Selecting a data center partner can be a stressful and confusing experience for many companies. From massive hyperscale facilities to smaller edge computing facilities, there are several types of data centers to choose from and not all of them are created equally. But no matter what services and features your business requires, there is one thing that all data centers have in common that should be at the forefront of every decision: The service level agreement (SLA).
An SLA is a legal document that outlines the specific terms of the services a data center provides. It outlines what responsibilities the facility has to its customers and what rights are accorded to them. Organizations should review SLAs very carefully to make sure they’re getting the level of service they’re expecting. Here are a few best practices to look for in any data center service level agreement:
When it comes to a data center SLA, nothing is more important than uptime reliability. A server outage has the potential to cause tremendous damage to an organization’s business operations due to lost revenue, diminished productivity, and missed opportunities. Even setting aside the immediate consequences of system downtime, the long-term brand damage can be quite significant. In today’s fast-paced economy, businesses simply can’t afford to lose customers because of a reputation for unreliable or slow service.
Uptime reliability is measured as a percentage that indicates how much time a server is up and running. Understanding the difference between 99.9% SLA uptime and 99.999% SLA uptime is critically important when evaluating a data center facility. Each additional “9” translates to less downtime and more consistent services. While tenths, hundredths, and thousandths of a percentage point may seem insignificant, they carry a very real financial cost. Fortunately, an easy to use SLA uptime calculator can help you find out exactly how much an existing or prospective SLA could wind up costing your business.
Given the high costs of server downtime, today’s leading data centers go to great lengths to deliver the SLA uptime they’ve guaranteed to customers. Backing up an SLA requires more than just providing excellent infrastructure—it needs a team of quality IT personnel at the ready to ensure that any unexpected problems are dealt with before they can compromise network services.
Having a remote hands team on call 24x7x365 may have been seen as a luxury in the past, but for today’s companies it is almost a necessity. Whether an organization relies on cloud services or colocates their own IT infrastructure in a data center facility, the financial stakes are simply too high to operate without an experienced team of IT professionals that can troubleshoot existing problems and react to threats before they can cause downtime.
A good SLA should clearly indicate the level of hands-on service a facility intends to provide to its customers. Rapid response technical support is key to delivering high levels of uptime, so it’s important to know if a facility employs its own remote hands team or if it contracts those services out to a third party provider.
Guaranteeing delivery of high-level SLA uptime is one thing; providing customers the ability to see how well that promise is being kept is quite another. Transparency should be built into every SLA, empowering customers to monitor network traffic, power fluctuations, cooling requirements, and overall performance of their IT infrastructure. This is especially important for colocation customers that are entrusting a facility with their existing capital investments, but even organizations deploying a purely cloud-based solution have a right to know the status of their systems at all times.
A high visibility SLA makes it very clear how a facility delivers its promised uptime reliability. Since an SLA typically includes remuneration criteria that compensates customers for service downtime, companies need some way of knowing how well the data center is performing at any given time. With business intelligence platforms and performance analytics at their disposal, they can ensure that facilities are indeed living up to the terms of the SLAs. Providing this high-level of visibility pushes data centers to develop new and innovative solutions that help them to keep their systems secure and reliable.
Understanding the terms and obligations of a data center’s SLA is critical for companies seeking to colocate their IT assets or migrate their infrastructure to a cloud-based environment. Far more than a contract, the SLA should go to great lengths to not only reassure customers that a facility will deliver the promised uptime reliability, but also demonstrate just how they will do so. When companies know they can depend on their network to stay up and running, they can focus their attention on developing new ways to drive business success instead of constantly worrying about when their next outage will occur.