Technology – The importance of Service Level Agreements and Cloud Computing

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This is another installment of my Technology posts, geared towards those of us who are technology professionals and support users or clients.

It’s no secret that cloud computing is gaining traction and becoming more popular. From services like SalesForce.com, Keeper, Amazon Web Services and Azure, many organizations are taking advantage of hosted applications and infrastructure. But there’s something that is overlooked, and that’s what happens when those services go down or have a problem.

As you know, my company provides 3rd party IT support services to clients. Part of those services revolve around SLAs, or Service Level Agreements. Essentially, we commit to responding to certain troubles within a set time frame. For example, you could offer same-day disaster recovery, or next-day troubleshooting. Whatever the situation and however you deal with it, you have an SLA, whether it’s formal or informal.

The same is true of cloud based services. But, do we know what the SLA is ? Do we know the particulars of it ? In many cases, the answer is no. The decision to go with a hosted service or platform is usually based upon factors like price, availability, and setup time. It’s surprising how often SLAs are overlooked or never thought of.

Now I know what you’re going to say: “But Martin, these services rarely ever go down!”. In some cases, that’s true. But in other cases, it’s not true. For example, in 2012, the majority of SalesForce.com went down for a period of 6 hours, with the entire system not coming back online until nearly 12 hours later (http://www.zdnet.com/salesforce-com-suffers-worldwide-disruption-after-power-outage-7000000581). In 2013, Microsoft’s Azure service went down for nearly 5 hours before service started to come online (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/02/22/azure_problem_that_should_never_happen_ever). Now I’m not trying to say these particular services are bad or shouldn’t be used, but these examples simply prove that cloud services are not 100% reliable. Given this, we need to understand the impact these outages will have on workflow, productivity, and lost revenue.

SLAs are extremely important when considering cloud based, hosted options for services and infrastructure. We need to understand how our providers will react to problems, and what the SLA is with their customers. When we farm things out to the cloud, we lose a lot of control, and we become reliant on others to keep everything running. Remember, as technology professionals we are responsible for ensuring that we understand what the implications are when moving to the cloud. Without fully understanding SLAs, we simply won’t have any idea what to expect.

Author

Martin Lehner

Martin Lehner is an technology professional working for an IT services firm in Whitehorse, Yukon (Canada). He has been working in the technology field for over a decade. With a degree in Business Admin and numerous industry certifications, Martin leads a team of IT professionals that provide third party support for clients. Originally starting a company to offer web development services, Martin quickly realized that clients wanted the entire spectrum of technology services. When Martin is not at work (which is not often, since his company offers 24/7 support), he is busy at home spending time with his family.

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