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Rule 2: Make It Easy To Switch Providers

Never assume that your good relationship with your outsource provider will always stay that way. You need an exit plan in case the outsourcing setup is no longer beneficial to your company. First of all, ensure that there are no contractual or legal impediments in ending the agreement prematurely. A point of argument with the service provider: "If your service is really going to be good, then you shouldn't worry about us pre-terminating the contract—we'll always be satisfied, right?"

With the way the world economy is going right now, you can't be sure that your service provider will still be around next month. Your exit strategy should plan for the possibility of a sudden loss of service provider.

On the technical side, make sure that most of your data is in your safekeeping, or that at least the amount of data that isn't with you is kept minimal. This rule helps ensure that the restoration of your service with another provider can be done easily and quickly, and any required reconstruction of data is minimal. When you have a stable system, document the entire system setup from hardware to network to software setup, so that you have all the info you need to restore on another system. In the case of an outsourced web site, for example, note what server software version it runs, including what patches have been installed, etc.

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