Cloud SLAs: How They've Changed and Why You Need Them

Cloud SLAs are evolving, making it potentially easier to identify points of differentiation between service providers.
Fusion Marketing Communication's picture

Service level agreements have long been part of the cloud landscape. However, maturation in the cloud sector has fueled an increased emphasis on how service providers differentiate from each other, creating a situation in which SLAs are more important than ever.

In the early days of cloud computing, SLA advice was often as simple as making sure your organization was covered in the event of downtime and identifying precisely who owns data housed in the cloud. In fact, ZDNet reported that only one-third of cloud providers offering Software-as-a-Service solutions employed SLAs just five years ago. This is no longer the case, with SLAs taking on a larger role in cloud services agreements. With this in mind, organizations must consider how SLAs have evolved and how to get the most value out of the service contract.

What Should SLAs Accomplish?

At its simplest, SLAs serve as agreements dictating the availability, performance, and security of a cloud service. As such, they should create parameters for expected levels of performance and identify the repercussions if either the service provider or client is unable to keep up its end of the agreement.

The concept is simple, but ZDNet explained that SLA negotiation often becomes incredibly complex because IT departments typically cannot count contract administration as one of their core competencies. IT teams have historically been asked to provide services, not broker them, and as a result, are left in a situation where they can be caught off guard by complex SLAs. A few key issues IT teams should keep in mind when it comes to today's cloud SLAs, according to ZDNet, include:

  • Vendors are typically willing to negotiate, within reason, so don't be afraid to ask for contractual tweaks based on your business needs.
  • IT teams should identify what is not covered in the SLA. Disaster recovery testing and stability with how the account is managed, for example, are often not formally addressed in contracts.
  • Organizations should maintain SLAs, a process that includes simple issues, such as not losing the contract, to more nuanced factors, including regular assessments to make sure vendors are in compliance.

With these core elements of what SLAs do and how organizations should manage them, the question remains: What should businesses look for in today's SLAs?

Key Attributes of Cloud SLAs

A good SLA will provide clear, measurable definitions of service levels. For example, uptime guarantees and what the consequences of outages exceeding those promises are a common part of SLAs. CIO magazine identified a few key components of today's cloud SLAs, and they include:

  • The rate at which defects in services and systems can be tolerated.
  • The security and regulatory capabilities offered by the service provider.
  • The business goals and key performance indicators the vendor is expected to support.
  • The quality expectations for technical and engineering services in the partnership.

As these modern cloud SLAs introduce somewhat abstract ideas, such as business goals, into the contract, it is vital to ensure that the actual contract language incorporates measurable parameters. At Fusion, we've built out our cloud SLAs around documented, aggressive SLA standards that we pass on to our customers, allowing for a strong relationship and a secure, high-performing cloud ecosystem.