SLAs – Who’s being served?

Life insurance, car insurance, homeowners insurance, business insurance, health insurance…Think there’s a pattern here? Let’s cut to the chase. A Service Level Agreement (SLA) is basically, insurance for your cloud data service. One would assume that your business data with a cloud service provider is at least as important as your home or car. Wouldn’t you feel better if you had some guarantees and parameters set that protect you? Of course, SLAs not only hold accountable, but also protect the service provider. When you and the provider are protected there’s no guesswork, no finger-pointing and no misunderstanding. So, if there should be a problem, the problem is readily solved. And yes, dealing with insurance companies can be a pain, but dealing with a service provider who is offering you the best deal they can, is completely different.

It’s true, not everyone has insurance and there are varying levels of insurance. You have to weigh the real need with your level and type of business. It’s not an all or nothing proposition. Every time we buy a big priced item from a couch to a washer to a mobile phone, you’re asked, ‘do you want a warranty with that?’ I bet, depending on what you’re buying and how it’s being used, you may mull over whether or not to get the warranty or to take your chances. Warranties and insurance policies essentially give you overall peace of mind just in case something should happen.

Do you really need that service agreement for your IT? Let’s address the realities of what SLAs mean to the provider and customer and how they address the most important component – uptime.

  •  SLAs are a two way street: Agreements, generally, protect both the customer and the service provider. After all, we’re both in business to make money and provide the best service and/or product to stay ahead in our industries. So, don’t expect a one-sided agreement that puts either customer or provider at zero risk.
  • SLAs have caveats: There are service interruptions that are the provider’s fault and the customer has to deal with the downtime, potential loss of revenue and the overall anxiety that we all feel when servers go down. The provider must assume responsibility and liability. Then there are service interruptions ‘outside of the provider’s reasonable control.’ Just make sure you read the fine print. It could mean natural disasters. In that case, no one, the customer, nor the provider has any control over interruptions when dealing with those circumstances. Finally, there’s everything in between. We know what we can and can’t handle and will have stipulations and disclaimers just like the customer has disclaimers, setting parameters on offers to the general public. Both the provider and customer have restrictions and the agreement should fit both parties the best it can.
  • SLA guarantees: The reality is, there are no guarantees. When a product touts a one hundred percent guarantee, there are still stipulations and disclaimers in the fine print. You may ask yourself, so why do businesses bother making that statement? Good businesses will always attempt a one hundred percent guarantee and satisfaction rate.

Uptime in the cloud cannot have a one hundred percent guarantee without some sort of fine print. Measure great service by the people and how they work with you, how they problem solve and how they continue to offer you the best. Remember, SLAs are an agreement between you and the provider and both parties need to take care of themselves so they can take care of one another.

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