A guarantee is the kind of thing that makes a lot of people feel better when purchasing just about anything, from a new toaster to a new car. People take comfort in the assurance that, should something go wrong with the product purchased, there is clear and present recourse for getting satisfaction. A new product, free repairs, credit toward future use...whatever that recourse may be, it provides a note of security in the purchase. But when it comes to cloud services, which offer guarantees through service-level agreements (SLAs), can a guarantee ever really be established?
The answer to that question starts by looking at the network on which the cloud services in question run, and considering that. Many service providers use networks built around time-division multiplexing (TDM) architecture, a network architecture that's served well for the last few decades. Some have noted, however, that there still needs to be quite a bit of translation between voice services and IP, so a TDM architecture in cloud services may be particularly prone to issues. Some have even noted that a TDM architecture is more likely to offer problems that would reduce financial benefit in a cloud provider. Instead, a network that offers its cloud services over an IP network is much more likely to live up to an SLA.
SLAs over the years have been on a steady climb in terms of what's offered. From 99 percent to 99.5 percent to, more recently, 99.9 percent, companies are ready to offer much more uptime than at the outset of this new technology. But since companies are often reactive when it comes to issues in the network—the company starts fixing when the customer reports a problem—that can be a problem in terms of getting that availability. Moreover, should a customer call in with a problem, the company commonly offers limited solutions to rectify the problem, and many of these solutions aren't really—at last report—in line with what an SLA should be.
There are some things that companies can do here to help, including offering engineers ranked both Tier 2 and Tier 3 (News - Alert) to provide quick escalation when needed. Others note that checking a cloud provider’s Net Promoter Score is a good point to check, as the score reflects actual customer experiences. The higher the score, the better performance the company has offered previous customers.
Yet still, it's worth noting that much of cloud services are distance-based, and generally, not short distances. It's one thing when the equipment for the business is based around the corner, or even in the same town, but for cloud services, there's often a lot of ground between the endpoints. Things like weather conditions can even come into play, if not carefully planned for, but here there are even some ways around that.
So can a company ever really guarantee service to the level of an SLA? It is possible, really—most anything is when you come right down to it—but it's rather difficult. The only real way to check an SLA's likelihood of success is to take a page from the Reagan playbook: trust, but verify. There are a lot of things that can go wrong when it comes to cloud services, some of which aren't even in the business offering the service's control. But with proper advance planning and some careful consideration given to service, it's possible to have an SLA that really means something, and that's the kind of thing that businesses, in this expanding age of cloud services, can really get behind.
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