An application service provider (ASP) manages many dealerships' computing operations in an off-site location. Advantages include the ease of hardware and software upgrades, data backups, daily system maintenance and high-speed Internet access.
While ASP appeals to many dealers, the subject of data security is often an area of concern. Dealers are asking about data ownership and data protection at the ASP provider's off-site location. If your dealership is seriously considering moving to ASP, here's what you need to know to make an informed decision.
While terminology differs slightly, the four components that make up a complete ASP solution include Hosting Services, Access Services, Support Services and Network Services.
- Hosting services provide the dealership with complete offsite DMS and business application access and support in a professionally managed data center, free from the worry of future system breakdowns, data backups, disaster recovery or any related maintenance.
- Access services provide high-speed, cost effective connectivity and backup solutions between the dealer's locations and the service provider's data center. That should include controlled, filtered access to the Internet to protect dealership data.
- Network services provide the dealer with local area network (LAN) equipment to connect the PCs, terminals, third party onsite servers and printers at your dealership.
- Support services provide the dealer with 24-hour phone or e-mail access to experienced, dedicated ASP technical staff. An ASP service provider must be able to support all aspects, giving dealers “one stop” problem resolution.
A comprehensive ASP solution will always include round-the-clock security systems and personnel, fire suppression and environmental control. A world-class data center needs to have a reliable power source with a backup generator and adequate fuel supply. State-of-the-art equipment includes RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks), hard-drive backup technology and automated backup processes with robotic tape libraries.
In addition to disaster protection, data confidentiality measures must also be present. Ask your prospective ASP service provider if the DMS server will be shared among other dealer groups and if your data will be intermingled with other dealer groups. To ensure the highest level of performance, each dealer should be provided with a dedicated DMS designed to meet specific needs.
ASP provides the latest technology and services for a monthly fee. There are no up-front costs or ongoing frustrations associated with managing multiple vendors. Your ASP provider should handle everything, from IT infrastructure, ongoing maintenance, business application hosting, high-speed local network installation, total system management and more.
It allows dealers to focus more on their customers instead of the day-to-day system management. Dealerships no longer need to invest in a server, maintain their network infrastructure or worry about equipment becoming obsolete. ASP provides Internet filtering which blocks access to inappropriate Web sites and improves employee productivity.
Key Questions to Ask
Make sure you ask the right questions of a prospective service provider to ensure that you get the service and control and access to your data. Those include:
- Is the ASP service a complete off-site managed solution?
- How is the dealership's data protected?
- How accessible is the dealership's data and DMS?
- What systems are in place to protect the dealership's data and network from Internet intrusion?
- What happens if you need a larger or more powerful DMS in the future?
- Is the data center operated by the DMS vendor or subcontracted to another firm?
- How many service provider customers are currently using the firm's ASP system?
- Does the system support all your sales, service, parts and business applications?
Michael Jones ([email protected]adp.com or (847) 397-1700) is the product manager for ASP Managed Services with ADP's Dealer Services Group.