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The recovery services market is complex, dynamic, and highly competitive. The major players in this marketplace offer a broad range of services which can support cost-effective business continuity strategies. However, if you're purchasing such services for the first time, you probably don't know all the right questions to ask a prospective vendor. As a result, you might not get the best services for the best price, nor select the most appropriate vendor with which to enter a long-term relationship.
To make sure you get the most from a commercial recovery services company, you should, at least, get detailed answers to the following 10 questions.
1. How well would the proposed services satisfy your functional requirements? - Be sure that the vendor's services provide all the functionality you currently require, whether this be for mainframe processing, desktop computing, call center operations, trading floor operations, e-commerce applications, printing and mailing services, Internet access, e-mail, voice mail, etc. Also consider whether the vendor offer services which you may require in the future.
2. How well would the proposed services handle your operational volumes? - Be sure that the vendor's services provide sufficient capacity to meet current requirements, and that these services are scalable, so that capacity can be expanded as your operational volumes increase. Consider such factors as communications bandwidth; mainframe or server processing speeds, memory, and disk storage; number of workstations, PC's printers, tape drives, phones, voice mail boxes, etc.
3. How quickly would the proposed services be available in a localized event (i.e. one affecting your company only), and for how long? - Consider such factors as lead time between declaration and access to the recovery facility; travel time for recovery personnel; shipment time for hardware and backup tapes; installation time for hardware; restoration time for software and data; lead time to reroute voice and data communications; maximum occupancy time at recovery facility, etc.
4. How quickly would the proposed services be available in a widespread event (i.e. one affecting multiple companies), and for how long? - Consider such factors (in addition to those noted above) as likelihood of the vendor being affected by the same event as you; number of other companies close to you which subscribe to same vendor services; number of companies to which the vendor could provide services concurrently without bumping to other locations; vendor's procedures for sharing services or bumping clients in the event of multiple declarations; availability of comparable services at other vendor locations; increased travel and or shipment time for the alternate locations; border crossing implications; vendor experience with multiple concurrent declarations, etc.
5. How compatible would the proposed services be with your normal mode of operations? - Consider such factors as network topology and data communication architecture; hardware makes and models; software levels; voice communication systems and failures; access to external services, etc. Also consider general working conditions and effects on staffing levels, hours of operations, workflow, interdepartmental communication, etc.
6. How easy would it be to test the proposed services? - Consider such factors as amount of test time available annually' equipment and services provided for testing purposes; lead time for scheduling tests; ability to schedule tests at convenient times; minimum and maximum duration of scheduled tests; ability to cancel or reschedule tests; number of personnel required for testing; travel and transportation logistics; downtime implications, etc.
7. How expensive would it be to initiate the proposed services? - Consider such factors as vendor set up charges; purchase costs for equipment and supplies, additional software licenses, etc.
8. How expensive would it be to maintain the proposed services? - Consider such factors as service subscription fees; incremental fees for upgrades; annual fee increases; communication charges; leasing costs for any additional hardware; maintenance costs for any additional hardware or software; charges for storing your own equipment at the vendor's site, etc.
9. How expensive would it be to test the proposed services? - Consider such factor as the amount of annual test time provided as part of the basic service; charges for additional test time; communication costs; travel and accommodation expenses for test personnel; overtime costs for test personnel; shipping costs for tapes and equipment; short-term equipment rental costs, downtime costs, etc.
10. How expensive would it be to use the proposed services? - Consider such factors as declaration fees; minimum usage fees; on-going usage fees; charges for optional services; communication costs; travel and accommodation expenses for employees; overtime costs for employees; shipping costs for tapes and equipment; short-term equipment rental costs, etc.
This list of questions should provide you with a good starting point for discussions with a recovery service vendor. The list is not, of course, exhaustive. You'd probably also want to ask questions about technical support, account support, contract terms, vendor experience, client references, and so on. There's rarely any harm in asking too many questions, but there can be harm in asking too few. Remember, you're not just purchasing services - you're selecting a vendor upon which corporate survival might ultimately depend on.