GSX Blog

Cloud or not Cloud? The importance of SLAs

Posted by Meryll Moreau on Thu, Feb 20, 2014

Migration is always a big concern for IT departments whether it concerns upgrading your existing solution On-premise or in the Cloud, or to move to another one. You have to consider the pros and cons keeping one question in mind "What are the values to my end-users?" Knowing that you want this migration to be entirely transparent from an end-user experience perspective.

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In spite of several new features and enhancements, many customers are choosing to postpone their upgrade migration to Exchange 2013 and even more when it is from Exchange 2010 to 2013. The reasons are diverse but mostly, this is because they investigate the Cloud.

The key drivers from IT executives to move to the Cloud are glamorous enough for further investigation: 

  • Lower the Total Cost of Ownership of the infrastructure
  • Optimize storage upon needs
  • Increased flexibility
  • Resource management

However, moving to the Cloud also raises important challenges and we are all witnesses of dramatic outages and performance issues happening to early adopters experiencing services interruption. These failures happened to the biggest players in the Cloud industry:

Regardless of these real concerns, vendors are relentlessly pushing their community towards the Cloud. The point is not to ask for no interruption (even if somehow it is what we are signing for) but at least not to be blind when it happens.

Unfortunately there is no miracle on earth, anyhow, you can still protect your company by working on a set of Service Level Agreements (SLA) with your Cloud provider.
SLAs provide the basis for managing the relationship between your service provider and your company, describing the agreement for the service to be delivered, including how the service is to be measured. Basically, SLAs are intended to ensure the provider understands what they are required to deliver, the customer knows what to expect, and both can see the services performance against the SLA.
In other words in your environment, have you defined what services are critical to your business lines? Are you capable of measuring the quality of these services? Are metrics in place to justify and manage the costs associated delivering these services to your organization?

Being able to answer these questions is critical to validate the quality of service that you deliver and therefor justify ongoing operations and improvement. SLAs are becoming increasingly complex as Cloud services bring additional layers of consideration. Data can be hosted almost anywhere and is therefor subject to different regulations depending on the host country. Services can be affected by activity completely beyond the provider's control.

In that regard, SLAs are fundamental to understanding your delivery of effective service provisioning. And, the ability to proactively identify problems before they occur is far better than having to clean them up after.

Real-time monitoring, intelligent updates and flexibility in design means SLA management is no longer about simply showing whether a service meet expectations or not, it's about giving IT managers the ability to ensure that services will be delivered to the SLA proactively.

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Tags: Cloud, ITIL, sla, Microsoft, Exchange