Choosing a Cloud Partner? These Are the Questions to Ask.

Bill SorensonCloud Computing, Legal IT, Partners

Choosing a cloud partner is the single most important decision you’ll make in your cloud journey. The cloud provider has the ability to make or break the project, the user experience, and the overall success of the cloud services.

Based on our over two decades of cloud experience, we’ve compiled an extensive list of questions your law firm should ask when evaluating cloud partners.  This week, we’ll explore the first set of questions. Be sure to check back next week for the second set of questions, and watch for our list of red flags to watch for as you evaluate cloud partners.

  1. What other legal services firms do you provide cloud services for?
    Law firms have unique needs and compliance requirements, making it important to find a cloud provider with experience helping organizations navigate complex technology challenges and increasing regulations.

  2. Do you have experience supporting firms of our similar size and specialty?
    What’s going to happen to your IT environment and the support provided if team members take vacation or sick time, or the company experiences turnover? Your cloud provider’s team should be made up of multiple group members so that you know you will always be covered. It’s also important to understand the cloud provider’s commitment to staff continuity, and what efforts they make to retain team members.If you work with a smaller cloud provider, make sure they have partners who specialize in areas you need further assistance in. The partner may be able to manage certain aspects of your environment.

  3. How long has your company been providing cloud services?
    The rapid adoption of the cloud has resulted in an uptick of technology providers offering varying degrees of cloud services. Take the time to understand how long they have been in existence and specifically how long they have been providing cloud services.While the cloud may feel new, some providers have been serving clients for decades.  Experienced cloud providers will have a deeper understanding of the technology required to offer the levels of performance and availability your practice needs.

  4. How is your company different than other cloud providers?
    Some cloud providers are just a service at the end of the wire while others focus on building a relationship with you, understanding your challenges, and achieving your desired outcomes.Ask the cloud provider what makes them stand out. Are they legal focused? Can they host all of your applications, not just your email? Will they advise you on what telecom solutions you should use? Do they offer telecom support?

  5. How does your security protocol keep our clients’ data secure?
    Your cloud partner should provide core security services that include identity-based security and encryption. In the legal world security is incredibly important, so make sure they reach or exceed that level.

  6. Provide your company’s disaster recovery and business continuity plan.
    Discuss how the hosting provider will continue supporting your environment in the event that a natural disaster takes down data center operations. This plan should include backup processes that include daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly backups and their corresponding retention policies. Experienced cloud providers even provide continuous snapshots throughout the day at intervals of 15-30 minutes, providing even greater coverage in the event of a disaster. A provider should assist in recovery due to major power outages or natural disasters. Make sure they will help you maintain redundant systems and manage automatic failovers (cutover to a secondary server should the first one fail).

  7. How are storage, server or compute resources scaled?
    The legal landscape changes rapidly, and a cloud provider should have the flexibility to adapt just as quickly. As your practice grows and changes, your storage, server, and processor needs will also change. How quickly can your cloud provider accommodate? What are the associated costs? Hosting fees are typically calculated based on the number of users and consumption of resources. This monthly fee structure provides budget predictability and stability.Cloud providers can mitigate this cost and enhance performance by offering tiered storage solutions that archive data based on its recovery and availability needs. Check if your cloud provider offers tiered storage as a way to curb storage costs.

Asking these questions will give you a really good feel for how the cloud provider will serve you now and into the future. Next week, we’re going to explore seven more questions — focusing on the right questions to ask so that you can ensure your project is a success.