How should you react if your hosting provider decided to outsource its services, and what key questions must you ask them?
Managed hosting has been a way of life for many businesses for years. Especially for less-sizable enterprises that don't have the resources to spend on developing and maintaining their entire IT environment in-house, being able to rely on a trusted, expert partner for key services can give businesses access to capabilities that would otherwise be out of their reach, as well as provide them with peace of mind.
However, hosting services are not without their drawbacks, and in today's increasingly globalized environment, one critical issue that will need to be addressed is what steps you will have to take to ensure continuity and compliance should your hosting provider opt to outsource or offshore its operations.
There are a few key questions that you will need answered if you are to continue your relationship with your hosting provider and remain confident that the level of service you receive will not be impacted.
Keeping standards high
When managed hosting businesses opt to relocate areas such as customer service overseas, naturally, many customers may worry this will have a negative effect on their business. To ensure this doesn't happen, it pays to take a deep dive into your service-level agreement (SLA) in order to determine exactly what you can expect to receive, and what remedies will be in place if minimum standards aren't met.
For instance, one area that will be particularly important if you are dealing with offshoring will be the level of support that’s on offer. If you enjoyed 24/7 local support before, how, if at all, will this be affected by outsourcing. You need to get reassurances from your hosting provider that they will still be able to deliver the expert knowledge, whenever it is needed.
A key part of this will be response and resolution times for issues. These will be spelt out in your SLA and specify exactly how long you can expect it to take, first for your problem to be acknowledged and logged, then fixed. If these times are getting longer as a result of outsourcing, this will be a key red flag that your service will be negatively affected.
Understanding data sovereignty and compliance
Another issue to consider is; what will happen to the data you own when your provider is outsourcing? It may not always be clear exactly where your data will reside, but as different jurisdictions may have drastically different regulations regarding what can and can't be done with your data, it's an answer you'll need to know.
First steps need to establish exactly where your hosting provider's servers will reside. If they are only offshoring their support services, your data may stay on local servers. However, even if this is the case, you may still encounter issues. You will still need to establish how data is being transferred and where to. If support staff in Asia, for example, need to access your data, what protections will be put in place to ensure the integrity and sovereignty of your information?
There are a range of questions you'll need to ask your hosting provider, including:
- What procedures are in place to ensure only authorized personnel will be able to access data?
- What level of encryption will your data be subjected to, both when at rest on a server, and when in transit?
Any good provider should be able to answer these questions thoroughly and in detail to explain exactly what safeguards are in place.
Data compliance has been a hot topic for regulators around the world for some time now, and depending on the nature of your business, you may have to answer to many different regulatory bodies that each have their own standards. The EU's rules are particularly tough with the implementation of GDPR, so firms based in these countries - as well as those that do business there - will need to pay particularly close attention if their hosting partner is looking to offshore to other parts of the world where standards are not as high.
What to do if you don't get the answers you need
Some people believe that in the age of GDPR and similar rules, outsourcing has become inadvisable or even impossible. But while this is not strictly true, provided you have the right protections in place, if you aren't satisfied with the responses you get from your provider (be this in regards to support or data) the only option may be to seek another alternative. If you are on a subscription-based service, this should be straightforward, though its likely to be less so if you're locked into a fixed contract.
This may sound like a daunting prospect, particularly if you have been with your current partner for many years or they have niche specialties you depend on, but these could be minor inconveniences compared with any issues that might arise if services go down, or if you suffer a data breach.
Migrating to a new provider does not have to be a difficult task, however, as long as firms prepare the groundwork properly and understand where any potential pitfalls may lie - such as moving data between two potentially incompatible systems. You should be able to find a partner that answers all these issues or can offer a local service.
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