The majority of SLAs for cloud services are misaligned to the real requirements of customer according to Paul Marland, Director of Account Management at Claranet.
He believes that good service cannot be reduced to 99.99% availability and that too many cloud providers are locked into uptime and availability as the core metrics against which their services are evaluated.
"Service is far more dynamic and can change over the course of a contract, meaning it is important to develop new performance objectives that are meaningful to the customer with respect to their changing business needs," stated Marland.
"The vast majority of SLAs don't get to the heart of what's important to customers. Or, at the very least, fall short of guaranteeing what customers really need and expect beyond uptime and availability."
He pointed out that as businesses have come to rely more heavily on third parties to deliver their IT, and as solutions have become more complex, good service can't simply be reduced to the pure metrics of service availability.
"That a provider is meeting the levels of uptime specified by their SLA will be of little solace to the CEO or FD who can't access their emails fast enough, or the online retailer missing out on sales because of slow page loads," he added.
"These performance-based issues have proven to be something of a bugbear for the service provider industry - a grey area that falls beyond the remit of the traditional SLA, but remains key to the overall customer experience."
Marland urged the service provider industry to look beyond measures of uptime and availability to measures of service that are meaningful to end users and contract against them.
"The industry tends to measure against technical metrics, but it's important to remember that it's the end user's actual experience that counts.
"End users can have a situation where their SLA is being met and exceeded by their provider but are still not seeing the levels of service that their business now requires.
"When this happens, it is often a sign that the SLA is too generic and objectives have not been set that reflect the specific performance needs of the end user."
The problem, he says, is that a standard SLA does not reflect the true dynamic nature of the relationship that now prevails between customer and cloud provider.
"The SLA is a traditional foundation for the contract, but it should not be used as the basis of how we work together," he said.
"The best MSPs understand this and are able to assess what they do in the context of the end user. An SLA is a good baseline contractual agreement but, as the relationship evolves, so too must the level of measurable engagement to suit the performance and optimisation criteria of each customer.
"MSPs need to look at those things that are actually meaningful to businesses, in essence, bringing end user performance objectives into the agreement."