By Melinda Curran
Leveraging the cloud to outsource technology is perhaps the best tool to temper the sting of continual investment hardware. The cloud turns the tables by transferring the burden of technology to an external data center, and VARs should market it as such. I’ve previously outlined balancing supporting technology and bandwidth, and partnering with the right provider is also an essential step to achieving this strategy.
Aside from the basic questions all VARs should ask cloud providers, such as data storage locations, security measures and data return policies, to make hosted solutions viable obsolescence solutions, there are some additional questions that VARs must ask on behalf of their clients to ensure maximum costs that will yield a positive ROI on cloud/obsolescence strategy.
Set-up and one-time fees. Fees will likely always be part of a cloud computing contract, but when aiming to reduce costs associated with technology obsolescence, there are red flags to spot before signing the agreement. For example, while you certainly want to compare costs of setup and other one-time fees, VARs should also examine when the fee will be charged. If the client pays upfront for setup and installation, and a provider’s network is upgraded but the end user has not made any changes in its usage, it should not be liable for the upgrade fee.
Also, should an error occur from the end user requiring provider attention, will your client be billed a fee for service? Make sure all service issues fees are clearly defined and do not place a heavy financial burden on the client.
Terms of contract. Since customers will be outsourcing data processing and storage equipment, it’s important to gather the facts on data logistics and what happens in the event that the equipment malfunctions. Often providers will not accept liability for service interruptions, so it’s important to be sure to include these provisions in contract negotiations so that the customer is not stuck with monetary liability should an error occur on the cloud provider’s end. Also, ensure security and disaster recovery measures are well defined, and your client has the ability to scale usage on demand without being hit with a fee.
Service-level agreements. It’s always important to make sure you get what you need out of the cloud, and service level agreements are where negotiations are finely tuned. SLA’s should outline acceptable data availability, performance and security among other measures to ensure a hosted solution will exceed expectations. Without the ability to send a client’s own IT professional in to tweak equipment, be sure to negotiate:
Make sure your client is able to receive high guarantees at a reasonable cost, even without a long-term commitment requirement.
Maintenance policy. Examining a cloud provider’s maintenance policy is critical to obtaining a strong ROI when using hosted solutions to curb obsolescence costs. Again, the burden of maintenance will ideally be shifted to the provider, but you also want to ensure that end users will receive the benefits of consistent system maintenance, and that it doesn’t come at a premium.
For example, if cloud providers do not upgrade technology at least every three years, there will be obsolescence issues on the provider’s end, which can alleviate the benefits of outsourcing efficient data processing through the cloud. You also want to make sure software will be kept up with the upgrades to operating systems so that the cloud is consistently accessible through multiple platforms. Also, understand how and when upgrades will occur to make sure they will be compatible with your client’s operations.
By considering the fine details, such as these contract provisions, bandwidth upgrades and equipment strategy, you will be able to position the cloud as an added benefit to your clients, who will be able to relinquish the chains of swiftly obsolescent technology for a more fluid and evolving approach to telecommunications technology.
Melinda Curran is the founder and CEO of RCG, a single-source telecommunications provider based in Franklin, Tennessee. RCG collaborates with nationwide carriers to custom-create voice, data and mobility network solutions tailored to a company’s individual needs. Dedicated to superior customer relationships, expertise and value, RCG serves as a single point-of-contact for network design, sales, contract negotiation, billing resolution and repair.