For all the promises of future functionality, product roadmaps and vision, one of the most important areas to evaluate a software vendor on – particularly a cloud business software vendor – is its track record.

As the hype around cloud computing reaches a fever pitch, one of the big cloud computing trends is vendors across the spectrum cloud washing their products, even as startups are emerging daily. Yet for companies ready to invest heavily in a cloud product, especially their critical business information, it’s important to know where that vendor has been.

For example, take a look at their earnings. Are they cash flow positive, are they on an upward trajectory and are they reinvesting in product development and personnel? A healthy company brining in cash and growing is a company that is adding features and enhancements. Publicly-traded companies have all that information publicly available.

Was the vendor founded as a cloud provider? It’s an important distinction. Transitioning a software architecture built for the client-server era is very difficult. Additionally, on premises companies have an on-premises customer base they need to keep happy, dividing their attention. If the company offers both cloud and on-premises options, how healthy is the cloud side of the house? Does it break out cloud revenue separately?

Is the vendor adding cloud capabilities through acquisition? Or is the cloud vendor one that is likely to be acquired? Acquisitions can wreak havoc on product roadmaps, strip a vendor of the visionary executives that fueled its momentum and shift strategy away from certain company sizes or industries.

Why focus so much attention on the past? You are deciding to move to the cloud because of company growth, the launching new products or expanding internationally. You are dealing with complexity already. You don’t want to add to that complexity by having to move to a different vendor in a few short years. You’re trying to get away from expanding IT and refocusing what IT you have on more business –critical projects.  Instead of helping your cause you’re taking steps backwards. All those reasons you have for moving to cloud will be moot if the vendor is no longer around.

Viability is just one of the six critical questions to ask when evaluating a cloud computing provider.

They are:

1. What is the vendor’s viability, cloud track record?

2. What are cloud SLA commitments, transparency?

3. Does the cloud vendor have the right certifications?

4. Is it hosted or a true cloud solution?

5. Has the provider achieved scale?

6. Can it be customized, extended, and integrated?

-Vishrut Parikh, Director, Product Marketing at NetSuite