The hope is that everything will run smoothly. For your protection, sign a service level agreement (SLA) with your ASP, outlining the services you'll receive. The ASP Industry Consortium, an organization formed by leading technology companies to promote a greater understanding of the growing ASP industry, suggests that you make sure the provisions include response time in case of a problem, amount of customer service you'll receive, availability of the application (it should be 24/7), and what the repercussions will be if the ASP doesn't meet the provisions in the SLA. Plus, make sure to sign a legal security agreement (or nondisclosure agreement, if available) that will bind the ASP to keeping your information private.
If your ASP can address these questions in depth, you may not have as many reservations. You may even come to the conclusion that Pradeep Khurana, founder and chair of Surebridge, an all-purpose ASP located in Lexington, Massachusetts, hopes you will-that ASPs can give your business the security you may not be able to provide yourself.
"One of the reasons businesses should look to an ASP is for the security levels we offer," says Khurana. "Your information is going to be more secure in a data center than in your company server tucked away in your office."
ASPs are not just a third party you're outsourcing to; you're forming a partnership with the company. When you ask what they'll do for you, ask what you can do to make the relationship work smoothly. Working with your ASP will increase your confidence in them and make the relationship-and your job of focusing on the needs of your business-that much easier.
Check out www.buyerzone.com/Internet/web_based_software for help finding an ASP for your business.