Clients      Employees

What You Should Really Expect from a Cloud SLA



The cost of data center downtime is on the rise. A recent study of data centers based in the United States found that unplanned downtime costs approximately $7,900 per minute, a 41 percent increase from the 2010 survey.

But your organization relies heavily on the cloud. It’s your cloud service provider’s job to worry about your IT infrastructure, and the service level agreement (SLA) guarantees 99.95 percent uptime. That means you only have to worry about a small fraction of a percent of downtime, right?

Not really.

While cloud SLAs typically include some type of “uptime guarantee,” some downtime is virtually inevitable. All the major cloud providers have had incidents of unplanned downtime. The SLA simply spells out how the cloud service provider will compensate you for downtime, which typically involves some kind of credit on your monthly bill.

However, keeping your data center onsite doesn’t make you immune to outages. On the contrary, onsite IT resources are probably more likely to experience downtime than cloud services. Few small to midsize businesses have the budget or IT skills to set up a fault-tolerant environment with the redundancy and failover capabilities necessary for high availability.

Cloud computing shifts this responsibility to the service provider, which is likely to have more sophisticated, enterprise-class technology, better management tools and a larger IT staff. Around-the-clock monitoring of your cloud services minimizes the impact of an outage.

Still, it is important to understand that you are trading one set of risks for another. For example, we recommend that our cloud customers maintain a redundant Internet connection to ensure business continuity in the event of a telco service disruption.

Some customers look at cloud SLAs and think there will be no downtime, which creates the wrong expectations. We view the cloud SLA as a way to ensure clarity and transparency with our customers.

The Cloud Standards Customer Council offers the “Practical Guide to Service Level Agreements,” which is designed to help organizations develop cloud SLAs that satisfy their business needs. We encourage anyone considering cloud services to read this document.

A cloud SLA should be developed cooperatively and document expectations, define responsibilities, eliminate confusion and protect your interests. It should include very specific parameters and protocols for availability, performance levels, security, storage and backup, troubleshooting, updating of cloud services, managing disputes and how cloud services can be seamlessly shifted to a new provider. It can also include guidelines for maintaining regulatory compliance, particularly in the medical, financial and retail industries.

ICG’s IT-as-a-Service offering enables you to leverage the cloud to improve how you do business. Unlike the large, impersonal providers, ICG is a local partner that will work with you to develop a customized cloud strategy and SLA that meet your specific business requirements.