “test” a backup is when you desperately need to recover from it.

Q12: Is their help-desk US-based or outsourced to an overseas company or third party?
Our Answer: We provide our own in-house, US-based help desk from our Cloud Support Center, and make sure the engineers are friendly and helpful. We consider this one of the most important aspects of customer service, and our existing clients send us a lot of praise and recognition for our responsiveness, friendliness, and knowledge. Additionally, keeping support for your IT systems in the US is an important first step in data security.

Q13: Do their technicians maintain current vendor certifications and participate in on-going training – or are they learning on your dime?
Our Answer: Our engineers are required to keep the most up-to-date vendor certifications in all the software we support, especially Microsoft, VMware, and Citrix. Our hiring process is so stringent that 99% of the engineers who apply don’t make it through. (Guess who’s hiring them?)

Q14: Are they familiar with (and can they support) your unique line of business applications?
Our Answer: We own the problems with all line of business applications for our clients. That doesn’t mean we can fix faulty software – but we WILL be the liaison between you and your vendor to resolve problems you are having and make sure these applications work smoothly for you instead of pointing fingers and putting you in the middle.

Q15: When something goes wrong with your Internet service, IP phone systems, printers or other IT services, do they own the problem or do they say “that’s not our problem to fix?”
Our Answer: TOSS C3 believes that WE should own the problem for our clients so they don’t have to try and resolve any of these issues on their own – that’s just plain old good service and something many computer companies won’t do.

Q16: What guarantees are in place that your data is fully eradicated should you decide the cloud isn’t for you?
Our Answer: You’ve seen the news and countless stories about companies’ data being discovered by the public in an unencrypted or non-eradicated state. Just because they delete your data doesn’t mean it can’t be retrieved. At TOSS C3, we perform a multi-pass data eradication process that exceeds the requirements of the DOD 5220.22-M data eradication standards. Once the process is complete, we send you a certificate of destruction guaranteeing the proper steps have been taken and your data is no longer retrievable by any means.

Click here to see what is new for ILTA 14!

Leave a comment!

You must be logged in to post a comment.