Selecting a Cloud Provider: Look beyond the SLA

In an analysis performed by Jay Hessier of Gartner it is predicted that cloud service provider contracts "will not provide detailed and substantive security and data recovery SLAs before 2016.”

Seeing that 2016 is still a few years away, this should lead you to question the integrity of the Service Level Agreements (SLAs) being offered today. Just how credible are they, and how much importance should your company place on them?

In a recent blog post, Hessier once again accurately summed up this dilemma, “AN SLA IS NO MORE THAN AN EXPRESSION OF INTENT; IT IS NOT EVIDENCE OF DELIVERABILITY.”

In other words, just because an SLA says it can deliver something does not mean that it will.  While some agreements are misleading, many simply fail to guarantee adequate compensation in the event of a service outage. In many of these cases, the cost of lost data or lost business due to system downtime will far exceed any compensation the SLA defines.

Inspect the Hardware and Service Not Just the SLA

While the SLA by itself may not offer a guarantee, carefully evaluating the integrity of the provider, their services, and their hardware can. Do not settle for a cloud provider who is not upfront with the hardware and software used to deploy their cloud solutions.

Instead, because a significant amount of your business vitality depends on the provider’s ability to deliver, you need to ask pointed questions. For instance, during a guided tour of an Expedient cloud data center, you would learn that each data center is designed using the latest Intel® Xeon® processors, ultra high speed storage and are deployed on a 10 gigabit Ethernet backbone.

Other criteria to explore include:

  • How is the facility staffed, protected and maintained?  
  • How many backup power generators are in use?
  • Are the cooling systems able to keep up during peak load conditions?
  • How is the building’s physical security protected?
  • How is unauthorized access prevented?