Cloud technology has revolutionized IT solutions. And it’s nascent. As a result, a haphazard transition from traditional IT setup to Cloud may recoil undesirably. To protect yourself, you don’t need to know every little detail of how the technology works; understanding the Service Level Agreement (SLA) is your primary shield. Essentially SLA is a contract which defines the quality of service that shall be provided. What makes SLA an important part of the selection procedure is the need for different permutations of metrics for different businesses.
So, what are the metrics that you should evaluate a Cloud SLA on?
- Availability of Cloud resources– This should be of highest priority in the SLA. Your data should be available to you at almost all times. More importantly, there should be compliance to ensure that no data goes missing.
- Availability Vs. QoS– While availability is important, it would be worthless if the quality of service (QoS) is not at par with your requirements. Make sure to understand if there’s anything in fine print which distinguishes QoS and availability.
- Time to complete service requests–This metric depends on your company's business needs. Make sure that the turn-around time (TAT) is in sync with your temporal requirements.
- Disaster Recovery– Understand how your services are affected in the event of outages or service disruptions. The mean time to recover (MTTR) should be less than the time your business can function undisrupted without the Cloud services. In addition to these, look for the recovery measures implemented by the provider. Even in extreme situations, try to avoid data lock down in the provider’s premises.
- Uptime– Having the services run continuously has become vital in the modern world. You should understand that there’s no good time to have your services down. Look for how long the services would be unavailable due to maintenance or any scheduled activities.
- Third-party dependence– If the Cloud service provider depends on a third-party for rendering services, then carefully evaluate the SLA for any gap in agreements. In the events of conflicts and breaches it becomes important that there’s clarity regarding liabilities and ownership.
- Authentication Methods– How does the Cloud service provider gives access to services to your employees? Most providers these days directly use the existing directory, to implement directory federation services. This would save a lot of time on your side, and preserve your corporate structure. For companies, where there’s a strict segregation of information among employees, privilege based masking is very essential.
- Room for composite requests– Considering that business needs are unique, it becomes a necessity rather than a luxury to be able to queue in a special request or a one-off service requirement. The SLA should be versatile enough to include exceptions, and the cost involved should not be very high for these requests.
- Other considerations
- How the SLA handles Cloud evolution– With Cloud evolution, the SLA should leave room for inclusion of new clauses and necessary revision for new services and norms.
- Special Costs– There should be a tight focus on how checks and balances are handled and if there’s a counterbalancing metric for any incentives involved.
All in all, the more aware you are about the business’ IT needs, the better agreements you would sign. Signing up for black box like services is safe only if you have an SLA buffer protecting you.