Questions you should ask, and answers you should hear
Presented below are questions to be asked of your cloud computing vendor, and the answers you should receive. These are the types of answers that one should require from their cloud computing vendor.
The term “cloud computing,” also known as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), refers to arrangements where software is hosted on the vendor’s servers as opposed to the client’s servers. The many benefits of cloud computing include the elimination of hardware and infrastructure investments, freedom from management and IT hassles, and the increase of employee self-service since the software can be accessed from any internet-accessible location.
A recent article in HR Magazine (“Be clear on cloud computing contracts,” November 2009) lists five issues that businesses should pay strict attention to when selecting a vendor’s cloud computing offering: Data Security, Data Privacy, Compliance, Internal IT’s Role, and Contract Termination. By addressing these issues correctly, while using an established, high quality cloud computing vendor, businesses may experience the significant technological benefits of SaaS and eliminate potential risks.
Data Security – How is your data protected?
Your data should be in a facility that meets Department of Defense (DoD) standards for a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF). This means that the data is protected with 24-Hour guard stations, an outside fenced perimeter, pan-tilt-zoom security cameras, biometric access to secure areas, and a multiple layer intrusion detection system. This facility should also contain redundant power and data cables encased in armored conduit, variable switch load balancing of internet traffic, and vaults impervious to smoke, fire, and electromagnetic waves.
Data Privacy – Where is your data?
Your data should be in US-based servers and comply with the most stringent US laws in terms of password-protected system data, security access, fire walls and advanced anti-virus technology. This is an area where organizations must be careful. Other cloud service providers have servers outside the country, which means they do not have to operate under US regulations. Also, a cloud system should be able to restrict specific IP addresses that are known to be harmful or malevolent.
Compliance – Are you in regulatory compliance?
An organization’s time and labor information is extremely valuable. Organizations must be vigilant to comply with federal and state laws, work rules, and union agreements. Best of breed vendors, such as Datamatics, provides a talented staff of HR experts that help you every step of the way to make sure your labor management system is in compliance with the barrage of regulations, saving you from future financial and legal threats of employee compensations lawsuits.
According to Somer Vail, Attorney and Professional in Human Resources, “Automating your Labor Management processes not only encourages accountability and increases accuracy, but documentation is the best evidence a company can have.”
Internal IT’s Role – Are you provided with expert training?
Once the system is installed, training should be administered so that your staff understands how to take full advantage of your new software’s functionality. Training should be client specific, tailored to your particular needs in order to obtain maximum value from your investment. Be aware of companies with useless outsourced customer support. When your staff needs a problem fixed, a consistently slow response rate will become severely frustrating.
Contract Termination – What happens to your data if you decide to leave your vendor?
If you decide to end the contractual relationship with your cloud computing provider, be sure to know what happens to your data once the service agreement is no longer in effect. The most common practice requires your organization to give a certain days notice of termination, which ensures the time needed to gather the necessary data for your imminent transition. Certain vendors may charge fees for data transfers so be sure to understand the full terms and conditions of these potential charges.
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