How can you more quickly qualify and evaluate SaaS customer service and IT help desk software vendors?
This white paper discusses twenty groups of penetrating questions to ask SaaS Customer Service and IT Help Desk software vendors to determine their true character. A SaaS vendor is like a spouse. While "Dating" it is better to understand what life may be like after the "Honeymoon" is over. Ask these questions early in your qualification process to focus on the vendors that will be there for you long after they have your company's money. Use these questions to poke and prod at your list of vendors and then listen very carefully when they speak. What you learn will save you a great deal of time and money. Make sure to get their responses in writing!
Here are 10 groups of penetrating questions to ask SaaS Customer Service and IT Help Desk vendors to determine their true character. Tomorrow, look for 10 more.
Ask these questions early in your qualification process to focus on the vendors that will be there for you long after they have your company's money.
Use these questions to poke and prod at your long list of vendors, and then listen very carefully when they speak. What you learn will save you a great deal of time and money. Make sure to get their responses in writing!
1. Do you offer a Service level Agreement (SLA) for uptime? What is it? Is it included in the cost, or is there an additional charge for providing an SLA for uptime? Is there a financial penalty for downtime? How do we apply for credits? What is your history of uptime? Can I obtain a copy of the uptime Service Level Agreement to review?
2. Does your company provide Respond and Resolve Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for support service requests that your company is committed by contract to meet? If so, how can we measure if your company is meeting or exceeding these SLAs? Can we terminate our contract if your company does not meet these support SLAs? Is there a clause in your contract to allow termination for material breach of support SLAs? How do I get support? Do I have to send an email, open a web request, or can I call your company and speak with a live person? What are your standard support hours? Do you offer extended support hours for evenings, weekends, and non-USA regions? Is there a fee for this?
3. Do you measure and monitor application responsiveness on an ongoing basis? Your service may not be down, but how do I know if it will be responsive and usable? Do you provide a Service Level Agreement for application responsiveness? If so, what is it?
4. Is your product architected as a Web-native application? Is it really a client/server application retrofitted with a Web interface?
5. What if better technology comes along after we purchase your SaaS product? Perhaps your company is not keeping up with evolving industry standard enhancements. Are we stuck with your SaaS product? Can we terminate our contract? Are fees required for termination? What is your frequency of launching new product releases for the last three years? Can we review the release notes?
6. Do you host your product at a commercial data center, or do you host on your own servers? If at a data center, is it SAS-70 certified? Does the data center provide a managed service, or does your company rent a "collocation cage" with power and network access, but your company maintains all the server infrastructure? Does your data center use a third-party security assessment firm to determine whether the data center meets Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI) and security requirements related to the protection of private and confidential data? Does your data center use a third-party security assessment firm for intrusion penetration testing and monitoring?
With respect to your data center:
• How often do they perform back-ups? Is there a daily incremental back-up? Is there a full back-up at end of the week?
• Is the back-up automated to assure that it happens without fail?
• Is the back-up to tape or disk?
• How long of a back-up history is maintained? 30 days of data on site and 60 days off site for safe keeping? Can the database be restored to a specific day and time? Are back-ups stored on site or off site at secured locations?
• Is transportation to off-site locations secured?
• What is the data center disaster recovery plan?
• What happens if the data center power is knocked out? How many days can it stay powered on generator failover without refueling?
• Is the data center physically guarded 24 x 7 x 365?
• How is physical access to the data center protected?
• How is virtual access to the data center protected?
• Is there a hardware-based firewall that protects your data from the Internet?
• Are there Microsoft and Cisco Certified Network Engineers on site 24 x 7 x 365?
• How long would it take to recover from a complete server failure?
• Are there ample spare parts on site?
• What level of data center redundancy is built-in?
• What level of Internet access redundancy is built-in?
• Does your data center have strategic partnerships with Microsoft, Oracle and Cisco to be among the first to receive important security information and updates? How fast are security patches applied?
• Is there virus protection on the server farms?
7. After my company pays for your product, what if we become dissatisfied for any reason? Perhaps the product does not work as demonstrated or promised. What will you do?
8. Please prepare an estimated Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of your product over four years. Consider all the acquisition and lifetime costs of ownership. Document all your assumptions; and we will provide you with our assumptions for the analysis, as needed.
How does your product TCO compare with the other companies we are evaluating? Are training, set-up, customization, configuration, support, integration and any usage fees all included in this TCO? See Giva's White Papers and Tools to help calculate the TCO of SaaS and software licenses.
9. As my company grows or experiences spikes in business, can additional licenses and disk storage space be quickly provided on-demand as necessary for peak times such as the holiday season, special promotions or major IT infrastructure upgrades at my company?
10. Can I get a copy of my company's data file at any time in an industry standard format, so it can be imported into another application? Is there a charge? Is it explicit in your contract that my company's data is owned by my company? How will our data be protected from a privacy and disaster recovery perspective?
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