There seems to be a lot of confusion when it comes to SaaS vs Hosting and everything gets lumped into this idea of The Cloud. But there are some key differences and some questions people usually don’t ask that can cause organizations trouble later.
First, when we say “The Cloud”, what does that mean? It means the servers/infrastructure/services are not in your building, but are instead accessible via the Internet. We see examples of this with Cloud Storage services like Dropbox and Box and music in the Cloud with iCloud and Google Play. But you can also have servers and technologies that used to be within your four walls available in the cloud as well. Example of this are employee benefit management systems like 401K.com. But more and more firms are also moving ERP and Project Management tools to the Cloud as well so they can spend less time managing and ever need infrastructure and focus on the business. But not all Clouds are created equal, so here are some key topics to think about.
1) Who is managing the thing?
There are 100s of Cloud and Hosting providers that are good at managing infrastructure (servers, applying patches, security), but do they have the application experts that know the software they are hosting? There are countless stories and examples where Companies moved key applications to the Cloud, but the people maintaining it or monitoring it, never knew anything about the software they were hosting. So ask, who is monitoring and supporting this thing and are they managing it or when things go wrong.
2) What is their disaster recovery plan?
Many organizations are moving to the Cloud because their own disaster recovery plans are not adequate for today’s business. What happens if you lose power for several days at your headquarters? Can your other offices still operate? If something happens to your building (fire, flood, storm), are the backups sitting right next to the servers that they are designed to protect? These questions need to be asked of the hosting companies as well. If they lose power, what happens to your system even though you are in a different part of the world as they are? Are your backups safe? How often are things backed up and how quickly can we be back up and running of something happens?
3) Performance and Scaling
One of the benefits of the Cloud is that it scales. One of the key reason firms look at SaaS (software as a service) is because they pay a subscription fee for an employee to use the service. If they need more employees to have access, they add users to the subscription and that is it. The Customer does not have to deal with hardware upgrades, that is the providers problem. But with some hosting arrangements, they are just replicating your server environment or maybe you physical relocated your servers and they are renting you the space on their network, so if you grow, they can’t easily grow with you without replacing the hardware and who is responsible for that. So make sure that when your business grows or you acquire a business your solutions in the Cloud can grow with you.
Know the questions to ask to avoid these three pitfalls.