What are SLAs?
A Service Level Agreement (SLA) is a contract that is made between a service provider and a customer, which ensures that a minimum level of service is maintained.
SLAs in the cloud computing industry cover response times and service availability. They are very important as they provide the benchmark that hosting providers must meet in order to give their customers a reliable service.
SLAs are usually part of a Hosting Services Agreement (HSA) between the hosting provider and customer, which outlines the responsibilities of both parties during the contract agreement. They set out the service level that the hosting provider agrees to meet in terms of response times, availability and any exclusions to the agreement (such as scheduled maintenance).
How important are they?
SLAs can be compared to a warranty for a service that is provided. Uptime is essential for all companies, so hosting providers need to guarantee connectivity and business continuity.
SLAs have become increasingly important as companies move their critical systems, data and applications to the cloud. The responsibility of running these systems is no longer in the hands of the customer and is now managed by a third party.
Cloud providers need to meet industry-level SLAs in order to offer a competitive service. Almost all enterprise level hosts offer a 99.999% uptime guarantee, whereas low budget providers do not offer this same level of service.
SLAs are used a guide for dealing with any potential problems, such as the stability of the service and security of company data. They set expectations and instil customer confidence in the service, aiming to prevent any future issues.
SLAs are living documents that should adapt with any new cloud services that a company adopts. An SLA assessment process should also be carried out to ensure that the additional services have the appropriate service level agreements in place.
The most comprehensive cloud SLAs include:
- Cloud server uptime
- Network availability
- Hardware replacement
- Performance (max response times)
- Security of data (data encryption etc)
- Location of data
- Accessibility and portability of data
- Disaster Recovery
- Change management processes (changes or updates to services)
- Incident response times
- Customer support response times
What happens if an SLA isn’t met? If there were any interruptions in service and SLAs were not met, customers would be able to refer to their contract and request the appropriate course of action, whether it be a refund or service credits.