The Six Most Important Questions to Ask Your Cloud Provider

The Six Most Important Questions to Ask Your Cloud Provider

Written By: Carl Hentsch

from May 4, 2015

What You Need to Know About Support Before You Move Your Microsoft Dynamics Solution to the Cloud

A cloud is a cloud is a cloud – unless it’s not.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has declared a “mobile-first and cloud-first” strategy for the company, and partners are talking about the cloud now more than ever before. As the business demand for cloud-based programs has increased, the number of partners and service providers offering Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM in the cloud has risen along with it.

Self-proclaimed cloud experts are popping up across the channel, but that doesn’t mean that all clouds are the same. If you’re not careful, the cloud you choose for your Microsoft Dynamics solution could be unstable, unreliable, or worse – unsecure.

The level of support you receive from your cloud service provider can vary widely, too. You may move your Microsoft Dynamics solution to the cloud only to find that support questions take much longer to answer, or even that the cloud provider doesn’t know how to answer your questions at all.

Fortunately, you can get a good feel about a cloud provider’s support by asking a few key questions before you sign a contract. I recommend starting the conversation with the following questions:

Have you had unscheduled downtime in the last year? If so, why?

There are two kinds of downtime – scheduled and unscheduled. Scheduled downtime is a good thing, as it allows for maintenance on the systems and will ensure your cloud is secure, patched, and running efficiently. Unscheduled downtime is decidedly not a good thing. It can be caused by a number of issues, but the end result is the same: Your business won’t have access to the technology you need to get work done. Preventing this kind of downtime boils down to preparation: The technical team in charge of your systems (whether they are on-premises or in the cloud) should be capable of staying abreast of updates and maintenance, there should be disaster recovery failovers for incidents of bad weather or fire, and the people employed to manage the systems should have the skillset and knowledge base necessary to prevent most human error issues.

Will you work with my partner to provide integrated services?

One of the greatest benefits of using Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM applications for your business is that they are highly customizable, easy to integrate, and there are hundreds of third-party add-ons you can leverage to build exactly the solution your business is looking for. Your partner plays a key role in developing a solution for your business, but your cloud provider is important to the process, too. Since your solution will be hosted in their cloud environment, be sure they have the expertise to support customizations and integrations.

Are you just supporting Microsoft Dynamics, or do you also support the underlying infrastructure?

Ideally, your cloud provider should be savvy enough to support Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM as well as the underlying infrastructure (like SQL and Citrix) needed to provision a solid cloud environment. This will enable them to deliver you a more stable solution. 

What are your service desk hours?

Your service requirements depend on your business model. If you anticipate situations where your employees will have questions about your Microsoft Dynamics solution or need to have a service problem served after hours, then the answer to this question is fairly important. The amount of time it takes your cloud provider to answer questions is important, too – some providers have service level agreements that state it could take one business day or more for your service request to be processed. That could mean your employees are out of work until the cloud provider returns your calls.

Where will my Microsoft Dynamics solution actually be hosted?

Ideally, you want a cloud service provider with plenty of hosting experience. Ask if they have their own data center and data center support staff. If they do, ask what sorts of security measures they have in place for your data. If they don’t have their own data center, it’s even more important that you understand where your Microsoft Dynamics solution will be hosted – at their office in a server closet? At rented data center space? In the U.S. or abroad? Are there mitigations in place for things such as fires, floods, or natural disasters? How is data security handled? What provisions are in place against hackers? Cloud security has never gone out of fashion, and you have a right to know the answers to these questions – it’s your data they are protecting, after all.

Do you have Microsoft Dynamics experts on staff?

A cloud provider without anyone on staff who understands Microsoft Dynamics won’t be very useful in the event you have a problem with your solution. Some cloud providers without Microsoft Dynamics expertise may be cheaper, but you might wind up paying the price down the road if they can’t solve your service issues.

Cloud providers aren’t all the same, and sometimes, getting to the bottom of their differences means asking a few extra questions. Before you sign on the dotted line, talk to your partner at length about what’s best for your business, and be sure that both you and your partner understand what you’re getting into with a potential cloud service provider.