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What Components Should My Cloud Service Level Agreement (SLA) Include?

When you’ve chosen a cloud service provider that fits your mission and objectives, the next step is to mitigate potential risks by negotiating a cloud service level agreement, or SLA, that allows your business to thrive. The extra due diligence is worth it. Before beginning a project, it makes sense to know what you’ll be doing, what expectations have been set for each party, and what the mission objectives are. That’s the value of a clearly defined SLA.

An SLA is a high-level summation, using non-technical language that everyone involved in the project can understand, to detail the expected services, deliverables, and availability levels during the project’s performance period. This should be openly and transparently shared between all project leads and immediate stakeholders. Communication and expectation-setting are key, or you may be setting yourself up for disappointment, instead. 

Here Are the 12 Essential Elements of a Solid Cloud Service Level Agreement

An SLA is the product of a collaborative negotiation between you and your cloud service provider, but what makes an SLA good? Or bad? How can it help measure service performance and identify areas for improvement? A successful SLA will contain at least the following key components:

  1. Introduction
    Briefly outline the dates, scope, and responsibilities of each party, setting the context and high-level objectives for the cloud service level agreement.
  2. Stakeholders
    Name the signatories, or who will be involved in the agreement. This will likely be the customer and a cloud service provider, like GovDataHosting.
  3. Objectives
    What are your goals? Clearly state the purpose of entering into the agreement and what you are coming together to achieve.  
  4. Services
    Specify the services to be provided, as well as those that are explicitly not provided. Detail is important. This will most often be the largest section of the cloud service level agreement and should establish clear and specific parameters.
  5. Infrastructure
    Specify the system, network, and security infrastructure dedicated to your data.
  6. Performance
    Determine the metrics that will be used to evaluate the cloud services, including availability, reliability, response or support time, and operational standards.
  7. Service Hours
    Create a service calendar that codifies standard hours and peak hours, as well as the correct contacts for different times of the day, week, or year (if applicable).
  8. Support
    Set expectations for the time it will take to both respond and to resolve issues by priority level, while detailing the channels for phone or remote assistance.
  9. Reporting
    Ensure ongoing SLA compliance with periodic reviews and service reports. This section explains what will be analyzed, how often, and how metrics of service effectiveness will be assessed. It should also establish protocols for the immediate notification of any unauthorized breach or loss of your data.
  10. Penalties
    If your service provider should fail to uphold part of the SLA, what happens? This clause indicates how the parties will deal with inadequate service performance and the escalation process for penalization.
  11. Changes
    Business conditions change and new technologies emerge. Maintain a formal mechanism for adjusting service needs and priorities over the lifecycle of the SLA.
  12. Termination
    When the agreement concludes, have a succession plan to affirm your ownership of your data, specify a timeframe for its return, and obligate your service provider to destroy any legacy copies or redundancy files.

These components are crucial for creating a shared, common understanding between all parties. The result is a document that protects your data, advances your mission, and grows as you do. If a business manager has been frustrated by cloud outsourcing, it’s likely because of a failure to establish clear lines of communication and firm expectations before the project begins. Avoid escalating costs, service delays, and poor performance with a sensible SLA that has your interests in mind.

A Few More Best Practices

When drafting an SLA, be specific, but brief. The longer and more complex the document, the more challenging it will be to understand, adopt, and execute the deliverables. Establish a continuous feedback loop and review process. The more you know, the more you can defend your recommendations for change – just don’t micromanage. An experienced and highly-certified cloud services provider like GovDataHosting knows how to deliver the most appropriate service and support for your business needs. Focus on outcomes, demand the best, and enjoy the benefits.

GovDataHosting is committed to our customers and the mission-critical infrastructures we manage. That’s why we offer the industry’s only 100% infrastructure availability cloud service level agreement. Contact us today to get started and to experience the value of GovDataHosting.

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