12 questions RIAs should ask before moving to the cloud


Q1: How many RIA firms have you provided cloud services for to date and can you provide references?

Our Answer: You don’t want someone practicing on your network. At a minimum, make sure they have at least 5 years of experience and clients already using this cloud platform.

Q2: How quickly do you guarantee to have a technician working on an outage or other problem?

Our Answer: Anyone you pay to support your network should give you a written SLA (service level agreement) that outlines exactly how IT issues get resolved and in what time frame. I would also request that they reveal what their average resolution time has been with current clients.

They should also answer their phones live from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and provide you with an emergency after-hours number you may call if a problem arises, including weekends.

If you cannot access your network because the Internet is down or due to some other problem, you can’t be waiting around for hours for someone to call you back OR (more importantly) start working on resolving the issue. Make sure you get this in writing; often cheaper or less experienced consultants won’t have this or will try and convince you it’s not important or that they can’t do this. Don’t buy that excuse! They are in the business of providing IT support so they should have some guarantees or standards around this that they share with you.

Q3: What’s your plan for transitioning our network to the cloud to minimize problems and downtime?

Our Answer: We run a simultaneous cloud environment during the transition and don’t “turn off” the old network until everyone is 100% confident that everything has been transitioned and is working effortlessly. You don’t want someone to switch overnight without setting up a test environment first.

Q4. Do you provide a no-risk trial of our network in the cloud to test the proof of concept BEFORE we commit to a long-term contract?

Our Answer: We provide all of our clients a free 30-day cloud “test drive” using your servers, applications and data so you can see, firsthand, what it will be like for you and your staff to move your servers to the cloud. While this isn’t a full migration, it will give you a true feel for what cloud computing will be like BEFORE you commit to a long-term contract. There is no charge for this and no obligation to buy anything. At the end of the 30 days, you’ll know whether or not this is a right fit for you, or if you would prefer to keep your current on-site network.

Q5: Do you take the time to explain what you are doing and answer our questions in terms that we can understand (not geek speak), or do you come across as arrogant and make us feel stupid for asking simple questions?

Our Answer: Our technicians are trained to have the “heart of a teacher” and will take time to answer your questions and explain everything in simple terms. Our client feedback is important and we do ask our clients to take a survey at the end of every ticket resolution.

Q6: How will our data be secured and backed up?

Our Answer: If they tell you that your data will be stored in their own co-lo in the back of their office, what happens if THEY get destroyed by a fire, flood or other disaster? What are they doing to secure the office and access? Are they backing it up somewhere else? Make sure they are SAS 70–certified and have a failover plan in place to ensure continuous service in the event that their location goes down. If they are building on another platform, you still want to find out where your data is and how it’s being backed up.

Q7: Do you have adequate errors and omissions insurance as well as workers’ compensation insurance to protect US?

Our Answer: Here’s something to consider: if THEY cause a problem with your network that causes you to be down for hours or days or to lose data, who’s responsible? Here’s another question to consider: if one of their technicians gets hurt at your office, who’s paying? In this litigious society we live in, you better make darn sure that whomever you hire is adequately insured with both errors and omissions insurance AND workers’ compensation – and don’t be shy about asking to see their latest insurance policies!

Q8: Is it standard procedure for you to provide us with written network documentation detailing what software licenses we own, our critical passwords, user information, hardware inventory, etc., or are you the only person with the “keys to the kingdom”?

Our Answer: All clients receive this at no additional cost. We also perform an update 1 to 2 times a year on this material and make sure certain key people from your organization have this information and know how to use it, giving you complete control over your network.

Side note: You should NEVER allow an IT person to have that much control over you and your company. If you get the sneaking suspicion that your current IT person is keeping this under their control as a means of job security, get rid of them (and we can help to make sure you don’t suffer ANY ill effects). This is downright unethical and dangerous to your organization, so don’t tolerate it!

Q9: Do you have other technicians on staff who are familiar with our network in case our regular technician goes on vacation or gets sick?

Our Answer: Yes; and since we keep detailed network documentation (basically a blueprint of your computer network) and updates on every client’s account, any of our technicians can pick up where another left off.

Q10: Do you INSIST on doing periodic test restores of our backups to make sure the data is not corrupt and could be restored in the event of a disaster?

Our Answer: We perform a quarterly “fire drill” and perform a test restore from backup for our clients to make sure their data CAN be recovered in the event of an emergency. If there’s a problem, we notify our clients immediately and start working to resolve it the same day. After all, the WORST time to “test” a backup is when you desperately need it.

Q11: Do your technicians maintain current vendor certifications and participate in ongoing training – or are they learning on our dime?

Our Answer: Our technicians are required to keep the most up-to-date vendor certifications in all the software we support. Plus, our hiring process is so stringent that over 90% of the technicians who apply don’t make it through. (Guess who’s hiring them?)

Q12: Are you familiar with (and can you support) our unique RIA firm applications?

Our Answer: We own the problems with all line-of-business applications for our clients. That doesn’t mean we can fix faulty software – but we WILL be the liaison between you and your vendor to resolve problems you are having and make sure these applications work smoothly for you instead of pointing fingers and putting you in the middle.