5 ways to keep cloud vendors honest

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Companies are more reliant than ever on their cloud vendors to provide outstanding service at reasonable prices. But all too often, that’s not what’s delivered. Here’s some strategies you can use to make sure you’re actually getting what you expect.

1. Get uptime/downtime statistics

Most companies will tell you they rarely suffer outages. Or that they have competitive uptime statistics.

Don’t let these claims go unchecked. A remarkable number of vendors fail to deliver three-nines (99.9%) of availability. If that doesn’t sound too bad to you, consider how much time that could be over the course of a year. Even 99.9% means you would have about nine hours of unscheduled downtime in a non-leap-year.

And what about scheduled downtime? Whether companies are pulling systems offline themselves or having them go out, both can disrupt your business.

Make sure to check uptime statistics and to ask for exact figures before signing on with a vendor.

2. Get definitions for support levels

You’ll probably have some options when it comes to support levels. This may include words like “Premier” or “Standard” or “Basic.”

What it rarely includes is just how much support each level guarantees.

Be sure to ask your vendor for examples of specific problems and whether these situations would be covered by tiers of support or not.

(Now is a good time to mention: Get any promises or information in writing so there’s a record of it if needed.)

3. Find a primary contact (and secondary)

There was once a time when you knew exactly who to talk to if you had an issue with a product or service. Many companies these days try to get past that in favor of a ticketing system (“You let us know what the problem is, we’ll let you know when there’s a fix”).

This situation isn’t ideal, obviously. You want to be able to get straight answers from a specific person or persons who will be available to take your issue under consideration and make sure it gets to the right person.

4. Know your separation agreements

The last thing you may be thinking about when you enter an agreement with a cloud provider is what happens when you’re ready to get out of that agreement. But it’s one of the most important things to consider.

Find out whether your provider will continue to have access to your data once the separation agreement is finalized. Any data that gets left behind with your provider could be susceptible to risks such as data breaches or theft.

5. Check and re-check terms and conditions

Once you have a provider you like, don’t set-it-and-forget-it. Check back regularly to make sure you’re still getting the best deal.

Review contracts carefully for the “prices and services may change without notice” clauses. If you come across one, ask how and whether you’ll be notified of new terms of service. Request that they tell you exactly what’s changing rather than sending another several thousand word document over without changes highlighted.

And make sure there’s a way to negotiate out of your contract if service levels don’t meet your expectations. It may not be free, but if the termination fee is too high, that’s a red flag. Even the worst providers can put on a good face before the contract kicks in.