Cloud Computing Questions for your vendor

Cloud computing is hot topic and many vendors are aggressively selling it to the customer so much so that some of them are selling hosted solution as cloud solution. Refer Cloud Computing – What is it? to understand difference between hosted and cloud solution. If your organisation is to ready to use Cloud based solution, following questions may help you to head start your analysis and shortlisting vendor.

Questions for your vendor

1. Hosting Provider & Data Location

  • Who is the hosting provider?
  • Where is the hosting location? Country, State?
  • What type of infrastructure is used? Hardware, software, operating system, technology platform?
  • Ask for the architecture diagrams for all layers? Business, Application, Integration, Data & infrastructure layer diagrams?
  • Where is the primary data being stored? We need this info to comply with local jurisdiction, privacy and regulation requirements
  • Where is the backup data being stored?
  • What type of network bandwidth is available (min 100 Mbps) ? What options are available for dedicated bandwidth?
  • What type of scalability is provided for additional computing power – CPU, RAM, Storage? Costs? Time to implement?

2. Data Access, Security, Segregation & Encryption

  • Is it a dedicated or a shared environment?
  • If it a shared environment, how is the data segregated from other shared environments?
  • What type of data architecture is implemented? Diagrams?
  • How is security managed in the shared environment? What controls are in place?
  • Who has access to the infrastructure, hardware, software, data? Ask for specific info on the roles & responsibilities of administrators, profiles, hiring practices etc
  • What application & data access audit logs are available? How often can you get this?
  • How is the primary data encrypted? What encryption schemes are used? Who has access to the decryption keys? How often is this tested?
  • How is the backup data stored? Is the data in raw files or encrypted format? What locations are the backup data stored? Who has access to this backup data?
  • What type of investigative support is provided in cases of breach?
  • Is the vendor is acquired, sold or dissolved? What options are available to get the data? Costs? How is the data wiped out of the environment?

3. Regulatory Compliance

  • What types of regulations are being followed complied?
  • PCI, OFCOM & HIPPA compliance? What options are available? How is this managed?
  • How often is this audited?
  • How is this enforced?
  • Ask for availability & access to the audit reports on a regular basis

4. Hosting Facility Security & Compliance

  • Is the hosting facility SAS 70 II (Statement of Auditing Standards) compliant? This is an important requirement as this encompasses all security and regulations compliance.
  • How often is this compliance audited?

5. Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery

  • What type of business continuity & disaster recovery options are available? Is this part of the standard services?
  • Where are the DR (disaster recovery) data centers locations located?
  • What type of infrastructure exists to replicate and synchronize data between the primary and DR data centers? Is this available in real-time, daily?
  • If the primary environment is down?  How quickly can the DR environment be made active either in the primary or the DR data center?

6. Security & Single Sign-On

  • Is Single Sign-On (SSO) provided? What types of SSO options are available? SAML, HTTP-Fed, Open Auth etc?
  • Can the SaaS app be integrated with an existing Identity Management system?
  • What type of user store is available? Can this user store be integrated with Active Directory or any other user store database?
  • What type of user security, authentication and authorization options are available?

7. Standards, Policies, Procedures & Frameworks

  • What architecture and technology standards, policies and procedures do you follow and comply?
  • What architecture frameworks do you follow?
  • What type of professional services do you offer to implement and support the SaaS application
  • What type of PM resources do you have? Skills, experience, certifications etc?

8. Integration, APIs & Reports

  • What type of APIs and web-services are available to pull and push data?
  • Are the APIs secured and encrypted?
  • Is there an option to access the data directly from the database?
  • What type of reports can be generated or created?

9. Support & Maintenance

  • What type of support is provided? Self-service, email, phone?
  • What are the support times? 24×7, 5 days a week?
  • What are the support response times? Critical, Urgent, High & Low issues/requests?
  • Who provides the support desk and where are they located?  Dedicated or shared with projects?
  • Is there a premium support model?
  • What type of monitoring and alerting does the vendor provide?
  • What type of migration and integration support does the vendor provide?
  • Is there a dedicated support manager and account rep?
  • How do you support and manage integration with the customer’s existing SaaS apps?
  • How are upgrades, patches and other maintenance performed?
  • Does the customer have any control on applying patches, upgrades and changes to the SaaS app?

10 Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

  • What SLAs are available – reliability, availability, performance, issues, requests etc? Penalties?
  • What types of credits are available if SLAs are not met?
  • Are the terms & conditions of the contract tied to the SLAs?
  • Is the exit strategy tied to the SLAs?
  • Is there a regular meeting (monthly/quarterly) to review the SLAs, issues, requests?
  • Who will be part of the SLAs meetings?
  • How are the issues escalated if the SLAs are not complied? Who can we escalate to in the management team?

11. Pricing & Contract

  • What is included and excluded in the pricing? Will you charge for new product features?
  • Are you open to contract negotiations that meet the company legal needs & requirements?
  • What is the minimum contract period? Are there any discounts for long-term contract? Is there an option to exit during the contract and what are the terms & conditions, penalties?

I used this list from other website / white paper from Gartner/Forester but unable to find link. Above list helped me in many ways in last 3 years and lot of credit goes to them 🙂