It is important to consider the technical specification of the system/product you are looking to purchase and get as much information from the vendor at an early stage to ensure they can provide what you need. You should also consider how the new system/product is compatible with your existing infrastructure, software and hardware.

Technology specifications often refer to API in relation to system integration. API is an abbreviation for Application Programming Interface which is the ability for one system to integrate with another system, to transfer data or connect them. One of your main considerations when looking at a system is whether it is cloud-based (i.e. hosted on the internet) or hosted on your premises. You should clarify these options with the supplier at the start of the process.

Example questions

Software and connectivity
  • What software technologies are being used to provide your solution?
  • What database solutions are being used to store information?
  • What browser software is the solution compatible with?
  • Is any additional software needed if a client is to use the system?
  • Are any other third-party products required to be installed on client machines other than a browser?
  • What is the minimum specification of internet connection to connect and use the system?
  • What access will the provider require to any of our existing software or systems?
  • Will we need to undertake any adaptation or development of our existing systems?
  • How do you maintain your system?
  • What is your system down time?
  • How do you manage system/version updates and how are we informed of
    these?
Compliance
  • Please outline the compliance status of the system in relation to disability discrimination, usability and accessibility.
  • Does the system comply with W3C accessibility guidelines (www.w3.org) and has it been independently tested?
  • Is the system compliant with Law Society accounting rules? Can the system produce the correct reports for this?
  • Does the system have any anti-money laundering functionality?
  • What audit trail, and level of detail, will be recorded by the system when we make changes or record information?
Integration
  • Please confirm if your system has API facilities. If yes, how do they work and what are the security arrangements?
Cloud - Benefits Risks
Potential cost savings Security and control
Efficient and accessible Location of data centre
Integration possibilities Business continuity and access issues

See our guide on cloud computing for more information.