MSP Today Expert Feature
February 15, 2013

When Your IT Service Provider Vanishes, Don't Let Panic Cloud Your Judgment

Business continuity and 24/7 uptime are two of the major selling points of both cloud computing and co-location. If your home server crashes, then your business IT still soldiers onward.

But what if your IT service provider goes belly up? A service provider forced into liquidation or a data center that simply fails to live up to its promises can create panic for businesses left with no data storage access.

The key in this situation is not to wig out, says Pulsant CEO Mark Howling. Decisions about a service provider shouldn’t be rushed just because business decision-makers are anxious.

“While you have to react quickly in times of crisis, it's equally crucial to employ robust selection processes and stringent vetting in order to make sure you don't end up getting burnt again,” Howling explained.

“What can appear to be a good short term fix, can carry a heavy price in the long term if your new partner also ends up overstretched or in financial difficulties.”

Pulsant has released some guidelines to help businesses vet service providers in an emergency. The first step is to make sure that the provider has scalable operations. The business should be growing with sufficient investment to fund any expansion.

The second step is to investigate the company’s financial stability. Bad debt, poor credit rating and sickly cash flow all point to potential problems down the road.

Pulsant also suggests getting to know customers who use a particular provider. The provider needs a deep customer base, and it needs to secure customer loyalty. A data center with one or two large customers may not survive if one of them relocates to another provider.

Businesses must ask themselves whether the services and service level agreements (SLA) are realistic and sustainable. An article in TechRepublic suggests making sure that each party knows what defines “good service” in the eyes of the other. The provider should also have a proven external and internal support team to keep up its end of the bargain.

Finally, don’t neglect the obvious: technical expertise. Businesses need a provider that can handle migrations without glitches. If a business gets its money’s worth, then the provider will also improve and optimize the data platform.

“It may seem like common sense but, when the chips are down and IT departments are faced with having their servers evicted, their support suspended and their hosting disrupted, normal risk assessment can go out of the window,” Howling cautioned.

Vet your service provider just as you would a romantic relationship. Don’t settle for just anyone.

Edited by Brooke Neuman