"Trying to switch vendors in the middle of a dispute can make a sometimes difficult process impossible," Huckaby says. "I've had cases where prior hosting infrastructure providers refused to give any assistance or answer even the most basic question due to ill will."
If possible, Huckaby advises giving the vendor plenty of notice, as well as detailed feedback on why you chose to go in another direction. And beware of scorned vendors looking to salve their hurt feelings by holding your data hostage or making unreasonable demands, says Norman Harber, CEO of Leverage Corporation, an IT strategy firm for SMBs.
"Reminding the vendor being replaced that the company can still be a good reference or referral source for them -- or quite the opposite if provoked -- can go a long way to keeping the peace," says Harber. "So can finding ways to withhold exit payments or other amounts owed until the transition is complete, or even offering up a small bonus upon successful (and tantrum-free) completion of the transition."
IT divorce tip No. 2: Play the field before severing ties
In the world of flesh-and-blood relationships, it's generally a bad idea to take up with a new flame without fully disentangling yourself from your old one. Not so in the IT world -- you'll want some overlap to make the transition smoother, says Huckaby.
"Be careful not to schedule transitions in a way that leaves your IT operations unsupported or unfulfilled as you change vendors," he says. "This process needs to be managed carefully to assure your services are continuous and that the two providers do not interfere with each other."
On the other hand, not all services should be redundant during the transition, he adds. "In our IT management services, we do not want to be monitoring and responding to an outage if another group is also doing the same. Too many hands on your operations could lead to more problems."
"In general, we advise not to fire a vendor until a suitable alternative is ready to go," notes Eric Leland, a partner at tech strategy and Web development firm FivePaths. "While this can be costly on the vendor services side, it can save a ton of cost in system downtime, work-arounds, switching systems, and change management."
In fact, your transition will go much smoother if your old and new vendors can speak directly to each other, says Leverage Corporation's Harber.
"Your new flame and your soon-to-be-ex should definitely meet," says Harber, "primarily so the new vendor can get a complete snapshot of the environment and services being replaced. The vendor being replaced will have a much more complete picture than the new vendor will be able to develop initially, and the company will benefit from that information being shared."
And then cut the cord.
"Trying to maintain a residual relationship (the business equivalent of 'just friends') can lead to complications down the road," Harber adds. "When it is time for the relationship to end, it will be easiest if the relationship ends completely."
IT divorce tip No. 3: Don't get lost in the cloud
Just because a vendor is providing service in the cloud doesn't make it any easier to break it off and take up with someone new. In some ways, terminating a cloud provider is more complicated, notes FivePaths' Leland.