December 21, 2000, 3:40 PM — WITH THE continuous stream of must-have software entering today's market, many corporations are straining to dig up the proper resources to support all of their new business and Web applications. If your company is similar to many others, you may soon exhaust every inch of available space in your server room or spread your IT staff so thin that it can't spare even one minute more to manage another enterprise application. But don't panic: When facilities and qualified warm bodies become scarce, ASPs (application service providers) can come to the rescue.
There are several varieties of ASPs, offering everything from application rentals in which customers pay by the hour to use business software to complete remote data centers with front-end and back-end facilities specified for your industry. With the latter option in mind, you might want to give up searching for additional office space or driving yourself crazy looking for experienced IT staffers in today's tight labor market. Outsourcing a few (or more) of your applications could save you these hassles, as well as lots of time and a score of sleepless nights.
Outsourcing business applications may seem like a new idea, but it is actually very similar in practice to contracting out other crucial tasks, such as telemarketing, call-center management, or network monitoring. But because an ASP hosts your critical data as well as your application, it's important to choose a provider carefully. Of course, each industry and company has its own unique requirements and demands, but there are several key steps that should be part of every ASP selection process.
Decide what you want
Choosing and managing an ASP Step-By-Step
1. Are your IS resources insufficient for your new app(s)? Are the costly telecommunications circuits and support staff for apps accessed via the Internet too much for your budget? Would you rather pay the recurring costs of an ASP than the large up-front expenses of an internal app? If so, an ASP is probably for you.
2. Consider your alternatives. If you have some cash on hand, purchase servers and co-locate them at a hosting facility. Think about contracting IS help or outsourcing a portion of your network management. Get a second opinion (from a consultant) about the costs required to host an in-house app.
3. Size up the prospective provider and get references. Does the ASP have redundant, high-bandwidth circuits to at least two Tier 1 backbone carriers? Does it meet exacting standards for power, cooling, and fire prevention? Does it have a reliable, trustworthy, and accessible staff?
4. Check (and have your lawyers double-check) the paperwork, including SLAs and confidentiality agreements. If you plan to host third-party apps off-site, purchase the appropriate license from the software vendor. Make sure you can walk away unscathed from your contract if the ASP doesn't deliver on its promises.