Three Simple Steps to help determine your SaaS Continuity Plan

Jonathan Chisholm

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Outsourcing IT responsibilities is today’s business reality. It just makes sense. Imagine you’ve just completed an extensive RFP process to identify your next cloud-based Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. The SaaS provider is a new, well-funded, cutting-edge company, with state-of-the art software, systems, and support from third-party vendors.

Everyone on your team is sold on working with this SaaS provider. Eventually your company will have a tremendous amount of dependency on this solution. The number of users on the system, the training required, data collection, number of locations, etc., will make this cloud relationship critical in no time.

Can you Answer these Basic Questions about your Cloud Provider and their Solution?

  • If you lost access to the cloud solution, how much downtime could you experience before it becomes a major business disruption? Is it minutes, hours, days, or weeks? This establishes the mission-criticality of this application.
  • What’s the most important component of this relationship? Is it access to the data? Or, are both the system functionality and the data essential?
  • Could you independently stand up this application if your provider failed? How long would it take you?

The answer to these questions will allow you to work with your provider to create a realistic business continuity plan.

Three Simple Steps to Evaluate your SaaS Continuity Plan

Your standard approach to evaluating a continuity plan with a potential cloud provider should include three simple steps:

  1. In the event that you lost access to your cloud solution, how much time do you have to get the system back up and running before it becomes a major business disruption?
    1. Only you can answer this question, so make sure you are comfortable with your answer.
  2. What materials will the cloud provider deliver to support the goal?
    1. Access to the source code files
    2. List of tools and third-party resources
    3. Supporting documentation for both the source code and the platform infrastructure the cloud app runs on
  3. What is the deployment schedule for new releases?
    1. Every time the cloud provider makes major enhancements or changes to tailor the product to your business, the environment hosting the solution may also change.
    2. Having a schedule of releases will help you monitor the list of tools to make sure updates are provided for any new or updated equipment.

Food for Thought … or Why your SaaS Provider is like your Favorite Restaurant

What makes a cloud solution so unique is simple. Someone else is responsible for making sure the system works. Your job is to use the system for its intended purpose. What else could you ask for in a perfect relationship?

So, it’s a lot like ordering your favorite meal in a restaurant. Someone cooks it for you and you get the pleasure of eating it. All you need to achieve this goal every time is the ingredients, cooking equipment, the recipe, and a person that knows how to cook your favorite meal well.

  • What if your provider (restaurant) disappeared?
  • Could you find another provider with the right wherewithal to support your cloud solution?
  • Would your favorite meal look and taste the same?

I’m confident that answer is yes. If you have the right ingredients – files, list of tools and supporting documents – which most disaster recovery vendors require in order to support a cloud system (failover/failback), then you’ll have no problem finding another chef – that is, a Managed Service Provider (MSP), to assist you during your time of need.

When is the Right time to Negotiate for SaaS Continuity?

I would recommend negotiating your business continuity plan with your cloud provider during the initial negotiation period. Keep in mind what’s motivating your vendor – they are trying to close the deal. Take advantage of your leverage during this phase of the negotiation by asking for everything you want upfront. Once the agreement is signed, it’s “forever hold your peace.”

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