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5 tips to help your clients get the most out of their SLAs

Like it or not, as your clients deploy cloud services, they also have to contend with service level agreements (SLAs) – those pesky but essential documents that lay out the particulars of the IT capability they’re buying.

Since an SLA accompanies every cloud and managed service your clients sign themselves up for, getting an SLA wrong can cost them a lot. That’s why it’s worth helping them focus on what they can do to ensure their SLAs serve them as well as possible.

First up: What’s actually in an SLA

Every SLA has two elements — one describing the service provided, the other describing how that service is managed.

SLA service elements include:

  • What the service does (e.g., data backup, network monitoring);
  • Service availability/uptime, typically described via a range of “nines” from which your clients often may be able to choose, as well as specifics of any cost/service tradeoffs;

The Nines: Measuring IT and Application Uptime

Level of availability

Percent of uptime

Downtime
per day

Downtime
per year

1 nine

90%

2.4 hours

36.5 days

2 nines

99%

14 minutes

3.65 days

3 nines

99.9%

86 seconds

8.76 hours

4 nines

99.99%

8.6 seconds

56.2 minutes

5 nines

99.999%

0.86 seconds

5.25 minutes

6 nines

99.9999%

8.6 milliseconds

31.56 seconds

  • Clauses that delineate service providers’ responsibilities and your client’s responsibilities; and
  • Description of procedures for problem/issue escalation.

SLA management elements include:

  • Definitions of service metrics and measurement methods;
  • How, how often, and in what detail (content and processes) reports and logs about service activity are made available;
  • Description of the service’s dispute resolution process;
  • Service agreement update mechanisms (I recommend you advise your clients to update at least annually and consider doing it quarterly); and
  • A service agreement exit strategy that commits the provider to certain performance levels (e.g., moving your client’s data) if/when your client’s relationship with the provider terminates.
Five SLA matters your clients should pay attention to

1       Indemnification
Not all SLAs include an indemnification clause that protects your clients from third-party litigation due to service level breaches, but you should strongly encourage them to make sure all their SLAs have indemnification clauses.

2       Metrics
The performance of every service should be monitored using agreed-upon and carefully chosen metrics, the more automated the better. Advise your clients to pay special heed to service availability/uptime (the “nines”), security, defect rates, and, as appropriate, operational outcomes.

3       Disaster recovery testing/failover
All mission-critical services and applications covered by an SLA should undergo at least one annual disaster recovery test/failover — for which the SLA should specify a maximum failover time.

4       Governance/compliance
Make sure your clients keep copies of all their service contracts and SLAs and require their providers to give them up-to-date financial and IT audit information.

5       Knowing the provider account manager
Urge your clients to include a services contract/SLA clause that enables them to interview the provider’s account manager before this person is assigned to them so they are satisfied that communications will be adequate.

If you’re interested in partnering on an opportunity, please contact your Partner Account Manager today.

Partner well, perform better.
Adam

Adam Burke
Meet the Author

Adam Burke is Quest's Vice President of Sales and Partnerships.