Data Backup & Recovery Blog

Understanding Cloud Service Level Agreements

Posted by Stephanie Aldrich on February 2, 2016

service.jpgBusinesses can survive in a competitive world by mitigating risks and accepting there will be unpredicted challenges. In order to address those challenges, enterprises develop a set of rules and procedures for how to react when an event occurs. Regardless of whether you’re dealing with different networks, systems and geographies or just your single office, it is important to have a predefined set of expectations for how your business will react to various situations. Part of these expectations includes your Service Level Agreements (SLAs). Since many organizations are utilizing an outsourced partner for cloud-based services, it is critical to understand what SLAs might apply and ensure that both parties are in agreement.

SLA as a Roadmap

When some event happens, SLAs work just like a roadmap for the service provider and the client. In order to make operations of the cloud successful, it is important to manage cloud SLA meticulously.

SLA Modes

Generally, there are two modes to carry out SLAs. Each mode is valuable, therefore, nobody can ignore any of one of these methods. The first mode is known as “Business as Usual” method. It is concerned with level of services that are usually accessed during normal period. The other method is familiar as “Disaster Mode”. It is based on services that are usually required during a disaster.

Business as Usual

What type of service levels are provided during normal business processes? First of all, the service itself must be reliable. It is the duty of the cloud service provider to do whatever is required to give surety that service is dependable and is operational during routine business hours. To give assurance of consistency, the service provider should describe metrics concerning availability, latency and downtime. If a 99.9% guarantee is given, it means cloud data servers are highly available whenever the client needs to access them.

If the service provider is storing client data, they should replicate and mirror the client data. When more than one server is being used to replicate and mirror data, it gives the guarantee that failure of single server or repository will never affect business continuity. In addition, suitable failover protocols must be followed to supply relevant information to the client, telling whether primary server is offline or failed.

If service scalability is an expected service parameter, the cloud provider should keep the infrastructure geared up for an on-demand scale up. If RPOs (Recovery Point Objectives) as well as RTOs (Recovery Time Objectives) are settled, the vendor is bound to ensure that data recovery will get completed in those specified time periods and recovery point. Developing and maintaining non-stop, continuous backup services, bandwidth throttling protocols and idle time backup could also be incorporated as part of RTOs and RPOs agreement. 

If a business in only functioning with the “Business as Usual” SLA mode, it risks being dramatically impacted by a disaster. There is a lack of preparation and this level of SLA does not provide clients satisfactory support when they suddenly face a man-made or natural disaster and their important data gets wiped out.

Disaster Mode

Service Level Agreements that are arranged for disaster recovery mode give guideline to providers to perform specific actions during catastrophic situations. Additionally, such SLAs give detail of disaster circumstances in data centers and explain the ways the provider will tackle such conditions. Additionally, a formal course of action is provided by this SLA to handle, control, and escalate catastrophe situations when recovering IT systems for continuous business operations.

In short, it is clear that SLA must be constructed in both "Disaster Mode" and "Business as Usual Mode" in order to maintain business continuity. SLAs should be provided for disaster and normal conditions, along with detailed actions to perform in both conditions.

Topics: Data Recovery, cloud computing, Data Storage, cloud service

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