- Are You Comfortable with the ASP's Approach to Major Data Center Issues Such as Backup, Disaster-Proofing, and Data and Physical Security?
- Can the ASP Provide the Type of Secure Broadband Network that Best Suits Your Requirements?
- Is the ASP's IT Infrastructure Scalable Enough to Accommodate Your Company's Growth or Variations in Activity?
- Do You Prefer that an Outside Party Remotely Monitor All the ASP's Facilities (Such as Data Centers) and Security Equipment (Such as Firewalls)?
- Do You Require that the Application You Lease Be Extensively Customized?
- Do You Need Accelerated Deployment of the Hosted Application?
- Which, If Any, of these Hosted Enabling Technologies Do You Need, and Why?
- What Extent of Technical Support and Customer Service Do You Require?
- Which ASP Pricing Model Best Meets Your Company's Activity Patterns—Does the ASP Offer that Model?
- Does the ASP's Standard Service Level Agreement (SLA) Meet Your Needs? If Not, Will the ASP Change It, and How Much Does It Charge to Change It?
Rarely will potential customers for ASP services evaluate only one ASP candidate and go with it. It's more likely they will come up with a shortlist of several candidates and, through interviews, narrow the list down to the one or two best possible service providers. It's usually best to always evaluate several candidates to be safe. It's fairly easy to identify high-level candidates based on high-level criteria such as the type of application you want to lease (CRM, ERP, etc.) and the vertical market you are in (finance, insurance, etc.). Once you've selected five or six ASPs according to these factors, comparative shopping requires more specialized know-how. Here are 10 criteria that will help you narrow down your choices further from there.
That said; you'd be smart not to make a final selection based only on this round of evaluation. In my book, Application Service Providers (ASPs): A Manager's Guide, I list more than 400 detailed questions to ask your final candidate to make sure it meets all of your unique business, technology, and price requirements. Don't be afraid to get this granular. The ASP business and technology models are complex, so ASPs merit this kind of scrutiny. For our purposes here, though, 10 evaluation criteria will have to suffice. They will give you a good idea what you'll be up against when you do make your choice. So address these questions with the ASP right up front.
1. Are You Comfortable with the ASP's Approach to Major Data Center Issues Such as Backup, Disaster-Proofing, and Data and Physical Security?
The data center is the heart of any ASP operation. The servers, applications, storage devices, firewalls, performance monitoring devices, and other equipment are all located hereas are most of the ASP personnel. So visit the data center first of all. By visiting, you can better determine the facility's physical security. For example: Are the grounds patrolled and monitored by video? Are the exits and entrances manned? Does the ASP use biometric security devices such as fingerprint scanning?
You should also check out the ASP's disaster-proofing measures. For example: Is there seismic bracing for equipment cages? Are there waterless fire suppression? Backup generators?
Data security and backup are a little harder to confirm onsite, but at least make sure that data is backed up routinely to another facility that's not located on the same regional power grid, and that tapes of all data are stored nightly in a fireproof safe. Probably the best way to guarantee that the ASP can handle your data security is to first determine and then verify that the ASP can meet your Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs), which are windows of time during which you must recover your applications and data.