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Picking a cloud vendor? 10 crucial questions to ask
When healthcare provider organizations are making decisions on moving to cloud-hosted services they have several decisions to make. These include going with a commercial solution or building the cloud in-house, or whether to get a best-of-breed product. A report from cloud computing vendor Oracle offers 10 questions to ask vendors that are being considered for the contract.
Can you name similar deployments?
Can the vendor demonstrate successful similar deployments to the type of cloud service the organization is considering? Look for relevant examples, functional proof points such as return on investment and the business value that is expected. The vendor should be able to explain how other customers have used its solution to solve the same business challenges the organization is looking to address.
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Is a ‘try before you buy’ program available?
Enlist the vendor for help in convincing management that the return on investment and business value potential is there. Testing the concept first will help allay fears and hesitation before signing the contract. Specifically ask for a pilot program—the organization may need to pay for the pilot, but it can help identify proof points and results before making a large investment.
Are contractual flexibility and price protection available?
Bad licensing practices that occur in the on-premises environment tend to move into the cloud. A practice called “shelfware” remains a problem because clients are forced to pay more upfront than they need, even though a cloud environment should support rapid elasticity. Ask three questions: Does the vendor provide a standard annual termination for convenience? Does the vendor allow for annual usage-level alignment—up or down—based on business needs, and can the organization apply monthly “rollover” usage to address seasonal peaks? Does the vendor provide long-term price protection?
What about service-level agreements and the history of performance?
A mature and professional vendor will give what the client needs out-of-the-box. SLAs should be relevant to areas that need alignment such as availability, transaction time, storage and performance. The vendor should share SLA performance on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. If the vendor misses SLA performance objectives, it should compensate the client.
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Is there operational transparency?
The healthcare organization needs more than functionality, professional services and access to support. Cloud vendors will give visibility into whether their overall service is up or down, but the organization should demand access to specific metrics that include monitoring and operational management, performance management, change management, capacity and license planning, usage management, problem management, service-level management and service-level data integration.
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Is multi-tenancy available?
Multi-tenancy is the ability to run multiple customers across a shared network infrastructure environment. Multi-tenancy squeezes as much efficiency as possible out of the hardware as well as with licensing costs. In essence, multi-tenancy drives cloud economics.
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Is there a tested and reliable comprehensive disaster recovery plan?
Many companies regularly test their disaster recovery plans and often see them fail, then follow through on remediation plans and see those also fail. Asking, “Does the disaster recovery plan do what it is supposed to do?” is a perfectly acceptable question. While loss of a particular system is likely, the loss of a data center should be rare.
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Can the service meet healthcare security and compliance requirements?
The healthcare organization remains accountable to regulators, business partners, customers and employees, so a vendor should not be considered unless it has adopted a comprehensive and technically sound approach to a “defense in depth” security program.

The organization should map its needs for security controls, which include accountability, privacy, confidentiality, integrity and availability to the vendor’s capabilities. Make sure to understand how the vendor meets the unique security requirements of the healthcare industry.
Can the cloud product be configured by the client?
Look for system features that can be configured by business technologists. These are tech-savvy individuals who are not programmers but understand systems and can use built-in business design tools to configure the implementation. If the vendor wants to write code to build the client’s screens, workflow and reports, the product is inherently immature. Be wary of approaches such as drag-and-drop capabilities—don’t let the vendor offer expensive customization instead of easy-to-understand configuration.
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Is robust integration available?
There is nothing that can be done with on-premises software that can’t be done with cloud computing. The potential gap lies in what integration services are available, as less mature vendors may not yet have built advanced integration capabilities. Sometimes the integration offering will have its own pay-per-use model, so be aware of the economic nuances of cloud integration and any limits that may be imposed.
For more Information

The complete report from Oracle is available here.