Today, it seems like everyone is talking about the cloud. In response, IT service providers and software companies that traditionally focused on networks and desktop software are facing a shifting landscape and shrinking revenues, prompting some of them to develop cloud offerings of their own.
Choice and competition is a good thing, but beware of information overload and the “me too!” phenomenon of companies lacking the expertise to properly deliver the products and services law firms require. To help you navigate this increasingly crowded landscape, we’ve developed this article on how not to select a Cloud Service Provider (CSP), all based on best practices.
There are many of important factors to consider when selecting your CSP. Here are 5 factors that your decision should not be based on–and approaches to avoid when selecting a CSP.
- Geography. If you currently use a local IT Consultant or Managed Service Provider (MSP), there’s one thing you need to know: they are rapidly losing customers and revenue to the cloud. This has all but forced them to cobble together their own cloud offering. While it may seem advantageous to use a cloud service provider that shares your zip code, consider the dangers:
- Does your local IT company have the acumen to build and support a sophisticated cloud environment?
- Are they new to cloud hosting? (Hosting is a very different practice than IT support.)
- Are they financially solvent?
- Ignoring Legal Specialty. A CSP or MSP may have a few local law firms on their client list, but that doesn’t make them legal technology experts. When your legal software is hosted and managed in the cloud–it’s critical that your provider not only knows this software, but has a relationship with, and the support of, the publisher.Is the provider intimately familiar with your legal software? Are they acknowledged by any bar associations?
- Price. Cost and value are important, of course. But “what is the price” should be closer to the last question you ask a prospective CSP than the first. What components are included in a Private Cloud product, and the scope of support, varies widely from one CSP to another. It’s important you do an apples-to-apples comparison when evaluating providers. Here are several questions to ask providers:
- Is Microsoft Office included?
- What about Exchange email?
- Will the provider support every application you host in the cloud?
- Do they support your local computers, printers, and scanners? Does this cost extra?
- Failing to Do Your Due Diligence. Let’s face it: Choosing a CSP is one of the most important business decisions your firm will ever make. You’re literally putting the future of your law firm–and your livelihood–in the hands of this company. You absolutely must do your due diligence:
- Inquire about how many other law firms they presently service
- Research the company on your own, via the Internet
- Read reviews
- Ask for (and call) references
- Getting Bogged Down in Small Details. We see it from time to time: One CSP talks about how their cloud uses a particular technology; another CSP emphasizes the importance of the brand of hard drives in their servers. Suddenly you’re filled with fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Do these technical factors matter? Are you not asking the right questions?Avoid getting bogged down in the weeds (something technology companies love to do): Citrix vs. RDP, solid-state vs. traditional hard drives, VMWare vs. Hyper-V. These technical details are just that…details, and everyone has their favorite technology du jour. Fretting over these nuances is a bit like shopping for a car and making a decision based on the brand of brake pads in two different vehicles. Zoom back out, and look at the car in its entirety to determine the best solution for your firm.